Harry knocked on the door. Gregory cracked it open, glanced at him, thenopened the door just wide enough for Harry to slip through.
The room, off the hallway between the entrance to Slytherin House and thecommons, felt spacious. Not as large as Harry’s trunk, but almost as large asthe room his trunk sat in last year, with the rest of the Ravenclaw first yearboys. There were three relatively spartan beds, one along the far wall and oneeach on the left and right. To the right of the far bed Draco sat at his desk,back to the door, writing furiously. Stairs leading down into a small pool ofwater to the bed’s left. Harry wondered if it connected to the pond he passedon the way in.
Gregory walked over to his desk and half-leaned against, half sat on hishands. After a few final notes, Draco firmly shut the small black book, andgently pushed it against the black lacquered cane resting in the crack betweendesk and wall.
“Hello Harry,” Draco said as he stood up. “Sorry, eventful evening.”
Harry nodded towards the pool. The torches (torches! Finally!) on the wallprovided ample light to play across the small waves that lapped against thetop stair, but never seemed to escape past it. “Aren’t you worried somethingmay come out of the water?”
“Not really,” Draco said. “Alceriato!” The water bubbled noisily, but stillnever spilled out of the pool. Even inches away from the edge the floor stoodbone dry. “It’s uncomfortably warm even for a magician. A merman, well…” heshrugged. ”Tepidius!” The bubbling faded as the enchantment ended. “In anycase it’s also an escape route.”
Gregory angled his head towards the door, an inquiring look. Draco ignored itand sprawled out on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. “What say you,Gregory? Should we offer Crabbe’s bunk to Potter?”
“I don’t know, I’d have to think about it. You snore, Potter?”
Draco’s tone had been playful, but experience left Gregory no doubt as to theintent. Draco wanted Gregory’s opinion, he had doubts.
“I suppose there are upsides,” Gregory said noncommittally. Gregory thoughtthat it would be exciting to have Harry Potter for a room-mate, and possiblyuseful. But Gregory had seen, second hand, the toll that Harry’s friendshiphad put on Draco.
“I didn’t mean to impose. In Ravenclaw each year has a room,” said Harry.
“Oh, you know very well that’s how it works here, too, Potter.” Draco wavedhis hands towards the commons area. “Gregory and I will be summarily bootedback there in a week or two, no doubt. So it doesn’t cost me anything to bemake the offer.” Gregory chuckled.
Harry sat down on what he now considered his bed. “Was the duel thatimportant?”
Draco sat up and looked at him, then shoved his back against the wall and drewhis feet up against his chest. “That? Not really, which is why I could concedeso quickly. That was but a symptom of the reduced status of House Malfoy.”
“Then why Strategema with Ethan,” Harry asked. Seeing puzzled looks, heexplained. “From a Muggle show. A master player frustrates another master bymaking inferior moves during their game. He ignores superior moves to play forthe draw. Which infuriates his opponent.”
Draco shook his head. “Nothing so clever. The Duel gave me an opening. Achance to confirm that people could trust me. Could back me, without appearingweak.” Draco rested his knees on his chin. “Trust is a rare commodity, here.Ethan handed me a bottle full of it and I decided how to play it, withoutconsidering him. And you know the worst part? I’d warned myself against thattype of mistake earlier today”
“Well, you got to state your case.”
Draco turned slightly towards Gregory, who shook his head.
“Nobody will remember that tomorrow. They’ve probably forgotten already. If wehad people reinforcing our position, restating it…” Gregory trailed off.Potter could figure it out.
Draco sighed. “Every strength has a corresponding weakness.”
Harry interrupted. “And vice versa, like using truth serum to your benefit,Draco. That was a good idea.”
Draco bit his lip. “Thinking logically helps you, but blinds you to how othersthink. You can work it out, but it takes time. I’m wondering if it’s blindingme, too.” He pulled his knees closer.
Harry Potter had seen Draco in a variety of moods before, but morose was newexperience.
“I suppose it does. No, I know it does. Its one of those cases where I want tobelieve people will work things out, despite all the evidence I have from lastyear. But I have a friend with a masterful understanding of human nature.”
Draco snorted. “He’s talking about you, Gregory.”
From the noise in the common room it sounded like the prefect had ordered thefirst years up to their room, the room that Draco had never set foot in alllast year.
“Is it really that bad, Draco?”
“I don’t know. Imagine how Robert feels, knowing Ethan didn’t answer quickly.I had to resign, right away, before he answered. That doesn’t even get intoEthan and Sara. I should have never made that accusation.” Draco shuffled overto his dresser and started to put away his cloak, to prepare his bed. “And thepart that I never considered, was how much I’d been lying to myself. Thatshook me.”
“People lie to themselves all the time, Draco” said Harry.
“Not consciously,” said Gregory. “The … awareness of it, that’s novel. Wecould see it, we all saw Draco trying to answer and not being able to.” HarryPotter had never seen this side of Gregory (or Vincent, he remembered) andrealized that of course Draco Malfoy shared an easy camaraderie with hisfriends. With a shock Harry Potter remembered Gregory’s long pause under theSorting Hat. At the time, he’d naturally assumed the choice was betweenHufflepuff and Slytherin. Now Ravenclaw seemed likely. Lord Malfoy dare notshare his secrets with fools, nor would he want fools helping his children.
Gregory’s public silence showed that he understood his role. And nothing more.
Harry Potter stood in a room with Draco’s consigliere. One of them, anyway.The memory of Lucius with the Elder Goyle and Crabbe, their unspokencoordination, flash to mind. That kind of trust required years. Perhapsgenerations.
Harry reconsidered if living with Draco would be a good idea, and tried toremember exactly how he’d been invited. Just how detailed a message couldthey exchange under my nose?
Draco sighed. “Every. Single. Witch. Has probably heard about this by now.”
Harry suspected some heard it hours ago. “I should, uh, go get my trunk. I’llbe back in a bit.”
“Do you need any help?” Gregory and Draco asked simultaneously.
“No, I’m fine.” Harry stopped at the door. “Well, there’s one thing, at least.I think Salazar Slytherin would approve of this tradition. Who knows? Thoseduels may date back to Slytherin himself.”
“What makes you say that?” Gregory asked, while Draco said “Not that I’veheard of.”
Harry definitely saw them exchange a look that had meaning he couldn’t read.
“Maybe I should find another place to stay,” said Harry. “I mean, I think I’dbe intruding.”
“No, I think you should stay, Potter,” said Draco. “But if you do we can’t gotip-toeing around like this. I’ve kept your secrets mostly, from Vincent andGregory. But if you move in we don’t exclude Gregory. You’d be here withboth of us. Everything I’m in. I’ve told him my side already, but … we builtup our relation by sharing secrets. This won’t work if we all have to spendminutes thinking about what to say.”
Harry turned to Gregory. “So, when you said there were upsides…”
“Better to have you inside pissing out, Potter. I live with Draco in any case,I’d like to understand how you spin him around. And since we’re all working tosave the House” – now Harry shot Draco a look, one that Gregory read easily as‘I suppose fair’s fair, but still…’ – “it will make all our lives easier.”
“So, to confirm, the two of you are inviting me to live here?”
“Until such time as we get booted back to the 2nd year floor,” said Gregory,and thrust out his hand.
Harry shook it. “I’ve got to get my stuff.” Gregory held firm.
“So, what did you mean, about Salazar?” asked Gregory, releasing the hand.“What do you know about Slytherin that we don’t?”
Harry Potter stood there, thinking.
But he wasn’t the only one.
Harry Potter thought faster than most students, faster than most adults even,and he thought faster (and in some ways, deeper) than Draco Malfoy. But hedidn’t think orders of magnitude faster. Harry Potter quickly considered theimplications of revealing his secret to Gregory, whom he didn’t know well, andto Draco, who would realize the implication eventually.
But most of Harry Potter’s legendary speed came from the fact that he thoughtahead. Harry planned for routine trouble and spent time considering troublemost people wouldn’t think about. From Harry’s point of view, being surprisedat his speed of thought was about as useful as being surprised that aGrandmaster could defeat dozens of players simultaneously with almost noeffort.
While the Master’s opponents stared at the chessboard at move 10, theGrandmaster recognized this game and knew the best move for each response.Grandmasters, as part of their journey, literally wrote books about standardpositions. Not only did a Master (of any endeavour) think more clearly anddeeply than a novice, in most cases he didn’t have to think at all. Certainlynot against lesser players. Becoming world class meant outpreparing mostopponent, and only out-thinking the truly worthy. Harry Potter’s thoughtahead about battles, gambits to get or hide information, reacting in theface of disasters. He’d trained himself how to think.
In a novel situation Harry Potter could find a great move, a clever move. Buthe hadn’t prepared one for this.
Harry Potter had wandered into a game half played because he’d tried to cheerup Draco without thinking about it and because he’d been so struck by thesymmetry of Draco’s Duel and his own experiences (in all respects accept forthe stakes) that he’d just blurted out his cheerful message. So, for the firsttime in several days, Harry Potter analyzed a novel position – whether totell Draco and Gregory.
Harry Potter understood his mistake in making the offhand comment as soon asGregory asked the question. So, he’d started to think a few seconds beforeDraco did. But he wasted those few seconds hoping that in in a few years he’dmove past these simple mistakes to make more interesting and complex mistakes.And deciding that he didn’t fault himself for having tried to cheer upDraco. So, once again, Harry Potter had jumped the starters gun when out-plotting those around him.
But Draco didn’t have to think, just remember. A Green-and-Silver lettered dayfrom last year sprang instantly to mind. Draco recognized a mate in one. Hisonly decision: speak or stay silent.
On a normal day Draco Malfoy would have stayed silent. Silence, perhaps maskedby meaningless chatter, was usually the prudent course. Silence revealedlittle. But today Draco felt ambushed by fate and, as so often happens, aplayer who just blundered away one piece often stops thinking and plays thenext obvious move. Or is so relieved to spot a potentially good move that theyplay first, analyze later (if at all).
But mostly Draco felt annoyed that Harry lacked the courtesy to keep up smalltalk or try to deflect the conversation while he thought. That insult, morethan any calculation, led Draco’s revelation.
“Potter’s the Heir of Slytherin, Gregory.” Gregory’s eyes bugged out, thennarrowed. Harry Potter turned, took out his wand and cast several wards on thedoor, then sat on what all three boys now considered his bed.
“I’m not the Heir. But I am Parselmouth. Draco discovered it actually. It’snot the sort of thing I’d tell anyone, even Draco. That’s why I was thinking.It’s not that I don’t trust you to keep my secrets. But a lot of people wouldreact … poorly if I told them. Anyway, Draco was around when it happened. Tome it just sounded like English. But Draco couldn’t understand it and I’dnever even heard of a Parselmouth.”
Gregory, more so than either of the other two boys in the room, was in atotally unexpected situation, so it was Draco who interrupted.
“That doesn’t really clear it up.”
“You can’t lie in Parseltongue. It’s not quite the same as the serum, I think.It’s like two drops, but you can stay silent. But if you speak, you say thetruth.”
“And what happens if you say something that you don’t know is a lie? Do youstate the correct information?”
“I don’t know, Draco. I don’t think so. Almost certainly not” If Parseltonguerevealed truths unknown to the speaker, Voldemort would have certainlydiscovered he had an infallible Oracle. Harry felt practically certain thatParseltongue, like Veritaserum, relied on the subject’s state of mind. He’ddecided this as Draco walked to his desk and took out a scroll.
“Let’s experiment. I don’t suppose you know many spells about repairinggarments? No? Well, I’ll tell you about three of them, one of which isincorrect, and then you say it in Parseltongue … if one of the descriptionschanges, then we’ll know.”
Harry considered the experimental protocols, even though he considered it aforgone conclusion. “If Gregory knows which one is a lie then he shouldn’t bevisible to me, Draco. I might be able to get a clue from that. It’s called theClever Hans effect…” Harry Potter went on to describe correct experimentalprotocols at some length, being sure to clarify points for Gregory that Dracoalready knew.
The experiment proved it. You couldn’t knowingly lie in Parseltongue. Harryconfirmed that he said “There is a 2/3rd probability that this spell works asfollows,” because of the information he knew. Once Draco revealed that_Percaxia _actually cleaned, folded and pressed clothes (and did not fixfrayed hems, as he’d written down), then Harry could no longer describe it asa _twice likely as not c__lothess mending sspell, _which he’d been able to doearlier and caveats disappeared for the other two descriptions.
Later that night, staring up at the ceiling as Harry and Gregory slept, Dracomentally berated himself. He reviewed that day’s mistakes, how the cascadingfailures piled up. He’d done well, in many regards. He’d seized opportunitiesand forged ahead. But … but …. Draco couldn’t sleep, and rather than tossand turn and fight his insomnia he put his time to use and reviewed the day.He mentally made notes.
Some mistakes he’d only noticed later in the clarity of the night, to thesound of Gregory’s snoring.
Draco Malfoy understood his biggest mistake hours earlier. In fact, onlyseveral heartbeats after revealing Potter’s secret Draco realized the enormityof his mistake. Years later, after he had a more adult control over hisemotions, that mistake would be the one that woke him up at night –Revealing his understanding instead of saying silent and thinking thingsthrough first.
Like Potter had been trying to do.
The slim comfort Draco took was that he’d at least carried on hisconversation as if nothing had happened. He’d avoided the exact same mistakePotter had been making. He hadn’t stayed silent (or worse, gaspeddramatically) to reveal his thoughts. He’d quickly changed the subject, andchanged it well.
He’d offered Harry an experiment.
Draco had no idea if it distracted Harry. Probably not, but Professor Quirrelltaught when your only hope is slim you still take it. Draco had noillusions. Harry Potter was neither God nor Monster; He did things, andlegends had already grown around him but Potter wasn’t omniscient, justinfuriatingly clever. And, like Draco, Harry’s youth left him prone tomistakes.
Draco wondered if he underestimated Potter (Harry complained about that oftenenough). But he’d sometimes overestimated Potter.
More so than anyone else (that he knew), Draco Malfoy observed Potter upclose, had seen his thought processes. He’d seen Harry’s powers, magical andnon. He’d tried, to the best of his ability, to sort truth from fiction aboutHarry Potter. Months ago, his intuition told him that Harry Potter defeatedVoldemort. He had no evidence. He could think of no experiment. Draco used theold ways of plotting: he assembled facts, gathered information, and thought.He reviewed them again and again that night.
Harry’s _Patronus _was brilliant and blinding.
His knowledge of that spell was profound. He’d taught Draco; He’d known Draco could learn it, a fact that surprised Draco and would stun most Slytherins.
Harry wouldn’t reveal his Patronus directly. It contained a secret Potter made an effort to keep hidden.
According to everyone, Harry Potter terrified a Dementor at Hermione’s trial.
… without even summoning a Patronus.
Granger’s death drove Potter relentlessly.
He clearly cared for her deeply; more than Draco, possibly more than anyone else.
Hermione Granger came back from the dead at the same time that Voldemort - her presumed killer - died.
Hermione Granger could destroy Dementors. She’d destroyed them all, at Azkaban.
Draco had listed those clues over the summer. These facts marked Harry Potter,his friend and rival, as the sort of person who would always outshine him. Butalso as the boy who avenged Father’s death.
He couldn’t prove it. He’d probably never have proof. Harry, despite hisboyish blunders, would never reveal the fact to anyone he was not completelysure of.
Draco agonized countless hours, wondering if Potter could have preventedFather’s death, could have been more clever. Draco didn’t know, been afraid toask. Been afraid of how he might act. Since Draco couldn’t trust his ownreaction to the news he could hardly blame Harry for being unsure. Harry wouldnever tell him. For friendship, perhaps, but for his own reasons.
Draco knew all of this. He’d pieced it together over the summer, along withhis understanding that Father knew he was going to his death that June night.
Draco glanced at the cane on his desk, silver snake head placed so Draco couldsee it from his bed. The cane Father carried constantly, the Sigil of HouseMalfoy handed down across centuries. Draco had unlocked some of its secrets,his diary had revealed others. His other birthright.
The cane Draco discovered that night leaning by Father’s chair.
A sign, sure as any letter, that Father suspected. His farewell to Draco.Perhaps he’d always left it at home, years ago, when he dealt with Voldemort.Perhaps he feared Voldemort might not restrain himself, might challenge hispower against the weight of House Malfoy. Perhaps he could not conceal it,dare not risk anyone spotting it. How often had he left it there? Just incase… so his beloved Narcissa could pass it down to his infant son. Or maybehe’d discovered some dread secret and went knowingly this one time, to protectDraco. Draco didn’t know. The game of subtleties had limits. He’d lost thesummer wondering.
Could Potter have saved Father? In that regard, Draco felt comforted by hismonths of reflection. It seemed unlikely. Even if Potter had been there withthe Death Eaters, it would be ludicrous to assume he could deal with them andVoldemort. Six hours ago Draco Malfoy trusted Harry Potter, mostly. If he’dbeen under Veritaserum Draco Malfoy would feel compelled to use a heavilyfootnoted definition of ‘trust’ that would cement his reputation fordeviousness, terrify Hufflepuffs, and make Potter proud over the sheerprecision and deep implications.
Three hours after midnight on the first day of school, Draco Malfoy lay awakeagonizing over the new fact (not proven, but probable) he’d added to his list.
Harry Potter chatted with Voldemort before he killed him.
Now, with the moonlight’s reflection bathing the commandeered room in asilvery glow, Draco’s list of facts about Harry Potter looked alarming.
Author’s Note - This ends the prologue.
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