Year Three: Another Mystery
Alex came out of the sweet shop in Hogsmeade, smiling at his bag of treats. At least until he was rudely grabbed by a cold hand and pulled into an alleyway. "Who the bloody hell are you?" he demanded.
"Whelp?" the blond man asked. "I just saw you in Sunnydale. What are you doing here and British?"
"Who the fucking hell are you, pillock, and why did you grab me?" He got free and glared at him. "I'll have you know I've been British my whole life, you dancing nancy!" He dusted himself off and checked his bag of sweets. "Whoever you think I am, you've just made a near-fatal mistake, boy. I am Alexander Birmingham. I am one of the evilist bastards on the face of the wizarding world. So whoever you think I am, I bloody well doubt it." He stormed off.
The vampire stared at him. There was a mystery here and something was not right. Someone came out of a nearby shop and he ducked deeper into the alleyway, staring after the boy. Something very wrong was going on here. He had just seen the boy back in Sunnydale not even three weeks ago. They said everyone had a doppleganger, but this was going a bit too far. The kid looked exactly like that annoying twit who backed the slayer.
Alex ran into Draco, taking him by the arm. He was starting to get one of those Halfrek headaches and he knew he was vulnerable; he didn't want to have to deal with this alone at the moment, even if Draco was being an ass to him so far this year. "You're walking me back, some blond arse just tried to grab me," he told him.
"Who the bloody hell tried to grab you!" Draco demanded, turning to look at him. Not even his father would do something that stupid! This was starting to look very bad and like some idiot friends of his father were around, in which case he wanted to be farther away. "Alex!"
"He said something about Sunnydale, just seeing me there, and me being American?"
"Forget all about what he said," Draco said firmly. "That's bordering on that stuff you're not supposed to remember from your last life." Alex nodded, taking his arm again. "Show me." Alex showed him the alleyway and Draco snuck back there, seeming to casually look in the windows of the nearby shops. He shot a tracing spell at the man, then went back to Alex's side, nodding Greg and Vinnie to follow them. "Come on, we're going to see your father. I put a tracker on him." They hurried back to the castle. They were already late but that was fine. Snape met them at the door and he grabbed him by the hand before he could do more than open his mouth. "Some blond man just grabbed Alex by the arm and said he's supposed to be American, in Sunnydale, and tried to figure out what's going on. I shot a tracking spell at him."
"Good work, Mr. Malfoy, ten points to you for quick thinking. Alex, go to my office."
"Dad, Draco said that's stuff I'm not supposed to know."
"It is," he agreed.
"Okay, tell me what you can then. Let me put up my sweets before I eat them all. Then I'll head down there."
"Follow him," he ordered the trio. "Take him to my office and wait with him." They nodded, heading down there while he went to tell McGonagall and head off to track the bastard who was trying to harm his son. He found traces of the spell and followed it once his wand had keyed in, leading him back to the Three Broomsticks. He found the reason in a back room and closed the door. "Who are you to grab my son?" he demanded coldly.
The blond man stood up. "Name's Spike. Who're you, pillock."
Snape sneered at him. "You'll find I'm asking the questions," he said coldly. The man's face changed and he hissed. "Vampire. Interesting. Scapulous!" he cast, pointing his wand at the pale neck. The vampire ducked, upending the table to protect himself. "You will not harm my son again. I will know what you know about that other man you thought he was. I do not allow such people to harm my son." Someone pounded on the door. "Madam Rosemerta, call Professor McGonagall. This man tried to grab Alexander Birmingham a moment ago. My students reported it to me." She ran off, going to floo the school. "We'll see how long you last," he sneered.
"I'm one of the Scourges of Europe. What makes you think a puny wizard like you can stop me when a slayer can't." He popped up his eyes. "Besides, I know that boy's not supposed to be here. I saw him just three weeks ago on the hellmouth. Cheeky little brat named Xander."
"Hmm. I've heard of him. He's got a bright future ahead of him, unlike you." He raised his wand again and a glow started between them. "Who the hell are you!" he hissed. Then he took a step back. "Halfrek."
"'Fraid so," she said dryly, freezing Spike. "He's kinda saved Xander in the future. Protected him a few times while patrolling. So let's just find out all he knows then send him away with a compulsion to go back to Sunnydale. 'Kay?" she asked brightly.
"He told Alex about Sunnydale, accusing him of being there recently."
"I heard. That's why I showed up. I'll reinforce that boundary and take the memory from all but that Draco kid. He already knows the whole deal anyway. McGonagall is coming, tell her I'm a big fan please? She'll help you compulse him. Send him to Sunnydale after Dru. His Dark Princess is back there again." He nodded once. "He won't come back for a long time." Someone pounded on the door.
"Let me in, Severus," McGonagall called. He opened the door and she slammed it behind her before anyone else could help. "What's going on? Who's she?"
"I'm Halfrek," she said with a smile, shaking her hand. "I'm a big fan, Professor. You do my job nearly as well as I do. I adore watching you work." She looked at Spike, then back at her. "I'm off to erase this from Alexander's head. The other two as well." Snape nodded.
"Not Mr. Malfoy?"
"He already knows everything," Halfrek assured her with a grin. "He's a smart little boy with a bad streak of want and need." She looked at Spike again. "Compulse him to go back to Sunnydale. I need him there to save Alex from Angelus in a few months." They both nodded. "That's Spike, childe of Angelus and Druscilla. He is a Master Vampire and he will harm others if you don't. Say he's protected or some such." She faded out. Spike unfroze.
"Stupify!" she cast. She looked at Severus. "I want a complete report."
"It's about why Alexander was reborn among us," he said quietly. She sighed and nodded. "He nearly doomed us all by telling him." She shuddered. She had been told about that by Dumbledore apparently. "Which compulsion should we use?"
"A fairly strong one," she noted dryly. "I'm not sure which would work on vampires." They studied him. "How about we layer them? Ones to leave. Ones to send him back there?" He nodded and they got to work charming him. By the time they were done he was so bound that they walked the docile vampire out. A Law Enforcement agent tried to stop them. "He's charmed, we can't kill the vampire. We're sending him where a slayer is," she told him.
"Yes," Snape said impatiently.
"Fine." He looked at him. "The boy?"
"Just shaken. He's fine otherwise. Some other students were running late and they came up together for protection." The officer walked them out to the edge of town and they set the vampire free, watching as he wandered off. They looked at him, then at each other. "Alex should be better by now." She nodded. He looked at the agent. "What sort of report did you need?"
"Did you catch his name?"
"Spike. He said he was a Scourge of Europe? He was identified for me as the childe of Angelus and Druscilla."
"I thought they were myths too," he complained.
"Not hardly," McGonagall told him. She rolled her eyes. "I'll go check on the boys for you." He nodded, letting her go.
"Who identified him, Professor Snape?"
"Halfrek? Do you have a last name?"
"No. She watches Mr. Birmingham now and then. She's very competent, has a bit of the Sight." He scribbled that down. "She shows up now and then when he's in certain types of trouble. She's a fairly decent sort to him. She went to help him forget what happened since we're sending the vampire off." He decided to have fun with this dolt's mind, it was amusing to him at the moment and letting him ease his worries about his son.
"It's said Mr. Birmingham has a good grasp of Defense, why would you need to charm him to forget it?"
"Because that vampire targeted him for something his family owns," he said simply. Which was true, the family did own Alex since he was the only member of the family outside of himself. "I don't want the boy to worry about it."
"Oh, that's fine then. Why didn't he fight the vampire?"
"He's charmed and I have no doubt he would have done more than flay him verbally if he thought he couldn't get away. Since he did get away, he left it there and told us."
"Okay. Which students did he hide with?"
"Mr. Malfoy and his friends. Halfrek has already charmed them too as Mr. Birmingham doesn't want them involved in a vendetta against his family."
"We're sure the vampire won't come back?"
"We layered the compulsions. The strongest were to leave, the lightest to go to Sunnydale, which is the Hellmouth and has a slayer in residence."
"Fine. I'll report that for you after I have a look around. Let's hope there's no more vampires around."
"Mr. Malfoy thought to put a tracking charm on that one. You could use it to follow his progress out of the country."
"I'll report that as well. Thank you, Professor, for the timely stepping in." He went back to the inn to make his report, then went to prowl around the town to make sure there weren't any more of them hanging around.
Snape shook his head and hurried back to the school. His son probably needed some comfort of some sort. A session with his memories usually gave him a headache and left him confused. He found the four boys chatting happily in his office and relaxed. "Alex," he said. His son grinned at him. "Are you all right now?"
"Just fine. I remember what she told me, that he was out of place and time. That I'm not supposed to know that yet." He ate another piece of chocolate with a grin. "Are we good, dad?"
"We're fine. The vampire was sent away with layered compulsions and one of the Ministry's officials know about the tracking charm."
Draco nodded. "I'm just glad I managed it. I don't usually do those." He stood up. "I'll leave you with your son."
"You can stay if you wish," Snape offered.
"We spend hours together each week," he noted dryly, smirking a bit. "You can have him for now. Then I'll repossess him later."
"How very generous of you," Snape said dryly.
"I know. Aren't I though?" He walked his helpers away, leaving the father and son to talk.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, dad. Really." He held up an arm, getting the hug he had requested. "I'm fine. I got mean and evil on him until I got free, then did the smart thing and didn't take him on because I felt something off about him."
"He was a vampire, son. That's a wise thing."
"Vampire?" He looked thoughtful. "Huh." He shrugged. "Oh, well. I'll tell Remus I met one." He grinned. "He's giving me and Harry extra defense lessons, did he tell you?"
"No, and I'm not really pleased about that."
"Dad," he sighed.
"Son, I doubt you need them."
"He's filling in some gaps that I missed during my forced reading. He's also giving me some pretty neat things to look up and learn about. He's really good at teaching to the general stupidity levels and helping those who are special, like me," he finished proudly. He ate another piece of chocolate. "What's this about the dementors, dad? Harry and I both hate them."
"Why does he hate them?" he asked snidely, sitting behind his desk.
"Because he hears his parents dying." Snape went pale, grabbing the edge of the wood until he calmed himself. He looked at him. "They're working on his defense against them," he said quietly. "Me, I can't. I've got happy points, but not that happy. Usually I'm much better in charms than this and I'm struggling badly."
"Not everyone has something that happy," he said calmly. "Mostly it's a state of mind or a very strong memory." He considered his son. "Try using the ones with the happier times. The party last year. Cuddling with Mr. Malfoy after he found out about his house and his father. Cuddling with me on the couch if you must. I'm sure you'll find something."
"But what if I don't?" he asked quietly. "What if I'm vulnerable to this because I'm such a surly and sarcastic bastard?"
"I can create one and I'm much darker than you are," Snape said simply. Alex relaxed again and nodded, eating another chocolate. "Eat dinner, son."
Alex snickered. "Gee, dad, working on your impersonation of Mr. Weasley?"
"I'd hope not. I did sound terribly parental, didn't I?" Alex nodded, grinning at him. "Well it's true anyway. You should still eat dinner."
"It's my night to let Twirly spoil me or else she's threatened to come up here and beat the house elves for letting me lose weight while I grow."
He rolled his eyes. "Call the thing and eat in here then. I can eat with you." He handed over the tin of floo powder. "What is your special anti-boredom topic of study this year?"
"Birmingham Hall," Alex called once the fire was nicely green. Twirly came through with a loaded tray and put it on the desk, knocking some books and scrolls aside. "Twirly, he needs those. They're student papers."
She snorted. "Daddy Snape is being eating." She uncovered the plates and smiled, bowing at him, then kissing Alex's hand before leaving and coming back with a pitcher of milk, a bowl of rolls, and a whole cake for dessert. Then she left and came back with his usual care package, putting that on the couch. "There, now Alexander is fed and well. Lazy elves not keep him from eating." She disappeared and the floo was shut off.
Snape rolled his eyes. "I don't know what's wrong with her. You eat more than most boys," he complained.
"I don't know but it makes her happy and she spent so long miserable with Grams," he noted, digging into his meal.
The headmaster came in a few minutes later. "Severus, is everything all right? I was alerted that your floo went off."
"My son's house elves are very over-protective and feel the need to feed him because he's lost some weight due to a growth spurt," he explained. "It keeps her from complaining to Minerva."
"Oh, I don't know, they were scary when they agreed I needed more vegetables and juice," Alex said dryly. He stuffed his mouth again. "It keeps her from coming up here to yell at the school's elves too," he said once his mouth was clear because he was being scowled at. "Humoring her is better than having her frustrated and fussing even worse. It also keeps me in snacks and cakes."
"I've noticed the times Mr. Weasley's coming in with chocolate already around his mouth before breakfast. You can't break her of that habit?"
"She was miserable for nearly all her life under Grams," he said firmly, staring him down. "She's happier fussing over me and I'd rather be fussed over by her than having her feel unwanted and unloved. That's just as cruel as what Grams did to her. I won't torture another being just for giving a damn about my welfare, even if she is female." The headmaster nodded at that. "The weekly meals make her happy and I'd rather humor my house elf than not. I'm sorry if this offends you but Professor McGonagall explained it to the castle house elves so they wouldn't be offended."
"We've humored other house elves with these problems," Snape reminded him. "They generally calm down once the child's growth is done with."
"I hope I can keep weight on then," he said dryly. "Otherwise she'll fuss me to death some summer." He dug back in, eating heartily.
"Are you missing anyone?" the headmaster asked. "I'm headed to the Great Hall and can send the other party down."
"No, she fully intends for him to eat most of this and I'm sure he will," Snape noted dryly. "He usually does."
"Ron and I both do," Alex said between bites. "He said I'm like a muggle hoover machine, whatever that is." He ate another bite, chewing slowly.
"Fine, as long as you have the problem in hand, I'll leave it to you. What happened earlier?"
"You should ask Mr. Malfoy. By the time I got down there, all that was left was the charming of compulsions to make the creature go away." Alex caught his eye and he looked at the headmaster again. "All I know is that some vampire tried to take Alexander hostage. We sent him off since we couldn't kill him. It was suggested we send him somewhere in America so it's far enough away for safety and to take it out of the general populace. Minerva and I charmed him that way. I also did the report with the official Madam Rosemerta called."
"Thank you, Severus. I'll leave you to dinner with your son." He walked out, closing the classroom door behind him.
"I don't want him to know," Alex said quietly.
"He already had an idea from last year, son," he replied, starting to eat again. "She was most generous."
"She's starting on you about your weight too," Alex said with a grin. "All my elves are very good bakers, especially Marsette. She does a great puff pastry." He ate another bite. "I wonder what everyone else is eating."
"I believe tonight was liver," he offered, digging into his own generous portion. Someone knocked politely on the door. "I'm busy!" he called.
Harry walked in and handed over the letter. "From Professor Flitwick, sir. Apparently he wanted Alexander to help him with a first year having trouble if you didn't need him tonight. He even got me to demonstrate a few times."
Snape read the note, then passed it over. Alex grinned. "Tell him I'll be up after we've had dinner. Probably around seven-thirty or eight." Harry nodded, grinning as he stole a roll and left. "Wow. That's the sort of praise I like to hear," he said happily.
"I'm proud of you," Snape assured him. "How are your classes otherwise?"
"Are you *sure* Madam Sprout isn't evil? She's had us doing stuff with teeth and mouths again."
Snape sighed. "I'm sure, Alex."
Alex laid on his bed later that night, staring up at the canopy, his mind whirling in circles. He saw a light on across the dorm and sat up, pushing his curtains aside when he saw it was Ron and Harry. He got up and pulled something out of his trunk, going to hand it to him. "I got it earlier."
"What is it?" Ron asked.
"That mysterious prophecy," Harry said grimly, reading it over. "That's cryptic as hell."
"Divinations is all cryptic shite," he said dryly. He nodded at the foot of the bed and Ron shrugged so he sat down. "But that's what all the fuss is about."
Harry handed it back. "We'll dissect it tomorrow during our free time."
"We don't have the same free time since I've got muggle studies."
Ron grimaced. "Why?"
"Because McGonagall talked me into taking two electives since they were so easy."
"Granger dropped Divination," Ron offered. "She stomped off in a huff."
"Yeah, but she's using a time turner," Alex noted dryly. He got up and got something else out of his trunk, bringing it back. "Harry, give that to Remus tomorrow?" he asked, handing it over.
"What is it?"
"My journal." Harry looked a bit confused. "When I went to Germany for the week. I wanted to make sure I got all the stuff I identified right."
"Oh." He nodded and thumbed through it, then tossed it onto his bed. "I'll give it to him tomorrow after class. Did you have fun? Sirius was really happy that you took his suggestion."
"I did," he admitted with a grin. "I drank a lot of beer too." Both boys laughed. "Listen, I don't want to breach this divide, but Draco noticed your thing with the dementors."
"Is he that mean?" Ron asked. Alex nodded. "And you still consider him a friend?"
"Between us that would be a prank and I'd get him back," Alex noted. "We've done this to each other for years. That's why I owed him for shaving me bald when we started school." Harry snickered. "I know. Dad wants me to grow it longer. I'm thinking about putting streaks in it." He ran a hand through his hair, which barely reached his collar. He hadn't gotten around to having a haircut in three years. "I really want to stay out of the fight between you guys and Draco, but if he does something like that I'm going to have to pick sides and I'm not sure which I'm going to pick. Greg and I have known each other since primary school. Draco I met the year after I met Greg. Draco's always been a mean shit." He shrugged. "That's how I like him best."
"But you think he's going to take advantage of my thing with the dementors?" Harry said quietly. Alex nodded. "Well, at least you warned me. Even if you do side with him, I'll remember that." He punched him on the arm and grinned. "I understand about being torn. I have to listen to him and Hermione squabble all the time." He rolled his eyes.
"She's a busybody, Harry!"
"Yeah, and she's never going to get any better, Ron," Alex noted patiently. "She still won't leave me alone either. I don't know why she wants me to be straight, I'd never date a girl like her anyway." He shrugged, looking confused. "I've got to start looking for a boyfriend for real."
"There's still time," Harry assured him, patting him on the knee. "Just don't share details, okay?"
"Oh, definitely. I do that with Draco," he offered with a smug grin. "He's storing them up for when he finally gets some." Ron snickered at that. "His mother wants him to hold off until she can find a nice girl for him to date. He wants to head to a club for the night. So far, he's winning this one. She's fully exasperated with him."
Harry laughed, looking at Ron. "Usually she seems to be this nice, sweet, caring mum around the house. Fairly permissive and Sirius gives her dirty looks all the time for setting bad examples for us. Draco swears up and down she's a slavedriver at home."
"Nope, she's even more light at home," Alex assured him. "I think she's maybe ordered him ten times in his whole life. Otherwise it's always a suggestion and he knows what he should follow. Did Remus say anything about that picture in the Prophet yesterday?"
"No," he admitted. "I made sure he saw it and he said he's studying it. He doesn't think it's Lucius though. Just some other blond, snarling guy."
"No, I nearly got captured by one of them earlier, a vampire." Ron whimpered. "They made him go away."
"Fine. Thank you. Thank whichever professor made them go away if you didn't."
"I was too stunned by the pain in my head," Alex told him dryly.
"Another of those 'you shouldn't know that' headaches?" Harry suggested. Alex nodded. "What happened?" Alex shrugged. "Again?"
"Again. All I know is that he was a vampire and that dad and McGonagall compulsed him all to hell to send him far, far away."
"Guys, some of us are trying to sleep," Neville called testily.
"Sorry," they called back in unison.
"Hey, Neville, did you need help in Defense this year?" Alex asked.
"Alex," Seamus called. "You talk louder than you snore."
"Sorry. Anyone need help in Defense this year?"
"I do," Dean said, raising his hand. "But I need sleep more. Tomorrow's a good day to talk, guys. Really."
"Fine," Alex said, grinning at his buddies before going back to his own bed. "Night."
"Night," everyone called.
"If we get eaten by the vampire who was after you, I'm going to have to hurt you greatly," Neville added.
Alex giggled. "Sure, Neville. If you get turned I'll let you try to hunt me."
"Boys!" Percy called, pounding on the door. "Sleep!"
"Yes, big brother," everyone called in falsetto. It annoyed Percy all to hell.
Remus looked at Alex since this was his period with just him during the week. "I don't know why you can't even begin to form one," he said, frowning a bit.
"Maybe I'm not that sort of a happy person. Dad didn't say how he was able to."
"Let's try other memories?"
"I have. I tried the day I found out about dad. The day I found out Grams was dead. The day the will was read and it was all mine. The day I met Greg, the day I met Draco, the day I got onto the train. The day I got my letter. The party." He considered back. "Cuddling with Draco the next day. Nothing." Remus sighed and leaned against his desk. "I'm sorry, Remus. I'm trying!"
"I know you are, Alex. The same as I know this is just as frustrating for you as it is for me." He gave the boy a smile. "By the way, you did get one creature wrong but it's a reasonable mistake with the way you drew it. It had a hidden leg you apparently didn't see." Alex nodded, smiling a bit. "What about over there? Any good memories?"
"A lot of beer."
Remus snickered. "No happiness at running in the woods or anything?"
"A lot of beer," Alex repeated, grinning at him.
"You did nothing but go into the woods and drink?"
"And watch a fashion show with many little, gay, fairy boys like me. Many delicate, little, gay, fairy boys like me. I got propositioned a few times at it until they found out how old I was, and then I got propositioned by some different people. Including one of the models. He said I could be one but I think he just wanted to be my first one." Remus blushed but he laughed. "Sorry."
"No, that's all right, Alex. You're at the right age to start thinking about that." He smiled at him. "Nothing else happened?"
"A lot of beer."
Remus snickered, nodding. "I had that when I went too," he promised, grinning at him. "Sirius did too when he went to Russia." Alex nodded, grinning back. "He told you?"
"About a lot of very fuzzy nights in the wilderness and some things he wasn't sure of on the other side of his fire. Apparently he talked to a few ancestors who had been Huns." Remus burst out laughing and he grinned more wickedly. "He also nearly killed himself when that bear showed up he told me. He said he nearly hexed his foot off and he would have bled to death if not for his mentor and keeper."
"He never told me that," Remus said, smirking a bit wickedly himself now. "I'll have to ask him about that."
"He told me not to tell you."
"I bet he did," Remus agreed dryly. "He's still going to get it." They were interrupted by the emergency bell. "What's going on now?" he sighed, grabbing his wand and following the young man out to the front steps. The students ran past them. "Go to your houses!" he yelled.
"Upstairs and hide in your dorms!" Alex bellowed. The kids started for the dorms. They made it outside, looking at the teachers arranged against the wizards standing there. "Hmm. Interesting." He pulled his wand and cast. "Engorgio!" One of them screamed as his intestines expanded past the tolerable limits.
"I'd go inside, little boy."
"You have no idea who you're speaking to," Alex shot back in his most evil, vicious, icy voice. He pointed his wand at him. "I'm the meanest person of all of them. Why do you think I'm here and no other students are?" He pointed it at the other backup wizard. "Tendare." The man screamed as every nerve ending in his body came to vivid and instant life, firing off like each had been hit with a bolt of lightening. He fell to the ground writhing, rolling around, wailing in agony as it continued on. Alex looked at him again. "Next?" he suggested. The wizard backed away. "Take your toys and go, before I get to play with your toys some more. After all, I enjoy hurting those who're threatening me." The man cast a 'finite incantantum' at his friends and they ran away before anyone else could help him.
McGonagall looked at him. "We had it, Alexander."
"So? They're ruining my jolly mood. Remus and I were comparing trip stories from where I went to Germany and had a lot of beer." He turned and walked inside, finding some first years huddled in the entry. "To the houses, kids. What part of 'your house is your safe spot' didn't you understand!" They ran to their house, crying. He looked around, then up, seeing a spot on the ceiling. "Did that guy last year piss up there?" he wondered, shaking his head and walking up to his house, finding a few more people in the halls. "If I catch you, I'm reporting you!" he yelled. They scurried off to their houses, secure that he would protect them. One first year was huddled behind a statue sobbing so he stopped to pull her out, tipping her face up. "If this had been something other than a drill, you could be very hurt by now." She wailed and clutched him. He patted her on the back. "Honey, you've got to follow the order to get to your house before you break down. You know that. It's for your own safety. No one can get into the houses unless they're very strong." He pushed her back some, nodding to make her nod. "From now on, when that bell rings, I want you to be the first in your house, then sob in the corner. Not behind a statue. Someone could have heard you and gotten you very badly."
"Daddy," she whimpered.
He stared down at her. "Do you need to call your daddy or do I need to call your daddy out for hurting you that way?" She shook her head, wiping off her face. "You're sure?" She nodded. "Then you can call from your house or write him a long letter. I won't tell him you didn't make it if you don't." She sniffled and nodded. "Now, get back to your house." She turned and ran off, still drying her tears. He took a deep breath and searched around. "I can hear a few more of you. It's safe," he called. Two more kids came out and ran for their houses. He tracked the gasping sobs he could hear to another kid in a closet, hauling him out to look at him. "Come on, kid. Let's go back to the house. The closet isn't a safe spot. Someone could get you in there." The boy burst out in new tears so he patted him on the back. "Around here, the house is a safe spot." He shook his head. "No? Who's picking on you?"
"Everyone," he cried, clutching Alex tightly.
Alex looked over as Flitwick joined him, the kid was a Ravenclaw by his tie. "He said he's being picked on."
"I've already chastised a few people for it."
"Oh let me," he said dryly. "I'm still feeling naughty and badass." He walked the boy up to the house, tapping on the portrait. She glared at him. "He's one of yours, lady. He was hiding in a closet." She sniffed. "Let me the fuck in before I have to get Flitwick."
"Tadpoles and toenails," the boy gasped. The portrait swung open and everyone stared at them.
He found one of the prefects he knew and liked, even though she was a girl she was fair, and handed him over. "He got lost. He was in a closet. He's only a first year." She nodded, grimacing a bit. "Where's the stupid bastards who're bothering a first year?" She looked stunned. "He said he couldn't come back, ever, because of them. That this wasn't a safe place." He stared her down and she swallowed. "I can make it a safe place if you want, sweetheart."
"I have it, Alexander," she said softly. "I'll protect him."
"That's fine. Are you sure I can't kick someone's arse for you?"
"No, I'm good enough at it," she assured him with a small smile. "Professor Flitwick and I have already talked about a few of our people."
"What's he gonna do, wet on us?" one boy called, then he laughed.
"Please," she said quietly. "Don't hurt them too much."
"Of course not." He strolled over there, then grabbed one and hit him, attacking the next two. The last one, the one who spoke, was backed against a wall. He stared him down, then suddenly laughed. "What's wrong, gonna piss yourself?" he asked, pointing at the growing wet spot. "I may be a third year, but I do not like bullies. The only way I like bullies is naked, running through the woods with a big, fat, bright target on their asses so I can practice my aim against moving targets. What do you want to bet I can't talk Professor Snape into humoring me?" Everyone in the castle knew Snape doted on him, even if they didn't know why. The boy whimpered and fell to his knees. He kicked him in the stomach. "Pick on someone your own size, Nerly. Before someone picks back. After all, if you weren't a pathetic excuse for a wizard, you wouldn't be getting your ass kicked by a third year." He turned around to look at the rest of them. "Anyone else want to ruin my good mood by picking on a first year or a second year? Or anyone for that matter?" They all shook their heads. "Are we sure?" They all nodded. "Good! I'm going to remember my trip to Germany then." He walked out, slamming the portrait behind him. "Watch him for reprisals," he said as he walked past the tiny professor. "Otherwise it should be stopped for good." He headed up to Gryffindor, finding Draco outside it. "Morning, dear." He blew a kiss at him. "Want to come up?"
"No. I want a straight answer. Did you tell Potter about my plans?"
"I told him I overheard you making fun of his reaction to the dementors. I don't think it's fair that you pick on him about that."
"Why! It's the perfect thing to pick on him about!"
"Because there's shit you don't know, Draco. It'd be like Ron picking on you about hair care products. Speaking of, you're messed up." He fussed a few strands into place. "There, pretty again," he said, staring at his friend. "You and I can do that to each other. Harry's not you and I."
"So you're protecting him!"
"He's my housemate and I was asked to protect my house," he said firmly. Draco looked stunned. "I don't want to step into the middle of your thing with him. For all I give a damn, you two can dance the fucking tango on the pitch to the full moon, Draco. There's shit you don't know about that situation. Leave it alone. It should be enough that you can gloat without pissing me off and making me get involved. Because if you do that, I'm honor bound to do that since I swore to protect my house and he's my fucking guardian!"
"I'm your friend, doesn't that count!"
"That's why I've stayed out of this so far!" he yelled back. Draco took a step back. "I'm sorry," he said more quietly, sounding a lot more stressed out. "There is stuff in that situation you don't know about. Think about it for a minute, Draco. Think about what his godfather went through being falsely accused and being sent to Azkaban for something one of your dad's friends did. Think about what dementors mean to some of us. I don't particularly like them either and if I see one I'll do my damndest to kill 'em, even though I've never had a happy enough memory apparently." Draco looked really stunned at that, even looking a bit hurt. "So leave that one alone. Plan something else since I ruined your surprise. It should be easy enough for you with how smart you fucking well are!" He turned and stomped off, heading back outside. The teachers still out there tried to get him his way so he levitated himself up and over them, then back down on the other side of the steps, heading off for a walk. "I'm going to vent!" he yelled back.
"Don't change when you're angry," McGonagall called after him. She walked back inside, finding Mr. Malfoy coming down the stairs. "What happened this time?"
"I don't bloody well know, woman! Go ask the imbecile!" He stomped off.
She pulled her wand. "Impedimentia!" He froze. She walked to the door, casting the same spell on the boy huffing off, then floating it back with a quiet 'moblicorpus'. She floated them both into her workroom and slammed the door, locking and sealing it from intrusion. Then she undid them. "Neither one of you are going to be allowed to get away with that. Alexander, you should not have taken on the threat when adults who are more trained than you are were present." He opened his mouth so she sealed it. "You may know a lot, but some of us have been doing this longer and your father is quite upset!" she snapped. "Mr. Malfoy, not only are you out of your house, you were engaged in a screaming match with Mr. Birmingham. I want reasons and I want them now!" she ordered. Both boys shrank back. She undid Alex's mouth. "Right now, Mr. Birmingham."
"No! Do we need someone to make you a potion for crabby woman problems?" She looked stunned. "Draco and I can fight without help. I promise, we've done it before," he said hotly. "Whether or not you like it, Draco and I are both big boys who can easily snap and yell at each other. We have in the past and worked it out. This time, he's being an ass because he put me in direct conflict." He glared at Draco. "That's why I'm going to vent before I go find more bullies and beat your house's upper years' asses!" He unsealed the door and stomped off.
"Well," Draco said, lips pressed together, eyes cold. "Fucking primadonna."
"Twenty points off Slytherin for swearing!" she snapped. He glared at her. "Try it," she offered. "I can always take more!"
"Enough!" Dumbledore yelled from the doorway. "Professor McGonagall, are you all right? You seem a bit upset."
"It's these two boys fighting!"
"Usually you say that about him and Potter," Snape offered, looking at her. He pointed his wand at her. "Finite Incantantum." She slumped then burst out crying, running after Alex. "Leave him!" he snapped. She straightened up and nodded, going back to her office. "Mr. Malfoy, I believe I have a seat with your name on it in the dungeons. Kindly go sit in it." He gave him a heated look. "Now, young man." He stomped off. He went back to the entry, going to find his son. "Accio Alexander," he hissed, making his son come flying. He landed at his feet. "My office," he ordered. "Now."
"No! You may be my father but I'm not going to fight with Draco again today, Professor. Unless you want us to start hitting each other or it to get much worse, it's better to let me walk away this time. Because I will."
"What is wrong with you!" he demanded, coming down the stairs.
"Draco put me in direct conflict by taking on Harry this time and in the way he chose. To get out of the middle, I warned Harry, knowing that word would get back to Draco. That way he could plan something else," he snapped, glaring at him. "That way I'm not drug between two friends. Draco's pissed and I'm sorry, but yay! I'm staying out of it. I don't want between them. If they force it, I'm getting them both then gloating." He turned and stomped off again. "I'll be back by dinner!" he yelled.
"You now have detention and Gryffindor just lost fifty points," he noted coldly.
Alex turned. "Feel better now? Did you get off from punishing my house because Draco and I are fighting?" He looked stunned so Alex went on. "Stay out of it, father. This is between Draco and I. We've fought before and Draco's realized what an asshole he was."
"And yet, you decided to stick up for your new friends over your old one?" he said coolly, coming down to face his son.
"I fucking well vowed to protect that house from unreasonable harm!" he shouted back, pointing. "This plan puts me in direct conflict between them. I'm not getting between them!" he screamed. "I refuse to pick sides between my friends, even if you want me to drop my housemates! I am who I am and fucking well accept me for it!" he finished off, then turned and stomped off again. "I'll be back by breakfast!"
Draco leaned in the doorway. "Alex." Alex continued to walk. He walked past his head of house, going to catch up to him. He finally made it on the pitch, which was silent and private at least. He caught him by the arm and spun him around, staring at him. "What don't I know?"
"That's not my job to tell you," he said coldly. "That's between Harry and those he told."
"How was I supposed to know about this then?" he demanded.
"Easy, you heard I slipped your plan, you could have easily made a better one. Because that one sucked anyway. It's like something I would do." Draco looked hurt at that and Alex went on. "I don't like you picking on Harry and Ron. I never made a secret of that, Draco. Until now, you haven't bothered with my promise to keep out of it or to protect the others from it. I am *vowed* to protect my house and the innocents in this school. McGonagall specifically asked me to protect them since I'm so much more than most students are. I wasn't even here a week when she did it!" he shouted, pointing back at the school. "Your prank this time is stepping on my toes and I'm not getting in the middle of my friends!" He turned and tried to walk off but Draco caught him again.
"I'm not omnipotent."
"How was I supposed to know?"
"Easy, Draco, use that over-hyped brain of yours," he sneered. "Sirius alone should have been reason not to do that. After all, isn't he your relative too?" Draco nodded. "Think about him then, huh? Do you think Harry needs to be reminded of that or what he missed out because a friend of your father's set him up?" Draco still looked hurt. "Usually you think so much more. Try it this year. It'd be nice. That way I don't have to kill you both to save what's left of my fucking sanity." He got his arm free. "Until you can decide to either leave them alone or leave me out of it, I don't wanna know you."
"Tough!" He stepped closer, grabbing him again. Alex growled, teeth showing. "That doesn't scare me." He stared into the other boy's eyes. "Do you think I meant to put you in the middle? That this is all about you?"
"No, this is about your dad's pride and his friends' ceaseless pursuit of being inbred," he snapped. Draco let him go. "There's only so much pureness a family can take before they're reduced to the state of animals. All of us have some flaws or else we wouldn't be able to speak by now. Your daddy went after a fucking pipe dream and now you're following. I told you before I'm not on that side. I could care less if you're fucking a skunk or a skrewrt or whatever! I don't care who your parents were. It's not like my family was that great anyway, why in the hell would I want to claim them!"
"You like your father," Draco reminded him, trying to stay calm. He was getting more confused than angry, but he was still trying.
"Maybe. He doesn't preach the pureblood rant." Draco slumped a bit. "Think about it, Draco. Do some of that book learning you're so famous for and tell me why there's muggle and half-bloods among us. Tell me why everything your daddy held dear is why your house is starting to have more and more problems and losing population. Also tell me why he's back." Draco gave him a really hurt look. "I'm not dealing with this. When you're ready, come find me. I'll be somewhere having fun without being pushed in the middle of shit I don't want to witness." He stomped off, going to hide in the forest.
Draco took a few deep breaths, watching him go. He turned and found Snape standing there. "Did you understand that?"
"More or less," he admitted. "Professor McGonagall did ask him to protect his house and those students who needed it. It was probably the first time he had been accepted for who he was and is. He was given positive praise for it as he expanded his role of protection. That's why he just went to beat up the bullies in Ravenclaw for a first year he found in a closet because he decided the house wasn't safe." Draco groaned, shaking his head. "As for your *thing* with Mr. Potter, whatever that may be, he was correct. If you're planning on something that requires a dementor, it is unfair and it would bring him into conflict. He has to protect Mr. Potter, he's his guardian and they protect each other. That's why certain people wanted him to not be a Gryffindor, so those two wouldn't become friendly." He stepped closer. "As for his accusation that it is an unkind plan considering the family's past history with the dementors, I can agree with that, even though I believe the person deserved punished for all the things he didn't get punished for that he had done to others. Why there's more to that story I do not know yet."
"You won't. Only Potter will tell you. Alex won't, he said that's got to come from Potter." Draco ran a hand through his hair, then uncharmed it and did it again now that his hand didn't get stuck. "I don't know what's going on. I didn't mean to upset him."
"It's not often he loses his temper. How often do you two fight?"
"We've had two of these before. One was after I shaved him bald. Even after mum made me confess, she still blamed him for ruining one of her parties and a fake plan to take a family portrait. She never had before, she had no reason to then." Snape nodded at that. "He got punished for what I did, even though I confessed." He took a deeper breath. "I don't believe we need more help, Professor Lupin," he called.
"I believe you do."
"Shut up, Severus. There's things you don't know about Harry and the Dementors. Like what he hears." Snape looked at him. "He hears the moment he got the scar. Every now and then he hears Sirius howling in agony. Even if he did try to sic me on you, without me knowing, he served more time than he should have." He scowled at the other man. "You leave Harry alone and leave Alex to me for now. We understand each other very well."
"He's my son."
"Yes, and you've just helped piss him off even worse. The boy was hot from two fights. Draco faced him down and they got into it, then McGonagall got her shots in. He's hurting. You're comforting the wrong child. So let me have Alex for now. It's clear you've picked your side in this debate, at least to him."
"I was going to speak to him later. He wouldn't let me...."
"Children at this age think with their emotions, not with their brains." He looked at Draco. "I believe he was trying to make another point. You're becoming more and more like your father every day, Draco Malfoy. The friend he knew is starting to slip away and he's tried very hard to bring you back. He gave you a lot to think about and I think you should take his advice on that line of thought."
"What good would it do?" he sneered.
"It might bring you closer together again. Do you really want to lose your friend for years this time?"
"Like you did?"
"No, like you're going to."
"He's been slipping away since he was missorted," he accused.
"Yes, well, he had a choice to make then. He's made it very clear where he stands in the debate about dark magic. You knew this a long time ago," he noted quietly. Draco continued to sneer and he had to force himself not to hit the boy for it. "I want you to seriously think about what Alexander said to you, Draco. He had reasons for most of it."
"You were listening?"
"You couldn't help it, you two were screaming," he shot back. "Go back to your house, Mr. Malfoy, and think about what was said. You may only have one chance to retain this friendship and if you want to keep him as a friend I would make a careful consideration of the points Alexander made." He stared him down. "If any mention of Harry's problems with the dementors gets around the school, Slytherin will be losing a round one hundred points at each mention. That was confidential information to try to cool your hot headed stupidity. Alex was trying to be gentle and give you a nicer reason, something you could understand, but I'm not that gentle. You're old enough to start making these sort of decisions for yourself." Draco started to open his mouth. "Or perhaps not. Maybe you're not ready for the decision Alexander made three years ago. We each come into that one at our own rate. It may not be time for you to face that decision yet. For now, go think. You have much to decide and very little time to do it in. Alexander is probably off trying to find a way to forgive you."
Draco snorted. "You have no idea what he's doing. He likes to make things explode."
"This isn't frustration, Draco. This is rage at stupidity. This isn't what he had when Pansy cornered him. This is the destruction of what he used to be able to count on in his life." He walked past him, heading after the other boy.
"That was melodramatic," Snape noted. Draco nodded. He looked at the boy. "He was correct on some things. Alex did say some things you should think about. Including whether or not you want to remain friends with him. My son is hot-tempered, but he should see sense sometime tonight."
Draco shook his head. "I doubt it. We're too different now."
"Why? You weren't yesterday."
"It's been growing since we were sorted apart," he said firmly. "He's a Gryffindor now. Fully one of them instead of one of us."
"Yet, he'd still consider you a friend. Just because he didn't want to get caught in the middle...."
"He wouldn't have cared before!" he snapped. "He was never like that!"
"Perhaps you were too young to see it, Draco. He was like that his first year. That's why he's stayed out of your petty arguments with Mr. Potter all this time, so he wasn't caught between the only friends he had. Go back to your dorm and think."
"What about what he threatened?" he demanded.
"He is a professor, it is his right to do that," he admitted. "The same as it is my right to take points off Gryffindor in Potions. What he told you was told in confidence. If you do spread it around, it would harm a great many students, including those poor, deluded beings who look up to Mr. Potter as a hero and see him as their savior."
Draco looked at him. "You don't think he's coming back? That Alex was right and my father's back?"
"I've seen no evidence of that."
Draco nodded. "Then I guess we'll see." He stomped off, heading back to his dorm.
"Draco!" Greg called when he stomped in. "Where's Alex? Is he all right? I heard he hexed those guys who were threatening the school!" He followed him up to their dorm, closing the door. "What happened?"
"Alex and I had a fight," he ground out. "I don't want to hear about him right now."
Greg frowned. "But we like Alex."
"He's a bloody Gryffindor!" Draco snapped. Greg flinched so he calmed himself again. "He's picked his side, Gregory," he said with icy calmness. "He made that quite clear."
"But I like him."
"Yes, but he has to stick up for Potter."
"So? That hasn't mattered yet! Why is this time different!"
Draco stared at him for a moment. "I don't know, but he said it's tromping on his vows to protect his house." Greg looked stunned. "He shouted a great many things at me out on the pitch." He sat down, looking at their mutual friend. "He's off in the forest somewhere."
"He can get expelled for that," Greg reminded him.
"Lupin went after him. Snape stopped us to calm us down and chose me to talk to first."
"Poor Alex. Abandoned by everyone," Greg sighed. He sat on his bed. "I'm going to talk to him later."
"I doubt he'll talk to anyone, Gregory."
"He always talks to me, Draco."
Draco looked at him. "Fine. If you do, tell me how he is." He leaned back. "Why do you think he feels abandoned?"
"Because you're forcing him into a situation where he's going to be abandoned by one side and made fun of by the other for stopping us. His father picked you over him out of house loyalty. We're all he has left, Draco, and you two are the closest of all. Harry's his guardian and he's got to protect him but we've been friends since we were kids." Draco nodded, swallowing and thinking. "What else did he say?"
"He went off on the pureblood thing." He waved a hand. "He thinks my father's back as well."
"He is. He was in the Prophet."
"They can't prove it was him or not. The picture was too blurry."
"Yeah, but it was him. I've watched Uncle Lucius a lot of times to make sure he wasn't in the mood to hit me with his cane like he did your house elves." Draco sat up, staring at him. "That was Lucius. Somehow I guess Alex decided it was, but it was him. He was standing the same way he used to, back when we were still in primary school and he was angry at everyone."
"I studied that picture for three days," he told him.
"Yeah, but he's your dad. You know him by other means. You know his voice, how he smells, and all that stuff. Those of us who had to watch him for social cues and stuff watched his body language, how he moved and stuff. That was Uncle Lucius in the papers."
"Did you tell Professor Snape?" He nodded. "He wasn't sure yet."
"He wouldn't be. He never studied him like that. They were rivals."
"Sometimes you say really insightful stuff. It makes up for those moments when you say totally stupid things." Greg grinned at him. "He also said something about the pureblood rant."
"Yeah, he's been thinking about that for years. He figured it's like inbreeding a dog by now in Britain. That's why I'm going for a foreign pureblood witch. To get some new blood into the family, even though we had a problematic uncle about six generations ago."
"You did?" Greg nodded, looking complacent about that fact. "Why?"
"Because his sister was so inbred she couldn't close her mouth enough to eat or drink normally."
"Like an inbred beast," Draco said, considering it. "Greg, what do you think about the stunt against Potter?"
"It'd be nice to see him freak out."
"Alex said something about Sirius Black."
"Well, he was tortured by them. He and Alex seem to get along okay, like he's an uncle figure. I guess the same way he feels about Lupin." He shrugged. "I don't know. I guess it's mean in some ways."
"Lupin thought it might cause a panic if Harry got hurt by that, which is what Alex meant by being forced into the middle by his vow to protect his house."
Greg shook his head. "That wouldn't. His house knows he protects Harry. Even if he has to take on stuff that might kill him."
"Like a dementor?"
"No, Alex told me he can't make the counter-charm. For some reason it's not working for him."
"Find me a sixth year book in Defense," he ordered. Greg nodded, going to get one from one of the upper years. Alex had shouted so much at him that he hadn't caught it all. Some things were starting to fall into place however. Maybe it wasn't so much the vow that was hurting him this time. Greg came back and closed the door again, tossing over the book. Draco flipped to the index, then the correct page. He read the information quickly, then looked at him. "The counter is called a Patronius. It's based on a happy memory."
"I wonder if Professor Snape can cast one," he said thoughtfully.
"He can. I heard him tell Alex he could," he admitted. "I was listening during part of their dinner." He closed the book. "Alex said he can't?" Greg nodded. "Which is really odd. This could be fear. From Alex though? He's not afraid of anything."
"My dad used to say everyone's afraid of something or they're already dead because of it. He told me I had plenty of things that were worse to fear than the dark."
Draco looked at him. "Alex doesn't have any happy memories strong enough?" Greg shrugged. "It says it's got to be a strong happy memory, something to hold the energy of joy and happiness to battle the soul-sucking that the dementors do."
"They suck joy, Draco, not souls," Greg corrected blandly. "Professor Snape said so."
"Fine. Joy then. Alex has happy moments."
"Maybe there's something blocking him? Maybe he feels they weren't happy enough?"
Draco curled up around his knees, holding them so he could put his chin on them, book in one hand. "Alex has been such a know-it-all in charms and defense for so long that he's been doing special stuff. Like helping a stuck first year."
"That's a great honor," Greg agreed. "He used to explain stuff to me too."
Draco nodded, he had things explained to him many times. He looked at him. "I think maybe Alex is scared that the rumors are true."
"Why? He's said often enough that he's a powerful wizard, which he is."
"Yes, and he's a pureblood and the Dark Lord wanted him as a sacrifice before he was born," Draco reminded him. "That's got to be it, he's got to be scared."
"What would he be scared of? Whenever he fights, Alex goes all cold and unemotional until afterward. Even the prefects and the Head Girl look at him if something like a fight breaks out. That's why he took on part of Ravenclaw for a first year before you two got into it."
"He found some kids hiding in the halls instead of in their houses. Snippy the house elf said that kid said his house wasn't safe for him. Alex went to fix that." He shrugged. "He's done it before in Gryffindor for a second year. He did it for one of our kids when they were bothered."
"Yes, but why *him*? That's why there's prefects."
"Yeah, but who says the Prefects aren't involved? Ours was," Greg reminded him. Draco stared at him. "Did I say something dumb again?"
"No. You actually said another very smart thing. I'm starting to wonder if the dumb things are just an act."
"No, but the dumb things come easier. Alex-watching isn't that hard, he makes it fun when he takes on the idiots who harm those who can't fight back."
"Like he couldn't," Draco breathed. "That's his vow."
"Uh-huh. McGonagall asked him personally to help her find and protect all the abused kids in his house, and he took it to mean all the kids in the house. Last year he added on the rest of the school because of that one Hufflepuff boy nearly dying after the seventh years got him. That's why they gave themselves up the next day. I sat there and cheered him on. He grinned at me for it," he offered with a small grin of his own.
"Wonderful. I still think he's scared of something."
"But what? His powers? Being called? Being turned since a vampire grabbed him that time? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Not making it in time? Alex knows most of those happen and he can fight off the first two."
Draco shook his head. "It's not that simple with Alex. It never was."
"Maybe he's scared of being alone," Harry said from the doorway. "Where's Alexander? Ron's about to yank his hair out since he never showed up."
"He got into it with the guys threatening us and then a few Ravenclaws for a first year." Harry nodded, coming in. "How did you get in here?" Greg asked.
"Professor Snape let me in and told the others to leave me alone this time. He's not sure what's up with him either. All he really knows is that Alex is worried about something and I'm not sure what." He looked at Draco, who was sneering. "I know Lupin told you. He told me. I don't give a damn if you spread it around the school, Draco. What's everyone gonna do? Look at me funny like they did last year when they thought I was evil? Pity me for surviving like they used to before they thought I was going evil?" He shrugged. "I don't care any more." He looked at Greg. "I'm trying to figure out what to get Alex for a holiday gift. Do you have any ideas? I thought about chocolate but he's even quit eating that recently."
"He what!" Draco demanded. Harry nodded. "No sweets at all or just chocolate?"
"Just chocolate. He said it's making him bouncy. By the way, did you give him that dusty defense book? It's been frustrating him again if you did so can you take it back? He's having nightmares."
"About what?" Greg asked, looking worried. "He's had a few good ones over the years. We used to sleep with him on sleepovers and he still had 'em."
"Last holiday he didn't," Draco admitted quietly, staring at Potter. "What's he worried about, Potter? He's not deigning to talk to me recently."
"I have no idea. I was hoping you did. All I know is that Lupin is with him and from what we could see out the window it looked like he was about to cry as he stomped off. It set Hermione off again and Ron had to body bind her to keep her from rushing out there. Percy's still yelling at him about it." He grimaced, looking at Greg again. "No idea what to get him?"
"A gift certificate to where he gets his comics?"
"I haven't seen him reading any in a few weeks," Harry said thoughtfully. "Is he depressed?"
"No, he's not prone to it," Draco said, frowning now. "That's not like him." He stood up, dropping the defense book. "What's his problem with the patronius?"
"Nothing happy enough. He said he should be able to but nothing's coming." He shrugged. "Lupin's worried about him, I know that much." He scratched the back of his neck. "I think he's worried about something and that it's probably that picture in the Prophet that they thought was Lucius."
"It was," Greg told him.
Harry nodded. "I figured as much. Alex is back to planning torture again." He looked at Draco as he changed clothes. "Lupin's with him."
"Lupin has no idea what to do with him when he's upset," Draco pointed out as he pulled on a new sweater. "Get off on watching me change, Potter?"
"No. But I'm not sure you know what to do with Alex when he's upset either. I know Greg does. He talks about him a lot. He doesn't talk about you with us so he can't get shoved in the middle of our fights," he said when Draco stared at him. "We asked him not to really. It upsets us to think that you're human." He looked at Greg. "Maybe you should go to him instead?"
"I can't calm him down. All I can do is let him rant and pace and scream. He's already doing that."
"Fine. Tell him to sneak in tonight. Percy's looking to hook onto Hermione's idea of therapy for him." He turned and left. "How about a music box?" he asked as he came back. Greg shook his head. "Shoot. Sirius thought that'd be nice."
"He likes music," Greg offered. "I'm not sure you could find a music box that plays popular music though."
"I'm sure you could have one's song changed," Harry told him. "Maybe a gift certificate to Madam Malkin's?"
"No, Potter. He only shops when he has to. His closet is smaller than Greg's."
"Oh. Maybe something like a sword? Or a battle axe?"
"It's practical," Greg offered. "I don't think he could sneak it back into the school and who would teach him how to use it?"
"Lupin knows how to fence."
"So does Alex," Draco assured him. "We learned against each other. The same as we learned how to duel against each other. He's better at it than I am." He looked at Greg. "He kept pushing my intelligence back at me."
"That means he thinks you're dumb," Greg assured him with a grin. "Temporarily or not."
"Gee, thanks terribly for that," he noted dryly. "Come on, Potter, I'll walk you out." They walked out together. "Next time you go to town, watch what he looks at. Buy him some of that."
"Last time it was the sweet shop and his shirts being refitted."
"Oh." Draco shrugged. "I'm sure Granger or Weaslette will think of something," he said dryly, heading outside. The headmaster and McGonagall were both out there, watching the sun set. "Have they come back yet?" he asked her, ignoring the old man totally.
"Not yet," she admitted. "It's dangerous out there after dark."
"He's got our defense teacher with him, Professor, plus this is Alex we're talking about." He headed that way.
"Mr. Malfoy, you may not go with them," the headmaster called.
Draco stopped, turned, and gave him his most icy stare. "Alex is my best friend, even if we are fighting. It's up to me to go make him calm down and explain the cryptic shit he yelled at me. He really should drop divinations, it's lowering his ability to argue coherently." He turned around and continued to walk. "Expel me if you want. I have things that would better serve my time." He cast a bloodhound charm once he got to where they had been fighting, following it into the woods. He found Lupin, but no Alex. "Where is he?" Lupin spun around, looking startled. "Where's Alex?" he repeated.
"I don't know. I haven't been able to find him yet." He looked at the wand. "Bloodhound spell?" Draco nodded. "Me too." He grimaced.
"He's shielding. It's the only thing he ever learned from my father," he said quietly, concentrating to remember the counter curse. He finally remembered it and chanted it slowly, and the spell picked up his friend's scent. "I've got him."
"You're going farther into the forest alone?"
"Alex needs me."
"I think he needs someone who he feels gives a damn."
"Which isn't you. So butt out." He walked off, following the light on his wand. He finally found Alex beside a small pool and flopped down beside him. "If we get lost out here, I'm going to make you lead the way back," he said in greeting. Alex was silent so he looked at him. "Were you cursed?"
"Only with former friends."
"You don't have that right at the moment," he said coldly.
Draco moved the hand he had planned on touching him with. This was more serious than he thought. He shifted to face him, making Alex look at him, noticing the tears. "Tell me. I only got half of what you screamed at me. I admit, it probably would have been cruel to Potter to torment him about the dementors. I'm like that, Alex. You've known that for years. I haven't changed that much. You're the one who went off the deep end and became all goody goody all of a sudden." Alex pulled away and he grabbed him again, pulling him against his body. "Tell me," he hissed. "Don't make me force you."
"Let go," Alex said coldly.
Draco looked down at him. He never talked to him that way. "No." He wrapped his arms around him, cuddling him. "If you don't tell me, I'm not going to let you go. I don't understand what you were yelling and I think you're afraid of something. Greg just thinks you're mad and you wanted to continue to scream at someone or he'd be out here."
"Oh, grow up! This isn't a you vs. Greg vs. Harry thing!" Alex struggled but Draco had him too tightly. His arms were pinned, his legs weren't going to do him any good. "Let go!"
"No." He rested his head against Alex's. "Tell me, Alexander. I didn't understand. You gave it to me too fast."
"You're supposed to be the smart one."
"Yes, well, today that was Greg," he snapped back. He forced himself to calm down again. "I don't understand," he repeated more calmly. "I need to so we can fix this. I don't want to lose your friendship even if I don't understand why you protect those who don't deserve it."
"Everyone deserves to be protected and safe."
"No, not everyone. Murderers don't."
"I can protect others from them."
"Hmm. True. Does that mean you want to be an auror? If so, you need some major work in Potions and Herbology." He gave him a gentle squeeze. "Tell me, Alex. All I got was that you were mad at me for that prank, but not why. Yeah, it was mean. You've always known I do mean things. I don't understand why you went off on the pureblood thing either. Yes, some families are so inbred some kids are born funny according to Greg. He said he had an aunt who was."
"No! Get over it and tell me slower this time! Let me work it out at least. That way I can apologize for the things I need to and remind you of who I am for the rest."
"You're a lot like your father," Alex spat, still struggling.
Draco let one arm move, only to hit him on the forehead. "No, I'm not."
"Yeah, you are! Let go!" He finally got free and stood up, staring down at him. "You are, Draco. You're every bit like your father at times. That's why you're stepping on my vow to protect the house. You've done noting but pick on our younger kids recently and I'm going to have to stop you some day."
"So stop me. Yes, I'm a bully. You've known this since first grade." He stood up, dusting himself off. "Why is this suddenly an issue? Your housemates all know I'm an old friend of yours and that you don't want to fight me."
"You sent three of us to the hospital this week!" he yelled.
"Alexander, there's enough anger in these woods to call something to us," Draco said calmly. "Calm yourself before we have to defend ourselves."
"You mean me defend you?" he sneered.
"No, I can fight. I don't like to unless I know I'm going to win but I can." He looked his friend over, then shook his head. "Maybe you are depressed. Are you?" Alex just glared, one hand on his hip. The other with his wand ready to hex him. "Potter said you've decided chocolate is evil. Any idea why?"
"Because it's a kiddy thing. It's time for me to start growing up."
"My mum eats chocolate every day of her life," Draco snorted.
"Yeah, but she's a girl. I'm not."
Draco frowned. "Alex, you're still losing me here. You're definitely a boy, even though you like other boys." That got a growl. "Is someone actually picking on you!" he asked, looking stunned. Things started to click in his head. Things he didn't like. "Who in the hell could do that?"
"No one." He started to turn but Draco caught him. "Let go! I don't want to be molested."
"I'm not. If I was, you'd be on the ground howling for more," Draco said coldly, staring him down. "Tell me, Alex." Alex just glared back. "If you don't tell me, I'm going to have to assume and hex your whole house." Alex shook his head and turned away again. Draco spun him around, slamming him into a tree this time. "You'll bloody well tell me what's going on or I'm going to kick your ass," he said firmly. "You're a moody fucking bitch today and I don't know why and you're the one who started the fight. I was only hurt that you were jumping in this time and you spoiled my prank. Fine, you explained that. I get that part, Alex!" Alex's glare chilled even more. "Oh, get the fuck over it!" he snapped. "I've known you much too long to put up with this shit." He stepped closer. "Tell me what the fuck is going on, Alex. I don't want to make you but I will."
He let out a bitter laugh. "You can't."
"I can. I have in the past."
"You can't cast an unforgivable and I can defeat it now."
"No but I have other ways, things that I've found over the years." Someone coughed. "Go away! We're having a fight!"
"I noticed," a voice said, moving closer, turning into a centaur. "There are many things that would be drawn by your heat and anger."
"We know that," they said together.
"Ah. Are you together?" Alex glared at him. "Very well then. I'll leave you be. I have shown the teacher the way out since he was lost." He backed off, heading away from the soon-to-be-snacks.
Draco looked at Alex again. "You're one of my best friends," he hissed. "I will not let this rot between us because you're scared or something." He stepped closer until they were pressed together so he could hold Alex still. "Tell me," he ordered. Alex shook his head. "You leave me no choice but to hex you then." Alex sneered so Draco pulled his wand. "Feathers." Alex bit his lip and endured, and Draco was at least amused. "Who's the one who's bothering you, Alex?"
"You're the only bully I haven't hurt this year," he sneered.
"Yes, but I don't usually target you." He upped the power on his hex, making Alex grab the tree. "It won't work."
"I'm not telling you shit! I told you earlier, you should have listened!"
"If I could go steal Granger's time turner, I'd go back and listen closer!" he shot back. He canceled that spell. He decided to go silly. He had to break the anger to get Alex to talk to him. Greg let him rant, Draco took a more direct approach. His next curse made it seem like someone was blowing raspberries on his stomach. Alex shrieked in outrage so he smirked. "I warned you!" He doubled it and Alex slumped to the ground, starting to cry again. He canceled it and squatted in front of him, making sure he wouldn't be hurt if he got knocked over. Alex curled against his chest so he knelt instead, holding him. "Tell me," he whispered as he tried to calm him down. He'd never seen him like this before. Alex put something in his hand so he opened it, reading the note. He sighed. It was official, his father was back. "I'm not supporting him, Alex, even if I believe in the cause. That would be dumb and I'd make a bad corpse." When he finally stopped Draco wiped off his face. "I'm not following him even if I do believe he's right about that."
"He's not. If you think about it he can't be. We're already inbred. Think about what your family tree looks like, or mine, and we've been outbreeding for centuries." Draco nodded. "We're getting weaker, Draco."
"We're not. You're very strong."
"I'm a damn fluke and Harry's only three-quarters! Hell, Voldemort's only a half!"
"What?" Alex nodded. "He can't be."
"He was. His dad was full muggle." Draco considered that. "If we keep up this way, we're dooming our people to inferiority. Permanently. We're about to the point where we can't keep going forward without having children born wrong."
"Pansy's sister was, but she died in childbirth," he admitted quietly. He sat on Alex's legs to hold him still, wiping his cheeks off again. "Is this all that's worrying you?" Alex shook his head. "Then what else is it? Potter thinks you're depressed, I think you're scared, and Greg thinks you're worried. I get the worried part. Lucius is enough to do that to anyone." He glanced around. "We're armed," he called. He heard a high-pitched growl and sighed. "Wonderful. Unthinking."
Alex put a hand on his arm. "I don't want to have to kill you or your mom, Draco," he said quietly.
"Then don't. I told you I'm not supporting him."
"If he's alive, he's in control of everything in the family."
"He has to prove to the bank that he's alive and when he tries, there's a warrant for doing the demonic magic and blowing up the house." Alex shook his head. "Yes, there is."
"I called your mum, he's already been there. She's back at my house since he can't get in. Greg's dad and Vinnie's dad are at your place being sucked back in. I'm going to have to kill the only relatives I've ever known."
Draco shook his head. "No you won't. Potter, if it comes to that, will stop him first. You'll be behind him. I know you will. I'll talk to them later about it."
"I did. They said they don't want to make me do it. They looked so *hopeful* that I could save them. I'm not God! Harry's not either!"
"And the pressure builds." Draco nodded. "What did the prophecy say?"
"He made one of us his fatal flaw. Me, Harry, or Neville. One of us will have to kill him or he'll kill us. It's specific." Draco nodded for him to go on. "I've got it in my trunk. Remus has a copy too."
"That's fine. I'll look over it later." He gave him a hopeful smile. "Are we better again, Alex?" Alex shook his head. "Why not?"
"Because you're still putting me in the middle, Draco. Between you guys and Harry and Ron. You pick on my house and I've got to react."
"They're putting pressure on you?"
Alex sighed. "They think I'm siding with you, with the dark lord rising."
"You're getting what Harry got last year?"
"That and that I'm going to kill him and take over, and a bunch of other shit."
"This is one of those times when I wish I were telepathic," he complained, resting their foreheads together.
"Dad said there's a way but only if you have the skills."
"Legimens. I know. I do but I'm highly untrained. I could get stuck." He cast a shield around them and the beast snapped at the magic just past their feet. "What is that?"
"Blind. Helpless. Hungry," Alex said bitterly. He pointed his wand at it. Draco shook his head and forced it down. "Draco, he'll break it."
"He won't." He created another shield a bit away, distracting the beast with that. If it only wanted the magic, it could gnaw on that since it had a weak spot. Something theirs didn't. He looked at his best friend again. "Legimens," he cast, closing his eyes to see better. He saw it all and growled. When he was done, the beast was staring at them, head tipped to the side. "Shoo," he said, casting a blast of heat at it. It yelped and ran off. He strengthened their shields and looked at Alex again, seeing him with his eyes closed. "They're wrong, Alex, and they don't deserve your protection."
"It doesn't matter if they do deserve it, everyone deserves to be safe."
"Yes, but that applies to the protectors too!"
Alex opened his eyes to look at him. "We're protectors, we're stronger, Draco. We're supposed to be able to take it."
"Who told you that?"
"Everything points to it. All the myths. All the stories. Even the comics. Good guys are good guys no matter who throws rotten tomatoes at them," he said tiredly.
"That's dumb. You can't do your job when you're like this."
"I have to do my job and I get to wear crap out because of it." He hesitantly wrapped his arms around him and Draco let him cuddle so he relaxed. "Some day you'll betray me too. After all, you're a good bad guy."
"I'm only mildly bad and I only pull pranks."
"We're both growing up, Draco. The time'll come when you're called. He knows not to call me. Even if Dad's called back he won't call me. Too many people on his team know I won't go and I'll end up fighting him." He took a few breaths. "Then it'll be me and Harry and Ron against you, Vinnie, and Greg. They'll follow you and their dads when they're recalled and you're called."
"I'm not going."
"It's not like he gives choices. He'll kill you otherwise."
"Only if he rises, Alex. Have you even talked to your dad about this?" He shook his head. "Anyone else?"
"Remus. He agreed that I was seeing a probable future." He looked at him. "I don't want to fight you. Can you please quit picking on my house and the first and second years?"
"Only pick on the older kids?" he suggested with a smile.
Alex nodded. "It'd prove you were smarter anyway." He heard another growl. "Wonderful." He started to let Draco got but got a headshake. "It's dark, we're going to have to fight our way out."
"I think we need more time alone," he offered. "You need to get this out. We've got to talk anyway. You betrayed me, Alex. To Potter, my enemy."
"Why is he your enemy?" Alex asked quietly.
"Because he's Harry Potter."
"That's your father's reason. What's yours?" he asked. Draco looked stunned. "See, being alone, I get to time to think about these things. He snubbed you when you were a snot-nosed brat. Not even Vinnie liked you your first month here. He said so." Draco still looked stunned so he shot at the creature running toward them. "Ennervate!" The shock of the shock made it howl and run away yelping.
Draco shook his head. "I never thought of using that offensively." He looked at him. "Harry's just Harry. He's a Gryff, and you're the only one of those I like. He's a pain in the ass who won't follow any rules, even the ones for his own good."
"He can't when they're wrong to follow. Ginny nearly died last year if he hadn't broken that stupid curfew to go after her. That's why I helped him." Draco frowned and shook his head. Alex nodded. "Yeah. That creature was a basilisk. Somehow the younger Riddle managed to possess her anyway, even without access to the journal."
"It was stolen from the Ministry. That's why they built that new storage area." Alex sighed. "It's still loose." Alex looked up at him quickly, frowning. He nodded. "They think it may be back here since they didn't find it in the ruins of the manor."
"Oh, shit, I know who has it," he moaned, holding his head. "We've got to get back."
"Will it make any difference tonight or tomorrow?"
"It could. He could hurt someone. This is my first night out of the tower."
"Potter's there with Weasley and Granger. Weasley sleeps in your room. I know because he complains about your snoring." He gave him a bland look. "He can protect Potter tonight."
"He's the third one in the prophecy."
"Hell." He stood up, canceling the shield and hauling Alex up. "Come on, let's go back. Room of Requirement to finish this later?" Alex nodded, leading the way back to the school. "How many times have you been out here?"
"Ten or twelve. A few with Remus. Some by myself. I like walking out here. I feel comfortable." They came out of the forest behind the school and Alex grinned at him. "Dad's passage." He led the way inside, going straight to his father. He looked at the Headmaster. "We need Snape now," he ordered. "Father, the diary's still here. Draco said it was stolen?" He nodded, looking grim. "I think Neville has it. He's had a severe case of anger and nastiness recently. Ron sleeps too heavily to protect him."
"Are you sure?"
"It's the top of my list. If not, I don't know where. He is in that prophecy."
"You have a copy?" Dumbledore asked.
"I do. I showed it to Harry and Remus. Come on, Dad."
"McGonagall should go."
"And do what? Cry?" He stared at him. "Dad, Dark Lord Junior in that diary. You know what he feels like and can tell me if it's in him."
"Fine." He stood up and followed the boys up to the tower. "I'll wait out here."
"Sure." He opened the portrait, looking at Draco, who sighed. "We'll change it tomorrow." He walked inside, looking at the prefect waiting up. "I need Neville."
"I think he's possessed." He walked up the stairs. "Draco and Snape heard the password, change it tomorrow."
"Sure. Why?" she called after him.
He opened the door as quietly as he could, walking inside. He checked the beds. Seamus and Dean were sleeping. Ron was snoring, and they said he was loud. Neville's curtains were sealed. Harry's were closed so he peeked in on him. Ron snorted and flipped over. He looked around. Then he pulled his wand. "Luminos," he whispered. The wand lit and he stared. "Shit. Dad!" he screamed. "Now! Madam Pomfrey!" He moved closer. "Seamus! Wake Ron, put Neville in the bathroom!" he yelled.
"What is going on!" Percy yelled from the doorway.
"Harry's been stabbed, Percy, you tell me!" he shot back. Percy went pale. "Get the fucking nurse! My dad's outside the door with Draco. I need him. Seamus! Dean!" They both snapped awake. "Find Neville, put him in the bathroom! Harry was stabbed!" Snape came hurrying in. "He's bleeding but he's not gushing." Draco pulled him out of the way, looking down at him, then moved to help. "Fuck!" He walked over to slap Ron but he wasn't waking. "Draco, he won't wake." Draco came over to check him, then looked up at him. "What?"
"Dreamless sleep." He walked over and opened Neville's curtains. He was out too but there was blood on his hands. "Get him into the bathroom," he ordered. The others took him in there. "Don't clean him up yet, we'll need to check the blood." He looked at the nurse. "Weasley's been sedated. Longbottom has blood on him."
"Harry's pulse is very shallow," Snape told her.
She moved closer, moving to examine him. "What happened?"
"Alex said something abut the diary from last year, the one that got the Weasley girl."
Alex kicked open Neville's trunk, bending down to go through it. Then he went through his dresser. "It's not here. I'm sure it's him."
"Where was the last place you sneezed," Draco demanded, helping him up. Alex looked confused. "Where?"
"Then we'll go there and check, Professor."
"The Weasleys can bloody well take care of him, Alex. You're the best magic sniffer we have. If that diary is here, we need it." Alex got into Harry's trunk, coming out with a piece of parchment, and they left together. The Headmaster tried to stop them. "Not now! Get the Weasleys to guard the infirmary!" He ran after Alex. "What?" he called.
"The map says it's out there! It lists him!"
"Map?" Remus called, running to catch up. "I remember that map!" He took it and looked. "Damn it!" He ran faster, heading out to the greenhouse. It wasn't in plain sight. He tapped his wand on the dot, expanding it. "It's in here somewhere. In a pot." He looked around. "There's got to be three hundred of them."
"Fine. We'll do it the hard way. Tempus Reversus!" he cast, extending it as far as he could in the green house. All the plants around them receded. The diary was forced up by the new shoots in one. He grabbed it and sneezed.
"That's it," Draco said, taking it. He looked inside. "No words?"
"You write, it answers," Alex said. "Dad, now," he said, sneezing again. Draco nodded, hurrying off with it. "Remus, Harry was stabbed. Neville had blood on him."
"Hell," he said, hurrying back to the tower to help. He ran into the nurse on the way. "I'll be right up. Where's Longbottom?"
"Snape has him," she called, hurrying on. "I'm going to have to send him on."
"I'll be right there!" he yelled. He found Snape on the map and raced for him, going to stop him. "Draco!" he yelled. The diary was tossed to him. He hurried down to the dungeons, tossing Snape the diary. "It's in him. They're taking Harry. Lock Neville up and I'll help you unpossess him later." He hurried up to the infirmary, barely making it as the paramedics arrived. "I'm one of his godfathers," he announced. They glared at him. "I'm going. I can call the other from there!" They nodded. "Madam Pomfrey, tell the Headmaster," he called, grabbing onto the portkey. He saw Alex stumble in but they were already moving off.
Alex looked at the newly blank spot, then called the house. "Narcissa. Call Sirius, Harry was stabbed. They took him to the hospital just now. Remus is with them."
"I will." She hung up and made the call from there.
He looked at the nurse. "I feel like shit."
"You look like shit. What's going on!" she yelled. He backed away by a step. "I'm sorry," she said, calming herself. "What is going on, Alexander?"
"Remember Ginny last year?" She nodded. "The diary came back. It's in Neville. Neville had blood all over him. It was hiding in Greenhouse four. She's going to be *so* pissed in the morning!" he moaned, holding his head.
"I'll get Madam Sprout up to check her."
Alex summoned the map and looked at it. "Here she is," he said, finding her and pointing at the dot. "In the Headmaster's office?"
"I don't know. I'll be right back. You sit and wait on me. Watch my infirmary, answer questions." He nodded, sitting on a bed as she raced off.
He deactivated the map, looking over as his father came in. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he agreed, giving him a hug. "I was not choosing him over you, Alex, I merely thought he was calmer and more rational at that moment."
"That was not what I was hoping for."
"Shit happens," he said dryly, looking up at him.
"Use Legimens and ignore the naked men," Draco advised as he walked in.
Alex looked at him. "That's not Draco."
"It's not. I know Draco, he doesn't move like that."
Snape looked. Then he pulled his wand suddenly. "Stupify!" Draco fell over. "I still have it," he said dryly, then looked at his son. "Legimens," he hissed, reading his mind easily. "We've got to get you some shields and no more naked men calendars, son." He canceled it and looked at him. "You are not betraying your house. You managed to figure it out just in time tonight. I'm proud of you." Alex nodded. "That one boy is in for it though."
"Dad, it's his opinion."
"I don't care." He walked over to Draco's body, looking down at it. "Trying to hop out of Longbottom to keep him in trouble, old friend?"
"Dad, if you go back, I'm going to have to kick your ass and tie you up until you're no longer mentally insufficient to make good decisions," Alex said firmly, staring at him. "I mean it."
Snape smiled. His son did love him. "I'm sure you do. If it happens, we'll talk about it." Alex shook his head. "I am invaluable."
"So?" he snorted. "You're not going. If you abandon me to do stupid, dangerous, hero stuff then who'll I get my sarcasm kick in with?" He muttered something, getting a book, which he flipped through. Then he handed it over. "Here. What you need."
"Where did that come from?"
"The library at home. It's amazing, you seem to have unlocked the books on demonology. Which Halfrek said I was not to get into except that one and one other one, which would prove it's wrong and not for me to touch."
"A good idea," he admitted, looking at the spell. It was simple enough. He cast it, sending the spirit in Draco into the last body it had been in. He took it with him, leaving those two together. He found the Headmaster coming for him. "Who else?"
"Alex said she was dark," he noted dryly, heading to uncurse her. It flowed back into Longbottom so they went to uncurse him, sending it into the last body it had been in, the buried one. The book burst into flames and they watched it go. They did knock it onto the floor to spare the desk and the papers, but otherwise, they watched it burn. Neville was collapsed against a desk and Snape conjured a stretcher, handing it to Dumbledore. "You're messing up my office, Albus."
"What is going on?"
"That was the same diary. People have been pushing Alex and he snapped earlier. Hence the fight. Sometime during it the realization hit him when all the pieces fell together. They raced back, got me, went up to see if they were right. Alex found Potter bleeding, Weasley knocked out, and Longbottom bloody." Tonks walked in and he pointed at the diary. "It burst into flames once we uncursed Longbottom."
"What happened? We heard Potter was in surgery?"
"It appears the diary from last year came back in Mr. Lonbottom's possession. He split off part of the spirit into Madam Sprout as well. While possessed he apparently stabbed Mr. Potter and sedated Mr. Weasley. When we banished the spirit out of him, it made the book burst into flames."
"Oh, goodie. Another report I'll get chewed for," she said happily, smirking at them a bit. "Alex is where?"
"Madam Sprout's contagion briefly jumped into Mr. Malfoy as a more suitable host. We uncursed him first. They're both in the infirmary."
"Why didn't he stop it?"
"They were in the forest. Alex and Draco were working out a tiff they had."
"Ah." She nodded. "They're at the age for that. I had a pretty few when I was their age." She came in to gather up what was left of the book. "We'll need to examine all three of them to make sure they're fine. Should we send a healer to help, Headmaster?"
"Madam Pomfrey would have to answer that," he said quietly. "She should be back up there." She nodded, taking the boy upstairs with the ashes. Her boss met her up there. She gave him what she knew, handed over the Longbottom boy, then went to get Alex's report since he probably knew more than he was letting on. "Alexander?" she called, making him look over at her. "Is he all right?"
"Fine. Neville was a bit heavy handed for his weight but Madam Pomfrey said he'll be fine." He patted the spot beside him on the bed. "Hop up here. We can chat." She smiled and did just that. "How's Neville?"
"On his way in with my boss. We've got to check to make sure there's no remaining taint." She looked at the other Weasleys. "He'll be fine I'm sure."
"Why weren't you in the house?" Ginny demanded, glaring at Alex. "Why didn't you protect Harry and Ron!"
"I was in the forest trying to cool down from the fight earlier," he told her. "What makes you think he couldn't have gotten them during a break, or lunch, or something." She burst out crying.
"He managed to figure it out before anything serious happened," Tonks said calmly. Ginny glared at her too and stomped off. "I already called your mum," she called after her. "They're on their way up." She looked at the others, then at Alex. "What was the fight about?"
"Lots of stuff," Alex sighed.
"You let a Slytherin into the house," Percy said firmly.
"You'd rather I didn't call for help?" he asked. "You just stood there and stared and I'm not any good at healing." They all gaped. "Draco's very calm in an emergency. That's because he got used to helping me heal. He and my dad are very good at it, that's why I brought them. I was damn sure that Neville was the one once I put the pieces together. He's been acting odd all year." The twins nodded, they had seen that. "I'm sorry I had that fight, but shit like you blaming me for the color in your underwear running builds up!" Percy stomped off too. He glared at the twins. "Get it out now," he encouraged.
"Alex, don't," Draco said quietly from his bed. "Just don't. It's not worth it. If they were your friends, they wouldn't have been putting that pressure on you in the first place." He looked at his cousin, the auror. "They expect him to be God, leave his real friends behind, and to kill everyone he's ever given a damn about if they're called back," he said simply. "He broke. He's thirteen. He needed to let it out before he went off on someone else. As it was, he had two fights earlier before ours. Some bullies who were threatening the school and the imbeciles who got us sent to the houses." The twins gaped. "Yes, he did get those Ravenclaws from what I was told. He also hexed the ones outside while the teachers stared in shock."
"That's not fair, he's a little boy!" Tonks said angrily.
"I've grown since the last time you saw me, Tonks. I'm not that little anymore." She frowned at him. "I'm not."
"You are, Alexander. You're thirteen, not thirty. I don't want to face another war if one comes. Too many of my family are on the wrong side too." He nodded, relaxing some. "Fortunately my boss doesn't want me in the field unless I have to be. He knows the chances of running into a relative are too high and I'd come back damaged."
"But that's his job!" Percy said as he stomped back.
"He's a student, boy. Not God. If the war comes back like rumors are starting to claim, most everyone he knows will be out there. People who gave a damn and tried to get him away from that torturing grandmother of his. People who tried to protect him. Could you kill your parents if they went bad?" He went green and got sick. "Well, that's what he's facing. Welcome to his world," she said harshly. Draco clapped. "You, behave. I'll be there in a minute."
"Sure." He sat up and Madam Pomfrey came over to push him back down and tuck him in again. "Don't you dare," he ordered. "I'm staying by Alex tonight."
"That's fine. He can sleep in a chair beside your bed."
"Alex can't sleep in a chair. He'll probably curl up with me on the bed," he said lightly.
"Eeh, boys like him always need cuddles, Draco. It makes 'em sane and happy. Same as it does girls like me." She started to write out notes. "Okay, so you figured it out while you two were making out... I mean up in the forest?"
"I'm straight," Draco called in a sing-song voice. "He's the poof."
"Fine, if you say so. Straight boys don't take as much time and energy on their hair and clothes as you do, cousin." Draco let out a cold sounding snort. "They don't." She grinned at him. "Straight boys throw on any old thing, like those two." She pointed at the twins. She looked at Alex again. "You figured it out and then what?"
"We came out of the forest, came in one of the back passages. I went right to Snape's office, figuring he could identify the magical signature of the diary easiest if it was possessing someone." She nodded, taking that down. "I drug him and Draco up to Gryffindor, and they waited outside while I went in. I checked Seamus and Dean. They're closer to the door. I checked Ron. He was snoring heavily. I peeked at Neville but his curtains were sealed. I peeked in at Harry, then lit my wand. There was blood everywhere." He started to look green. "I screamed. I think I screamed for dad. I don't know. All I know is he should have been gushing and he wasn't. They both came in. I ordered Dean and Seamus to take Neville into the bathroom and not clean him up. Just in case you needed the blood. It took a bit to get them moving. Percy there complained about letting them in, yelled at me from the doorway. The nurse came in and shoved me out of the way. I searched Neville's things, then when I didn't find anything I pulled out a map of the school that Harry has. It lists names."
He yawned. "I figured if the diary was possessed it'd be listed since some other things were that I'd seen in the past. It was in greenhouse four. Draco drug me out there when I told him where it was because I'd sneeze when we found it. Remus joined us on the run out there. He figured out it was in a potter. I ungrew the plants. She's so gonna yell tomorrow about that." She nodded, smiling a bit. "The new growth pushed it up and we grabbed it to bring it back to dad since he's the best at unpossessing someone. Remus came up here to go with Harry, I followed but I'm a bit slower at the moment because I'm tired." He yawned. "Madam Pomfrey sent Harry off with the paramedics and Remus. I called Auntie Narcissa to tell her to call Sirius since I can't remember the code to the house there." He scratched the back of his head. Tonks looked and lifted an ant off his collar, then tossed it onto the floor. Madam Pomfrey glared and burned it, coming over to check Alex. "It's been a long day," he told them. Both women nodded. "She told me to wait and answer questions so I did. That's when dad came back. Draco came in a moment later, we figured out he was possessed and I called a book I had brought with me on possessions. It had a spell to send it back to its last body. So he did that on Draco. I'm guessing they got Madam Sprout next since she wasn't the primary contagion. It makes sense," he offered with a shrug and another yawn. "I was still up here."
"Lay down, Alexander," the nurse ordered gently.
"Can I nap with Draco?"
"No. You've got some cuts and things."
"So?" He pouted. She frowned. He pouted worse. She shook her head and used her wand to remove his shirt and robes. He searched for his wand, keeping it in his hand.
"Fine." She got to work healing the scrapes and bruises.
Tonks looked at some on his arms. "Who grabbed you, Alex?" she asked gently, touching one. He hissed.
"Petry," Draco called. "I used Legimens on him. His mind's full of naked boys, cousin."
"I've seen plenty of those," she said, shifting to face him. "Legimens," she cast, reading his mind. She pulled back and grinned at him. "Naughty, Alex," she teased. He frowned and she grinned, kissing him on the forehead. "Okay, you go rest with Draco once she's done. I'm sure she'll send you back to bed soon enough." He changed to the wolf and padded over there, hopping up onto the other bed with a tired sounding groan. He turned around a few times then flopped down on Draco's stomach and chest, falling asleep.
"He even snores as a wolf," Tonks said with a grin, but her eyes were glaring at the twins. "What did you do?" she asked them.
"Nothing," they defended.
"Uh-huh. Nothing, including sticking up for him being a little boy still? Nothing including helping him when you saw him starting to stress out and taking on bullies to get rid of it? Nothing to help him when he started to flounder at the one thing he's good at?" They looked embarrassed, looking at their brother. "By the way, he's been teaching him along with Lupin." She slid off the bed. "Ron's not looking too bad. Maybe some year he'll have my job and I'll be behind a desk." She looked at her boss as he came in. "Malfoy was possessed for a few minutes too, boss."
"I saw. I'm here to check him." He smiled at the dog. "Your familiar?"
"Alex Birmingham." He petted the soft fur. "He's had a bad few weeks."
"Hmm." He pulled his wand. "I might need to move him to get a clear scan." Tonks came over to pick up the wolf, making him growl. "We'll put you back in a minute," he assured him. The wolf continued to growl.
"He's uncomfortable with women," Draco noted calmly. She handed him off to one of the twins. "Thank you. He got stuck after a panic attack last year."
"Yeah, I heard about the missing trees," she agreed with a grin, grabbing Draco's wrist to hold it down. "Hold still." He nodded, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. The wand was run over him and the boss nodded. "Clean?"
"Absolutely." He went to check the wolf, then put him back, watching as he curled up on Draco's stomach and chest again. "He's very cute. He's how old?"
"Thirteen," Tonks told him. "And they're wondering why he didn't save Harry sooner, even though he wasn't in the tower." Her boss rolled her eyes. "He's been doing good keeping down the bullying though. He's also got some very cute mental pictures of some froofy little boys."
"Germany," Draco told her with a grin. "That and a lot of beer."
"Sirius said he did that when he went to Russia." She grinned at him. "So, are you sure you're not together?"
"I still like women."
"Fine. Spoil my daydreams."
He snorted. "You're very twisted, cousin." She just beamed like it was the best compliment. "Even worse than this one and his playing." He went back to petting Alex.
"Well, you're cute together, he likes to cuddle you, and you play the couple very well," the boss told him seriously. "A lot of people think you're together, including your mother."
Molly Weasley came rushing in and stopped when she saw her family. "Where's Ginny?"
"Stomped off crying because Alexander isn't God," Tonks told her. "She'll be back soon. Ron's just sedated. Longbottom was possessed and went after Harry."
"I called the hospital, they said he'll be fine," she said, coming over to fuss over her son. Madam Pomfrey got her a stool and she sat. She looked at the two on the bed, then at her sons. "What happened?" They both blushed. "Boys?" she snapped.
"It's a long story, mum," one offered.
Alex woke up and blinked around him. Blinding white. That made him realize where he was and the memory of last night came right after that. He lifted his head and looked at Draco, who looked amused. He tried his best to look inquisitive.
"Weasley's awake, Potter's fine, Longbottom's been cleared of the possession, you and I are staying in here today along with the loudly snoring prat over there. Your father drank himself to sleep last night. Lupin did the same and they talked while drunk. If they remember they made up, I'd be surprised. Madam Sprout's scream echoed all through the schools and up the halls when she walked in there this morning. Dumbledore's all but throwing a fit since the wards didn't catch the diary. Your whole house is either sorry for what they did or mad at you for not getting back there sooner. Mine thinks I betrayed the cause. Greg's convinced I asked you out while we were in the forest and we were making out. Do you want bacon with your mush or not?"
Alex put his head back down and closed his eyes. It must be a bad dream.
Madam Pomfrey came over with the morning paper and two trays of breakfast. "Alexander, you need to change back." He let out a tired 'wuff' and kept his eyes closed. She put a piece of bacon in front of him and he sniffed, then licked it before inhaling it but didn't move otherwise. "You have a full plate of it if you want."
"I'll make sure he eats."
"He still has to change back sometime today."
Draco looked at her. "He's avoiding conflict and getting the rest he needs. I'll watch him." She grimaced but went back to her desk, leaving them alone. Draco put a few more pieces of bacon down and Alex ate them, then licked his hand, but didn't move so he unrolled the paper. "Hmm, they have the assault already." He scanned it. "Fairly factual and they want Potter to get a medal for surviving and uncovering the new dark lord in the making. They've decided he wasn't really possessed by the end." Alex snorted, shifting onto his side, letting Draco have his side to pet. "You do need brushed, you're shedding horribly, Alex." He shook the fur off his hand then ate a bite of breakfast. "You'd better eat before Twirly hears." Alex lifted his head and stole a bite of egg of Draco's tray, so he grinned and stole half the bacon off Alex's, putting some of his eggs over there. Then he moved Alex's plate closer to his mouth. The wolf got up with a groan and started to eat. "It was the ants they found. We've got lots of little, aching bites all over. That's why we're in here today." He ate another bite. "You're only mentioned peripherally. I'm not mentioned much at all besides wondering why we were in the forest together."
He flipped to the last page to get the rest. "Ah. We were consorting with evil forces in the forest, so you tainted Longbottom, and Potter found out, that's why he was stabbed." Alex glared at him. "The Prophet, Alex." Alex gave him another heated look. "I'll have Mother kill them later." He looked through the rest. "Ah, a factual report from Tonks in the blotter section. We're both mentioned positively. She said you deserve a medal for putting up with some of your housemates and saving Potter's life." He saw Seamus walk in but ignored him. "She also said that the possession was cleared and the artifact destroyed. That's good to know. Eat, Alex." Alex finished off his plate and Draco's, then curled up to be petted again. "Greedy bastard," he said with a fond smirk. "I'll have to tell Twirly to poke you more often." He looked through the rest. "Hmm, Gringotts announcements. Yup, Father's back. Arrested for questioning but back in charge. Fortunately I used a lot of the money to set up another vault he can't get into and Mum's protected the same way."
Seamus cleared his throat. "Draco? Is that Alex? Can I talk to him for a moment?"
"We're supposed to be resting, Finnigan."
"I know, but it'll only take a minute." Alex looked over at him and he grinned. "I'm sorry, Alex."
"For?" Draco prompted.
Seamus handed him a note. "Percy forced a vote of the upper years and scared the lower ones. Almost no one wanted what he did but he got pushy with some he's tutoring. He barely won."
"So he gets his own room?" Draco suggested dryly. They could only mean Alex had been kicked out of the house. He took the letter and glanced at it before holding it for Alex to read. Alex growled and Seamus backed up. "Did he wake up McGonagall to tell her? If so, I pity her classes today."
"He did and she about smacked the shit outta him," Seamus admitted with a grin. "We didn't want him out. None of us do. Oliver about beat him and he doesn't even play quidditch. Said he's a neat little dark wizard who was getting better with their influence. If the twins had been back, it'd have been different. She'll call for another vote tonight. He barely got his way."
"It'd almost be better to keep him out," Draco admitted. "He'd be safer." Alex looked up at him. "Percy and his group of zealots could retaliate, Alex. I'd hate to see you hexed to death in your sleep."
"We were all gonna vote on him for prefect and head boy anyway," Seamus assured him. "He's the one stopping most of the problems now."
"That's because people have been putting pressure on him to be God and kill everyone he knows if the war restarts," Draco said blandly. Seamus turned green. "It's stress relief at the moment." Seamus nodded. "Tell McGonagall we're here all day. Come talk to us." Alex barked. "No?" He shrugged and settled in again. "She might also ask if my house did the same since most of them decided I betrayed them by helping save Potter's life."
"They did," he admitted. "Potter got kicked out too. Ron too," he admitted dryly. "Percy got really hot to get all the fighters out of Gryff for some reason and your house just decided they hated you. Crabble and Goyle said if you left, they left. Pansy led a cheer from what we heard across the hall."
"They did it during the meal?" he asked, looking amused. "Well, I suppose that means no one could cheat, but really. Have both our heads of houses come talk to us, Mr. Finnigan." He nodded. "Lupin can as well if he desires."
"Sure." He grinned. "He's not a happy guy either. He went and packed their stuff just in case so no one could mess with it. It's in his office." He winked and walked off.
"Wonderful. I hope Greg or Vinnie have the sense to do the same thing and stick it in Snape's office." He shrugged and went back to the paper. "Well, mum'll be proud. We'll almost have to have our own house if we're forced to room together." Alex let out a snore and he gave him a fond smile. "Wolfie, I see we'll have a long day ahead of us. Madam Pomfrey, can I have a book?" he called.
"All I have is a romance," she called back. "Go to sleep, Mr. Malfoy."
"Fine. Wake us when our heads of house show up." He floated the dishes off then flipped over to hold the wolf instead. He hated sleeping on his back. It always ached later. "I wonder how we'll do quidditch." He closed his eyes, still smiling at that image.
McGonagall and Snape woke the boys up together, looking at them. She was smiling, he was almost smiling. Sort of. Draco yawned and she smiled brighter. "There's good news and bad news," she told him.
"What's the bad news?"
Snape snorted. "You'll be rooming together."
"And the good?" Draco asked patiently.
"You'll be rooming together," McGonagall told him with a nod toward where Alex was back in human form and napping on him. Draco looked and shook his head, poking him. Alex glared at him so he pointed at the adults. "I'm sorry, Alex, I couldn't get them to change their minds."
"Like I care," he said with a yawn. "Who're we rooming with?"
"As it turns out, Percy Weasley is very ambitious. He also had Miss Granger expelled. So now it's you four, the three from Slytherin, and we've only got one three-room suite to put you in."
"Don't put Granger with us," Draco sighed. "I'd have to hurt her." Alex nodded, closing his eyes again. He patted him on the back, listening as he fell back asleep. "He's been having a rough time with some people who think he should be God."
"I heard that from Tonks. She was kind enough to name names. Is he sure Percy wasn't one of them?"
"No, Percy simply hates him for getting recognition where he thinks he's due it more."
"Ah. Well, I couldn't get Percy expelled, no matter how much I tried. It was off by six votes. At the beginning of next year, we'll take the vote again. It should change since all the new first years will want them there."
"Perhaps for them," Draco told him. "Slytherin won't want me back."
"The house will dry up and wither away without you three and the treats you have," Snape reminded him. Draco grinned at that. "Six months without cakes, cookies, pies, and their parents getting pressure from your mother is enough to make them change their minds." McGonagall laughed at that. "You laugh, but Alex's elves are the major supplier of those things for both houses."
"They've done it and can undo it at any time," she noted. "I imagine exams will make many students long for some sugar. I'll tell the house elves they're not to sneak any to those houses."
"They still won't want us back," Draco told her. "What happens if history repeats itself and next year has problems?" She grimaced. "It would probably look best if you found us an out-of-the-way room somewhere and stuck us there. That way everyone can gloat but we'll get to watch the teams flounder and die."
She shook her head. "Oliver made sure Harry could still play. You're both still in your original houses...."
"So we get the privilege of living in our houses but not the benefits?" Draco interrupted. Both teachers nodded and he snorted. "Find us some little corner room and put around that we chose it so we wouldn't be bothered by the lesser students."
"Then they'll think you're up to evil deeds," Snape sneered a bit.
"They do anyway," Draco said with a shrug. "They'll figure we're corrupting the Gryffs to our side of the probable war. It'll get us thanked by my father."
"He is back?"
"He was noted in the Gringotts bulletin in the paper," he offered, handing it to her. Alex snorted and woke himself back up. "We're going to move somewhere out of the way. Do you have a choice in location?"
"Somewhere warm?" He pulled the blankets higher. "What about quidditch?"
"Your captain made sure Potter can play," Snape told him.
"I'm sure Oliver did," Alex said with a grin. "He's very focused on that." McGonagall smiled at him for that. "Just put us somewhere with a fireplace at least. I'm chilly." Draco felt his forehead. "I'm not sick, just cold."
"You don't feel sick," he admitted. "Madam Pomfrey?" She came over to check them. "He's cold." She got them an extra blanket and Alex snuggled in harder. He looked at the heads of houses. "Where should we go?"
"There is that three room suite," she admitted. Madam Pomfrey gave her an odd look. "They got evicted from their houses."
"That's very near most of the teachers."
"True, but we'll need to keep an eye on them."
"Put them in the emerald suite," the nurse suggested. "That's probably big enough. It's near Charms so they'll get some supervision for a good portion of the night."
"It's three from each house," Snape told her. "Crabbe and Goyle came with him."
"Of course they did and the emerald suite sleeps nine if I remember right. It's also fairly closer to the outside than the dungeons. It's got some nice windows and a marvelous sitting room to do homework in." She went to check on her other patient. "Mr. Zabini can be released for dinner, Professor Snape."
"What happened to him?" he asked, looking at his other student. He was slowly fading from purple to his normal color. "Those stupid twins?"
"No, my own doing," he admitted, sounding like he was in pain.
"A partial self-transformation. Thankfully someone got him up here quick enough." She bustled off.
Draco looked over. "Did you vote against my eviction?" he joked. Blaise nodded, putting his head back down. "Parkinson?"
"Flint. Watch your back."
"I already knew that," he agreed dryly. "Thanks greatly though. Need a hex to return?"
"I already have one," he promised. He smirked at Draco. "You still playing?"
"I don't know yet. Probably. I like to play." He shrugged. "We'll see. We have a team meeting tonight I expect. Let's see how fast he finds someone to replace the brooms."
"I'd forgotten about that. I'll have to remind Flint of that," he said happily, getting comfortable. "What's wrong with Alexander? It's warm in here."
"I'm not sure. He takes these cold spells." Snape gave him an odd look. "He does. Potter said he took one last summer." McGonagall smiled. "What?" he asked uneasily.
"I do hope you remember you'll be living with Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley?" He groaned but nodded. "That's fine then. Do we need to arrange for anything else?"
"A truce," Alex said from Draco's chest. "What about the twins?"
"They about beat Percy to death this morning," she said fondly. "Ron's back there helping them at the moment. His mother as well probably." She smiled at them. "We'll see you for dinner?"
"Ask the nurse," Alex sighed, looking at her. Then at Draco. "Tonight or tomorrow?"
"We'll see how the bites are before you're expected down for dinner," the nurse promised. She smiled at them. "You should probably go back to classes, Professors. Let them go back to sleep once they've had some lunch."
"That's fine. The others wanted to come up and check on them?" She nodded. "I'll tell them they may during their free period today." McGonagall smiled then swept out.
Snape looked at them. "I'll expect you two to behave properly should this be allowed to go through," he ordered quietly. "The Headmaster does not like this problem."
"That's because he's convinced I'm teaching Harry dark magic," Alex said blandly, staring at him. "You can kick him in the ass for me if you want."
"The thought had crossed my mind," he admitted with another small smirk. He walked out, heading back to his classroom. He found his two students in there, nodding politely at them. "Can I do something to help you?"
"Find us a decent room," Goyle said happily. "Are they okay?"
"They got bitten by some magic-sucking ants," he told them. They both nodded. "Alex is still rather chilled and she'll be seeing if they can be released for dinner. We'll figure out where you're sleeping tonight." Someone knocked on the door. "Enter!" Longbottom entered, shocking him to the core. "In a moment," he ordered. He looked at his boys. "There have been a few rooms mentioned," he noted. "It will be decided by after dinner. I believe Professor McGonagall just went to badger the headmaster over it. I will expect excellent conduct from you three Slytherins."
"Of course, sir." Vincent smiled at him. "Can we see them yet?" He nodded. "Are they okay?"
"Alex seems a bit cold."
"He's like that now and then. Turns blue lipped too," Greg told him. "We don't know what she did to him but it's like PMS for a girl for him. He's curled up on Draco?" He nodded. "Body heat usually works best. Twirly used to climb in with him when he had these spells. Should I tell the nurse?"
"That would be acceptable. Otherwise she might torture him with tests." They nodded. "Dismissed." They grinned and walked out. "Mr. Longbottom, did you need help?"
"I, um, came to thank you for helping me last night, Professor," he said, glancing around then looking at the man again. "You didn't have to help me but you did and I wanted to thank you." He swallowed and stepped forward a few more steps. "I also, um, wanted to know if you knew how I could prevent it in the future? I got hints from the aurors who examined and talked to me that you might have a way?"
"I can teach you how to protect yourself but it is difficult for the younger mind. It takes a great deal of control and concentration." Neville nodded. "Do you think you're up to it?"
"Yes," he said quietly. "I don't know why they didn't kick me out and I'm worried that something's stuck in Percy, sir. He's been acting odd for the last few weeks." He licked his lips and glanced down, then back at him. "I'd mention it to Professor Lupin but he wasn't in when I went to thank him and his classes were canceled."
Snape nodded. "I knew that already. I'll look him over. I'll get a book on shielding and have it put in the library for you. When you've read it, you are to do the exercises and come to me when you start having problems," he said firmly. Neville nodded. "I would hope you would do better than you do in Potions or it will never hold. Not even against Peeves."
"Thank you, Professor," Neville said quietly. He swallowed, but continued to look at him. "You saved me. I don't know why they didn't want me gone instead of Harry." He left, heading to lunch.
Snape considered it. "Because they got rid of the protectors," he decided. He went to summon Percy Weasley from wherever his mother was yelling at him so he could look him over. Since Lupin was...ill with his change, it was up to him to do so. He looked at the boy as he walked in. Something was off about him. "Impedimentia," he cast lazily, freezing the boy so he could work on him. He heard footsteps and looked outside. "I'm checking him for possession."
"Please," his mother agreed firmly. "He's not usually this stupid. This was worse than even Ron could do."
Snape looked at her. "I take it you've guessed his Potions grade?" Her lips pursed together to keep from smiling. He got to work on the boy, finding nothing wrong with him.
Draco walked into the Great Hall, and conversation stopped. "He's pretty but not that pretty," Alex called as he walked in, heading for his table. He sat down and stared around. "I want you all to know I'm not thinking in terms of retribution presently. I will still help those who need it but I am a bit bitter at the moment. By rights, I should let you all get killed." They all shrank away from him. He looked at Neville. "You better?" he asked simply.
Neville smiled. "Fully. Thank you, Alexander."
"Welcome. It's what I do, Neville." The boy laughed and handed him some food. "Thanks. Anything really hot? I'm still chilly."
"I heard Crabbe and Goyle saying something about those spells you took," he admitted, handing down some soup. Alex poured some out and started on that. "Staring means you'll go hungry tonight," Neville snapped suddenly. They all went back to eating. "I don't know what's wrong with them," he said quietly.
"Percy's convinced some of them that I've evil. Notice I'm not sneezing over myself," he joked. He went back to eating, but forced himself to sneeze when Percy walked behind him. Then he went back to eating, looking at Ron, who was snickering. "Where are we living?"
"We don't know yet. The Headmaster wanted to talk to the house."
"Hmm. Won't help. Since there's six boys and Granger, who do you want to room with?"
"I'll take Harry," he offered. "You don't think we'll be sharing one?"
"No. Most of the rest of the castle is set up in double and single rooms. I'm just hoping we get a bathroom with the suite." He poured out some more soup when it was refilled and steaming. "I don't know why I take these cold spells."
"You had one last summer," Harry reminded him as he joined them. "Any idea where our rooms are yet?"
"No, not yet. Where's Granger hiding?"
"She's eating in the library so she won't start crying." Alex nodded, finishing up that soup. "If you need someone to sleep with you like you were earlier, I'll let you curl up against me on a couch, Alexander."
"Thanks, but body heat wasn't even helping earlier," he admitted. Harry nodded, accepting that. "I don't know why I get these moments, they just happen now and then."
"Goyle compared it to that time of the month for girls," Neville joked.
"Well, I'm not usually crabby," he admitted. "Tired I will admit to. For some reason I always want to nap when I'm cold." Ron reached over to touch his hand, frowning a bit. "What?"
"You even feel like ice, Al." Alexander gave him a look. "It's not Alex."
"It's not. I'm not sure how I feel about that nickname yet." He ate some meat since McGonagall was staring at him. "I need some hot rocks for the bed tonight." Harry nodded, grinning at him. "It looks like the six of us and Granger. Ron said you could be his roomie unless you want me?"
"No thanks. It'll be nice to only have to hear one set of snores."
"I don't snore," Ron complained.
"You snore nearly as loudly as I do," Alex assured him. Neville giggled and nodded, backing him up. "So, Harry, still playing for the team?"
"I'm not sure yet," he said a bit loudly. "I'm feeling a bit betrayed. Oliver did make me feel welcome, but I'm not sure about anything." Oliver gave him a hurt look and he stared back. "Would you if you were me?" He shook his head, slumping some. "I'm still thinking."
"That's fine. We have a practice tomorrow if you want to come, Harry." Everyone stared at him. "He's right, I wouldn't play with us at all. The same as Alex shouldn't tutor those of us who needed help in charms. We've been bad to our own people and I don't like to think my house is like this." He started to get up.
"Oliver, sit and eat," Alex ordered. The older boy gave him a look. "They were told lies by Weasley. They're scared. I understand that. Remember, I've gotten that all along. It sucks that they turned Harry out for handling shit they don't want to." He ate another bite, then stood up, heading up to the head table. "Have you figured out where we're sleeping yet? I'm still cold. I'd like to get a hot rock and curl around it."
"Not yet," she said quietly. "Thank you for not harming them."
"It'd prove his point, which is what he's hoping for." She nodded, giving him a gentle smile. "Give us somewhere with a floo so Twirly can go nuts?"
She smirked a bit. "She'll still have to use the official floos."
"We'll need help unpacking and things," he offered with a grin.
"I'm sure you can do it without her help."
"Yeah, but if we don't let her help, she won't make us more cookies. Vinnie would pout." She chuckled and smiled at him. "Okay, well I guess I'll be beside a fireplace. Maybe the one in the entry since it's so big. Tell us when we have a room." He walked off, heading to the big fireplace in the entry to get warmer. He hated these cold spells.
Lavender Brown looked at the boys. "Was it true that he was curled up in Malfoy's bed?" she asked.
"He takes cold spells," Harry told her. "Body heat works better to warm him than warm rocks and extra blankets. He had one last summer and one of the house elves had to sleep next to him to try to keep him warm." She sighed, smiling a bit. "It probably didn't help that the magic draining ants attacked them last night either."
"Is that why they were up there?" Neville asked. Harry nodded. "Wow. I had no idea there was such a thing."
"There was. Alex had tons of bites," Ron told him. "Madam Pomfrey woke me from a sound sleep yelling at them for being in the forest." He looked at Harry. "Should you be out of bed?"
"I'm fully healed, Ron, and you know how I hate the infirmary."
"True," he admitted. "You're sure you're okay? You were nearly dead as it got told to me." Neville ran from the room, hand over his mouth. "Sorry!" he called after him. "Harry?"
"I'm fine, Ron. I got pushy when they didn't want to let me go. Otherwise I'd be sleeping upstairs tonight. Remus didn't like it either but he's got his problem tonight." Ron nodded, understanding that. "The house elves were ordered to come check on us later anyway." He looked over as the door opened but it wasn't Neville, it was Hermione. "Did you see Neville?"
"Alexander has him," she said as she sat down in Alex's spot. "Where are we staying?"
"The Headmaster is talking to the house tonight," Ron told her. "He's going to try to calm them down."
"Yes but he's against Harry and Alex being friends," she pointed out. "He hates that they help and like each other." Harry looked stunned. "You didn't realize that?"
"I'd hope he wouldn't pull that tonight. After all, Alexander saved my bloody life last night," he said cooly, making some nearby students shivered. "Another ten minutes and I'd have been dead."
"Then how are you back here now?" Hermione asked.
"I got pushy once I felt better. I'll be checked on all night." He dug into more of his dinner. "Alexander needs checked on too. He's in the middle of a cold spell." He saw Greg get up and head out. "Hopefully he'll go find him."
"He probably will," she said thoughtfully. She looked at them again. "I guess I'm not in the same room."
"No," Harry said dryly. "You may be welcome in our common room if we have one though." She smiled at that.
McGonagall walked out of the house, staring at the students. "Never have I wanted to take the greater of majority of points away from my own house," she said hotly. "Those stupid..."
"Children?" Alex supplied blandly. She forced herself back to calmness then nodded. "I take it at least I'm not welcome anymore?"
"You're still a Gryffindor," she said firmly.
"Cool with me, but I'd almost rather be houseless." She stared him down. "I would." He looked at Harry, then back at her. She shook her head. "All of us are living where?"
"Miss Granger has a former Head Boy's room," she decided. "It's right next to the emerald suite the headmaster decided would be good for you boys. That way she can come help you with your homework." She led them off, taking them to the suite. The others were waiting in there. "Did the Headmaster already talk to Slytherin?"
"No, but Snape did. They won't listen to the Headmaster," Draco drawled, smirking a bit at her. "Boys." He looked at her. "Granger?"
"Two doors down. She is to be allowed in the common room but nowhere else."
"I'm not the one you need to warn," he noted dryly. Crabbe and Goyle chuckled at that.
"Hell, she keeps Harry and I from flunking," Ron admitted as he flopped down in a chair. "What about next year?"
"We'll ask next year," she said. "The first night back. If not, you can probably keep this suite the whole time." She summoned a house elf. "Get their things from mine and Professor's Snape's office. They're living here now. Granger is in the former head boy's room up the hall." She nodded, going to do that. "I can trust you to still make it to classes and to be mature about this? Most of the time you do seem to be."
"We'll be fine," Alex assured her. "Is there a bathroom?" Draco nodded. "Then we'll work that out too. Multiple showers?"
"Small tub and one shower," he admitted.
"That's fine. I take mine at night. Ron?"
"I'm a night showerer," he agreed. "Harry?"
"I like mine in the mornings but I usually get up late."
Draco shrugged. "I don't, it takes me time to get ready. You can fight Crabbe and Goyle for the last shower." He flicked a hand around. "Are there other orders, Professor?"
"Try to stay out of trouble. Try not to make us regret putting you six together. I know you won't have a problem with Alexander, but with the other two?" Draco's face hardened a bit. "Fine. You can hold the truce you do at Alexander's house?"
"If I must," he agreed dryly. The other two nodded. "With Granger if I must as well."
"Thank you, Mr. Malfoy." She looked at Alex. "I'll make sure the house elves know to bring you some warm rocks."
"I'll get Twirly here. She likes to warm my sheets for me," he promised. "That way we can settle in with good cookies. Did you confiscate all the sweets we left?" She nodded, smirking at him before leaving. "Harry, go call Twirly."
"Is that wise with the house elf popping in and out?" he asked.
"Yeah, she doesn't feed us. She makes our beds." Harry nodded, getting up and heading for the fireplace. He looked at the rooms, counting. "Any singles?"
"All doubles," Draco told him. "I'm in the one on this end," he said, pointing behind them. "If you share with me, you can't crawl in all the time."
"Fine." He looked at Ron and Harry. "You two still want to share?" Ron nodded and Harry agreed. "Sure. Greg?" He pointed at one on the other side. "Heard I snore?" he joked.
"We knew you snore from all the sleepovers, you used to keep us up for hours, Alex," Greg complained, grinning at him. "It's closer to the bathroom."
"Sure." He looked at the remaining rooms. "What's so great about your room, Draco?"
"A nice view. I've got the biggest window."
"Oh." Alex got up to prowl around, picking the door nearest the exit. It had a nice view over the forest so he could see the stars, but nothing else really. "I'll take in here," he decided. Draco looked a bit hurt. "I can room with you if you wanted, but this one's got a nice view."
Draco got up and led him into his room, opening all the curtains. Alex looked and smiled. It was a nicer view, but it got part of the pitch. He looked at him. "The sun would help us wake you up in the morning."
"Draco, you get annoyed when we have to share a room. Remember last year's thing at Greg's?" Draco shuddered. "Do you really want to continue that? You'll be welcome in my room no matter what."
"Fine," he agreed with a small smile. "We can split up that way." He led him into the bathroom just as the house elves got there with their things and Twirly came through with cookies.
"Do not shriek at them," Alex warned as he walked. "It's not their fault we got kicked out. Kids got scared of us."
"Stupid boys," she sneered. She focused on one female house elf and pointed at her boys. "Do you be feeding them? They be much too skinny and is not being eating like proper boys! They is being losing weight!"
"We is being feeding all boys and girls," she defended. "They come and eat."
"They is still being losing weight!" she said firmly. The other house elf shrugged. "Fine, I is being feeding them more often then. You is being feeding food and I is being feeding treats and things to poor, starved boys. You is not stealing them!" The house elf covered her ears and shook her head. "Good! You is dismissed, I is being fixing up this suite. Boys need help." The house elves nodded and put everything in the proper places before disappearing. She went back to her fussing, calling the other two to come help. "Master Alexander, is we being throwing the party again this year?"
"Ask Auntie Narcissa," he called from the bathroom, coming out. "Twirly, I'm chilled. Please warm some rocks for my bed?" She nodded, going to do that as well. "Bring my tapestry too, all right?" She smiled and went to find that and bring it back. He flopped down on the couch, taking a cookie to nibble. She came back and had him wrapped in a quilt and had a hot rock beside his feet within moments, then went back to fussing over things. "Guys, she makes good cookies." They all dug in with a smile, especially when the rest of the sweets were uncovered and laid out. Draco came out and stole a piece of cake, sitting next to him. "We'll have to ask your mother about the party this year."
"Twirly, is she still at Alex's house?" Draco called.
"Misses Narcissa is going home last night," Gibbons told him quietly. "She said she had to and that she was being fine."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Really?" He went to the floo. "Do you need it right now?" They all shook their heads so he called home. "Malfoy Manor." His father's head showed up. "Father. There was a question about Alex throwing the joint party again this year for the students. We needed a ruling from mother."
"She's in bed, Draco. Where are you? That's not Slytherin's common room."
"No, they kicked us out," Greg told him. "Draco was with Alex when he had to become a Gryffindor last night and save someone's life. They didn't like it, Uncle Lucius. We're all rooming together and Alex is soaking up the heat." He looked over as Twirly came back and got him more cookies and a glass of milk then watched as she told Harry and Ron to stay hidden for a bit. She knew Lucius's type very well. He nibble on a cookie.
"We've got a suite on the second floor, I have some gorgeous views," Draco told him smugly. "Beautiful windows, like in the old ballroom." Lucius' face tightened at that. "How is mother? Just a simple headache?" He nodded. "That's fine. Let her give us a clue within a few days. We can probably go with most everything from last year but we'll need to tweak the entertainment and the like so it's not repetitive." He waved and turned off the connection. "Bastard."
"Don't worry, we can take him," Alex said quietly.
"He's going to insist that we not see you again," Vinnie reminded him, leaning over to get some pie and eat it. "I forgot how good Twirly baked."
"Marsette is making the cakes and pies," she called with a giggle. She came out and poked Vinnie on the stomach. "You is not being eating my baking?"
"No, the bigger boys have been stealing it. That's why we stole it all and brought it with us," he offered with a smile. "Thank you for making us sweets. They're going to regret kicking us out when they miss them." She smiled brightly and went to straighten up his things for him.
Alex finished his cookie and looked at Draco. "Can you stand him over the holidays? If not, you can come stay with me and pretend to be here."
"He'll show up and you know he'll force me to come back to prove he's more powerful."
"True," Alex agreed. "But that doesn't mean you've got to put up with it, Draco." Draco smirked a bit. "Good man! Let me know what I can do if you need my help?" Draco nodded. "Even better." He looked around. "It's safe."
"So, party again this year?" Harry asked.
"We're not sure yet. Narcissa's in bed," he admitted.
"Probably safer. Malfoy has got to be on a rip," Ron admitted, leaning next to him and looking at Draco. "You okay?" he asked with a frown.
Draco nodded. "Very. Mother can't have more children." Greg choked on a bite of cake. He smirked at him. "She nearly lost me and died herself. The doctors said no more. Otherwise I would have already had a sibling, a spare as it were." He sat beside Alex again. "You're still cold?" He nodded, leaning on him. "Fine. Soak up my natural heat."
"I plan on it, you're very hot," he teased.
"Euggh," Ron noted dryly, standing up again. "Please don't share details, Alex."
"I'm still straight," Draco said impatiently.
"Yeah, but he still shares way too much. He was drawing us on his bed the other day. Seamus decided he was doing nudes and semi-nudes."
"Alex, where is your sketch folder?" Harry asked.
"It should be in the bottom of my school bag." He went to look at it. "Harry!"
"I want to see how you got me last time." He sat down, flipping through the thick stack until he came to his. He handed one to Draco with a smirk. Then he gaped at his. "He was right, he got me in my boxers changing from practice," he announced.
"Yeah, you were just too tempting, Harry," Alex said dryly. "I had been doing the view out your window but you decided to strip in front of it so any girls could see you if they wanted to stand outside." Harry blushed and put the stack back. "I've got one in my notepad of you on your broom too." Harry handed him the folder then went to look at that one.
Draco looked at Alex, then he grinned. "I'd never grow a mustache." He tucked it back and took the rest to look through. "You're still having a problem with shading, Alex." He continued to flip. "You're getting very good otherwise. You've gotten past your problem of perspective. I'm getting more and more impressed with..." The fire flared up with his father's head. "With your art skills," he finished. "Is mother up?"
"What art skills?" Lucius sneered. "Mr. Weasley, how kind of you to visit my son."
"Ehh, we got kicked out too. Alexander was saving Harry's life and Draco got drug along unwillingly since they were fighting." He grinned at Alex. "Can I?" Alex nodded so he took the sketches to find his. "Wow, I look good in that light," he said happily. "Why do you always draw me asleep? Which class was that anyway?"
"Herbology and it's the only time you're still." Vinnie and Greg laughed. "You two sit still whenever I ask. He can't." He looked at Lucius. "So, am I throwing the joint party again this year?"
"Narcissa won't be up for a few days. She's got a migraine."
"That's fine. I've had those, they suck. Draco pointed out we can use most everything from last year but the entertainment."
"I liked a few of those board games," Ron offered. Vinnie nodded, grinning a bit.
"They'll be there but like the comics, not a competition." Alex grinned at him. "Find the other one yet?"
"I passed over the one from the dorm," he said smartly, handing them back. "Harry?" He came out, still bright red. "That bad?" Harry showed it to him. "Well, you're cute and all," he said with a grin. "You look like that when you're just coasting around too." Harry blushed brighter and handed it over.
Draco looked then nodded. "Good job, even nicely shaded in the proper regions," he congratulated. He tore that one off and put it into the file as well, the put it safely away from all the food.
"Are you an *artist*?" Lucius sneered.
"No, I get bored easily in classes where I've already gone over things," he said dryly. "Meaning everything but Potions, Creatures, and Herbology." He looked stunned. "Forced learning is bad torture with the way she did it, Lucius, but I did learn some of it at least. Can't stand books now, but I did learn quite a lot. Including the fact that I banned you from my house and that's clearly my study wall behind you. So if you don't leave my house, I'm going to have you arrested." Lucius glared at him. "Twirly? Lucius is breaking into my study."
"You're sending a house elf after me?" he sneered.
"Yeah, the one Grams taught," he assured him right before she got back there and got him. His head disappeared when he went unconscious. "Maybe he didn't realize Grams taught the elves how to hurt people to protect her crap?" He shrugged and grinned. "Draco, should I call or should you?"
"You should. It's your house."
Alex got up with a small moan, heading over to the floo. He tossed in some powder. "Law Enforcement." A head appeared. "I just got a call from my house from Lucius Malfoy and he's not allowed in my house, ever. Especially when I'm not there."
"What about your parents?"
"I'm emancipated and they're dead." He grinned at the shocked look. "I'm a Birmingham." The man nodded quickly and disappeared, going to save the poor man before the house elf could destroy him. They'd all heard and seen what those house elves would do to intruders. Alex went back to cuddling up next to Draco. "You really think that was a good one?"
"I do. You got the sun just right. A bit too heavy on his stomach in one spot but I suppose he shifted some." Alex nodded, grinning at him. "There's an art class you can take as an elective in your seventh year."
"Cool. Is the teacher here?" He nodded. "Can you introduce me?"
"I can, she does the appraisals for our house and the school." He smiled at him. "I'm glad you're no longer doing stick figures." He gave him a little pat. "You're still ice cold."
"I know," he complained. Twirly came back and added more warmed rocks under the blankets and at his feet. "Did they pick him up?" She nodded. "What did he have?"
"Vault keys. They said goblins would be knowing which ones was which and sending ours back." Alex nodded so she went back to fussing in all the rooms. Someone knocked so she got the door, letting the headmaster and Snape in. "Twirly is being fixing up the rooms," she said proudly, going to do that.
"I can see that," the headmaster said, staring at the sweets laid out. "Isn't that a bit much?"
"Most of it was stuff we weren't going to leave behind in our houses," Alex said. "Dad, I'm still freezing." He came over to check him over. "Draco's dad was trying to steal the family's vault keys," he said quietly.
"Remus and I have the only keys to the dark arts vaults," he replied loud enough to be overheard. "Mine's safely stored away. As is his." Alex relaxed at that. "If he wants any of them, he'll have to sue and prove it was his in front of the courts." Alex relaxed further and he ran another check over him. "What did Poppy say this was?"
"She talked with my healer, Fitzsimmons, and he said he never knew but it wasn't harmful to me. It'd clear up in a few days." He shrugged and chattered. "I just take these spells like I'm frozen in ice."
"I checked for dark magic and the like once," Draco offered. "I could never find any."
"I can't either," Snape offered. He stood up. "Mr. Malfoy, get under there with him. It should help more than any amount of warm stones." Draco nodded and unpeeled Alex so he could cuddle him again. Alex snuggled into his side, and quit chattering but didn't seem much warmer. "Would another blanket help?"
"It's tropical under here," Draco told him. "I'll die if you add another one." He nodded. "Greg, get his other side." He moved over to get Alex's other side. "You haven't been this bad in a few years."
"I have, but last time Twirly curled up with me and radiated heat and fever all night on me. She had a cold." He sighed as the warmth started to penetrate "Thanks, guys."
"You're welcome, Alex," Greg said happily. "Just don't tell anyone I cuddle or I'll never got a girl."
"Hermione said girls like to cuddle," Ron told him. "I'd assume she'd know."
"She is female, if bothersome," Draco admitted. "I know my mother used to when I was younger."
"That was to keep you out of trouble, Draco," Snape assured him. He stepped back. "We were coming to check on you. Are you settled in?"
"Ask the elves. Twirly, Marsette, Gibbons, are you guys nearly done?"
"Marsette is grouting the shower," she called.
"Gibbons is making the last bed," he called.
"Twirly is finished with the curtains and the decorating," she said as she came back out. She looked around before heading home to bring back a few more drinks and the like. Plus some plates. She put them and the sweets on a table in the corner, then put a chilling spell on it. "There, Twirly is being done." She dusted off her hands. Gibbons came out and nodded that he was done. Marsette came out a few minutes later with long plastic gloves on. "Is you being done?"
Marsette nodded. "Marsette is being done. All clean for boys." She smiled at them. "We go home?"
"Sure. Ask Auntie Narcissa when you can about the party in case I forget." They nodded and headed back through the floo. "I love my house elves," he said proudly.
"Did they really need to show up, Mr. Birmingham?"
"Yup. Since I can't unpack, I'd rather have her do it. She knows how to fold stuff so I don't get irritated and have to redo all my laundry." He snuggled in deeper and sighed in pleasure. "I'm warmer."
"You're feeling warmer too," Draco offered, touching his hand. "You're still chilly to the touch but not clammy or icy anymore." He looked at Snape. "Are they sorry yet?" He shook his head. "Pity. Mother's in bed with a headache." He motioned him closer and hissed in his ear, getting a nod. "Can you get those for me by the holidays?"
Snape nodded. "I can. You're probably correct." He still looked calm. "I'll talk with Law Enforcement if they don't know why he was there, Alexander." He got a sleepy nod. "Try to put him into bed tonight. Make it to your classes tomorrow." He swept out.
"I take it you can manage to get along well enough to live together?" the headmaster asked gravely. They all nodded. "Very well then. We'll try this and I'll try to talk your houses into letting you back."
"McGonagall said next year, sir," Ron told him. "When my brother the prat is gone." He looked up as a ghost faded in, smirking wildly. "Bloody hell."
Draco looked up. "None of your things were sold, just a few pieces given away and the rest put away," he told her. She shook her head, smirking even more. "It wasn't him if they were sold."
"Goblin did," she hissed, floating closer.
"Then that wasn't him and your curse said him," Draco reminded him. "Headmaster, his father please?" He went to get her and the Bloody Baron to keep her from doing anyone harm. "What's wrong, still couldn't get into Gryffindor?" She glared at him. "Sorry, he's having one of those cold spells you know," he said dryly. The Bloody Baron floated in, frowning at him. "She laid a curse against Alex selling any of the dark arts stuff. She said a goblin did."
"I see. That does give him an out, doesn't it?" He looked at them. "Are you taking him in?"
"Mr. Birmingham?" The Baron looked stunned. "Professor Snape's son?" That got another stunned look from both ghosts. "Yes, he's known since about the first weekend here, dear. We've known all along." She glared at them. "Baron, don't let her touch him. She used to torture him all the time. Even my mum didn't like her that much."
"Agreed. She is bothersome. As she was when she attended." Snape stormed back in, already working on the banishing. He floated out of the radius and Draco cast a sticking charm on the ghost to hold her. The baron snickered at that. "It doesn't usually work."
"She's more a poltergeist than not," he noted. He looked back. "Also, if my father shows up, I need to be warned. He's trying to harm my mother and Alex." He looked at her. "So, Grams, who bought your old crap?"
"Enough, Draco," Snape ordered, going back to his work.
Alex blinked up then around. "What happened to you?"
"Goblins," she said smugly.
Alex got up and went to the fireplace, calling them. "Gringotts. Personal vault division." A goblin's head popped up. "I'm...."
"Mr. Birmingham. Someone broke into the dark arts vault." He pointed behind him. "Your grandmother?"
"She laid a curse if I ever sold any of the pieces."
"I'll check on that," he announced, heading off to do that, coming back a moment later. "Lucius Malfoy did buy a few pieces and the goblin responsible is already very sorry. He's being tried in our courts. We've already notified the Ministry and they're bringing them back here to be stored again. I'm sorry about that."
"That's fine. Give the Malfoys back the money, put it into Draco's personal vault." The goblin nodded. "I'll be in over the holidays to talk about increased security for it."
"We've already added a complimentary blood key to it."
"Thank you. Still, I'll be in then." The goblin nodded. "Hopefully we can get her gone." He hung up and looked at his grandmother, starting another banishing rite, the one he usually used. She shrieked and pounded on the barrier Snape had set up but she still got zapped back into the afterlife. He sat down and curled up again, snuggling back into his warm spot. "Thanks, Dad. Please feel free to rip Lucius a new one or get me sprung for his trial. I am pressing charges." He nodded, going to take care of that for his son. "Draco, I love you, how would you like to be a half-orphan?" he joked.
"It's sounding better and better all the time considering the way he's disgracing the name." He grinned at him. "You think we can drive him to suicide, finish off his good name?"
"Sure. You start dating Harry and make it plain you want to carry his babies," Ron joked. "That should be enough to drive him 'round the bend for good."
"I'd look horrible pregnant. I'd have to have Greg and Vincent carry for me," he joked back.
"Twins," Greg said with a grin.
"But I'd get fat, Draco, and you know I'm working on my muscles," Vinnie complained.
Harry snickered, shaking his head. "You three are so bad sometimes." He looked at Ron. "They're always like this on the holidays." He looked at them again. "Maybe you should tell your parents about us living together?"
"My mum's drunk by now," Greg admitted. He looked at Vinnie. "Call your dad, see if mine's there?" He nodded, getting up and heading over to the floo to make that call.
"Crabbe Residence," he called. His father's head popped up and he smiled. "You might want to sit down," he offered. "We've been expelled from the house because Alex made Draco help him save Potter's life." He looked stunned. "So we're all living together with Potter, Weasley, and Alex, but there's worse news. Lucius was just arrested at Alex's house for stealing his Gringotts keys and there's a goblin being charged with selling him some of the dark arts stuff from Alex's safe. How's mum?"
"Smooth, I like that," Alex joked tiredly. "Hi, Mr. Crabbe," he said with a little wave.
"Are you all right, Alexander? You look ill."
"I'm having one of my cold days. They're keeping me warm."
"That's fine then. Gregory, your father's at home tonight."
"I'll call him next then," he promised. "Harry suggested you should hear this from us."
"I'd rather hear it this way. What about your classes?"
"We're still in the house, just not living there," Vincent told him, showing off his tie. "Gryff expelled them for knowing what to do in emergencies and being able to fight."
"Does Mrs. Weasley know?"
"Oh, yeah," Ron assured him with a mean grin. "My prat of a brother led the charge so she's had an all-day yell at Percy already." He looked stunned. "She used words I didn't know she knew. Words my older brothers Charlie and Bill would blush at." He blushed a bit as well.
"Your mother was not the happiest of girls," Harry agreed dryly. "My godparents probably both know by now as well since Remus Lupin's here."
Mr. Crabbe looked at his son. "I'll expect you to be on your best behavior, son," he said calmly.
"Mr. Crabbe, if the rumors are true, Vincent's staying with me," Alex told him. "I'm not joining up and being a numbered idiot in a mask." He nodded, looking pleased at that. "He and Greg are both welcome at my house to stay, as is Draco."
"Thank you, Alexander. I'd heard you didn't want to go darker and I thank you for letting them make their own decisions without pressure. It's not what I want for him either."
"Dad, you have a reason to step away from Mr. Malfoy now," Vincent said urgently. "He's been arrested again with dark arts stuff and for theft. Please!"
"I'll do my best, son. Relax about it." He glanced at Ron. "I'd appreciate some discretion."
"I'm sitting here imagining naked girls playing quidditch, not listening a bit," Ron assured him with a grin.
"Thank you, Mr. Weasley, Mr. Potter." Harry shrugged and grinned. He looked at his son. "Be safe." Vincent nodded. "Greg, would you like me to tell your father?"
"He'll yell if I don't."
"That's fine. Call him next, son. I'm assuming Lucius knows about this as well?" They all nodded. "Very well then. Behave, all of you. We will be asking Professor Snape for reports on your behavior." His head disappeared.
"Vinnie, toss some in and call for my dad," Greg said. "Alex is cold again." He tucked them in tighter while Vinnie did that and grinned at his dad, who looked really confused. "He's having another cold day. We got expelled from the house, dad."
"Why?" he asked calmly.
"Alex made me help him save Potter," Draco told him.
"Ah." He nodded. "I heard about that incident. Well done. Your father was shrieking at the top of his lungs. That's why your mother had a headache and went to bed for lunch."
"I figured as much."
Greg grinned at him. "We're all staying together in the same suite. Alex had his house elves come to arrange stuff for us." His father nodded. "There's some news you didn't hear. Alex had Uncle Lucius arrested for breaking into his house and bribing a goblin to sell him some of the dark arts stuff he hid in Gringotts. Twirly got him at the house and he was arrested for that and then for the sale as well." His father nodded slower. He looked at Alex, then at his father. "Can we talk over the holidays, dad? I'm not sure if I want to make a decision the rumors state I'll have to some day."
"I wish you could just follow along, son."
"I don't, dad. I can't kill anyone and Alex has offered me safe shelter if I can't." His father nodded, looking a bit upset but not totally shocked at the news. "Will you be mad?"
"No, son. If you can't follow the orders of the Order, I want you far away from the fighting. Be aware that he knows about Alex and how he'll challenge him. His house may not be that safe."
Alex looked over at him. "I'm teaching Potter defense," he noted calmly. "He'll be safe or he can visit our villa in Italy on the coast." Greg's father smiled at him for that. "If they want it, all they have to do is show up. No questions asked. We all know why I went where I did." That got another nod. "This isn't going to stop me and Remus Lupin is doing very well filling me in on areas I hadn't thought of before. Even if I still can't cast a patronius."
"You still can't?" Ron asked. "Why not?"
"Nothing happy enough yet," Alex said bitterly.
"That's a hard charm, Alex. I didn't master it until I was nearly thirty," Mr. Goyle assured him gently.
"Uncle, I did a reverse growth spell last night while I had magic-sucking ants on my skin," he told him. He looked stunned. "Yesterday was a trip and a half." That got a small smile. "If you wanted to step back from Lucius, this would be a good chance," he offered.
"We owe him too much, Alex."
"Then I'm protecting your son from him."
"Thank you. The debt our family owes him is done with me. My son should be safe. I hope you can keep him that way." He looked at his son. "We'll talk about your feelings over the holidays, Greg. Be safe and behave. I'll be getting reports from Severus." His son nodded, grinning at him. "Good boy. Thank you for doing the manly thing and telling me." He hung up.
"Anyone else need called?" Alex asked, covering up his nose.
"The Prophet?" Harry joked.
"Already did that," Draco assured him dryly, smirking at him. "Zabini did it to implicate Flint and Parkinson in trying to weaken and destroy the house so they could use dark magic on everyone. He said that Alex would notice the dark magic by sneezing all over us, so therefore they got rid of us when the first convenient moment came up."
"That might actually be true," Alex said thoughtfully. "Poor Millie, married to that bastard."
"With really bad teeth," Harry offered. Ron snickered at that. "He does! Even Katie gets on him about that." He stood up. "I've got to polish my broom while I think." The boys laughed. "What?" he asked, looking hurt. "I like my broom."
"That's a metaphor for masturbation, Harry," Alex told him.
Harry blushed and shook his head. "I've got more important things to worry about than wanking off," he announced, heading for his room.
"I don't," Ron said with a grin, "but I'm not going to watch him polish his broom. He gets funny when he's watched." The others snickered again. "Perverts," he joked.
Alex nodded. "It's a house trait, didn't you know they sorted the kinkier people into Slytherin automatically?"
"With the stuff I caught Ginny reading, she's in the wrong house, mate." He stood up and stretched. "I'm off for a shower. Anyone mind?" No one said anything. "Bathrobes okay to run back and forth in?" Everyone nodded. "Thanks." He headed to grab his stuff and a cookie before his shower. This truce might just last if Alex could enforce it.
Draco settled in. "This was not how I imagined this year to go," he noted dryly.
"Me either," Alex sighed, closing his eyes. "Wake me if I get annoying." They all nodded and he drifted off, snoring more quietly since he was sitting up.
"I wonder if the Gryff dorms echo like ours do," Vincent asked finally to break the unnatural silence.
"They have windows," Draco told them. "They probably open them so Alex doesn't fart them all to death when he's been eating stuff right before bed." They giggled at that and someone knocked politely on the door. "Vinnie, get that since Greg's wrapped up and being a footrest." He got up with a sigh, going over to let Hermione in. "Potter's polishing his broom and Weasley's in the shower."
She blushed. "Pervert!" she accused. She held up the vial. "I made a warming potion and mixed it with a pepper up potion. Think it could help him?"
"It might blow his ears out," Draco offered. "But maybe." He nudged Alex until he grumbled. "Granger made you something," he said gently.
"Tough, take it anyway so I don't have toenail cuts in my thigh tomorrow that I've got to explain," Greg joked. Alex frowned at him but put a hand out and took the potion, swallowing it in one gulp. His ears smoked for a moment and he did feel a bit warmer, but he went back to sleep fairly quickly.
"He should be fine by the morning," Draco told him. "Thank you, Miss Granger. Why don't you help Potter with his project?"
She blushed. "I could never date Harry, he needs a very special and understanding girl. One who likes quidditch a lot more than I do." She looked around, noticing the treats. "Already bribing the house elves?"
"Alex's make him all sorts of treats since they think the ones here don't feed us enough," Greg told her. "She pokes him horribly if he doesn't eat."
"Harry mentioned that," she admitted, smiling at him. "Professor McGonagall said I should check on you now and then, as well as coming over to steal some sweets. May I?"
"Take the chocolate brownies," Draco told her. "We'll keep the black forest cake." She smiled. "Anything else?"
"I was going to make sure Alex did his Charms paper. It's due in two days and I knew he hadn't started on it last night. Since I have his personal charms journal I wanted to make sure he didn't need it."
"I'll make sure in the morning," Ron said as he came out of the bathroom drying off his hair. "Hey, Hermione. You doing okay?"
"I have a delightful little single room with my own desk and bookshelf."
"Just don't bring the entire library down," Ron teased. She huffed and frowned at him so he turned up his grin a bit brighter, making her relax. "Are you ready for the charms practical coming up?"
"I am, are you is the better question."
"Yeah, Alex went over that with us already," he admitted. "Need anything else?"
"No, I'll just snag those brownies and then head back to my room. I'm two down that way," she said, pointing to the right, "if you need me. I'm sure Ron or Harry can find me if I'm not there." She smiled and took the brownies. "Thank you, Mr. Malfoy, for the generosity. Should I come up to help with homework now and then?"
"If you must," he offered dryly. Greg looked at him. "What?"
"She's better in Herbology and History than we are."
"She's got better notes too," Ron assured him. "Speaking of, Hermione?" She sighed and pulled some out of her back pocket, handing them over. "Thanks," he said with a grin. "Do I need to get you more paper?" She shook her head. "Cool. Tomorrow at breakfast? Make sure we're up?"
"Of course. I'll see you then. Keep Harry from turning into a total pervert if possible." She turned and left.
Ron snickered once the painting was closed. "She thought he was wanking too?" Draco nodded. "Probably not." He headed back to their room, putting on some comfy flannel pajamas and coming back out to get another cookie, settling in to read the notes and the asides she put into them this time. "I can't see how she finds that interesting," he complained.
Vinnie came over to look, then blushed. "She was thinking about what during History?"
"What kind of underwear you wear under dress robes and if Snape wears an arseplug to be so uptight during class." He flipped pages with a grin, going on. "Ah, here, she's decide he hasn't but he hasn't had sex since Alex was conceived, that's why he's always in such a bad mood. Must be her time of the month. We always get notes like this then." He continued on, then shuddered. "Eww. It's going to be a bad month. She's wondering if Hagrid's ever dated or anything. Harry?" He came out of their bedroom. "Her history notes are wondering about Hagrid's dating life."
"I'll make sure we've got that potion hanging around and slip it into her bag," Harry assured him, shuddering as he went back to his polishing. "Copy those for me, Ron."
"She already did, Harry."
"It's a good thing we gave her the brownies," Draco noted, looking grossed out.
"Do you always get notes from her?" Greg asked.
Ron looked at him and nodded. "All the time, all the classes we share with her. We just buy her extra paper and ink. She uses a copying charm and quill for us. She probably keeps a tidy sum since she doesn't have to buy paper through the year. She's got all her notes back to first year in her things, all bound nicely together."
"Think I could pay her for a copy?" Greg asked.
Ron nodded. "Neville has in the past. I think he paid about four galleons for the complete first year's History of Magic notes right before the tests. He spilled coffee on his."
Greg got up and went down to her room, knocking gently. "Miss Granger, Hermione, how much would you charge me to add me to your note making? I take very bad notes but I study very well as long as the notes I'm reading are interesting. Yours were very interesting and Weasley said that you made them that way most of the time."
She smiled. "I charge four galleons per class per year, Mr. Goyle. Which classes did you need?"
"All of them," he admitted. "OWLs are in two years and my dad will kill me if I don't get good marks. With how bad I am, I'd better start studying next year."
She patted him on the hand. "I also make revision schedules for Harry and Ron to help them. Should I start to include you?" He beamed and nodded. "That's fine. Since we're forced together I'll gladly help you study. I rather find I like teaching and I'm thinking about doing it professionally. Helping tutor now means I get better then." She let him inside, letting him see her notes. He hugged her and went back to get his allowance pouch so he could get some copies made as soon as possible. She was definitely going to be able to get herself a good treat next Hogsmeade weekend.
Draco looked up from his first morning home's breakfast, licking the butter off his fingers. He pulled his wand and summoned a folder, holding it up. "Some things you hadn't considered before you decided to endanger mum's life," he said coldly. Lucius glared at him. "Mum nearly died carrying me during her sixth month. She almost had me then too, much too early to survive unless you go with muggle technology instead of magical means. Even then it's iffy." He stared his father down, noticing the desire to hit him. "The notes said you weren't there. I believe her doctor's notes said something about you being surprised you had a child on the way when I was born." He held them up.
"How did you get those?"
"I told her doctor I was taking her to a specialist for a back problem she's been having on and off and he needed them in case it was related back to the pregnancy and the four miscarriages she's had. Like the one she's presently having. By the way, I checked on her around dawn when the house elves woke me. I summoned her doctor already. She's in the hospital." He ate another bite of his croissant. Lucius hit him anyway. He calmly stood up and pointed his wand at him. "Crucio," he cast coldly, making his father shriek. He bent down once he was on the floor, getting into his face. "There are exactly two people who can get into the family vaults. You and me, father. There won't be an heir until you're long gone and if you try to harm me in any way, then the family simply won't be carried on. I have numerous offers from Mr. Birmingham to have him." He smirked. "He is rather pretty, don't you think?"
He stood up and canceled the spell, sneering greatly. "You made me this way, father, and I don't support you. I may believe in the same cause, but I don't support you. You're a weak and pathetic man who's presently sullying the family name. If I go talk to the portraits of our ancestors, which I have, most of them suggested I kill you for what you've done to the family name by bringing public disgrace and public interest in our darker side. Your own father suggested I have you killed in public and make it look like a suicide." He stared down at him, then cast twelve harmless jinxes from his wand to clear the history. "There, they hardly ever go over ten and I'll be doing them all day to practice," he said happily. Lucius started to get up so he kicked him in the side. "How does it feel, father? You're facing the end of your vaunted and much lauded family line and you're not giving me much incentive to do more than become a half-orphan. After all, Alex would be more than pleased to see you again I'm sure." He walked off. "I'm going to visit mother. You may come for appearance's sake if you wish. I wouldn't try anything foolish though. After all, I heard one of her distant cousins has been talking to an assassin about the disgrace you've brought both sides of the family."
"How dare you!" Lucius screamed, getting up by climbing up a chair. "I will have you arrested! You are not my son."
Draco turned to look at him. "Really? Because you made me this way, father. Remember, you've used the Imperious on me plenty of times. This comes from that. Grandad probably laid it to keep you in line." He sneered at him. "His will said so if you had bothered to show up. Why weren't you there again? Oh, yes, your pitiful war." He gave him his most cold look. "While I laud the ideals of keeping a mostly pure bloodline, I have been doing some research. Did you know ours was tainted about ten generations ago? Or that if it hadn't, all the children afterward would have been born deformed. As they were starting to then and they're starting to now. Genetics, it's a wonderful new field of study. I also did some research on your much lauded and hallowed Voldemort. Tom Marvello Riddle was born to a muggle father and a half-blooded mother. His father tossed him into an orphanage when she left him on his doorstep." Lucius turned pale. He glanced behind him, nodding at Snape. "I'm going to see my mother. Would you and Alex like to come?"
"I would. I came to see when you were going since he wanted to go with you."
"I do not want our sons to see each other ever again," Lucius told him coldly. "Your son is giving him bad ideas and teaching him ideas he shouldn't have."
"Perhaps, but I applaud my son's ability to think for himself instead of blindly following along. After all, I wouldn't wish any demonic worshiping on my son like we did. Or like what ate your house. I am very proud that he banished one of the hellhounds that were left behind." Lucius looked stunned. "Yes, my son. As a matter of fact, Alex has asked my advice on the suitability of courting Draco. The bloodlines don't cross that often for a change. My son does like yours already and they've known each other since they were children thanks to you and Alex's grandmother. Draco does insist he's straight but Alex would let him have a mistress on the side I believe. Plus, Alex has more money than your family thanks to the rebuilding you forced on your family," he finished smugly. "Draco, get your cloak."
"He'll be marrying Miss Parkinson."
"There's nothing you can say, do, or compel me to marry that skank," Draco assured him coldly.
"You will because I say you will. Or else I'll disinherit you and have some bastard offspring to put in your place."
"Grandfather's will said that if you tried that he'd kill it like he did the last one, father." Lucius looked stunned. "He wrote the curse into the will. Perhaps you should have been at the reading after all. I had the goblins pull it for me to look it over for any clauses about me. They were most helpful in explaining it, as well as finding the unclaimed vaults within the family. Which all went to me. So you see, even if my beloved cousin doesn't hire an assassin, I can. That's if I can't do it myself. Because no one knows what commands Grandfather put into my head when he used the Imperious on me on his deathbed." He went to get his cloak, coming back with it on. "Were you going to make a public appearance for form's sake at the hospital or are we going alone? If so, I should warn you there's two aurors on the front lawn. I'll be letting them in when I go out."
"You'll be caught. I'll tell them to go back farther on your wand."
"Really? And what makes you think I didn't cast fifty charms going down the hall just now?" he asked with an amused smirk. "You're so dumb," he said dryly. "Come along, Professor. We shouldn't keep Alex waiting. He might get bored and draw more stuff. He snuck in to do a fantastic one of me sleeping the other day." He took his arm and walked off with him, smiling at the women on the lawn. "Cousin Tonks," he said fondly, kissing her on the cheek. "Dear, it's recently been proven to me that my grandfather did an Imperio on me on his deathbed to make sure his wishes were fulfilled. I think I blacked out during the school year and at least wrote a nasty note to my father. Can I trouble you to check me out after I check on mother? She's in the hospital since father forced a fertility potion on her and is trying to kill her by giving me a sibling."
She looked stunned. "He did?"
"His will said as much, but it was done subtly. His portrait said he did as well and he wanted me to have my father assassinated or make him commit suicide in public since he's shaming the family name so much. That's what got me thinking about that blackout during Potions that one day."
Snape nodded. "I did witness him writing a letter but I was not aware of the contents."
"Sure, I can check you out after lunch. Come to the office, Draco?" He smiled and nodded. "Tell Narci I'll be there tonight, cousin. For now, we need your father again. He's shaming the family even more by openly writing a letter to the Prophet that calls for a new dark lord to rise up, and warns that if one doesn't step forward another will. We tracked the family's owl unfortunately."
"Have him and keep him. I'm not bailing him out and I've left orders not to with Gringotts." She smiled and nodded. "We'll see you after lunch, dear."
"Of course. Did you hurt him? I thought I felt an unforgivable."
He shrugged. "I remember eating breakfast, I remember Professor Snape coming in and telling father that Alex would like to offer for my hand. He is very sweet and willing to compromise since I like women." He smiled.
"He's a pretty boy," she assured him with a grin of her own. "Seems to know what to do with his hands if what I read from his mind was true." Draco blushed and nodded. "A bit loud is he?" she teased.
"Indeed and I'm two rooms down from him." He smiled shyly. "I'm still considering it. I would rather have a woman, but he is, as you noted, very pretty." He walked off with Snape, clearing the apparation wards before they took off.
She smirked at him. "You cheeky, manipulative little shit," she said appreciatively. She knew exactly what he had done and why now. She couldn't prove it and there was probably that prior command in his head, which would give him an excuse as long as he stuck to the story he had given her. "A Black to the bone. Just like his mum," she said proudly. She turned and found Lucius glaring in the doorway. "Hidey-ho, Uncle. We're here because we tracked your owl and your letter to the Prophet."
"He cast an unforgivable."
"Yes, but he's also under a prior imperious by his words. I'll be checking on that later. Right now, I'm happy for the boy if he tortured you with the way you're shaming the Black and the Malfoy family names. Even worse than my mum when she married a muggle." She grabbed him by the arm and took him off. She stunned him before dragging him down to the office for questioning, giving her boss a look. "His son's coming in later. He said his grandfather enforced his will's contents with an Imperio from his deathbed."
"He did," he admitted. "I remember looking at it after the funeral. Narcissa thought it was adorable because he charged the boy with carrying on the better traditions of the family in case his son got stupid or in case Draco had to kill an extra sibling that came from a publically announced mistress or some such." Lucius glared at him. "It's a well-worded one. Why?"
"Lucius here claims Draco cast an unforgivable on him. Draco said he blacked out earlier this year and wrote a nasty letter to his dad and may have blacked out this morning."
Her boss nodded. "That would count. With what I got out of Draco's mouth, he should have tortured him or killed him by now. He's very strong to resist it." Tonks smiled at him. "When is he coming in?"
"After lunch. He said this one forced a fertility potion on his wife and my aunt's sick. I'm going to go visiting later with mum if that's all right."
"Sure, once we're done with Draco, you can both go," he promised. "Is she going to be okay?"
"Probably just a miscarriage. Mum said she about died with Draco and miscarried a few other times too."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Narcissa seems to love her son and I hope the kid doesn't become a real orphan."
Tonks grinned at him. "Professor Snape and Draco said that Alexander Birmingham is offering for his hand, but Draco's still considering since he likes girls."
"That'd be a powerful match," he said fondly. "Birmingham won't go dark or support any upcoming dark lord. He's got a lot of knowledge on how to defeat it through. I heard rumors that he's been training Potter with Lupin?" She nodded. "Good! The boy could use it. Yeah, that'd be some boon for our side. Alex would keep Draco out of any nasty dark lord's grip and he might even allow him to work with us on stopping any that suddenly pop up. That is if Potter and Birmingham leave him living after the first engagement." He smirked at Lucius. "Don't worry, if he lets your boy become an auror, I'll have Tonks and her mum train him so he survives and becomes one of the best." He saw Tonks hide her snickering. "What's he in for this time?"
"Letter to the Prophet calling for a new dark lord to rise or else the old one's coming back. We tracked the family's owl."
"Sure. Toss him into a cell and get your mum. You can go visit now. Bring Draco back with you." She beamed and went to find her mother once Lucius was safely locked up. He heard Tonks and her mother laughing down the hall at what Draco had pulled and smiled. That kid was good and giving them everything they wanted. They could overlook an unforgivable, or six if necessary.
To Year Four: