Bold Thinking, Part 2

“Vagueness is a powerful tool, especially vagueness of motive.” - LuciusMalfoy

“Well done Draco,” said Professor Lockhart, as the first years rushed out ofthe lecture hall, chatting excitedly about their upcoming first battle,scheduled for Sunday. “As always, I suppose I should say.”

“I don’t know,” said Draco. “Nobody is staying after class to ask anyquestions. We always pestered Professor Quirrell … well, if he stayedconscious, anyway.” The lecture hall had emptied with astonishing speed, justlike most other classes. “Maybe we’re too available,” Draco said thoughtfully.

“Well, that’s a tough standard. Most lecturers are lucky to get a singleteacher’s pet, usually more annoying the flattering.” Lockhart shrugged, whichsent his weird half-robe/half-cape rippling. “I doubt many teachers meet the‘does the class hang on my every word’ standard. Certainly none of my teachersdid. Perhaps this generation will be irretrievably spoiled by having had themost interesting lecturer in their first year, and all others will suffer incomparison. Ah well, at least we’ll spare our students that fate, eh, Draco?In any case, what do you think about the upcoming battle? Who do you like?”

Draco barely paused. “Ginevra Weasley will destroy the other two armies.”

“And what makes you think that?” The Professor had his wand out and was massscourgifying the lecture hall, arranging it for the second year class.Lockhart usually just chatted with Draco between classes, whenever it Draco’sturn to lecture. “Did Mr. Potter tell you some insight, or Miss Granger?”

“Well, nothing specific, although I respect the judgment of my fellow Generalsand she was declared the Most Dangerous Student. But they did that because ofher personality. Have you ever met Fred and George Weasley, besides teachingthem? Heard the rumours? Their little sister would have to be at leastsomewhat ruthless and tough as nails, to keep up with them. Even if they doteon her and protect her, she’s probably suffered more from their pranks thananyone. And then she has other brothers. So there’s that. But I’m not talkingabout her fighting spirit. I think her real advantage is that she’s heard morestories and tactics over the last summer than the entire rest of the classcombined. Miss Weasley has a massive head start. How many students in firstyear have a sibling in an army? Practically her entire family was in an armylast year.”

“Yes,” said Professor Lockhart, “I suspect we’ll have to adjust the armystrength a bit early if that turns out to be the case. “But hopefully theothers will rise to her challenge. Sometimes that’s all that’s necessary. Imust admit that I myself was a lackluster student here at Hogwarts.”

“Then, if I may ask,” said Draco, seeing an opening, “how did you manage yourcurrent position?” Gilderoy Lockhart stopped cleaning and looked at Draco. Theclassroom was empty, the next lecture didn’t start for twenty minutes.

“Well, I suppose it was Dumbledore’s way of apologizing. No, not for anythingI did as a student. Last spring he led - oh let’s call it an assault - into mycousin’s house while I was visiting to kidnap and capture me.”

Draco’s eyes widened. “That … doesn’t sound like Dumbledore. If nothing elseit lacks subtlety.” Draco doubted Father would relish an all-out assault byDumbledore, but he’d complained often enough about the convoluted plans he’dhad to face. “Why would he do that?”

“Oh, he had this notion that I was Voldemort.” Draco said nothing, a look ofshock on his face. “Well, seeing as how I’ve left you speechless I could justtell you a great story about how I managed to fight off Dumbledore, Mad-EyeMoody and several others, but it would just be a lie. A lie I’ve beenpracticing, in case anyone asks, and it’s a great story. But the fact of thematter is that I felt them coming, you don’t live in a jungle for a few yearswithout learning rather a lot of detection wards. I prepared a few surprisesto slow them down. I had shields up and I unleashed a few non-standard hexes,not that they did much good, when Dumbledore came through the door like thesound of thunder and twice as furious. Well, I just threw down my wand.Dumbledore always scared me - as a child he was my Headmaster, too – and mypride has limits. I didn’t stand a chance.”

Lockhart just stated the last part as a matter of fact, all joviality fromearlier gone. “So you surrendered and then?” asked Draco.

“Practically before my wand hit the ground Dumbledore started to apologize,but before he could get more than two words out I’d already been knocked outeight ways to Thursday by the rest of that lot. Classless barbarians. Still,when they revived me Dumbledore apologized. Said that it was a mistake,because of course Lord Voldemort would never surrender – I suppose he hadthe magic to back up his pride – and explained that since I’d … blossomedthey’d just assumed I’d been possessed by Voldemort, or otherwise consortingwith Dark Wizards and studying things that I shouldn’t be.”

“That doesn’t seem reasonable,” said Draco. “Just because you got powerful,they attack you?”

Professor Lockhart chuckled, “Well, when I say I was a lackluster student, Imay have been sugarcoating it. I had … other interests … in my time here atHogwarts. The fact that I made a name at all must have come as a surprise. IfI’d done it here in London that would be one thing, but I’d spent practicallya decade out of the country apprenticed to Geralt of Rivia in South America.”

Draco coughed apologetically, “You know, to some people – not me! - thatsounds like an admission you consorted with a Dark Wizard. Even I’ve heard ofGeralt, and while he may be apolitical, his methods are … well, not approvedby most.”

“Oh,” said Lockhart, “he’s not so bad. I mean, he really hates it when someonedoesn’t pay up if he thinks he’s owed. In many ways Geralt is like, oh, Mad-Eye Moody. He’s survived so much that he doesn’t suffer fools lightly. And helacks most social graces. All of them, practically. I think he only allowed meto hang around the first few years because he thought I’d die in an amusingfashion and give him a few extra seconds to survive. I almost did, a fewtimes. No, he and Mad-Eye are both … dedicated bastards, perhaps – pleasedon’t tell the Headmistress I said that to a student, she’d think it improper– but if they’re on your side you just let the eccentricities slide. No,Geralt isn’t a Dark Wizard, just a highly effective one.” Lockhart’s eyes tookon a faraway look, but then focused as a clump of students entered the room.“Anyway, I learned quite a lot from him, and Dumbledore offered me a positionbased on my new-found competence, and not being Voldemort. I wouldn’t havetaken the Defence job, but I don’t think the curse will be on it anymore. Notafter last year.”

“Or with the current arrangement, I hope.” Draco slid off the main lectern,where he’d been sitting listening, “And how did you swing the Head of Housewhen you weren’t even in Gryffindor? What was that an apology for?”

Professor Lockhart just laughed, flashing his perfect teeth. “Ah, I can’t putanything by a Malfoy! I should know you, of all people, would notice that.Well, let’s just say that the Headmistress said my choice of mentors showedthat I was too stupid to be clever, but just stupid enough to be brave.” Hetouched the side of his nose. “Beyond that, I’m afraid I really can’t say.”

As the conspiracy filed out of the classroom Draco headed up the stairs, backtowards the castle instead of down into Slytherin. He jogged up a few stairsand caught up to Neville then fell in step beside him.

“Hello,” Draco said, “do you have a minute?”

“Sure, I was heading to the library. I’ve got to write up a full foot onmandrakes, but it’s a walk. Where’s Gregory?”

“This is private. I was just wondering … how are your parents?”

Neville stopped, face suddenly red and contorted. Draco reflected that he’dnever really seen Neville angry. He’d seen him excited, purposeful, attacking,but either with usually with a look of concentration or joy. Neville sputteredthen said, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

They kept walking. “You know, I must have imagined what it was like having amother. And, now that I have one it’s nothing like what I expected. It’s …hard. And not living up to my daydreams at all.” Draco paused. “I was justwondering if it was just me, and you are the only other person who’d know.”

Neville’s face went from anger to contrition, and he went slightly pale. “It’snot just you. My gran’s a bit scary, but around my parents I don’t know whatto act and they don’t know what to do…” Draco found himself nodding, and theconversation lasted a long time. At the end Draco felt comforted in theknowledge that he wasn’t alone, and he’d made another friend. Time well spent,for a number of reasons.

Draco spent his precious time as best he could.

Studying, researching and always, always, making friends and doing favors.Draco spent spare moments chatting, it hardly felt like work he enjoyed it somuch, particularly with Professors Lockhart and Asimov. But he chatted witheverybody. Draco encouraged a wary Ethan Jugson to ask Elsie Ambrose out. “Shelikes you, I know that she does. She’s just too shy to do anything about it,”he told Ethan over lunch and was pleased to hear they’d been holding handslater this week. It probably wouldn’t last, things rarely did at that age, butwho knew? Draco knew he certainly didn’t. Tracey Davis overheard him andapproached Draco to ask for advice on dating Harry. Her plan to become a DarkeLady had apparently fallen off schedule and she had been looking for an angle.Draco did the best that he could, but he truthfully didn’t even see Harry thatoften, he was usually awake and studying in the Library in the early morninghours when others were sleeping, and asleep by the time Potter returned.Still, he did his best, mainly because it amused him, to think of Potterdating. And if Harry actually started it would distract him from … whatever itwas he spent his days doing.

He kept up with Vincent, who usually hung out with Neville. Vincent didn’tseem as happy as Draco had hoped, but Harry said that people tended to have aset happiness point they reverted to. And if Vincent didn’t seem ecstatic, heseemed to be less stressed than usual. Vincent actually sought out Draco fromtime to time, especially when Gregory had other things to do, like Quidditchpractice. They both knew that Vincent feared Draco getting caught alone by apack of Slytherins, but neither of them needed to say anything.

Draco approached Robert several more times, but had never spotted a goodopportunity.

Draco couldn’t offer Zacharias Smith any tutoring, that would be interferingin the first year armies, but he made sure to point out to the shy first yearthat most of the older Slytherin would be more than willing to tutor him.Draco doubted he’d win a battle, but hopefully he could beat that HufflepuffGeneral. And Blaise refused to talk to him, although Draco did help some ofBasilisk army with charms homework, particularly if it would be useful inbattle.

Draco, Daphne and Gregory slowly felt out other Slytherins to try and judgewho could learn the Patronus spell. Draco doubted he could, or should, keepthis a secret much longer.

Draco looked forward to his first battle, when he could finally take some timeto just relax. He knew he was overworked, as he sometimes fell asleep duringhis morning study sessions for quick naps. But, Draco reflected as he walkedto class, he may lose to Potter and Hermione, but he would not lose due tolack of effort. He smiled at the thought.

After his next lecture, Draco said a quick “Be right back” to ProfessorLockhart and rushed out of the offence lecture, beating several first yearsout the door. It was a risk, being out alone, he’d been involved in severalfights so far - none nearly as damaging as his first day - but Draco wasdesperate. He shouldn’t have had that extra orange juice for breakfast, buthe’d fallen asleep again and needed a pick-me-up and now it was a long way tothe nearest restroom, since the Offence classroom was up here on such a highfloor. Draco walked briskly (a jog was undignified), but had to stop to answera question. Colin Creevey wanted to know what he should do in the firstbattle, so Draco walked with him for a minute, then begged off and cut back.On his way towards the stairs Draco spotted what looked to be a bathroomentrance he hadn’t seen before, and made it back to class with plenty of time.

Only after he’d finished the second year defence class did he notice therestroom had disappeared just as mysteriously as it had appeared. Draco didn’thave time to look, but he carefully noted the spot, right across from thattapestry of Trolls in tutus.

Draco sat as his desk and opened his diary. He quickly flipped through all theblank pages to the last page. His journal understood his meanings, Dracoturned pages slowly to search, flipping to the last page brought up a singlelist. The list itself took many pages, pages which appeared when he flippedfrom the once-last page to the new-last page. But the journal understood.

He looked at the question he’d written, and his own answer. It had taken awhile to boil his thoughts down to the essence, to just the notes he needed.He’d written it question and answer style, the journal hadn’t been able toprovide any answers, but had suggested clarifying questions.

_Question - Is Harry Potter Going to be a Dark Wizard? _

Answer - Unknown. He will clearly be powerful enough.

The real question: Will Harry Potter be a Dark Wizard who betrays/murders asVoldemort did to Father?

Answer - Still Investigating, although I believe this less likely.

What evidence can I gather, what experiment can I run to figure this out,without increasing my risk?

That part sat unanswered. The only solution Draco had thought of would be tolearn Parseltongue, but that would take a long time and the only teacher heknew was Harry himself, which made it dubious. He could just confess histhoughts, leaving out the knowledge that he suspected a conversation withVoldemort. There was enough evidence Harry himself had provided that he couldreveal some items without really implicating himself. Below that blank gap, atthe bottom of the page, stood an index.

Further Notes / Miscellaneous Thoughts

Draco grabbed the page, thumb carefully placed over “Further Notes” and thenflipped to the new last page. The first page was titled _Evidence andImplications on Potter’s Mental Link with Voldemort. _Draco picked up his penand started writing. He probably had twenty minutes before he’d leave theLibrary and go to breakfast, and he couldn’t afford to waste time.

“Draco, my boy? A word?” Draco had finished putting stoppers in flasks andreturning ingredients. He glanced at Gregory who went outside and leanedagainst the wall by the door … Hufflepuff had potions next, Vincent wouldnotice any strange groups of Slytherins lurking.

“Yes, Professor Slughorn?”

“Draco, I taught your Father. Good student, good lad. Taught your Mother,too.”

Draco nodded pleasantly. It was much easier to do when you honestly had noidea where things were going.

“Well, I know your Father considered me … well, he didn’t consider me much atall.”

“He said you had your good days.” Draco honestly had no idea what Father hadever said to Professor Slughorn, so he stuck with the truth.

“Yes, he would. I suppose. And now we are in the awkward spot here. I dare notget involved directly in your little problem.”

“With respect, Professor, this isn’t just me being on a first name basis withMadam Pomfrey.” Draco never showed any signs of injury, but those who paidattention would see that he walked with care, and maybe his clothes look a bittoo neat, as if they’d been fixed repeatedly during the day.

“No, no, no. I know. I wasn’t trying to minimize this. We’re at the crucialpoint. I can feel it. This is the year that makes or breaks us. Exciting, hmm?But, well, I’m not sure I can be useful. You-Know-Who’s followers respectedSeverus. Even those who think he betrayed them. But I never joined. I neverwas a joiner, you know, preferred to keep the company of a more pleasantcircle. But they don’t respect that.”

Draco nodded again. Professor Slughorn’s ambition, if he had any, was opaqueto Draco.

“Anyway. I’d be happy to help you directly, you know. But I suspect theappearance would outweigh any trivial thing I might do.”

“I see you are probably right, Professor. I’d been meaning to ask anyway, butI’ve been busy…” Draco realized that Professor Slughorn was nodding politelyand reaching down into his desk. Draco tensed up, a habit he needed to get ridof but automatic after the last month, and the Professor pulled back his handholding not a wand but a clear, tear drop shaped vial, stoppered at the top.It looked like molten gold.

“Do you know what this is, Draco? Well, not surprising. This is FelixFelicis. Liquid Luck. If you were to gulp down the whole thing you’d have aperfect few hours, it’s just a small dose. But a quick sip may get you out ofa tight jam. Save you some personal suffering.”

He held out the vial, and Draco saw one small gold drop try to leap out, onlyto hit the seal and fall back. He passed it over to Draco and watched itquickly disappear into the boy’s robes.

“Thank you Professor,” said Draco with sincerity, “I really appreciate this.”

“Of course you do. You know I never really played the game at your father’slevel, never really cared to. But I do understand it, perfectly well. Actions,my boy, count more than words. I intend for our House to survive, but I’m notgoing to be able to sway them quickly enough. That falls to you. Use it well,Draco.”

Draco thanked Professor Slughorn again and was almost out the door when theProfessor added “Do say Hello to you charming Mother from me?”

“It’s clear, I think,” Gregory said as Draco strolled through the door. Only afew Hufflepuffs were visible, heading towards the class. “Well?”

“We actually have an ally with him. Who would have thought?” Draco flashed thevial so that Gregory could see it. Gregory’s eye’s widened.

“Then why do you look so disturbed?”

“Because he’s may be wishy-washy but he’s still the head of House Slytherinand ‘A good move has multiple purposes.’” Draco suppressed a small shudder.“I’ll tell you later, in private.”

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