Thanks to Thobeobo for beta-reading this chapter.

I do NOT own Harry Potter or its universe. All rights go to JK Rowling and her publisher.


Chapter 9

New Friends

It was strange, being back at Hogwarts. For the first time in his life, he had had an enjoyable summer, and he was upset that it was over, even if he was excited to be learning magic once again.

Krios still wasn't used to having a new name and status, but he had noticed the advantages from the moment he set foot on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters the morning before. Eyes had followed his every step, recognizing him from the Daily Prophet article that announced his adoption.

Normally something like that would hardly warrant such attention, but as the named heir to the only remaining Noble and Most Ancient House, it was a special circumstance.

As he walked to the Great Hall for breakfast, with Daphne at his side, Krios did his best to ignore the staring, whispering, and pointing that followed him. It was something he would have to get used to, and it wasn't like it was anything new—the same thing had happened a year ago when people realized that a Potter they hadn't known about was at Hogwarts.

"I hope this doesn't last long," Daphne muttered. "It's already annoying."

Krios bit back a grin.

"And here I thought you'd love to have devoted admirers," he commented lightly.

Daphne shot him an annoyed look. "If they were actually mine, perhaps I would."

"Oh, don't be crazy, Daphne. Of course they're yours—who else could they be looking at?"

She rolled her eyes.

They took their regular seats at the Slytherin table after entering the Great Hall: the corner farthest from the staff table, with their backs to the wall. They watched students file in after them as the morning drew on, talking and laughing with their friends and catching up after two months apart.

"So how was your summer?" Daphne asked, serving herself some toast and jam. "Looks like it was quite eventful, from what the Daily Prophet was saying."

Krios smiled, "It was the best I've ever had."

"I'm glad to hear it," Daphne said with a smile of her own.

"What about you?" Krios asked.

"Nothing quite as exciting as you," Daphne teased, "but we all had fun travelling."

"Where'd you go?"

Daphne's eyes sparkled as she launched into a story about it all. From what she told him, it sounded as if they had crossed most of Europe, and even parts of Asia. Krios didn't see how it was possible to do all that in a single summer, even with the speed of magical transportation, but apparently it was.

"Sounds like fun," he said when she finished.

"It was." Daphne accepted her schedule from Professor Snape and grimaced. "We've got History first."

Krios scowled at his breakfast. "That's not very nice."

"Not at all," she agreed.

"At least we've got Charms after," Krios said as he stood up.

Daphne rolled her eyes.

History of Magic was just as boring as they'd feared. How Professor Binns could make something as exciting as goblin rebellions so sleep-inducing was a magic all its own.

Things picked up in Charms, at least. Professor Flitwick had them practice every spell they had learnt last year to make sure they were ready to move on, and Krios earned five points for Slytherin by demonstrating that he could already cast the general counter-spell, Finite Incantatem. It was one that Bellatrix had hammered into his head because of how applicable it was with lower-level hexes and jinxes, which made it useful to know for duelling.

After Charms they met up with the sweaty, dirt-covered Gryffindors for Transfiguration, where they had to turn beetles into buttons. As per usual, Evan Potter and Hermione Granger were the first to complete the assignment, and Krios wasn't far behind. However, the frustration on Ron Weasley's face because of his failure to match his friends was enough to make Krios smile.

"Why've we got Defence this afternoon?" Krios groaned as they went to the Great Hall for lunch.

"Professor Lockhart's a very accomplished wizard," Daphne said. "It'll be an interesting lesson."

"But it's with the Gryffindors, Daphne."

She winced, "Right. Maybe not so great, then."

When lunch was finished and they were walking to the Defence classroom, Krios noticed that Draco was looking quite proud about something.

"What's got you so happy?" he asked, sidling up to him.

Draco grinned, "Got Lockhart to embarrass Potter for me."

"How'd you manage that?" Daphne asked incredulously.

"Potter's got a shadow with a camera this year," Draco sniggered. "All I had to do was shout for the courtyard to hear that Potter was giving out signed photos. Lockhart came along right about then and offered to make it a double portrait—and get this: they'd both sign it. Potter didn't look too happy."

Crabbe and Goyle, Draco's ever-present followers at Hogwarts, snickered and looked pleased with themselves even though they hadn't done anything.

"Well, let's hope the fun continues," Krios muttered.

When they reached the classroom, he didn't hesitate to take a seat at the very back. He waved for the others to fill in around him. Daphne sat in the seat beside him with a questioning look.

"Just wait," he said quietly, watching the door.

It wasn't long before Lockhart entered with Potter clasped to his side.

"There may well come a time when, like me, you'll need to keep a stack handy wherever you go," he was saying, "but I don't think you're quite there yet."

He gave a little chortle before clapping Potter's shoulder and walking off.

Potter started towards the back of the room, then glared at Krios when he noticed the seat was taken.

Krios smiled mockingly while Daphne shook with stifled giggles.

"How'd you know he'd want to come back here?" she asked as Potter stomped off.

"Because it's the farthest from Lockhart's desk," Krios whispered back. "If Draco was right about Potter not being happy with the photo stuff, then he'd want to get far away, wouldn't he?"

Daphne shook her head, smiling.

Once all of the Slytherins and Gryffindors were seated, Lockhart cleared his throat. He winked at them, holding up a copy of one of his books, his portrait on the front mimicking his real self.

"Me," he said unnecessarily. "Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin, Third Class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League, and five-time winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award but I don't talk about that. I didn't get rid of the Bandon Banshee by smiling at her!"

Krios and Daphne exchanged exasperated glances.

"I'm starting to regret what I said earlier," she whispered.

"I see you've all bought a complete set of my books," Lockhart went on with a bright smile. "Well done, well done. I thought we'd start today with a little quiz—oh, nothing to worry about," he added, mistaking Potter's annoyed look for one of worry, "it's just to check how well you understand them."

When he finished handing out the test papers, he said, "You have thirty minutes. Start… now!"

Krios looked down at his test and gaped.

"This is ridiculous," Daphne muttered, staring at hers in disbelief.

"'What is Gilderoy Lockhart's favourite colour?'" Krios read, speaking in an undertone. "D'you think I'd get points taken off if I said he likes a dark red like the blood of his enemies? Or maybe a wonderful Avada Kedavra green?"

Daphne snorted. "It's so stupid you'd probably get points just for trying."

"Assuming I don't get dragged to the headmaster's office for knowing what an Unforgivable looks like."

"True," she said, grinning.

Krios could tell she was curious to know that answer herself, but he was glad she didn't ask. He wasn't much in the mood to tell her that Bellatrix was very thorough in demonstrating curses.

Lockhart collected their tests and went through them. He was very disappointed no one but Granger remembered that his favourite colour was lilac.

"Damn, I was so close," Krios muttered.

Daphne hid her mouth behind her hand as her shoulders shook with suppressed laughter.

When he got to the end, Granger was the only one to receive full marks, to no one's surprise.

"And now, to business," Lockhart declared.

He lifted a large covered cage onto his desk.

"Now — be warned! It is my job to arm you against the foulest creatures known to wizardkind! You may find yourselves facing your worst fears in this room. Know only that no harm can befall you whilst I am here. All I ask is that you remain calm."

Krios and Daphne glanced at each other again.

"I must ask you not to scream," Lockhart said quietly. "It might provoke them!"

He whipped the cover off the cage. The creatures he revealed were small—only about eight inches high—with pointed faces and shrill, squeaky voices. They rocketed around the cage, rattling the bars and sticking out their tongues or making bizarre faces at those nearest them.

"Freshly caught Cornish pixies!"

A few of the Gryffindors and Slytherins snorted or hastily stifled laughter. Krios, unimpressed, raised his brow, wondering if Lockhart was serious.

"They're not very, well, dangerous, are they?" Seamus Finnigan asked, choking.

"Don't be so sure!" Lockhart waggled a finger. "Devilish, trickly little blighters they can be!"

He looked around the room, checking to be sure they were all paying attention.

"Let's see what you make of them!"

And he opened the cage.

The pixies shot in every direction. Two of them seized Neville Longbottom by the ears and lifted him into the air, while others shot through the window at the back of the room, spraying the Slytherins with broken glass, and the rest wrecked everything else.

Krios's wand slipped into his hand, and he cried, "Protego!"

His Shield Charm sprung to life just in time to protect him and Daphne from charging pixies, but it wasn't large enough to cover any of the others. They were able to watch in safety as ink bottles were dumped on the class, books and parchments were shredded, pictures were torn from the walls, and all sorts of damage was wrought upon the room.

Krios and Daphne couldn't help but snicker as Longbottom swung from the chandelier above them.

"Come, now," Lockhart shouted, "round them up, they're only pixies!"

At that precise moment, one of the pixies seized his wand and threw it out the window.

Krios missed smart, competent Professor Quirrell.

Lockhart dived under his own desk as the chandelier gave way, and it and Longbottom fell.

Everyone rushed to the door when the bell rang, with Krios and Daphne slipping out before everyone else, shaking their heads at the ridiculousness they had just left.

"Well," Krios said airily as they walked, "that was fun."

"Where did you learn the Shield Charm?" Daphne asked quietly, so as to not be overheard. "It's supposed to be a very difficult spell."

"It is. I spent every day for the last three months practicing it."

Daphne gaped at him.

"Why?" she asked. "What's the point of spending so much time on one spell?"

"It's useful," Krios said, praying she didn't continue this conversation.

Daphne frowned.

"Do you think you could teach me?" she asked hesitantly.

"Maybe. It'll take a lot of time and effort, so we can try. I can't promise anything, though."

She nodded her understanding.

When classes were over for the day, they went to the library, claiming their usual seats. Krios was relieved to once more be in the silence and peace of his favourite place in the castle. It had been far too long since he was somewhere that wasn't constantly noisy—mostly because of Altair.

As much as he had come to enjoy being around her, she could be quite annoying.

"And… done," Daphne said, flourishing her quill.

"About time," Krios snarked. "I've been waiting for fifteen minutes."

"Not all of us can be Charms prodigies," Daphne retorted.

"You're right, some of us can't even cast a simple Severing Charm."

"There's no need to badmouth Goyle when he's not around," Daphne sniffed. "It's quite rude."

"You're right, I sincerely apologize for mistaking you with Goyle."

"You tosser!"

Krios grinned before moving on with his homework. He had promised Regulus he would do his best to bring up his marks for History of Magic and Astronomy this year, which meant he had a lot of work ahead of him. He could spend less time on Charms and Defence, knowing he was already far beyond what his classmates would be learning, thanks to Bellatrix for the latter and his own personal studies for both. He considered himself fortunate that they both came easily to him.

He was distracted when a couple Slytherins dropped into the seats across from him and Daphne. He recognized them, having sat at the table beside them all last year in Potions.

"Hello," he said warily.

"Greetings," Hestia Carrow replied, grinning, as her twin sister, Flora, said, "Good afternoon."

They were both very tall—probably the tallest students in their year, even compared to Crabbe and Goyle or Dean Thomas from Gryffindor—with blonde hair and pale skin. Identical sets of eyes stared back at him, but where Hestia's were full of mirth, Flora's were focused and determined.

Krios turned his attention back to his homework. He repressed a grin when he saw them glance at each other out of the top of his vision. Daphne's knee bumped his leg beneath the table—he assumed because she was amused, considering she didn't hit him harder.

"Need any help?" Hestia asked.

When Krios looked up, he saw that she was watching him.

"We're both quite good with History," she added, smiling.

Krios recalled that quite well. Despite not being two of the better students in their year, the Carrow sisters had still scored higher than everyone but Granger and a couple Ravenclaws in History of Magic.

With that in mind, he accepted the offer. Hestia moved her chair around the table to sit beside him, while Flora did the same with Daphne. Working together, it only took them a little more than half an hour to get through the entirety of their assignment. Krios hadn't really enjoyed learning about magical history before, but with Flora and Hestia's guidance, it was a fun and productive time.

"We'll have to do this again sometime," Hestia said as she stood up and gathered her book. She smiled at Krios before walking away.

Flora gave him a stiff nod, then followed.

"They want something," Daphne remarked.

"They do," Krios agreed, "but what?"

She looked at him. "You don't think it's obvious?"

"I have ideas," Krios said. "Power, influence, wealth—the typical stuff everyone wants."

"It can't be a coincidence that they approach the new heir to House Black on the first day of school, offer to help you in the class you scored lowest in last year, then leave like that."

Krios frowned, "We'll have to be careful."

Daphne snorted.

"No, we don't." She grinned, "You do."

He glared at her.

The next day, Krios and Daphne were back at the library, though this time for Potions. Daphne was growing increasingly annoyed by how quickly he was moving through his essay, like usual, and Krios was doing his best to help her catch up.

However, Daphne really wasn't good at Potions.

"My sister's the one who likes this stuff," she said in her defence. "I prefer Transfiguration."

"Speak of the devil," Altair grinned, dropping into the seat across from Krios as another Slytherin first-year sat down beside her.

The girl looked familiar. Her black hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and she wore a white headband. She was a little taller than Altair, but not by much, with pale skin and the same blue eyes as Daphne.

"Krios, this is my sister, Astoria," Daphne said. "Astoria, this is Krios Black."

Astoria smiled at him, "Nice to meet you."

"You too," Krios returned.

"What're you doing here?" Daphne asked them.

"We need some help with our homework for Transfiguration," Altair said, smiling sweetly at Daphne.

Krios snorted. So that was why they'd come over.

"Just because Transfiguration's my best doesn't mean I'm better than him," Daphne pointed out, jabbing her thumb at Krios.

"You're not far behind," he reminded her, grinning. "I'm sure you can help them just fine."

"Traitor," she muttered. Daphne turned her attention to their sisters. "What're you working on?"

Krios leant back to watch as the three lost themselves in discussion. His eyes always returned to the same person, though: Astoria. He couldn't place why she looked so familiar, and it was bugging him.

It wasn't until they had all finished and were heading down to dinner that he realized the answer.

Astoria Greengrass was the girl he'd seen in the mirror at Christmas.

Giving her a sidelong glance, he couldn't help but wonder what that meant. There was no doubt that she had some importance in his life, though Krios had no idea what.

Who was she, and why did she appear in the mirror?

Hogwarts was so amazing! The moving stairs, the portraits along almost every wall, the splendor of the massive Great Hall, the ghosts that floated everywhere, the beautiful view from any window, how fresh the air was; all of it created a smile that didn't seem like it would ever go away.

Or so Altair hoped, anyway.

When she got to Herbology on Thursday, she sat with Astoria and another Slytherin, Zoe Accrington, who was wrinkling her nose at all the dirt and soil around them. Altair wasn't much in the mood to get so filthy, either, but it was worth it to learn about the different plants and their uses.

Besides, it wasn't as if she would have to do all of this outside class.

The fourth person to join them was one of the Ravenclaw girls. Her dirty-blonde hair hung loosely to her waist, and Altair spotted strange earrings that looked like plums when she brushed a stray strand out of her face. A necklace of butterbeer corks hung around her neck, and her wand was held in place over her left ear, which Altair thought was rather unsafe, but she didn't say anything. The girl looked at them with almost vacant protuberant silver eyes.

"Hello," the girl said in an airy voice.

When it didn't seem the other two were going to speak, Altair said, "Um, hello."

Zoe was looking at the girl as if she had never seen anything like her, but Astoria ignored her entirely.

"All right, everybody," Professor Sprout said cheerfully. "Welcome to Herbology. We'll be starting off the year with rather simple plants: moly and asphodel."

The potted flowers before them both had startlingly white petals, but where the asphodels had dark green leaves and stems, the molies were black.

"Both of these are ingredients in Wiggenweld Potions," Professor Sprout explained. "Once they're ready, I'll be sending them up to Madam Pomfrey for her supply, and Professor Snape for his lessons later on this year—I think you'll have some fun with that one," she added happily.

Professor Sprout set them to work clipping the petals and leaves on the flowers that were already grown and ready to be used, or taking care of the ones that were still budding. Altair and Astoria talked quietly as they worked, with an occasional comment from Zoe, but the Ravenclaw girl didn't say a word unless she was specifically spoken to.

Something that none of the girls made much attempt to do.

Altair wasn't sure why, really. The girl seemed fine, and obviously quite smart, since she was doing her work alone without issue or need of any help, but there was something about her that was just… off.

When the lesson was over, Altair and Astoria split off from the other Slytherins.

"What do you think about that Ravenclaw girl?" Altair asked quietly.

"She's a bit strange," Astoria said, "but Daphne says a lot of people are here. It's not like what we've seen growing up. It's not all nobles and purebloods."

Altair nodded, understanding. While she and Astoria hadn't met before they were sorted into Slytherin and sat together for the start-of-term feast, they had both grown up as daughters of a Noble House, which meant they were accustomed to standards that Hogwarts wouldn't uphold. Krios had made it very clear to her just how differently other people lived.

She had taken a lot of amusement from his surprise at things she considered basic, or even boring.

"Do you know her name?"

Astoria shook her head. "No, why?"

Altair shrugged. If she was honest with herself, she didn't know why the Ravenclaw had caught her attention. Perhaps it was how strange she was to the people she, Altair, had grown up around, or maybe it was just that a Ravenclaw had willingly joined Slytherins.

"We've got Lockhart next," Astoria groaned.

"Oh, yay," Altair said, wincing. "This should be interesting."

Hearing about Krios's first lesson, she wasn't very excited to meet the famous wizard they had for a professor this year. He may have been talented, if she ignored how he had had his wand stolen by tiny pixies, but he didn't seem like a good teacher.

Astoria sighed, "Come on, we don't want to be late."

Letting out a sigh of her own, Altair readjusted her bag and quickened her pace.

It wasn't until Friday afternoon that she saw the Ravenclaw girl again. Altair was heading to the library to start working on her Potions homework, wondering how difficult it would be to convince Krios to help her with it, when she saw the girl skipping along and humming.

"Hello," the girl said, coming to a stop in front of Altair. She tilted her head, looking somewhere just over Altair's shoulder with deep concentration. "You look like you have a nasty wrackspurt infestation."

Altair blinked.

"Er, pardon?"

"Wrackspurts," the girl said, still looking over Altair's shoulder. "They're invisible creatures that float in your ears and make your brain go fuzzy."

"Right," Altair murmured slowly. This was perhaps the strangest conversation she had ever had with anyone, which, considering how few people she had spoken to in her life, wasn't very surprising. It didn't make it any easier to understand, though.

"You can get rid of them by thinking positive thoughts," the girl went on, either oblivious or uncaring to Altair's growing confusion. "You can also see them with Spectrespecs."

"With what?"

"Spectrespecs," the girl repeated. "They're quite rare to get, but Daddy's working on a way to mass-produce them, though, so his readers can all have a pair for themselves."

"Readers?" Altair asked, feeling more bewildered the longer this girl kept talking.

"Of The Quibbler, of course. Daddy writes it."

Finally, something Altair recognized. Bellatrix had spent years showing them copies of the tabloid so she could laugh about it and mock all the weird, irrational things Xenophilius Lovegood wrote about. It was one of her favourite ways to belittle those of lesser standing, though Altair had never understood exactly why it was so enjoyable to Bellatrix.

However, it explained why the mention of wrackspurts had been somewhat familiar.

"So you're a Lovegood, then?" Altair asked.

"Luna." The girl held out a hand, smiling.

Not wanting to seem impolite—it had been one of the firmest lessons her mother had taught her, growing up—Altair shook Luna's hand and shared her own name.

"I know who you are," Luna said, her eyes finally moving away from above Altair's shoulder. Her wide-eyed stare made Altair nervous, though. "You were under the Sorting Hat for a long time."

"It considered putting me in Ravenclaw," Altair admitted. While she had a fitting desire to learn and a suitable wit, the Sorting Hat had told her that her tendency to be sneaky and trick people into doing things that made her life easier was more fitting of Slytherin.

She would never tell Krios. He would remind her until the day he died.

When Luna didn't say anything, Altair shuffled her feet.

"I, er, need to go, then," she said after a moment. "Professor Snape gave us an essay in Potions."

"Oh, yes, about the Forgetfulness Potion—I did that yesterday." Luna frowned, "It was quite difficult."

Altair wasn't sure what made her do it, but before she could stop herself, she asked, "Do you think you could help me with it?"

Luna looked momentarily surprised. Her eyes somehow widened even more, but it only lasted for a brief second before she was back to her calm, almost impassive demeanor.

"I guess I could, yes," she said.

When Luna didn't move to join her, Altair asked, "Will you? Please?"

A bright smile lit up Luna's face.

"I'd love to," she said. "It's quite the interesting potion, making someone forget something. Apparently it's possible to brew one as strong as a Memory Charm."

"Really?" Altair asked. That hadn't been noted in their book.

Luna nodded, then began sharing so many obscure facts about the Forgetfulness Potion that Altair felt she could get a perfect score with extra credit on her essay by including only a fraction of them.

Any thoughts of the Lovegoods being outcasts in magical society for their outlandish views were pushed from Altair's thoughts as they walked, all concerns of what her family would say if they knew of her associating with Luna were far from mind. None of it mattered right now, because Altair was enjoying this conversation far more than she had any other this week.

And besides, what did it matter, so long as she got the best score in her class on this essay?