Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals 13

Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals: Book Two.

Or, "Aspie Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."

 

Note: I do not own this. J. K. Rowling does. This is just fan fiction. No money is being made.

 

Note 2: There may be a few bits and pieces lifted word-for-word from the canon material. I tried to do that as little as possible, though.

 

Note 3: Sorry for the postspam, but I was very behind on posting chapters for this one, and I have a new one coming up soon. This is the last one to catch us up, the new chapter won't be out til tomorrow or so.

 

 

Chapter 5: The Dueling Club

 

 

The next morning, Harry woke up in the hospital wing momentarily confused, before he remembered what happened. He glanced over at Colin. He didn't know the boy well, but he wondered what his parents were being told, if anything, as he was released and made his way to look for Ron and Hermione.

After speaking with Percy Weasley, he figured out they were in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, so he headed up there, finding them brewing the potion in a cauldron in a toilet, a waterproof fire under the cauldron.

"This is so unsanitary," Harry said. "But I suppose the fire takes care of any germs."

"Your arm all better?"

"Yeah. And guess what?"

"What?"

"It turns out Dobby did the bludger, supposedly to save my life. He wanted me maimed enough to be sent back to the Dursley's."

"Wow, mate. If he doesn't stop trying to save your life, he's going to kill you."

Harry nodded. "Oh, something else happened as well."

"You mean Colin?" Hermione asked. "We heard. The whole school knows."

"Oh, figures you would. But there's more. Dobby said the Chamber has been opened before!"

They stared at him a moment.

“The Chamber of Secrets has been opened before?” Hermione said.

"Well that settles it, Lucius must have opened it last time, and he taught Draco how to do it."

"I dunno... from things Dobby's said before, I don't think the Malfoys are involved. I once asked him if Vol--er, You-Know-Who was involved, and he said he wasn't, but he looked like he was trying to hint at something, like it might be connected to Voldy after all."

"Well Lucius was a Death Eater. One of You-Know-Who's followers," Ron explained. "He claimed he'd been under a spell, but my dad never believed it. Got out of Azkaban cuz of his money, Dad reckons. Anyway, Lucius being a Death Eater, that's a connection to You-Know-Who."

"Hmm... maybe. I asked Dobby if Voldy had a brother, and Dobby's response made me think I was getting warmer."

"Maybe You-Know-Who is a Malfoy?” Ron mused.

"Voldemort Malfoy?"

“No no, the name he uses can't be real, unless it's foreign. Which I suppose it could be. But anyway, he could be... his surname could be Malfoy."

“Well possibly. But they can't be brothers, or Dobby would have said yes to my question.”

"Yeah, but I think You-Know-Who is older than Lucius. Could be Lucius's father, or uncle. That'd explain Dobby trying to hint that you were getting warmer."

Harry pondered a moment. "If the monster in the chamber is some kind of snake, I think the Heir would have to be a parseltongue," he said thoughtfully.

"You've hidden yours pretty well, considering you were raised in the Muggle world. The Malfoys could be hiding their parseltongue gift."

"But Draco was with me when I heard the monster that first time. And if he's a parseltongue, he's a great actor; he didn't react at all to the voice I heard."

Ron looked uneasy. "He could've... given the creature a pre-arranged signal? Maybe? To take some of the suspicion off him, you know?"

"I guess..."

"Harry, I'm already making this potion,” Hermione said to him. “I might as well--"

The door opened then, and they all went quiet.

"Harry?" asked a familiar dreamy voice.

"Over here, Luna."

Harry saw Moaning Myrtle come up out of her stall and look at Luna. "Oh hi there, Luna," said the miserable ghost, sounding a little happier than usual.

"Hello, Myrtle. How are you today?"

"Miserable, of course. But it's nice to see you. I wish I'd known someone as nice as you when I was alive."

Ron rolled his eyes at the both of them. Luna and Mytle kept chatting quietly as Harry and the others continued brewing the Polyjuice Potion. When Luna and Myrtle finished talking, though, Luna came to talk with the three of them, and they filled her in on what they'd been talking about. When told about the possible Malfoy/Voldemort connection, she got all wide eyed.

“Oh yes,” she said excitedly. “I've heard that the Malfoys have been funding the Ministry's research into Imperio-Worms.”

“Imperio worms?” Ron asked, holding back laughter. “What the bloody hell are Imperio worms?”

“They crawl in your ear and take over your brain. Fudge wants them so he can make an army of soldiers that never disobey commands, and will die for him. You can read all about it in the latest edition of The Quibbler.”

“That sounds like the Imperious Curse, but with creatures” Hermione noted.

“Yes, that's where the name came from.”

“But the Imperious Curse is illegal. And even if it weren't, they wouldn't need creatures to do it, since the curse already exists.”

“Yes, but Imperious Curses can go wrong. They're difficult to do. Anyone can put an Imperio Worm in someone's ear, though.”

“Like I said, it's ill-”

“Yes, but 'illegal' just means the general public isn't allowed to use it. Governments have all the power, and power tends to corrupt. Add magic to the mix, that's basically absolute power. Which tends to corrupt absolutely. You should read what some of the Muggle governments do, Hermione. They have their own research into mind-controlled soldiers, and they don't even have magic. When you get back to the Muggle world, you should look up 'Project MK Ultra.' It'll open your eyes.”

Hermione looked to Harry for support against Luna's ravings, only to find Harry looking impressed. “What?” he asked. “I've heard of it, too. Years of reading anything I could find at the library, I've run into some weird things. But she's right, the American group called the CIA really has done experiments into mind control. So Luna's theory about these Imperio Worms could have merit.”

“Thank you, Harry, that was kind of you.”

He shrugged. “Not really. Just honest.”

Luna nodded vaguely. Hermione rolled her eyes and went back to work on the potion.

 

~

 

The next few weeks passed without incident, aside from Ron giving Draco side-eyes every time they had a MAC meeting. The more such meetings they had, the more Harry was convinced Draco had nothing to do with this whole Chamber business, but he kept his mouth shut; they were brewing the potion already, and it was almost done. Might as well try it to see if the theory had any merit.

One day, they saw - pinned to the notice boards - something about a Duelling Club. Harry thought that was a great idea, and wondered why he hadn't thought of it himself. Deciding it was useful, Harry, Hermione, and Ron all went, and convinced Luna to come with them as well.

At 8 o'clock that night, they hurried to the Great Hall, where all the House tables had been moved out of the way, and a golden stage put up in the middle of the room, presumably for demonstrations.

"I wonder who's teaching us? Someone told me Flitwick was a dueling champion in his youth, maybe it'll be him."

"As long as it's not--" Harry started, then groaned. Gilderoy Lockhart stepped out onto the stage, accompanied by Snape.

Lockhart waved for silence. "Can everyone see me? Can you all hear me? Great!

"Now Professor Dumbledore gave me permission to start this little dueling club, to train you up in case you have to defend yourselves, as I have done on many occasions. Blah blah blah blah," it sounded to Harry as he began tuning it out.

"Blah blah blah my assistant, Professor Snape," he continued to drone on in his insufferable voice. As if he needed that shite added to the press and noise of the crowd.

"Wouldn't it be good if they killed each other?" Ron muttered in Harry's ear.

Harry didn't react to that, but did twitch his lip in amusement at how much disgust and loathing Snape was directing at Lockhart; it was good to see Snape directing his loathing at someone other than himself, for once.

The demonstration duel between Lockhart and Snape went much as he'd expected: Lockhart being a bumbling fool, and Snape soundly knocking the dunce on his arse. Harry almost laughed aloud at Lockhart's poor attempt to demonstrate the Protego charm, feeling glad he knew how to do it already. Given the recent Chamber of Secrets stuff, he'd been spending some spare time every week practicing defensive spells.

When Lockhart finally noticed Snape's murderous facial expression, he started pairing them off. Ron and Harry were going to duel, but Snape split them up, putting Ron with Seamus and Harry with Draco, which did make some sense, since Ron's old wand had started doing odd things in the last couple weeks. Draco grinned at Harry, a hint of malicious glee there despite their budding civil acquaintance. Hermione got paired off with a Slytherin named Millicent Bulstrode, who was very sturdily built, and Luna got to spar with Angela.

Draco and Harry climbed onto the stage, Harry feeling very nervous. He didn't like being the center of attention one bit, and here he was in the middle of a crowd. He took a moment to take a sip of Calming Draught, which helped. It helped even more to focus on Draco instead of the crowd.

"Face your partners and bow," called Lockhart. "Wands at the ready!" he shouted.

"When I count to three," he continued, "cast your charms to disarm your opponents - only to disarm them. We don't want any accidents."

Harry had been thinking while Lockhart talked, and as the man counted up to three, was not surprised by Draco starting on two; it was a very Slytherin thing to do. He countered it with a shield charm, which impressed everyone in the room; even Snape looked impressed despite himself.

Almost the instant Draco's spell bounced off his shield, he shot back "Expelliarmus!" The blond boy's wand flew into the air and Harry caught it with his free hand. Draco did not look pleased.

Lockhart had him give Draco his wand back, and they tried again. Once more the count up to three. Draco tried going at one, but that didn't surprise Harry either. He shot a few things that bounced off Harry's shield, then Harry shot back with Expelliarmus again, even though Draco was shooting actual jinxes at him. But the other boy was managing to dodge Harry's spells or else snatch his wand out of the air whenever one of Harry's spells hit its mark.

Finally, one of Malfoy's jinxes got past Harry's defenses, and Harry was knocked back on his arse. That was the point where Harry grew tired of Malfoy ignoring the rules, and decided to ignore them himself. He shot back with several jinxes and hexes of his own, and soon it became a shooting match, Lockhart running around shouting at them, stopping them temporarily.

This time, before the count-up, Snape whispered something into Draco's ear, and Draco looked both gleeful and concerned, but nodded. When they went again, Harry once more did a shield charm, but it was unnecessary.

"Serpensortia!" Draco had bellowed.

Exploding out of the end of his wand came a long black snake with a hood; some kind of cobra? It looked very angry, and slithered toward Harry. Harry paused, not knowing what to do. He didn't want to talk to it, giving away his secret power; and speaking at all around a snake would require concentration to stay in English. But people were screaming. Harry stepped back a few steps.

"Don't move, Potter," Snape said with an air of droll amusement. "I'll take care of it for you."

Harry had just enough time to wonder if Snape meant he was going to kill the snake, when Lockhart stepped in and tried taking care of it himself.

It was a disaster, of course. Whatever spell the imbecile had used made the snake fly into the air and land with a smack, making it go from angry to pissed the hell off. It reared and hissed at the nearest person it could see, ready to strike.

Not trusting himself to speak, Harry screamed out 'Stupefy!' in his mind, pointing his wand at the snake. It had been a long shot, as he didn't even know if it was possible to do spells without speaking, but it paid off; a burst of red light hit the snake and it fell over, passed out.

Everyone stared at him, even Snape, who looked dumbfounded. The looks were so stunned and impressed that he wondered if he'd invented some new technique on the fly. Taking advantage of their stunned silence, he walked forward and knelt down to look at the snake. Then he saw Antigone nearby, and got her attention.

"Antigone, do you know how to conjure a cage or something?"

"Wha? Oh, yeah... I think so."

She took her wand out and conjured a weird, flawed goldfish bowl with a metal lid. It looked equivalent in craftsmanship to a bowl he'd made in first grade art class once, but served well enough. He levitated the snake into the fishbowl and put the lid on, glad to see the lid had holes in it.

"What are you doing, Potter?" Snape asked derisively.

Harry looked up at Snape so he wouldn't accidentally slip into Parseltongue. "I'm rescuing this snake, sir. It's just an innocent animal, it never asked to be used as a weapon."

Snape sneered. "Potter, it is a spell snake. It isn't real."

"Water from a wand is real enough to drink. Chairs conjured with magic are real enough to burn. This snake is real enough to have instincts and feelings. So I'm rescuing it."

"Potter, I do realize your fame may be getting to your--"

"I don't care about my fame. I never knew I was famous until I got to school, and I've never liked being famous. I doubt I ever will. I can barely tolerate lots of people looking at me."

"Be that as it may, you cannot keep a venomous snake in your dormitory, Potter. It is a danger to other students."

Harry glared at the man. "Maybe you should have thought of the danger to the students before you told Draco to use that spell, Professor," he snapped at the man, who looked taken aback.

First pausing to take a breath, Harry said more calmly, "I will find somewhere safe to keep him, sir, while I try to figure out how to get him back to his natural environment. He won't be in the dormitories or the common room."

With that, he took the snake in its container off the stage, everyone giving him a wide berth to let him through. There was some muttering as he left, but he didn't care. He had seen himself in this snake - brought into this world he didn't understand suddenly, some people fearing him and others trying to hurt him. He wasn't going to let it be another victim.

He got as far as Griffindor Tower before he realized he had no idea where to put it. He needed help from someone who knew the castle better than he did. Suddenly, Netty came to mind.

"Netty," he said aloud.

With a crack, she appeared. "Sir is calling Netty, sir?"

"Ah yes, Netty. I need your help, if you can." He explained the situation to her as best he could, and what he wanted, not sure she could help. When he finished, she looked excited.

"Netty is knowing a place, sir. We call it the come-and-go room. Come, sir, Netty will show you!"

A few minutes later, they were on the seventh floor corridor by a tapestry of dancing ballet trolls, and Netty was teaching Harry how to get into the come-and-go room, also known as the Room of Requirement. He walked three times past the place, thinking of a place to keep a snake for an unknown amount of time. On the third time past, a door appeared in the previously blank wall, and he and Netty went in.

The room inside was mid-sized. It had a huge terrarium against one wall, and was full of branches for a snake to climb on and places to hide or nest, with magically-heated rocks to keep its cold blood warm. There were also comfy chairs for people to sit on and look at the terrarium.

Against another wall was a different, smaller terrarium made for rats, and several confused-looking rats stood around in there, exploring their new environment. Leaning next to that terrarium was a rat-trap on the end of a long wooden handle, which Harry guessed was to catch rats to feed the snake.

As he was levitating the snake into its terrarium, it began to stir. By the time it woke up completely, the lid was on the terrarium.

"Hi," he said to it in parseltongue. "Sorry about stunning you, but it was the only way I could save your life without revealing my status as a parselmouth to the whole school."

The snake looked up at him. "You... saved me? But I was going to attack you. And then I was going to attack that other human."

"It's okay, that wasn't your fault. The human that flung you into the air is an idiot. He was trying to kill you, I think, but did something else by accident. If you had bitten that boy you were hissing at, they would have destroyed you for sure."

"Then I thank you for saving my life."

"You're welcome. Are you hungry?"

"Not at the moment. Thanks for the offer, though."

"Do you have a name?"

"No. My people do not use names, usually."

"Do you want one?"

The snake looked thoughtful. "I suppose so."

"Are you a boy snake or a girl snake?"

"I have laid eggs before."

"Girl, then. Hmm... what do you think about the name Cleopatra? Cleo for short?"

"I like that. It sounds regal."

"Netty," he said to the elf, "I'm going to have to go back to my common room now. If you could keep an eye on Cleopatra here, just once in a while, I would appreciate it."

"Netty will do that, sir."

"Thanks."

He turned back to the snake. "I need to go to my own nest, Cleo. Netty will keep an eye on you now and then whenever I'm not here. I'll see you later, okay?"

"That is fine. It is warm in here, I shall sleep as well. I thank you again."

You're welcome.

Rushing out the door as soon as he could, he had to run to get back to the common room before curfew. He came in to see a lot of people staring at him. He ignored most of them and went over to Ron and Hermione.

"You rescued that snake, mate," Ron said. "Not quite as bad as it could've gone, I know, but people are still talking about it."

"Where is the snake now, Harry?"

"Her name is Cleopatra, and it's a long story where she is. She's locked up safe away from anyone else, though." He said that last loud enough for others around them to hear, which immediately set them off telling everyone else.

That out of the way, he cast privacy wards. "Now for the long story," he said, and launched into the story of the Room of Requirement.

"Woah!" Ron said, amazed. "That place sounds awesome!"

"Yes," Harry agreed, "it's quite cool. Might be useful as well. I think we should keep it a secret for now."

"For sure. Now tell us, why'd you save that snake?"

He sighed with annoyance. "I told Snape why, didn't you hear me?"

"But there's more to it, isn't there, Harry?" Hermione asked.

"Well, yeah. I empathized with her. You know, given what she said in the Room, I reckon she's real. An actual, live snake, summoned from who-knows-where."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. She says she's laid eggs before. Which means she has memories from before today. And she has a personality."

"Hmm... well that's something else to look into. I don't know anything about that, but you had a point earlier that water from a wand is drinkable."

Harry nodded, and got his books out to do some schoolwork, with his earmuffs on to drown out the chatter in the rest of the room. But music would have worked better; he had always done his best work listening to an old cassette tape he'd played on one of Dudley's old Walkmans, that he'd broken and Harry had repaired. He began wondering if it was possible to make a portable magical music player, briefly, before getting back to work.

 

~

 

The next day, they awoke to find that a blizzard had come through, and the snow was so thick that Herbology had been canceled. So Harry went to the library to study and do some work. At the table next to his were a bunch of Hufflepuffs, including Justin Finch-Fletchley. Harry worked quietly for a long time, the whole time also aware that the Hufflepuffs were talking quietly. It annoyed him mildly, but he ignored it.

Eventually, though, Justin came over and stood there like he wanted to say something. Harry looked up at him.

“Hi, Justin.”

“Hi Harry. Er... I wanted to thank you for saving me from that snake, last night. Even if you did rescue it as well. But you had a point, it's just an animal. And that spell of Lockhart's made it angry. Anyway, thanks,” he finished a little lamely, holding his hand out.

Taking and shaking the boy's hand, Harry said, “No problem.”

Another boy came over, holding out a hand and looking pompous. “Ernie McMillain,” he said. “That was an impressive bit of spellwork last night. Second year, and you not only did a stunning spell, but did it non-verbally, too! Stunning spell is a fourth-year spell. And the teachers don't start teaching non-verbal spells until sixth year.”

“Really? Well I knew about the stunning spell being advanced; I checked out some copies of the later-year spellbooks and read ahead for the stunning spell. Figured it would come in handy, what with You-Know-Who having been after me last year, and now this Chamber of Secrets business.

“As to the non-verbal spell, well...” he looked uncomfortable. “I didn't even know if it was possible, but that snake just appearing all of a sudden struck me dumb, and I just reacted without thinking. It's a bloody miracle it worked at all. I've tried a few other non-verbal spells since then, and nothing's happened.” This was true; he'd tried some last night before bed, and nothing had happened. “So it was a fluke.”

“Still impressive, though.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

Justin smiled, then looked like he'd suddenly remembered something. “Oh, damn. I left my Charms book in my dormitory, I'd better go get it now, it'll take ages to get there and then to Charms. Well thanks again, Harry.”

“You're welcome, Justin.”

Justin waved as he left the library, and the other Hufflepuffs all sat back down to study again. But after a couple minutes, something occurred to him. Harry turned to them in concern.

“Should he be going out alone with the Chamber of Secrets monster on the loose?”

They all looked in horror at him, nodding fervently. So he and they grabbed their things and rushed out after Justin. But it was too late; they found him in a corridor, petrified. Even more alarming, Nearly-Headless Nick was petrified as well, and had turned pitch black, and smoky.

All the nervous talking and scared noises that broke out at this sight must have attracted Peeves, because he showed up, saw the scene, and started screaming at the top of his voice, “ATTACK! ATTACK! ANOTHER ATTACK! NO MORTAL OR GHOST IS SAFE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! ATTAAAACK!”

Crash — crash — crash — door after door flew open along the corridor and people flooded out from classes that were in session. Harry and the Hufflepuffs gathered around Justin to keep him from being stepped on by the others, but some people managed to have the unsettling experience of standing inside Nearly-Headless Nick.

McGonagall made a loud crack from her wand for attention, and organized the students so Justin could be taken to the Hospital Wing, while one of the students was tasked with wafting Nearly-Headless Nick there with a fan.

With that done, she turned to Harry and the Hufflepuffs. “Did any of you witness the attack?” she asked hopefully.

“No Professor,” said Ernie. “Justin had gone to get his Charms book from his dorm, as he'd forgotten it. He was barely gone for three minutes when we rushed to get our things together and go after him...” he looked distraught. “I should have just left my stuff and rushed out! This is all my fault!”

Several others began saying things to the same effect, but McGonagall made more noise for attention.

“Now, boys and girls, don't lose your heads. This isn't your fault. If you'd left your things behind, you might've gotten attacked as well, and one of you might have died. So don't blame yourselves, any of you.”

She then noticed Harry. “Mr. Potter? Where were you during this?” Harry gulped, remembering how he'd been found by the first attack site.

“Harry was with us, Professor,” Ernie said. “He was the one who said he didn't think it was safe for Justin to go out alone.”

“Yes,” Hannah Abbot agreed. “And before that, Harry was studying at the table next to ours, then Justin was talking with him before he took off.”

“Oh. Well that's good. I didn't think Mr. Potter was to blame, and this seems to prove that. If Harry was with you the whole time, he could not possibly be responsible. I just wish we knew who was.”

Harry once more considered telling one of the teachers about the voice he'd heard before the first attack, but once again, he was too afraid to reveal such a hated and feared gift to anyone in a position of power, even if it might save lives. He knew it was kind of cowardly, but hey, he was only 12 years old, and who knew what the consequences of teachers having that information might be in the years to come? So, angry at himself, he continued to keep his silence.

 

~

 

This new, double attack had everyone scared, especially with what happened to Nick. What could do that to a ghost, after all? It was a real mystery, and a terrifying one at that. Harry was starting to wonder why the school wasn't being evacuated, given the circumstances. Granted, it was a bit different from his old schools, not the least of which reasons was it was a boarding school, but still... he wondered if the reason for the school still being open was some cultural difference of the wizarding world.

As Christmas approached, very few people were signing up to stay at the castle over the break; just Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle. It was suspicious behavior from Malfoy; his parents doted on him, so why was he staying? But it was useful, since the potion wouldn't be ready until Christmas.

The day before everyone left for home, Harry was talking with Antigone, Ron, and Hermione in the MAC classroom. He was telling Antigone about the Polyjuice Potion and their theory.

“Ah, Polyjuice Potion. You got the bits of whoever you're changing into?”

“What?” Ron exclaimed. “I'm drinking nothing with Crabbe's toenails in it!”

“You could pluck out a few hairs,” Antigone pointed out.

“Well that's better, I guess.”

“As a matter of fact,” Hermione said, holding a vial of hair up, “I have mine. Millicent Bulstrode. Got it off her robes at the dueling club the other day, when she was trying to strangle me.”

Antigone winced. “I wouldn't use that if I were you. Millicent has a cat in her dorm. Sheds all over everything, it does.”

“Oh,” Hermione said, tossing it in her bag. “Yeah, that would be bad.”

“Why? What would happen if you tried cat hair?”

“She'd look like a were-cat or something. It would take weeks for a Healer to undo that damage.”

Ron snickered. “I wouldn't mind seeing that, but I guess it's just as well.”

Antigone sighed. “I'd offer one of my hairs, or Angela's, or Danzia's, but we're known associates of yours, so Malfoy would never open up around us. Anyway, Harry, the newest password is,” she made a face, “
pure-blood.

They raised their eyebrows at her.

“Don't look at me like that, I sure as Hell didn't pick it. Dunno who did, in fact.”

She then spent some time drawing them a map of how to get to the Slytherin common room. It was a very good map, very detailed.

“Do you have a plan for getting Crabbe and Goyle's hairs?”

“Yes,” Hermione said. “They're gluttons and idiots, they'll eat anything they find. So I plan to make some muffins with sleeping draught in them, and have these two float them somewhere for the lumps to find them.”

“Excellent plan. I can attest to their stupidity. Though they are clever in their own way, on some things. Nothing terribly useful for Hogwarts, though, best I can tell.”

A small sound caught Harry's attention, and he looked up. Luna was in the doorway, looking as though she'd wandered in by accident.

“Hi Luna!”

Antigone giggled and gave Ron a significant look, but he ignored her. Harry got up and went over to Luna.

“Well I might as well go,” Antigone said. “Let those two have some more time together before the break, since Harry's not leaving but she is.”

 

~

 

Though they'd been a bit worried that something might go wrong, when the day finally came to do the plan, everything went smoothly. Harry and Ron floated the muffins in the middle of the hall, and the two gluttonous idiots snatched them up, ate them right there, and passed out at once. They then took the larger boys' shoes, and went back to Myrtle's bathroom with them and a pair of larger uniforms to change into.

Hermione ladled out two doses of the potion, and Harry and Ron put their bits of Crabbe and Goyle in their potions, which hissed, frothed, and changed color. Crabbe's looked like boogers, while Goyle's looked like dark, murky brown mud.

Going into separate stalls to change out of their clothes and transform into Crabbe and Goyle, they drank their potions. Harry's tasted like overcooked cabbage. After some painful moments, their skin boiling and bubbling and their bodies aching as they grew in height and mass, finally it was over, and Harry looked into the mirror. He had to take his glasses off and put them in his pocket, since Goyle didn't need glasses. Pulling Goyle's shoes on, he then left the stall.

Hermione sighed, wishing them well as they left.

 

Antigone's map was a huge help, they found the place in short order and said the password, going through the hole in the wall that opened up. When they walked in, Draco looked up.

“Were you two in the Great Hall all this time? I was just about to go looking for you. I know we're all pure-bloods, but with no idea who the Heir is, it doesn't hurt to be too careful.”

They both stared, dumbfounded, at him. This must have been a common thing for them, though, because Draco didn't react to it. “Don't you have any ideas?” Harry said, hearing Goyle's voice as he did.

“Of course I don't, Goyle, how many times do I have to tell you? Father hasn't told me anything about the last time it was opened, as I'm not supposed to know about that. I heard somebody actually died that time, though.”

Despite all the time he'd been spending with Draco, Harry was surprised to hear a tone of slight sadness in the blond boy's words. As though sensing Harry's thoughts, Draco glared at him.

“I know what you're going to say, Goyle, and I don't care. Father's never had anything to do with Muggles, and I have, thanks to Potter. I'm not going to stop going to Potter's MAC meetings just because you don't like it. I'm not my father. If you don't like it, you can shove it up your backside. And that goes for you, too, Crabbe. You don't have to share my opinions, god knows you're too thick to get anything useful out of MAC, but what does it matter? The Dark Lord is dead. And I don't know if you've noticed or not, but the wizarding world isn't doing too well either. I reckon we could use some fresh blood. I'd rather we all became mudbloods than go extinct. Nobody would be around to keep the Muggles ignorant of magic if that happened, and even though they're not as bad as I thought they were, god only knows what would happen if they suddenly came face to face with unicorns or dragons or whatever. Probably hunt them to extinction.”

When they still didn't say anything, he continued. “Just face it, our parents are wrong. Not having had any real experience of Muggles, they make assumptions, rumors about them spread, and it's all just ignorance and misinformation. Then people like the Dark Lord feed on all that nonsense as a tool to get power.” He sighed. “You don't like it when people hate on us Slytherins just because they're ignorant of what we're really like, so I'd think you two would've thought at least a little about how Muggleborns feel.”

Ron opened his mouth to speak, and once more Draco interrupted. “Yeah, Crabbe, I know Salazar Slytherin didn't like Muggles or Muggleborns. But that was back when Muggles were killing witches and wizards, so his feelings made sense for the time. But that was hundreds of years ago, and a lot's changed since then. They've gotten a lot smarter, for one, thanks to their science. You know they actually make movies about magic now? Movies where magic is shown in a positive light, no less. I reckon most of them would be fine living with wizards and witches, these days.”

Finally recovering his wits, Harry asked, “D’you know if the person who opened the Chamber last time was caught?”

“Oh, yeah … whoever it was was expelled,” said Malfoy. “They’re probably still in Azkaban.”

“Azkaban?” said Harry, puzzled.

“Azkaban — the wizard prison, Goyle,” said Malfoy, looking at him in disbelief. “Honestly, if you were any slower, you’d be going backward.”

“Oh.”

“Anyway, you two, I'm going to bed now.”

With that, Draco left and went up the stairs, leaving the two of them to be silently impressed.

 

“You know, it's a real shame the real Crabbe and Goyle didn't hear all that,” Hermione said after they told her all about what Draco had said. “It would be good for them to hear it, even if they didn't listen.”

“I dunno, I kind of got the impression he was repeating things he's said before.”

“Ah well,” she said. “They're thick enough that repetition might be needed to get the message through to their brains.”

“I doubt that'd help,” Ron said.

That night, Harry lay in bed thinking about Draco's words, feeling warm inside that he had been right about Draco, and even more warm that he was the reason for the blond boy's change of heart. He had very happy dreams that night.

 

 

 

 

Note one: Since the Room of Requirement cannot make food, even for animals, the rats the room provided for Cleo had been loose in the castle, until the Room summoned them, which is why they looked confused. Just wild rats were used, though; no pets.

 



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