Please be warned that part-way through this chapter, the POV changes.
Wrackspurts and chocolate frogs for the win. :)
Edit: I cannot believe how scatterbrained I am. While re-reading this chapter, I realized that part of it had been cut-off. I do not know why. I do not know how. All I know is that I am rushing to paste the missing part in before too many people see it. What is wrong with me?
Anti-Litigation Charm: I do not own.
Four o'clock the following afternoon found the wedding well underway. Almost all of the guests had arrived, although the appearance of the infamous Muriel Weasely Hermione had heard so much about was a bit of a nightmare, to be honest. The woman had an opinion to broadcast about everyone and everything, and no filter or tact to speak of.
"You look great!" Ron said, looking rather startled when Hermione reappeared in the marquee. "I wasn't expecting—wow."
"Always the tone of surprise," Hermione said dryly, though she was smiling. "Your Great-Aunt Muriel doesn't agree, I just met her upstairs while she was giving Fleur the tiara. She said, 'Oh dear, is this the Muggle-born?' followed closely by a comment on my skinny ankles and bad posture."
"Don't take it personally, she's rude to everyone," Ron said with a shake of his head. "You should hear her go on about my freckles."
"Talking about Muriel?" George inquired, emerging from the marquee with Fred at his side. "She just commented that my nose seemed to be off-center—or maybe my ears. She didn't really seem to be able to tell the difference."
"Bad eyesight," Fred said, nodding sagely. "I wish old Uncle Bilius was still with us, though; he was a right laugh at weddings."
"Wasn't he the one who saw a Grim and died twenty-four hours later?" Hermione asked, frowning slightly.
"Well, yeah, he went a bit odd toward the end," George conceded.
"But before he went loopy he was the life and soul of the party," Fred said, grinning. "He used to down an entire bottle of firewhisky, then run onto the dance floor, hoist up his robes, and start pulling bunches of flowers out of his—"
"Yes, he sounds like a real charmer," Hermione said, not wanting to contemplate this disturbing anecdote any further. Harry, on the other hand, was roaring with laughter.
"Never married for some reason," Ron said off-handedly.
"You amaze me," Hermione said with an apostrophic roll of her eyes toward the tent ceiling, but she was giggling despite herself.
And then they all burst into laughter. Hermione was still snickering when a lone latecomer arrived, and she turned around in time to see a dark-haired young man who was oddly familiar, and who Hermione only had three or four seconds to recognize—
"Viktor!" she exclaimed, dropping the beaded bag she was carrying with her and hugging the Bulgarian Quidditch Player. Ron picked it up, hefting it with a look of disbelief on his face at how heavy it was, and then shrugged and shoved it toward Harry, who took it while throwing his best friend a look that said very clearly what do you expect me to do with it?Hermione backed away quickly after a moment, blushing. "I didn't know you were—goodness—it's lovely to see—how are you?"
"Fine," Viktor said, smiling down at her as he handed Ron his invitation. "You look vunderful."
"How come you're here?" Ron asked, checking the invitation over and looking rather suspiciously at their guest.
"Fleur invited me," Viktor said, eyebrows raised. Hermione simply could not help herself, as she mentally sized him up and compared him to Severus. The two were so alike that sometimes, it was not difficult for her to wonder if she had been attracted to Viktor purely because he shared so many of the same characteristics that she would later find attractive in the man she married. But she was still very glad to see him; they wrote to each other on occasion, and remained good friends. He was the only person outside the Order who was aware that Hermione had a son, and he occasionally asked after him.
"I'll show you your seat," Harry said quickly. He was disguised as a Weasley cousin, which meant Krum would not recognize him, but he seemed to think it prudent to get the Bulgarian Quidditch Player out of Ron's vicinity. The two of them disappeared, leaving Hermione alone with Ron.
"Come on, we'd better get to our seats…"
The wedding went off without a hitch, and after Hermione congratulated the happy couple, she managed to find a moment to talk with Viktor semi-privately, joining him at a table that had not yet been filled up with curious people and Quidditch fans, all of whom seemed eager to meet the famous Seeker.
"You change every time I see you," Viktor commented, stirring his glass. "First, at the Quidditch Vorld Cup, to sign your poster. Then at Hogwarts, vhere there vere two of you—one not yet grown, and one already there. And here…"
Hermione laughed. "Now I'm rather stuck in-between, aren't I?"
Viktor shook his head. "You are a mystery." He paused, and then lowered his voice. "Your husband… did he really…"
Hermione shook her head. "I can't talk about it."
"I hardly believe it," Viktor said quietly. "Vhen I first met him, he did not seem…" he trailed off.
"You don't think he did it, I suppose?" Hermione asked dully. "Suppose he's been framed?"
Viktor shook his head. "There vere too many vitnesses," he said. "But there is something strange about the vay it was done. Too… flavless, yes? Too smooth."
Hermione stared at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Viktor shrugged. "In Quidditch, I vould be thinking that someone had just Confunded the reff-ree, because he called the vrong play. This does not seem much different. Vhether your husband did it or not, I am thinking there is more to it than vhat meets the eye." He looked at Hermione. "Dumbledore vas a brilliant man. A great man. I liked him very much. It is difficult to believe he died as easily as they say he did."
They brooded in silence for a moment, each unsure of what to say, when Viktor finally said, "I haff also had the… displeasure of meeting that man over there," he said, gesturing at a tall man in yellow. "Veasley and one of his cousins explained that he does not know vhat the symbol he is vearing around his neck is. I am vondering if you do."
Hermione squinted at Xenophilius Lovegood's neck, and shook her head. "I don't…" she said slowly.
"You do not know vhat that is?"
Hermione wracked her head for some clue, and shook it in negation. "I don't think I've ever even seen it before," she said honestly.
Viktor stared at the blond man with intense, pugnacious dislike as he answered, "He is vearing Grindelvald's sign upon his chest. It is carved into a vall at Durmstrang, he put it there vhen he vas a student. I vould recognize it anyvhere."
"Grindelwald…" Hermione said slowly. "He's the Dark Wizard Dumbledore defeated years ago, didn't he?"
Hermione shook her head. "I've never heard of it before in my life, and I'm pretty sure Mr. Lovegood hasn't either. That sign probably isn't all that well known in Wizarding Britain." She sat staring at Xenophilius Lovegood's neck for a moment, vaguely thinking somewhere that the symbol should be familiar to her, but she could not quite place it.
"Do you know where the sign originated from?" she asked, hoping it would jog her memory.
Viktor shook his head.
"Grindelvald may have lifted it off somevhere else," Viktor said. "It vhas probably a symbol of pover that he came across and decided he vhanted to use. But vhat symbol or from vhere, I do not know."
He looked at the symbol once more.
"All I know is that man over there vears the symbol of Grindelvald, and were he not a guest, I vould challenge him to a duel," he said, scowling.
"I simply can't dance anymore," Hermione said later, pulling up a chair beside Harry and fanning herself. She had the time of her life back there, but now she was dead on her feet. "Ron's gone looking to find more butterbeers. I managed to convince Viktor not to confront Luna's father, he looked rather like he wanted to… thankfully, he—" she broke off, looking at Harry, whose face seemed both strained and depleted of energy. "Harry? Are you all right?"
Harry shook his head. He opened his mouth to speak, but quickly shut it as something large and silver suddenly fell through the canopy above, gliding gracefully down to the floor. The lynx gleamed brightly as it landed in the middle of the astonished dancers, some of whom seemed for a moment to think that this was part of the entertainment, until it opened its mouth wide and spoke in the deep, slow voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"The Ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming."
Hermione immediately jumped to her feet, wand at the ready, as the rest of the crowd took a moment to register this. Heads were still turning, people were slowly either stopping their conversations or dances, and the murmur of interested voices quickly gave way to rising panic as the message began to sink in. And then all hell broke loose, guests were running every which way, and Harry was jumping to his feet.
"I'll find Ron!" he shouted, disappearing into the terrified, near-stampeding crowd as they poured out from the tent, trying to get away as quickly as possible. Hermione had no time to stop him, and frantically scrambled around for her purse. But at that moment, she could not remember when she last had it. It had dropped when Viktor arrived, but Ron or Harry had picked it up, she could not remember which—
Buffeted by the crowd, Hermione was pushed outside the tent. She forced herself to remain calm, scanning the crowd as people rushed out, trying to catch sight of Harry or Ron. Cloaked and masked figures had appeared, and everyone who was in the Order had their wands out and on the defensive—
"Stupefy!" Hermione screamed, aiming at the first Death Eater in her line of view. He slid to the ground, and was immediately lost beneath the pounding feet. A moment later, she caught sight of Remus and Tonks, and sprinted over to join them.
"Remus!" she gasped, catching up with them. "Where's Harry and Ron?"
"Weren't they with you?" Tonks answered, looking frightened. "I thought they were with you!"
"No, I was with Harry, and then he went to find Ron—" Hermione broke off and aimed her wand at another masked figure that had Apparated less than twenty feet away from them, hitting him with another Stunner. "I don't know where they are!"
"We'll find them," Remus assured her, but his expression was grim. "Hermione, get inside and hide—"
"What? No, I have to find—"
"They're looking for Harry, and if they can't find him, they'll go after you and Ron!" Remus said angrily. "You can't be here!"
He was right. With a final duck and dodge, Hermione squeezed her eyes shut and Disapparated away.
Hermione remained pacing in the kitchen of Tine Cottage for several hours, desperately awaiting some form of news to reassure her that Harry and Ron had been found, and that everyone else was all right. Selenius had taken one look at his mother's pale, frantic face, and demanded to know what had happened.
And so Hermione told him. There was no point in keeping it from him. The Ministry had fallen—nowhere was safe if you were relying on the Ministry's laws for protection. She did not dare send a Patronus, not until she heard from them first. Three sleepless nights passed with three unread Daily Prophet papers neatly stacked on the table, until Hermione could handle it no more, and finally opened them.
What she saw sickened her.
Muggle-Born Register… Harry Potter wanted for questioning… Attendance at Hogwarts now compulsory…
School started in three weeks. As Hermione read further, she felt an odd pit of relief in her stomach as she realized that a student would only need to prove that they had at least one magical descendent. With Selenius's disguise, he would be safe—perfectly safe—
Her musings were interrupted by a wisp of silver bursting through the kitchen window, and Hermione jumped back in surprise as it solidified into the same, gleaming form as the lynx that had warned them all four days ago.
"Harry and Ron safe, Burrow being watched, do not come out of hiding."
It melted away a moment later, and Hermione stood there, feeling an immense sense of relief. And then there was a knock on the door, which startled her out of her reverie so badly that she screamed.
"Hermione, it's me!" Remus's voice floated through. "Open up!"
Hermione quickly pressed a hand against the door, wand at the ready. "Prove it!"
"I am Remus John Lupin, werewolf, sometimes known as Moony, one of the four creators of the Marauder's Map," Remus said firmly, "and when you first came to Hogwarts in my sixth year, I comforted you on the floor of the Gryffindor Common Room while you cried."
"Oh, all right," Hermione said shakily, opening the door with relief as she let her friend in. "I'm sorry, but it's just—you gave me quite a fright…"
"Perfectly understandable," Remus said, closing the door behind him. "I just thought I would stop by and let you know that Harry and Ron are at Grimmauld Place. They were frantic with worry about you, so you might want to send them a Patronus to let them know you're fine."
Hermione breathed in deeply, letting the tension flow from her body as immense relief seeped in. "Thank merlin."
"They also told me to tell you that they found the real locket," Remus said, frowning as he took a seat at the kitchen table. "And that they've got your beaded bag. Ron said to thank you specifically for packing his toothbrush, by the way."
Hermione pressed a hand to her mouth to suppress a smile. Crookshanks, who had been sleeping in front of the window on top of the counter, yawned and stretched, blinking sleepily at them. "Right."
"Also…" Remus hesitated. "Arthur said he won't be able to take Selenius to the train. It took me three days to shake off the Death Eater that was trailing me, and the Burrow is being watched."
"Shite," Hermione breathed.
"I don't think Selenius could go anyway," Remus said, looking uncertain. "You've read the paper, haven't you? They require proof of at least one magical relative—"
"We've already taken care of that," Hermione said. "But I can't be seen taking him, and now…"
Remus stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I thought it might be possible to ask Fred and George," he suggested quietly.
"What?" Hermione exclaimed. "No! They don't know about him—or about my situation, even— besides," she added, "why them?"
"Because they've done a splendid job of knocking out the Death Eater that was trailing them," Remus said. "It was actually how I managed to eventually do it. They're smart and sneaky, they'd have no trouble getting Selenius in there and then getting themselves out."
"But…" Hermione protested.
"I can speak to them if you want," Remus said quickly. "I'll explain everything—"
"No," Hermione said.
"I said no, Remus!" Hermione snapped. "The more people we let in on this secret, the more likely it'll be given up! And then—and then—" She couldn't bring herself to say it, because even at this level, Remus wasn't supposed to know. But if Voldemort found out, then Severus's life would be forfeit.
"Hermione," Remus said firmly, "Fred and George are as trustworthy as any of us. If we explain to them, I'm sure they'll be willing to keep it secret, and help—"
"And what if they're not?" Hermione said coldly.
Remus stared levelly at her.
"Then we'll Obliviate them."
Hermione wavered for a moment, and then slumped down into a chair.
"Wouldn't it be possible to just… tell them enough to get them to help, but not everything?" she asked. "They don't have to know its Severus…"
"I can do that," Remus promised.
He left shortly after, and Hermione found herself putting Dobby out of work by making dinner herself, working at the counter as the last rays of sunlight filtered through the window. The fire-lit lamp that hung by it glowed, adding warm light to the room, and Hermione found herself gazing off into the distance as she mulled over Remus's words. Remus had not said it, but it was clear that he thought she was treating everyone with an undeserved amount of suspicion.
Her shoulders slumped. Had she been keeping secrets for so long that when it was time to let them unravel just a bit, she couldn't bring herself to do it? True, Fred and George were pranksters, and had acted irresponsibly in the past, but when it came down to it, they were on the ball and held fast just like everyone else.
She peered at her reflection in the window.
And when you first came to Hogwarts in my sixth year, I comforted you on the floor of the Gryffindor Common Room while you cried.
Gods, how long ago that seemed! She had been a different person then, yet that was where the pile of secrets had started to grow with alarming speed.
Her ring suddenly burned, and she yanked her hand up to her eyes so she could see it.
Where are you?
Hermione hesitated for a moment, and then wrote, Safe. He could be writing this under duress, with Voldemort commanding him to contact her.
There was a pause, and then the words melted away and were erased with, and Selenius?
Hermione felt relief. He would not have written this if the Dark Lord had been watching.
With me, she wrote.
Good, came the reply. Potter and Weasley?
We got separated. I need to contact them.
Her words hung there for a full minute, and then sank away with no response. Deciding that he must have gotten what he had contacted her for, Hermione lifted her wand, and tried to think of a happy memory. Despite the situation at hand, it was not too difficult. She drew out a long-buried memory of Gryffindor Tower raucously celebrating a Quidditch victory, with the marauders making themselves the life of the party, their laughter and cheer outrageously infectious—
A large, furry form burst forth from her wand, laid itself out supinely, and then got to its feet and lunged forward, disappearing into the door. Hermione stared at it for a moment, utterly dumbfounded; she had not cast a Patronus in years, as there had been no reason to, but it had obviously changed. It had gone before she had time to get a good look at it, though.
Either way, she hoped Harry and Ron would realize that it was her. She would wait for a response from them, some kind of affirmation, and then try to find them. So far, it seemed they had found a safe haven at Grimmauld Place and located the Locket, which was an enormous achievement in less than a week's worth of work, in Hermione's estimation. They were already off to a good start.
It was a full week before Hermione received any form of reply. A large, silver stag burst through her kitchen window, as seemed to be the local fashion for Patroni, and came to a stop in the middle of the kitchen, pawing at the stone floor with a proud look about it, shaking its magnificently-antlered head as it spoke.
"Sorry it took so long to respond!" Harry's voice said apologetically, and a little louder than necessary. It was like the time Ron had tried calling Harry's house using a Muggle phone. "It took us a few tries to figure out how to send messenger Patroni—that's what Ron says they're called, anyway. Also, your Patronus has changed, did you know that?" Hermione shook her head in exasperation, and Harry continued, "That aside, we're at Grimmauld Place right now, and we've figured out where the Locket is. Getting it is going to be a real problem, though. There are Death Eaters watching the house, so I don't know whether you can get in or not, but if you think you can, please come. We're glad you're safe—we were really worried. And there's loads more to tell you."
At long last, the stag closed its mouth, gave Hermione a final, piercing look, and melted away. Hermione stood there, snorting with laughter. She had never heard anyone make such a wordy message for a Patronus in her life. Nevertheless, with every word, her sense of relief had mounted, and now she once again felt ready, free to take action with a direction. She knew where they were, and they were expecting her.
When she Apparated on the doorstep of Grimmauld Place, she quickly slipped inside, and had shut the door behind her with such speed that she had only had just a moment to glimpse the cloaked figures hanging about in front of the house. Selenius had been left at home alone with Dobby to look after him and strict orders not to leave the house. She had not taken more than a few steps inside when she heard Moody's voice whisper hoarsely out of the darkness.
Hermione jumped back in alarm, wand out and at the ready, when something whooshed over her like cold draft. For a moment, she felt the sickening sensation of her tongue rolling itself up, and then it vanished, leaving her with a slight sense of nausea. She did not have much time to recover; a dusty figure raised itself from the carpet, and Hermione stared in horror as the wasted figure raised a hand at her. She recognized the curse immediately, backpedalling as it advanced on her.
"I—I didn't kill you—" she stammered.
On the word kill, the dust-composed corpse-like figure exploded. Hermione hesitated for a moment, and raised her wand, expecting more, when she heard a voice calling from upstairs—
"Blimey—Hermione, is that you?"
"Down here, Ron!" Hermione said, relieved, as Ron appeared on the landing above, squinting down at her through the dust. Hermione quickly ascended the stairs, following Ron into the Drawing Room, where she saw Harry sitting in one of the chairs. He looked up when he saw her, and his expression immediately brightened.
"Hermione!" he said, standing up immediately and pulling her into a hug. "Thank goodness—I wasn't sure if our Patronus actually worked!"
"Trust me, it worked," Hermione said dryly, setting down the bag she had brought with her. "How have you been?"
"Going stir-crazy," Ron admitted, coming up behind her and pulling her into a hug. "Come check out what we found—come on—"
"Wait, aren't you going to tell me about the Locket—"
"That can come later," Harry said, directing her to the next floor. "We found something else."
Hermione had no choice but to follow them, as the boys led her up the stairs, and stopped her in front of one of the bedrooms. Ron tapped the fancy-looking sign on one of the door in front of them, looking excited. Hermione had seen it before, and merely pressed her lips.
"Regulus Arcturus Black," she repeated. "Yes, Ron, I know. He was Sirius's younger brother."
"Not just his brother," Harry said excited. "R. A. B. The locket, remember?"
Hermione startled for a moment as she realized Harry was right. The fake locket had been signed by someone named R.A.B—but—
"Harry, how can you be sure—" she began.
"We asked Kreacher," Harry replied. "He confirmed it."
Hermione gave him a skeptical, concerned look. "You'd trust Kreacher's word on this?"
"Well, normally, no," Ron admitted, glancing at Harry, "but over the last four days, there's been a bit of a… a reconciliation."
Hermione's eyebrows rose to her hairline.
"Do tell," she said.
They did. It was a lot to absorb, admittedly, but the earnest, excited expressions on the boys' faces could only convince Hermione that they were telling the truth. It shocked her how with just a single act—that was to say, presenting Regulus's locket to Kreacher—he had managed to repair several years' worth of bad blood between himself and the house elf. Yet, when Harry called Kreacher to him, the house elf was positively cordial, bowing as low to the ground as his snout-like nose would let him, and eagerly asking Harry if there was anything he needed done.
It was Harry's response, however, that highlighted it for her. Kreacher had finally responded to the olive branch offered to him, but the way Harry framed his requests was just as polite, friendly even, as he had ever done with Dobby. Kreacher disappeared with a loud crack as soon as Harry had asked if he would be willing to make tea for the three of them, and then Harry rapped on the door of Regulus's room, drawing her attention back to it.
"Like we said, we found R.A.B," Harry said, as Ron wandered down the hall, over to the next door, which was no doubt labeled with Sirius's name. "And we know where the locket is."
"You've told me that several times," Hermione said slowly, "but you haven't actually said where it is."
Harry hesitated, and then spilled it out.
"Umbridge," he said.
Hermione's jaw set at this, and she was about to respond when Ron interrupted from the other end of the corridor.
"Hey, guys… look at this."
Harry immediately went to join Ron's side, but Hermione stopped short the moment she realized what Ron was looking at. They were parked in front of the door at the end of the hallway, a door which was normally rendered invisible and unimportant to observers, but which was now plainly, clearly, visible. It only took Hermione a moment to realize why; the door registered the presence of those who knew it was there, and then made itself plain to observers. It had mistakenly materialized itself due to Hermione's presence.
"It looks like a closet," Harry said, unconcerned.
"Yeah, but I haven't seen it here before, and trust me, I've spent more time wandering through this house in the past few days than I care to remember," Ron said, with the merest trace of a grumble. He tried the handle. "And it's locked."
Hermione wrung her hands, and then regained control over herself, and stiffened. "If we don't know what's in there, maybe we shouldn't—" she began.
"We cleaned this house inside-out back in fifth year," Harry said, pulling out his wand. "I'm not expecting a doxy attack." He tapped the knob. "Alohamora!"
There was an audible click, and Ron tried the knob again. Hermione trailed behind, helplessly, as they pushed open the door to Selenius's old room.
The first thing Ron said was, "Bloody hell."
Hermione could see why he would say that. From Harry and Ron's perspectives, they had just walked into something completely and utterly unexpected.
The room had not changed at all since Hermione had last seen it. She lingered in the doorway for a moment, and then slipped inside after the boys, hoping to salvage the situation. But really, there was nothing she could do. And, from first glance, there was also nothing immediately incriminating. There was the four-poster bed with its plain and simple coverlet, unmade as Selenius had left it. The handkerchief blanket Hagrid had given him, however, was still there. The pictures still lined up on the wall, moving and smiling, and Hermione saw Harry lean in closer for a better look as Ron poked around the room.
"Hey, check this out!" Ron said, picking up the miniature figure of Viktor Krum, and then pulling a pair of Omnioculars off the shelves. "We got this stuff from the Quidditch World Cup, too—" he turned around to look at Hermione. "Blimey, you don't think…"
"Hey," Harry said quietly.
"I don't know," Hermione said, uncertainly.
"I mean, whoever was here obviously was at the World Cup, I haven't seen this stuff sold anywhere else—and whoa," Ron said, tugging a notebook off the shelf and opening it. "This guy was nuts—you'd like him, Hermione, he's about as crazy for Arithmancy as you are…"
"Guys," Harry said louder.
"What?" Ron and Hermione asked in unison.
"Look at this."
Hermione went to join Harry, her eyes landing upon the photos on the wall with growing dread. Harry had placed his finger on the picture of Hermione and Severus in the staff room, with Selenius in Hermione's arms.
"That's him," Harry said. "It looks exactly like him. That's the toddler I saw in my first year."
"You're worried about the toddler?" Ron asked, looking distinctly ill. "Look at Snape."
"And the woman," Harry said eagerly, trailing his fingers along the wall. "That's my godmother. I recognize her."
Ron peered closer. "Hey, Hermione—"
"Yes, I know," Hermione snapped, pretending to be more interested in the photos than she actually was. "She looks just like me."
"Well…" Ron grinned. "Actually, I was going to say you're prettier, but okay. Her hair's neater, though." He cocked his head to the side. "Although you have to admit that the resemblance is uncanny… you wouldn't happen to have an evil sister that we don't know about?"
Hermione elbowed him, smiling with something akin to relief. "Very funny."
Harry, on the other hand, was not laughing. His fingers trailed first from one photo, then the other, and then back and forth between them. His lips were moving, as though he were talking something over with himself, and Ron goggled at the picture of Severus smiling once more before turning around for another go at the shelves.
Finally, he turned around to look at Hermione.
"I was right," he said. "I knew it. My godmother's married to Snape, and that," he added, tapping the only motionless picture of the lot, pointing to Selenius, "is their son. But…" he trailed off.
"But what?" Hermione asked.
Harry chewed on the inside of his cheek for a moment, and then said, "I didn't know they were so close." Seeing the look of confusion on her face, he amended, "Sirius and my godmother—and look at their kid, Sirius and Remus… this had to have been taken in our fifth year… and here he is, with Fang, in Hagrid's hut…"
"Is he riding Sirius?" Ron asked, nodding toward the picture of Selenius hanging onto a big, black dog. The Remus in the photo was quickly ducking out of the way as he barreled past. "I thought first-years were small, but that kid's tiny."
"Ron!" Hermione chided.
"Well, he is!"
"You don't seem that bothered," Harry said. His voice sounded strange, like he was having a hard time breathing.
"Look," Ron said, setting the Omnioculars down and turning to look at Harry, "we've known about this for years, haven't we? We've suspected it, anyway. I admit that picture of Snape over there is kind of creepy—I always thought that if he ever really smiled, his face would crack in two—but we've found a link to your godmother, haven't we? Isn't that what you wanted?"
Harry did not seem convinced. "Yeah, but…" he struggled to express himself. "I mean, what was she doing here? In this house? This whole time?"
"Hiding, would be my guess," Ron said, now going through Selenius's carefully-organized bookcase. "Snape probably kept him here. Or your godmother. Maybe she lived here with Sirius while he was in hiding, she would have brought the kid along— ah-hah!" he said triumphantly. "Found it!"
"What?" Harry demanded.
"His name's Selenius Tacitus Snape," Ron said, holding up the notebook he had been looking through. "Kid signs his name in all his books."
"Selenius," Harry repeated, as though trying the word out. Ron's words seemed to have finally gotten through to him, and he had calmed down, and was now looking around the room with more curiosity than horror. In truth, Hermione had expected Ron to be the one to lose his head, and she had even half-expected to be recognized. But Ron had prevailed this round, and was bringing Harry with him. "That's a bit of an odd name, don't you think?"
"The Selenius star system," Hermione could not help remind them, as she looked up once more at the picture of Selenius racing alongside Sirius on the beach near Tine Cottage before pulling the covers of the bed back and straightening them out. "We learned that in Astronomy. And the root of the name refers to a lunar deity in Greek mythology."
"His mum must've really liked star-gazing," Ron guessed.
Hermione resisted the urge to roll her eyes at him. "It's a common name in old wizarding families, Ron."
Harry did not reply. He stood beside the bed, staring silently up at the photos, still taking them in. Hermione had gone to Selenius's desk, and almost out of habit, began straightening it up. Ron was still looking through the books, passing over the equations and reading whatever had been legibly written in them. Hermione sat there, chewing on her lower lip, looking thoughtful and worried as Harry and Ron went through the relics of what had been her son's life. She could see the gears practically whirring in Harry's head, trying to piece some parts of the puzzle together, while Ron seemed to enjoy fiddling with Selenius's things. He immediately recognized Hagrid's work in the thestral carving, and spent several minutes tracing his fingers along one of the wings before picking up the small hat covered in pink feathers that hung on the thestral's head.
"Hey," he said, lifting it off the carving, "these are one of Fred and George's Headless Hats." Three bars of chocolate suddenly fell out of it, thunking to the floor, and Ron picked them up. "And Honeydukes. This kid is lucky—completely loaded with goods." He looked around the room with something akin to admiration and jealousy, and with a stab, Hermione remembered that Ron had rarely gotten anything more than hand-me-downs, with five older brothers before him.
"Wonder when he's coming back," Harry mused aloud.
Ron shook his head, waving the chocolate. "Doubtful. This stuff's old. Anyway, if Snape's kid was living here before Dumbledore died, it's pretty obvious that he's not here now. Snape probably took him away."
"Or my godmother," Harry said quietly.
Hermione finally spoke up.
"Harry," she said quietly, "I know you want to find out more about your godmother, but… we have something else to deal with first." Harry gave her a blank look. "Horcruxes, remember?"
Ron let out a sigh. "She's right, mate. We can always look through this stuff later. Anyway," he said, getting to his feet and unpeeling the chocolate and tasting it to see if it was still good, "we haven't told Hermione how we're planning on getting that locket from Umbridge."
"Oh," Harry said, finally pulling himself away from the photos on the wall. "Right."
There was a sudden crack in the doorway, and they all looked.
"Kreacher has the master's tea ready in the Drawing Room, with biscuits," Kreacher said, bowing, "when master and his friends is ready."
"Thanks, Kreacher," Harry said.
They were all finally caught up to speed. Hermione left shortly after, promising to bring back food to stock the house with, and Disapparated back to Tine Cottage. She made it a habit to sleep over once or twice a week at Grimmauld Place as August wore on and they spent more time actively planning and discussing not just how to infiltrate the Ministry, but also what the other Horcruxes might be and where to find them. Harry and Ron were under the impression that she was staying with the Order, which they thought was a good idea.
It was in the second week that Hermione received a Patronus message from Remus, telling her where to meet them. Hermione Apparated to the indicated location, which was a rather nondescript stretch of woods. What she found there, however, was rather shocking; there was a small tent with a kind of antenna poking out from the top, and when Remus invited her inside, what she saw made her jaw drop. Aside from the camp beds strewn around the tent, there was a strange set-up of wires and odd pieces of flesh-colored string criss-crossed around the room, all hooked up to what looked like a microphone. It was so messy that Hermione had to step over and under each string very carefully in order to get inside without knocking anything over.
From the ceiling, hung an owl cage. Hedwig was perched on top of one of the luggage racks stacked in the corner, and when she saw Hermione, let out a low hoot of greeting and glided down onto her arm. Hermione stroked her neck, smiling, before looking up at the twins.
"Hey," Fred said, looking up from where he was kneeling beside one of the pieces of flesh-colored string. "Welcome to the headquarters of Potterwatch. I see you've met our mascot, by the way."
"Potterwatch?" Hermione asked blankly.
"It's an underground Wizarding News Network that Lee Jordan designed," Remus explained, as he took a seat on one of the mattresses. "Fred and George are working with him." He reached out with two fingers to stroke Hedwig's beak. "Hedwig's staying with them for now, since it's not safe at the Burrow. We can't have any sign that Harry's left anything behind that he might come back for, so we brought her here for a bit."
Hedwig ruffled her feathers at this and closed her eyes, looking surprisingly content on Hermione's arm.
"We have to hijack the news station to make it let us in, and put in a password so that the enemy can't listen to our broadcasts easily, but it's bloody brilliant," George said, appearing behind Hermione. "Next password's 'Mad-Eye'. Don't forget to tell Harry and Ron."
"Anyway," Fred said, his expression suddenly serious, "Remus told us that you're in a bit of a bind."
"A rather bizarre one, too."
Hermione looked at Remus, who was shaking his head.
"I told them," he said. "They still can't believe you didn't tell anyone else about the time-turner accident."
Fred waved a hand. "It's not just the time-turner, Moony, my friend. It's the fact that she went back in time twenty years, and returned to this time with a kid and a husband. If that's not shock-worthy, I don't know what is."
"You'll forgive us for our heart attacks," George said, smiling. "I mean, it is hard to match up Miss Goody Two-Shoes with the Order's Right-Hand, isn't it?"
Hermione rounded on Remus. "What did you tell them?" she demanded.
"I explained a bit about what you did in the first war," Remus said calmly. "They needed a bit of context."
"But—" Hermione began.
"Look," Fred interrupted. "Whatever you did, we know a good bit of it now, at least enough to give us an idea."
"But no worries, because we're still going to help you," George said with wink. "Besides, I owe you for my ear. If it hadn't been for you, when they finally make a statue in my honor, they'd have to name me something like George the Holey."
"And we couldn't have that, could we, Gred?" Fred said, looping an arm over his twin's shoulder.
"Not at all, Forge."
Hermione stared at the two of them.
"You'll do it?" she said at last. "You'll help Selenius?"
"Yes, they will," Remus said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "And more importantly, they've promised to keep it secret."
Hermione bowed her head.
"Alright," she said softly. "Thank you."
She was surprised, yet gratified, when Remus pulled her into an embrace. Hermione returned it, giving him a friendly squeeze.
"I always told you everyone in Gryffindor would be your friend if you let them," Remus said gently.
Hermione squeezed him even tighter, and then let go. "Yes," she whispered, emotion filling her voice. "You were right."
The morning of September first, Hermione took Selenius and his trunk to Fred and George's camp. He had just turned twelve the day before, and Molly had sent him a birthday cake and some presents collected from the Order members who knew him, but the celebration as a whole had been an understandably small affair. Introductions were properly made now, and while George shrank down his stuff, Fred looked down at Selenius, stroking his chin contemplatively for a moment, before his expression suddenly brightened.
"Ah-hah!" he exclaimed, sounding very much like Ron. "Now I remember where I knew you from— you were at Weasleys Wizard Wheezes. And," he said, looking up at Hermione, his face lighting up in realization, "you were with him—disguised, of course…"
"How do you remember me?" Selenius asked in disbelief.
"You're the only one whose mother would buy them ten galleons' worth of stuff at once," Fred said, grinning at Hermione. He placed a hand on Selenius's head, ruffling his hair. "Anyway, did you put them to good use? Please tell me you put them to good use."
"He's the reason your stuff was banned before term even started," Hermione said dryly. "I also have reason to believe your Reusable Hangman was making death threats to Mrs. Norris."
"Good," George said with an approving nod. He held out a hand to Selenius, as though to shake it. "Ready to go?"
Selenius nodded, and looked at his mother. Hermione looked as though she were fighting very hard not to cry, and it was Remus who seemed to be keeping her from doing so, by keeping a comforting hand on her shoulder. With another hand, George reached up for the owl cage hanging from the ceiling, unhooking it and lowering it to his side. The snowy owl inside ruffled her feathers and hooted softly, but made no protest.
"I'll see you for Christmas?" Selenius asked hopefully.
Hermione nodded, knowing she lying to herself just as much.
Satisfied, he took George's hand. They stood there for a moment, and then there were two simultaneous, loud cracks of Apparition, and they had gone.
Selenius pushed his cart through the wall and onto Platform 9 ¾, with Fred and George flanking him on either side. A snowy owl hooted quietly from her cage, which rested atop her trunk. George had brought the owl—named Hedwig—with them, and said that he would be taking her with him. The owl was friendly enough, if a little stiff on reception, and Selenius had the vague sense that he had seen it before. George had not been quite straight with him on why he was taking this particular owl with him, but Selenius wasn't about to complain. The moment they were through, George immediately directed the cart over to the train, not giving Selenius a single moment to stop and take in the crowd around them. He hefted the luggage off the cart, and began loading it in while Fred grasped Selenius's shoulder and led him in the opposite direction.
"Right-o," he said, leading the way. "This is it."
"I was expecting more trouble," Selenius mumbled. It was not that he was disappointed, but rather that the whole operation was going smoothly had him feeling uneasy.
"So was I," Fred conceded, "but it looks like there aren't any of Voldy's henchmen hanging around here. Ready?" he asked, stopping at the door.
"Remember what your mother said," Fred told him seriously. "Be good, stay out of trouble, remember your family tree…"
Selenius nodded again.
"And make sure to cause mischief every once in a while." Fred winked at him. "A little chaos every now and then is a good thing."
Selenius grinned at him. He liked the Weasley twins already. "Thanks."
"And please, do take good care of that owl."
He clambered on board, and found himself in the carriage corridor. It was crowded, with everyone trying to find an available compartment, or an empty one to reserve for their friends. He pushed his way through, poking his head into compartments here and there, trying to find a place to sit.
"Over here, this one's empty, let's go—"
"How was your summer?"
Now panicking slightly, wondering if there was even someplace left for him to sit, Selenius ducked forward hurriedly toward the back of the train, and promptly collided with one of the older students. He stumbled backward and looked up, and opened his mouth to apologize when he froze.
"Get out of my way," Draco Malfoy snapped, brushing past him. Selenius quickly righted himself, about to keep searching, when the older boy suddenly did a double-take and turned around.
"Wait, don't I know you—"
Selenius did not hesitate a moment longer. He dashed forward, bumping into several people, knocking things out of their hands as he pushed and shoved through, trying to lose himself in the crowd. Behind him, he heard some grunts and complaints as people tried to pick their things up, only to have them knocked out of their hands again as the older boy shoved them aside to go after him.
Not caring whether the compartment was already filled or not, but seeing that it was already part-way open, Selenius quickly ducked inside and slid it shut. The students he had just walked in on looked at him with bewildered expressions as he quickly looked around the compartment, looking for someplace to hide, and then dove underneath the seat. He saw the tall, round-faced boy look as though he were about to get up from his seat, but then the compartment door slid open again.
Selenius saw part of the blond's head poking in, but he did not seem to think to look down. A quick look, and he withdrew, though not before sneering at its other occupants. The compartment door slammed shut again. He stayed there for a moment, not daring to move a muscle, and then one of the other students got out of her seat. A pair of sneakered feet walked over toward him, and then a girl with blond hair knelt down next to him.
"You can come out, you know," she said. "There aren't any wrackspurts left, but you might attract them if you stay down there for too long."
The train had begun to move steadily now, leaving Kings Cross behind. Selenius made himself comfortable on one of the seats near the window, staring out as the countryside blurred past them, and then turned to the three older students he was sharing the compartment with, sizing them up.
There was the round-faced seventh-year who had introduced himself as Neville Longbottom. The blond-haired girl from earlier was Luna Lovegood, and it had only taken Selenius roughly thirty seconds to assess that she was barking mad, if not outright loony. The red-haired girl, however, he recognized after a moment's pause; he had seen her before, and when he got her name, he immediately remembered where. He had seen pictures of Ginevra Weasley before, and of course Molly and Arthur had occasionally talked about their other kids within his earshot. The red hair and hazel eyes were unmistakable.
When Selenius had introduced himself, he had no inclination to tell them who his parents were; and when he merely identified himself as Selenius Black, and as a first-year, all three of them had shut up immediately. Except for Luna, but Ginny had shushed the girl when she opened her mouth to speak. Now they all sat in awkward silence, Selenius's legs dangling a few inches off the floor and swinging as the train moved, and all he could think of right now was how much he wished his mother had simply had him Floo to Hogwarts instead. This was destined to be a long trip, and from the looks of it, and unpleasant one.
He could have gotten up to find another compartment, but he felt he was better off in here than wandering the rest of the train. Draco might see him again. It was not that Selenius did not want to see him, because in truth, he had very much been looking forward to seeing him again—but the boy had met him before, and questions would be asked.
Selenius had not even been sorted yet. He did not know what house he would be in. He would need to find a way to salvage the situation before he saw Draco again. Perhaps he might even find a way to speak to his father for help— or, since he now had an owl, perhaps he would send a letter to his mother for advice.
He leaned forward on his knees, lost in thought. Suddenly, the dreamy-eyed blond waved her hand in front of his face, startling him.
"What?" he snapped.
"Wrackspurts," the older girl said simply. "They were starting to get a bit aggressive."
"Thanks," Selenius said insincerely.
The train rocked steadily beneath them, the only sound in the compartment other than the white noise filtering in from the corridors and other compartments. Selenius hesitated for a moment, and then looked up at the seventh-year Gryffindor sitting across him.
"How do we get Sorted?"
It had never occurred to him to ask his parents, which he now felt to be a bit of an oversight on his part, especially since they had both taught there. Surely they would know. But now he was riding off into the unknown, and already had a problem that needed planning to get around—Draco Malfoy—and if he at least had some idea of where he was going to go, he could get onto that as soon as possible.
"Oh," Neville said, sitting up quickly. "There's a Sorting Hat."
Selenius stared at him blankly.
"You put it on your head, and it kind of pokes around for a bit, to decide where to put you," the boy said. Judging by the unimpressed look on Selenius's face, it seemed he was doing a poor job of explaining it properly, because he hastily added, "It's a talking hat—sings a song when you guys get lined up in the Great Hall, and then you each try it on. It calls out the name of the house it chooses for you."
"How does it choose?" Selenius asked.
"W-well," Neville said, blustering a bit. "It—er, it sort of… I mean, each of the four houses value certain qualities over others, so the hat sort of puts you in the house you best fit in."
Selenius raised an eyebrow at him.
"And you're a Gryffindor?" he asked skeptically.
"'Where dwell the brave at heart,'" Neville said, with an almost resigned sigh.
The food trolley had come and gone, when the Hogwarts Express came to an abrupt, screeching halt. The chocolate frog Selenius had been unwrapping hopped out of his hand and thunked against the window in a rather disturbing fashion from the force of the train's stop, and slid down a few inches, leaving a chocolate smear on the window. Ginny and Neville both looked alarmed, and as Selenius got up to scrape his would-be snack off the glass, he suddenly wondered if this was not part of the plan.
"Is this normal?" he asked, as the chocolate frog let out a faint croak. "For the train to stop?"
"No," Ginny said, getting to her feet and pulling out her wand. "We're not there yet—I don't know why we've stopped…"
"So this is—bad, right?" Selenius confirmed, a sinking feeling in his gut.
"I think so," Neville said, as he pulled out his wand as well.
Luna looked unconcerned. She set down her copy of the Quibbler, and looked out the window.
"Oh," she said, pointing. "They're here."
"What?" Selenius asked, peering through the pane. Dark figures had appeared outside the train and were approaching, all cloaked and wearing masks, and he could not make them out very well. It was too dark. Still, they were getting closer. Panic rose in his chest. "What—what are they?"
Ginny leaned over toward the window, and then reeled back.
"Death Eaters," she exclaimed. "But how? I thought—"
She broke off as the sound of the train doors opening echoed through the corridor. And then without warning, the door to their compartment was quickly pulled wide. Selenius scrabbled backwards in surprise, and then fear, as he recognized the cowl of the Death Eaters. There were two of them, one leaning into their compartment, another at its back and looking at the compartment across the aisle. From the sounds of it, other compartments were being searched, too.
The grotesquely-masked head swiveled slowly, as though looking for something, and then withdrew. In a flash, Neville was after him, blocking the doorway with his body as he leaned his head out into the corridor.
At once, it seemed, the train went silent. Selenius could imagine every Death Eater in the coach had their attention on Neville, and if anything, he shrank back further against the window. The chocolate frog in his hands croaked pathetically.
"He isn't here."
The Death Eater who had disappeared a moment ago to search another compartment suddenly reappeared, wand pointed at Neville's temple. Selenius could see fury and disdain radiating from the eyes behind the holes in the mask.
"What did you say?" the Death Eater demanded roughly, dangerously.
Neville opened his mouth to speak.
The chocolate frog in Selenius's hands decided at that moment to make another bid for freedom; it leapt away, soared past Neville's head, and landed with another sickening thunk on the Death Eater's face. The man let out an undignified half-scream, stumbling backward as the semi-sentient sweet frantically tried to get away. Alarm erupted in the corridors, and there were several jets of light as the other Death Eaters, not understanding what was happening, immediately started hexing the source of the commotion. The man slumped to the ground with a whimper.
The chocolate frog landed on the floor, and began to half-drag, half-hop away. Selenius sat there, not daring to breathe as it trailed away…
And a moment later, was crushed under the heel of another Death Eater's boot.
"Well," Selenius said finally, half an hour later, "I guess… that was probably the most exciting thing any chocolate frog's done in its life."
"I used to have a toad," Neville said miserably. "Trust me, he wasn't much better off."
The Death Eaters had finally left, taking their unconscious companion with them, and thoroughly assured that Harry Potter was indeed not on the train. They had been enraged to discover that the source of their troubles was nothing more than an over-excited snack from the food trolley, and combined with their disappointment that their target was not present, they seemed ready to start hexing the lot of them to teach them a lesson.
It was a tall Death Eater who stopped them.
"Snape said he wanted the students to reach Hogwarts in one piece," he told them, when they had their wands raised and ready to start with Neville. "Our orders were to leave them unharmed. We didn't find what we came for. Let's go."
They had been extremely lucky, in Selenius's estimation.
Ginny crossed her arms and let out a huff of exasperation.
"I can't believe they were hoping to find Harry here," she said. "Honestly, what did they expect—that he'd be all packed up and riding the train back to school?"
"Well, why wouldn't he?" Selenius asked.
"Because he's on the run from You-Know-Who," Ginny said, "and Dumbledore's dead. Hogwarts isn't safe."
"Then why are we going?" Selenius wondered out loud. "I mean, if it's not safe…"
"Well, the Death Eaters aren't really interested in us," Ginny said. "To them, we're just students. They only want Harry. Or Ron. Or Hermione."
"Who?" Selenius asked blankly, feeling very out of the loop.
"You haven't been reading the news, haven't you?" Luna asked, looking up from her copy of the Quibbler, which she was reading sideways, for some odd reason. "Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. They're Harry Potter's best friends, so they're wanted by the Ministry, of course."
"But there are still some students who aren't coming back," Neville cut in. "Dean's not on the train. He couldn't prove his heritage to the Muggle-Born Registration Committee, so he's in hiding."
"Anyone who's a Muggle-born is in hiding," Ginny said. "They'd be arrested, otherwise."
Selenius remained silent. Ginny peered at him for a moment, and then said rather worriedly, "You aren't a Muggle-born, are you? Because if you are, the minute you set foot in Hogwarts…"
"I'm a half-blood," Selenius replied, a bit too defensively.
"They're going to want to know who, though," Neville muttered, turning his head to try and read the front cover of Luna's magazine sideways. "You have to be able to give names, or they're going to go after you anyway, like Dean."
"Si… Sirius Black," Selenius mumbled, turning away.
Ginny's jaw dropped. Neville looked surprised. Luna looked up from her magazine.
"You mean Stubby Boardman?" she asked brightly.
"That's not possible," Ginny said, looking dumbstruck. "You're lying. I mean, I get it if you're hiding your parentage, but there's no way that's going to fly, because Sirius didn't have any kids, and—"
"He wasn't married," Selenius replied defensively. "Anyway, I can prove it."
"Yeah?" Ginny demanded. "How?"
In response, Selenius dug into the pocket of his jeans, and pulled out a folded-up photo. He carefully flattened it out and held it up for Ginny to see. It was a picture of Selenius as a toddler, sitting at the table of Grimmauld Place with Sirius. Ginny stared at him in disbelief as Selenius quickly folded the photo up and put it away.
"But… but…" she said.
"I was there when your dad got attacked by a giant snake, and you lot wanted to go running off to St. Mungo's," Selenius replied sullenly. "I lived at Grimmauld Place. It's just that none of you ever saw me."
"I believe you," Ginny said, still looking as though someone had just poured cold water over her.
Luna looked at him curiously, tilting her head to the side as though trying to ascertain whether he was telling the truth, and then settled back down to her magazine.
Selenius had the disquieting notion that she did not really believe him.
"All righ'," Hagrid called, waving as they gingerly picked themselves off the little rowboats. "Firs' years over here… firs' years this way…"
Selenius immediately came to stand on the stone steps, where Hagrid was waiting for them. Other first years were slowly clustering around him, shivering slightly in the cold, but otherwise staring uneasily either up at the castle or the grey, gloomy, overcast sky. The other students were heading up to the castle in horseless carriages. Ginny, who had warmed up considerably toward him now, wished him luck for the Sorting, and then had disappeared in a carriage with Neville, Luna, and another seventh-year.
Hagrid had not recognized him immediately, and right now, Selenius had no intention of drawing attention to himself. He was hopeful that there might be an opportunity to visit Hagrid later, but he was unsure if the half-giant was aware that he was staying under a fake identity, and didn't want to test that right now. Not in this company.
They had rowed across the lake. The water was a smooth mirror of black, like glass, only broken in ripples by the wind. The depths below were impenetrable from above, but more than once Selenius could have sworn he saw something with tentacles moving just underneath the surface. He tried to breathe easy, telling himself it was just the giant squid.
"Everyone make it all righ'?" Hagrid asked, surveying the cluster of students. "Got yer things? You, there—got yer hat?" A small girl was wringing water out of her black pointy hat, which had clearly taken a dip in the lake. "Let's go!"
And they marched their way up the steps, to the doors of the Great Hall. The other students had never seen Hogwarts before, and were all clearly amazed by what they saw—tall pillars that greeted them by towering intimidatingly, with gargoyles peering out at them from the approaching darkness. The fountain in the courtyard they trudged through, lights that shone from every window, making the castle look like a giant stone jack-o-lantern…
Yet, Selenius had been here before, and it was not new to him. He was too preoccupied to be fascinated. When they stopped at the doors, it was to find Professor McGonagall waiting for them.
"The firs' years, Professor," Hagrid said.
"Thank you, Hagrid." She looked as strict and stern as ever, but there was an edge of weariness to her that Selenius had not seen before. Perhaps it was just his imagination. Maybe she was just getting old. "I'll take them from here."
Hagrid nodded, and then gave the first years a friendly salute before pulling the massive doors open and heading inside. They shut behind him, and McGonagall took in a very deep breath, before she began to speak.
"Welcome to Hogwarts," she said tightly. "The start-of-term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory and spend free time in your house common room."
She looked them all over sternly.
"The four houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin," she continued briskly. "Each house has its own noble history and each has produced outstanding witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your house points, while any rule-breaking will lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the House Cup, a great honour." She inhaled sharply, and when she spoke again, it sounded a bit as though she had a bit of a head cold. "I hope each of you will be a credit to whichever house becomes yours.
"This year, there has been a change in staffing, which you may not be aware of," she said. "We have a new Headmaster, whom you will all meet in the Great Hall shortly." Her eyes landed on Selenius, and for some reason, they did not seem at all friendly. They lingered for a moment, and then she turned away. "I will collect you for the Sorting ceremony in a few moments' time. Please wait here quietly."
She left, ascending the stairs just as Hagrid had done, and closing the door behind her. The other students all began to whisper nervously among themselves, but Selenius was hardly listening. He was too uneasy. Something was not right. He knew Professor Dumbledore was dead; his father had admitted to doing the deed himself. Selenius had spent two weeks with enormous difficulty in reconciling those two things, until he finally concluded that there must have been some reason, some very good reason, for his father to kill the previous Headmaster. What reason this was, he did not know.
But it seemed Hogwarts had changed. A fog of depression seemed to have settled over it, and he couldn't quite make sense of it.
And then there was the Sorting Ceremony. His father had been the Head of Slytherin; his mother was a Gryffindor. Which house would he be sent to?
All too soon, McGonagall returned, ordering them all to line up before leading them inside. They filed through the Entrance Hall, and a moment later, through the open doors of the Great Hall. Selenius blinked owlishly as the light of a thousand candles, all floating above the tables, lit up the otherwise dark and dreary ceiling, which was just as dark grey as the sky outside. All around them, hundreds of students were sitting at their house tables, some leaning in their seats and straining to get a look at the new arrivals. Selenius nearly jumped back a foot as a silent, silver-stained specter floated right in front of him, brushing his sleeve and making it feel as though his shoulder had been dipped in a bucket of ice. He recognized the Bloody Baron as he glided over to the table of black and green-clad students, turning his ghastly face upon the other tables with a look of pure disinterest.
The hall seemed deathly silent, for some reason. It was only now that Selenius realized this. None of the students sitting at the tables were talking. The only sound was a sudden clap of unexpected thunder lighting up the sky, and the first-years' footsteps echoing in the hall. Even the ghosts were silent, the Fat Friar most surprisingly, whom Selenius had always had the impression of being an amicable chatterbox.
And then they all halted abruptly. The girl trailing behind him very nearly collided with him, and despite being near the front of the line, she had to peer around him in order to see why they had stopped. Selenius had no trouble seeing, however; he was indisputably the tallest of the lot, and could see a good three or four inches over his fellow first-years' heads. Most of them were standing on their toes to see over him.
What he saw was McGonagall striding up toward the dais where—and Selenius's heart leapt at this, glad for a familiar face that at least knew his situation— he saw his father standing. The teachers were all seated at the staff table, their faces set and stony, perhaps even a shade mutinous, but Headmaster Snape radiated aloof disinterest in the face of their disapproval. She placed a ragged, torn and patched hat that was so filthy that Selenius wondered if someone had buried it in Hagrid's garden for a year before unearthing it, on top of a wooden stool; and without another word, or even a direct glance at the raven-haired man standing beside it, she strode toward the table and stiffly took her seat.
His father stood there, as though waiting for something to happen; and then quite suddenly, the Sorting Hat shifted slightly, the ragged tear at the brim opening wide.
And then it burst into song:
I may be patched and frayed,
With a thousand years to go to pot;
But I am the Hogwarts Sorting Cap,
The smartest hat and all that rot!
Set yourself upon this stool,
Pull me down around your head;
I will see that of which you are made,
Clever, kind, cunning, or brave instead!
I will have a poke around your mind,
And send you to those whom you will be among;
So listen closely to the Sorting Hat,
This is my redundant song:
You may belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart;
The House of Lions is full of daring nerve,
Courageouness sets them apart.
Perhaps you belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are patient with toil;
The House of the Badger is hardworking and true,
And unfalteringly loyal.
And you may be in Slytherin,
Where await the most cunning kind;
The House of Snakes are slippery friends,
These ambitious folks use any means they can find.
Or you may find yourself in Ravenclaw,
Among those of keen minds;
Those who nest in the House of the Raven,
Are of the keenest kind.
So put me on, and have no fear,
I will sort you to where you belong;
Tug me snug around your ears,
And I will pull you from the throng;
Though by talent you are divided,
These are dark times that we live in;
The bonds that come from within
Should not be thus quartered.
I have sung, I have warned,
Let the Sorting now commence.
The hat quickly fell silent. A few murmurs could be heard coming from the house tables, but they died away as soon as they had begun. The new Headmaster seemed to have the ability to silence the students with little effort. Selenius watched his father's hand dip into the pocket of his robes, and a moment later, he carefully unrolled a long scroll of parchment. A moment's pause, and then he turned his attention to the waiting students.
"When I call your name, you will come up here, and place the Sorting Hat upon your head," he said smoothly. His gaze lingered on them, but it was not a friendly one. "Once you have been Sorted, you will make your way to your house table. You will await your turn in perfect silence."
His eyes glittered dangerously at them, and Selenius saw more than one student quaking in their shoes now. The hair on his back was standing on end of its own accord; he had been looking forward to seeing his father again, even if they had not parted on the best of terms, but now he was well and truly frightened. Yet, Headmaster Snape seemed entirely unconcerned with the terror he had inspired, unless it was to look faintly satisfied with himself, and he began calling out names.
The first-years left the line one by one, walking up to try on the hat. Some stumbled in surprise when called, others tried to look as dignified and centered as possible. They would sit on the stool, most of them trying not to look intimidated by the fact that the Headmaster was towering over them less than a foot away, and failing spectacularly. The first time the hat shouted out its decision ("GRYFFINDOR!") Selenius nearly jumped back in surprise, stepping on the foot of the girl behind him, and the boy who had just been sorted nearly fell off the chair. Selenius did not have long to wait; they had only been standing in line for five minutes when his name was called.
"Black, Selenius." There was no inflection in his father's voice to indicate that the name held any particular meaning to him. It was said with cold, sneering indifference, and he glared down at Selenius just as he had with every other student who had stepped up before him. Selenius walked up to the steps, and wordlessly picked up the hat.
He wondered if the torn brim that opened cut into the inside, and instead of putting it on immediately, he turned it over in his hands to look. The faint, repressed titters he heard coming from the tables should have warned him, but he did not register their significance until the hat was forcefully ripped out of his hands. He found himself being pushed onto his seat, and the hat was summarily yanked down over his eyes.
"A bit curious now, are we?" said a voice in his ear.
That was all the warning Selenius got, before the word "SLYTHERIN!" rang through the room. Before he had time to register what had just happened, the hat was suddenly pulled off his head, and he looked up in time to see his father's impassive face. Their eyes locked for a moment, and then Selenius looked away, pushing himself off the stool and making his way toward Slytherin table.
He saw a pale blond head sitting taller above the rest, and it was impossible to miss the fact that Draco was scooting down the bench to make room. Selenius hesitated, for one long moment, and then hastily capitulated, sliding into the seat next to the older boy. The next name was called, and in the midst of the hat shouting out "GRYFFINDOR!", Draco folded his arms on the table and leaned down until he was level with Selenius.
It was the first time Selenius had gotten a good look at the older boy. His face was paler than ever, drawn, and with dark circles under his eyes. Yet, there was no mistaking those grey eyes narrowed in calculation, or the intelligence that glinted behind them. However ill he looked, he was in no way any less sharp—or curious.
"Selenius Black," he said, keeping his voice low enough for only Selenius to hear. "I don't suppose you're about to tell me that Sirrah is just a nickname, is it?"
Selenius felt it safer not to respond. Draco moved so that his mouth was directly at Selenius's ear, so that only he could possibly hear what he had to say next:
"In Slytherin house, your survival depends on how well you make allies," the pale blond whispered. "After this, I think, we're going to talk."
Draco leaned against the wall, arms folded, as he listened to Selenius's explanation. That he had lied about his parentage, not because of his blood purity, but because his father had been in the Order of the Phoenix—and since his death, Selenius had been shunted from house to house since then, and held a fake identity. Selenius had mixed in part-truths with blatant lies, and when he finally finished, he leaned back and waited for the other boy to take it all in.
Draco took several minutes to respond. But when he did, he looked thoughtful, staring into the fireplace of the empty Slytherin common room.
"So," he finally said, "who's your mother, then?"
"A Muggle-born," Selenius admitted cagily.
"Name, Selenius. I'm looking for a name."
Selenius shrugged. Draco tapped his fingers on the arm of the couch for a moment, and then shrugged.
"Fine. I suppose it doesn't matter—you're the son of a pureblood, even if he is a blood-traitor, and that's what counts," he said coolly. "You'll do well in Slytherin house, Selenius, mark my words—but its people with the most obvious secrets who get struck down, first." He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully at Selenius. "You need protection. Someone who has your back."
"I suppose that's you?" Selenius asked surreptitiously.
"Not without something in return, of course," Draco said off-handedly.
"I'm not asking much," the blond interrupted, crossing his legs.
Selenius folded his arms across his chest. "I don't care what you're asking for. I'm not giving anything."
"Loyalty," Draco said, his voice almost coaxing now. "Companionship. Someone who can actually carry an intelligent conversation, and understands the concept of confidentiality. Surely that's not too much?"
Selenius hesitated. Draco had just listed exactly what he himself was looking for.
"In short," he clarified, "a friend?"
"A rose by any other name," he said.
For the first week of school, Selenius saw little of his father, except at mealtimes. Headmaster Snape had expressed no more interest in him than any other student, except perhaps to show preferential treatment to the Slytherins, but he seemed to be making a concerted effort at not showing unnecessary concern over Selenius.
It became immediately apparent to the other Slytherins that Draco had taken Selenius under his wing as his protégé, and as a Death Eater, those two things went hand in hand with Selenius having little to no trouble within his own house. He got along with the other first-year Slytherins, and a few second-years deigned to notice him, but mostly, everyone else seemed so self-absorbed that they paid him almost no heed. He was just a tall, wavy-haired first-year. Nothing special.
He tried to make friends with the other first-years, particularly those he shared classes with, but it was difficult. If they were not in Slytherin, they were wary and suspicious of him, despite any apparent good intentions. Often even outright hostile. Furthermore, he found that talking to other kids his own age was shockingly and despairingly awkward. He had little frame of reference to relate to them, and when he spoke, he sometimes found himself stuttering or outright stumbling over his words. Talking to them was taxing, and he found that many of the younger students had a tendency to mumble. It was nothing like what Selenius had ever experienced for as long as he could remember, and he found that despite the now ample opportunity he had to make friends with kids his own age, the only thing in his way was himself. Or rather, his social incompetency when it came to dealing with his peers.
Selenius found immediately that he did not like either of Malfoy's other friends—if they could be called such. Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe seemed to fulfill the role of bodyguard more than friend, and in a way, Selenius found himself able to understand and sympathize with Draco if he had been feeling lonely. He hadn't exactly been locked away from the world for the last twelve years, as Selenius had, but being in the constant company of two brainless gorgons had to fairly restricting.
Selenius was thrilled when classes began, but his enthusiasm was almost cruelly curbed the moment he saw the teachers. He had known them since he was a baby; he had grown up admiring them. But it seemed that Professor McGonagall had turned cold to him, barely paying attention to him in class. Sprout seemed a bit distant. Only Flitwick seemed to not hold his father's hand in Dumbledore's death against him, and Slughorn was absolutely oblivious, which made Potions and Charms the only two classes Selenius was truly able to enjoy.
Defense Against the Dark Arts was a nightmare. Muggle Studies, which had previously been optional, had been made compulsory. Selenius's first class with the Carrows was spent being told that rule-breakers would be subject to the Cruciatus Curse, and that Muggles were barbaric animals that needed to be put down. At the start of the second Muggle-studies class, Alecto Carrow asked students who had Muggle parentage to stand up.
Selenius had the good sense to remain in his seat.
As did every other student.
Alecto Carrow had looked at them all approvingly.
"Good," she said nastily. "No filthy blood in here."
She had then proceeded to explain to them that Muggles were like cattle, and that they were responsible for driving witches and wizards into hiding by attempting to hunt them down, and that anyone with such muddied blood was automatically inferior. By the end of the week, Selenius, who had been so looking forward to going to school, now wanted nothing more than to leave. He excelled in all of his classes, although he was merely doing passably with the Carrows by going through the motions of their class without putting his heart into it, and he was utterly miserable.
In truth, his only consolation was the fact that he now had someone he could call a friend. Draco set aside evenings to play chess with him, out of the presence of his bodyguards, which Selenius found to be something of a relief. After so many years of not having a friend closer to his own age, this need, at least, was being met.
He had tried to seek out Ginny Weasley and Neville Longbottom, but they seemed to be studiously avoiding him now. Luna Lovegood was the only one he could seem to catch up to, and she said quite plainly what Selenius already knew.
"Oh, they're a bit wary, you see," she told him one evening, in the library. She added unnecessarily, "You're a Slytherin, after all."
"So?" Selenius snapped. "That shouldn't make a difference."
Luna cocked her head at him. "I know it shouldn't, but haven't you seen what other Slytherins have been doing to them?"
Selenius fell silent, recalling the older Slytherins who had returned from detention, not to serve it, but to give it to the unfortunate students who had caught the Carrows' ire. Luna smiled at him.
"It's okay, though," she said simply. "I'll be your friend."
Draco had snorted at this later, when they were playing chess.
"Loony Lovegood?" he sneered.
Selenius, who had fallen back into the habit of not dignifying questions he did not like with a verbal answer, merely sent his knight to cut down Draco's queen. Deciding to drop the issue of the slightly-batty Ravenclaw, they played in silence, until Selenius finally broke the ice.
"Where's the Headmaster's office?" He knew where it was, but it had been so long since he had been there that he was no longer certain.
"Snape?" Draco said. "Why?"
Selenius shrugged. "He was the former Slytherin Head of House, wasn't he?"
"There's Slughorn," the blond replied sulkily.
Selenius raised an eyebrow at him. "Would you really go to Slughorn?"
Draco examined his face for a moment, and then laughed. "You're right. Slughorn's a has-been. If I were you, I'd go to Snape too."
He directed Selenius on how to get to the Headmaster's Office, and then offered to accompany him. Selenius shrugged.
"It's not really necessary."
"Fine," Draco said, sounding bored. "I'll get my Transfiguration done." He yawned exaggeratedly, and then stretched. "I still don't get why they keep McGonagall around here. She's just another has-been, too."
Selenius stood up. "As you say," he responded diplomatically.
He left the common room, exited the dungeons, and made his way up the stairs leading to the Entrance Hall when he suddenly stopped.
In bright red and gold paint, in lettering so large that it would surely give Filch a heart attack when he discovered what new mess he would have to clean, were the words:Dumbledore's Army, still recruiting!
Selenius stood there, quite at a loss for words, when suddenly footsteps caught his attention, and he whipped around.
"You!" Amycus snapped, halting at the foot of the stairs. "So you're the one who's been behind this!"
"What?" Selenius asked blankly.
"Don't play games with me, you little bugger!" In three long strides, the Carrow had grabbed Selenius's arm, yanking him forward painfully. "All over the Charms corridor and the third floor—those messages you've been spray-painting on the wall!"
"I didn't do it!" Selenius said hotly, trying to pull away. "I was just coming upstairs and found it!"
A sudden blow to the head knocked him to the ground. Dazed, Selenius stared up at the ceiling, pain pulsing in the back of his head where he had landed, and on his cheek where Amycus had struck him. Torchlight from above flickered and spun dizzyingly for a moment, and then a strong hand was dragging him back to his feet by the wrist and up the stairs. Selenius stumbled in place behind him, not quite able to regain his footing.
"We'll see what the Headmaster has to say about this," Amycus snarled.
A voice suddenly rang across the room.
"What do you think you're doing?" McGonagall said, appearing two landings above them, and staring in horror at the bruise forming under Selenius's left cheek. "Professor Carrow—Professor Carrow, is that a student?"
"Right in one," Amycus responded nastily. Triumphantly, he added, "Caught him at the scene of the crime!"
McGonagall was hurrying down the steps, wand raised, pale and tight-lipped as she approached. Selenius screwed his eyes shut in pain as the dull throbbing in his head refused to leave, but opened them again when the Transfiguration Professor grabbed the wrist that the Carrow was gripping.
"We do not manhandle our students!" she said, her voice filled with cold fury as she placed herself between Selenius and the outraged Carrow. "Just because he was found there does not mean he did it! There's no way he could have gotten through the castle that quickly."
Amycus scratched the back of his head. "His friends probably helped him," he said.
"Do you have any proof?" McGonagall demanded tightly.
"Well, he was there, wasn't he?" Carrow snapped. "I'm about to take him up to see Snape—he'll sort him out."
"I'll take him from here," McGonagall said sharply.
Selenius winced as Amycus's grip on his wrist tightened painfully—and then the man suddenly released him. Selenius watched him storm up the steps with unfocused eyes, and disappear off through the door leading to the Charms corridor, muttering furiously to himself. As soon as he had disappeared, McGonagall released his hand and tilted Selenius's chin up so that she could see him properly.
"Are you alright?"
Selenius tried to shake his head, but that only made the pounding worse, so he muttered, "No."
"Did Professor Carrow do this to you?"
Professor McGonagall straightened.
"We're going to take you to Poppy," she said decisively, "and then we'll take you to the Headmaster to sort you out."
Selenius was surprised by this radical change of attitude. The Transfiguration teacher had all but ignored him in her classes, and now she had intervened. Nevertheless, he was grateful, as she directed him toward the hospital wing.
"Did you spray paint those words on the wall?" she asked.
Selenius looked up at her. A nice, purple bruise had begun to form just underneath his eye, now forcing him to shut it.
"No," he said.
Poppy had him patched up in no time at all, and Selenius found himself no longer voluntarily walking up to the Headmaster's office, but now being marched there, as though he had committed some kind of crime. They approached the gargoyle, and for a moment, the Gryffindor Head of House hesitated, as though taking a moment to gather herself; and then she said, "Moonstone."
The gargoyle hopped aside, and the two of them made their way up the spiral staircase. A knock on the door, and then Selenius heard his father's silky voice command, "Enter."
They entered, and then stopped dead in their tracks. Amycus Carrow was already waiting for them there. His pig-like face turned to look at them, and at that moment, Selenius wanted nothing more than to turn and run back to Slytherin house. He suppressed the urge, and instead turned his gaze on the Headmaster, who sat behind his desk, elbows resting on the surface, and fingers laced. He looked thoroughly unconcerned. If anything, his father's lack of reaction made Selenius even more frightened.
McGonagall spoke first. Lips twisting with distaste, she said, "Amycus claims he found Mr. Black in the Entrance Hall."
"The scene of the crime," Amycus repeated.
McGonagall's lips thinned. "Be as that may, there is no evidence of wrongdoing. Despite this, Amycus saw fit to subject him to corporal punishment before attempting to drag him up to see you."
The Headmaster's eyes glittered at this.
"Is this true, Professor Carrow?" he asked coolly.
"The little brat was trying to get away!" Amycus spat.
"Nevertheless, as Professor McGonagall has pointed out, just because he was present is no proof that he is the guilty one," Headmaster Snape said, leaning back in his chair. "I have told you I would allow the use of the Cruciatus as punishment for the most egregious rule-breakers, Amycus, but you are not to use corporal punishment indiscriminately. If you continue to do so," he added, his voice lowering dangerously, "I will be forced to revoke such permission."
"Ask him!" Amycus said, pointing a lumpy hand at Selenius. "Ask him if he did it!"
Selenius's father turned to look at him.
"Did you write those words on the wall?" he inquired.
"No," Selenius said vehemently.
"I doubt that, Amycus," the Headmaster said coolly. "There's no history with him. I suspect he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Amycus looked furious. He kicked the foot of one of the armchairs as he turned to leave, and there was an almighty slam as the door shut behind him. Selenius flinched, and then looked back at his father.
"Dad?" he whispered.
The Headmaster waved a hand dismissively at McGonagall. "You can leave."
The Transfiguration teacher's lips pressed into a thin line at this, but she merely turned on her heels and left. The door shut quietly behind her, leaving the office in relative silence. Not a word was spoken for a moment, before his father gestured at the armchair Amycus had kicked.
"Sit down," he said imperiously.
Selenius obeyed, and he was about to open his mouth to speak, when one of the portraits suddenly spoke.
"Alecto Carrow is dragging Ginny Weasley to see Argus Filch for interrogation," the portrait said. "Something about spray-painting something on the third-floor corridor—"
Headmaster Snape stood up so quickly that he almost knocked his chair over. He left without a word, the door shutting with a tell-tale click behind him that indicated there would be no one else coming in. Selenius sat there, in the Headmaster's office, quite alone save for the company of the portraits. None of them, however, seemed to have much to say, murmuring behind their hands to each other.
The portrait hanging behind the Headmaster's chair, however, suddenly stirred. Selenius stared at the oil daubs of Albus Dumbledore as they came to life, and looked up at him.
"Hello," he said pleasantly.
"Er…" Selenius responded, not at all sure what to say. He swallowed, and cleared his throat. "Uh, I never got the chance to thank you properly…" he trailed off.
"For the pair of thick, woolen socks I gave you for Christmas two years ago?"
Selenius looked away.
"I suspect, however, that is not what you are truly interested in discussing."
"Did my father really kill you?" he blurted out.
"Yes," Dumbledore said simply.
Selenius stood up. "How can you be so calm about that? I mean, he's sitting in your chair, he's letting the Carrows teach here—"
"It's quite easy to be calm about my death, I think, because I am already dead," Dumbledore said cheerfully. "As for the Carrows, I'm afraid your father didn't have much choice in allowing that to happen."
Selenius inhaled sharply. "I don't understand. He murdered you—"
"Ah," Dumbledore said. "He did kill me, but murder it was not."
Selenius stared at him.
"I can't tell the difference," he said.
Dumbledore folded his hands in his lap. "Your father was responsible for casting the Killing Curse on me, because I asked him to," he said. "By that time, I was already dying. I would say your father did me a great favor, in doing this."
"You asked him to?" Selenius said, in disbelief.
"Of course." Dumbledore peered down at him. "Not that the rest of the world is aware of this, naturally. I assume you understand that I do not expect you to relay that to anyone else?"
"Of course not—but—"
"Then that's all you need to know, I think."
Selenius pressed the portrait for more answers, but it was as though Dumbledore had suddenly turned deaf. Frustrated, and with more questions than before, Selenius had no choice but to abandon the topic. He went to return to his chair, when something glittering caught his eye. He stepped forward, peering through the glass display case at the large sword that rested on it, the large rubies on the handle sparkling brightly.
The name Godric Gryffindor was etched along the blade.
"That," said the voice of one of the portraits, and Selenius looked up in time to see its occupant leaning down closer to him, "is the legendary sword of Godric Gryffindor."
Selenius looked at it with undisguised interest. The portrait chuckled.
"Don't worry. Slytherin house has its own heirlooms, I'm sure."
The door suddenly opened again, and Selenius looked up in time to see that his father had returned. He strode over to the glass case where the sword rested, robes billowing behind him, and placed a hand on Selenius's shoulder.
"Enjoying yourself, are you?"
Selenius shrugged, looking back down at the sword, and then up at the wall.
"The portraits aren't that talkative," he said, with a meaningful look at Dumbledore.
The hand on his shoulder tightened slightly, and then Selenius found himself being turned around.
"That's not what I meant."
"Where's mum?" Selenius asked suddenly. "How is she?"
Selenius saw his father's jaw tighten at this. "As far as I know, she is perfectly safe. Where that is, I don't know." He shook his head. "That, however, is a topic for another time. We need to talk."
"I didn't do it," Selenius said at once.
"I know." His father seated himself in the Headmaster's chair, crossing his legs. "Have a seat. I'm interested in hearing about your first week of school."
Selenius found one word to sum it up, as he sat down in the chintz armchair. "Awful."
The next day, the Daily Prophet arrived at Slytherin table, and the news caused a bit of an uproar. It caused a bit of an uproar at every table, but Selenius tried to squeeze in to read the headlines over a fellow Slytherin's shoulder, which was a bit difficult, but he managed to catch a glimpse of the headlines: Undesirable Number One and Accomplices Spotted At the Ministry!
Selenius frowned, and peered closer, struggling to keep his spot as others crowded around for a look. The article was referring to events that had happened a little over a week ago, citing that three fugitives—including the one Selenius was most interested in hearing about, his mother—had been seen at the Ministry and escaped. There were rumors and speculation about what they had been there for, but satisfied that his mother was all right, Selenius finally retreated to allow someone else through.
He looked up at the high table, catching the dark eyes of the Headmaster for one long moment, before he returned to his seat.
A/N: There was a tiny formatting problem with the Sorting Hat's song. My apologies.