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 24

Divides New & Old

A restless slumber filled with nightmares ended when Krios awoke and immediately rushed to his bathroom to empty his stomach. They had been worse than usual, sickening, tormenting. Instead of Tom Riddle laughing, it had been Regulus, with Altair beside him, both of them mocking Krios for being such a trusting, hopeful fool.

When he couldn't throw up anything more, only dry heaving, he sat back against the wall with a damp cloth on his forehead, trying to regain control of himself before he would have to face the others. If there was any sign he had had anything less than a restful night, they doubtlessly would question him.

That was the last thing he wanted right now.

Krios wasn't sure how much time passed before he felt strong enough to stand. He spent several minutes in front of his mirror, ensuring there was nothing to suggest he had gotten sick this morning.

It unnerved him how easy it was to hide the dark circles beneath his eyes.

"Morning," Nott yawned when Krios entered the common room.

"Morning," Krios replied, nodding at Daphne as she joined them.

She looked at him, scrutinizing for something he was determined not to let her see. He raised his brows, asking a question with a look alone, and she finally stopped, though he knew it wouldn't stop her from watching him the entire way to the Great Hall.

"Breakfast time," Daphne said, beckoning for them to follow her.

As they walked, she and Krios trailed behind Nott.

"You're pale," she whispered. "What's wrong?"

Krios almost swore under his breath.

"I'm fine, Daphne," he said. "Just bad dreams."

Her eyes softened. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it.

Krios took his usual seat on the corner of the Slytherin table, his back to the wall. Daphne quickly sat beside him before Nott could, so Nott shrugged and sat across from them. They were soon joined by the twins.

"Good morning, little sheep," Flora said, ruffling Krios's hair as she passed to sit beside Daphne.

"Sheep?" Krios repeated, scowling at her.

"Your name. It means sheep," she explained, then frowned. "Well, technically it's ram, but that's a male sheep, so." She shrugged with a smirk. "Sheep."

Hestia giggled behind her hand while Krios gaped at Flora.

But Daphne bit her lip and glanced at him.

"Black sheep," she said under her breath, so only he could hear.

Krios understood at once. He forced himself to appear unbothered.

Flora and Hestia appeared to not have noticed anything wrong, but Nott looked concerned. Daphne watched Krios carefully and grabbed his hand under the table, just as she had in the corridor, then gave it a gentle, reassuring squeeze, but didn't let go.

As they ate, Krios's thoughts didn't stray far from that moment. He had thought Bellatrix was trying to make him feel included in the Black family by naming him similarly to the rest of them because of its relation to stars and constellations. But all along it had only been a joke, making fun of him, a sign for all who knew his name's meaning that he would never truly belong with them.

It wasn't a surprising revelation, not in the least.

But it still hurt.

"Thank you," Daphne said, bringing him out of his thoughts. She was speaking to Professor Snape, who was handing out their schedules for this year.

He gave her a curt nod before turning to Krios, who wondered if he knew. If he had known all along that the Blacks didn't accept him into their family proper, only in name. If he was aware of the fact they were blocking his mail.

Krios looked down at his schedule and grimaced.

"Three classes with Gryffindors in one day?" Hestia said incredulously. "Double Potions all morning, then Transfiguration and Care of Magical Creatures this afternoon?"

"Great," Flora muttered.

"Well," Daphne said. She gave an admirable attempt at a bright smile. "Shall we?"

When they arrived at the dungeon classroom, Krios went straight to the back of the room. Daphne frowned as she took the seat next to him. "What's wrong?"

"I'll tell you later," he whispered, glancing around them. Daphne wasn't the only one confused with his abrupt change in seating; the only Slytherin who didn't seem to care was Blaise Zabini, and that was probably because he was talking to Draco.

Throughout the lesson, Krios pretended like nothing was bothering him. When Snape sent him a questioning look upon arriving, he only shrugged and smiled. He kept his head down and focused on brewing the assigned potion when the time came. He and Daphne had been partners for long enough now that they didn't need to speak while they worked, making a perfect Shrinking Solution.

"Granger," Krios called after they were dismissed for lunch. Daphne was the only Slytherin who had lingered behind with him.

Granger paused halfway down the corridor to turn and look back at him. Beside her, Potter and Weasley narrowed their eyes, but neither reached for their wands.

"I wanted to thank you," Krios said, ignoring the boys. "For yesterday, I mean."

"I'm not sure how I helped," Granger said slowly, "but you're welcome."

Krios nodded at her, then at Potter and Weasley, and set off down the hall while Daphne hurried to catch up to him. Before they could get too far, however, Potter shouted, "Nice hair, Black."

Krios smiled, but didn't look back.

"What was that about?" Daphne asked once they were alone in the hallway.

"I have nice hair."

She scowled at him without breaking stride. "Not that. What were you thanking Granger for? Looked to me like she upset you more than helped with anything."

Krios looked around them. They were still alone, but he didn't want to risk it, so he said, "I'll tell you later, after dinner. Meet me in my room so I can make sure we have privacy."

"Mr. Black!" Daphne gasped, putting a hand to her chest with sparkling eyes. "You could at least take me on a date before the bedroom!"

He ignored her.

"Transfiguration's after lunch, right?" he asked even though he knew the answer. Without waiting for a response, he continued, "I wonder what we'll be learning this year."

"I thought your thing was Charms," Daphne said.

"It's what I'm best at, yes," he agreed, "but I'm more interested in Transfiguration. It's one thing to throw a barrage of spells at an opponent in a duel. It's something else entirely to turn everything that surrounds you into a weapon, and some things that don't."

Krios couldn't see her, but he knew Daphne rolled her eyes.

"Of course it's the duelling aspect that you like," she muttered.

It turned out, as they learnt upon arriving at the Transfiguration classroom later on, Professor McGonagall was teaching them about the animagus transformation. She demonstrated the ability by turning into a cat—a tabby with spectacle markings around her eyes—and back, to which she received plenty of applause. Krios couldn't help but recall Hera telling him that James Potter was also one.

And so was Sirius Black, his newest professor.

When the lesson came to an end, Krios made a note to ask Professor McGonagall for more information on the process itself. If he had an animagus form, preferably something dangerous, well, there were several ways he could imagine it being helpful in achieving his ambitions. But for the moment, he and the other Slytherins had to get to Care of Magical Creatures.

"I hope that mad oaf Dumbledore hired doesn't do anything stupid," Draco said loudly, so that the group of Gryffindors trailing them would overhear. "It wouldn't surprise me, though. Do you remember the rumours that he had a dragon two years ago?"

"Shut up, Draco," Krios said, exasperated. He remembered those rumours, but they had been proven to be just that: rumours. Professor Dumbledore himself had addressed the students when classes were disrupted because of all the gossip.

But Draco ignored him. "Mark my words: Before class is over, someone's going to end up in the hospital wing. That oaf's going to bring out something dangerous and ruin his entire career."

Krios gritted his teeth. He knew well that Draco, courtesy of his father, was aware of the reason Hagrid had been expelled fifty years ago, but not even Hagrid would be foolish enough to bring an acromantula to a class full of inexperienced third-years.

"Draco," he said, injecting his voice with as much calm as he could muster, "if you don't shut the hell up, I'll jinx you so hard you spend the night with Madam Pomfrey."

Draco's eyes glinted with worry, just for a moment, before an arrogant smirk twisted his face.

"Go ahead. I'll be sure to let everyone know that you used magic in the corridors. That's against the rules, isn't it?"

"When did I say I'd do it in the corridors?"

Draco blanched immediately. Daphne and the twins burst into laughter, and Nott grinned at Krios from where he walked as far from Draco as he could while still being a part of the group. Surprisingly, even Crabbe and Goyle snickered, though they kept quiet enough that Draco wouldn't notice.

Hagrid was holding lessons outside his hut on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. He waited at the door of his hut for the class to arrive, with his massive boarhound at his heels.

"C'mon, now, get a move on!" he called as they all approached. "Got a real treat for yeh today!"

A dark expression crossed Draco's face, but he, surprisingly, said nothing.

"Everyone here?" Hagrid asked, looking around and counting the students. With a satisfied nod, he beckoned them forward and said, "Right, follow me!"

He led the students around the edge of the trees and down a path. A few minutes later, they stood outside a paddock with nothing inside.

"Now, take out yer books," Hagrid told them, and they all pulled out their copies of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. "Chapter fourteen, all righ'? Righ' then, I'll go an' get the creatures."

He strode off into the forest and out of sight.

"Hippogriffs?" Daphne said when she got to chapter fourteen.

"This should be interesting," Hestia mused with a small smirk.

Squeals filled the air as Hagrid returned to them, holding a long chain that attached to leather collars on each of the dozen trotting hippogriffs that trailed him. The beasts were massive, easily the size of fully-grown horses—emphasized by the fact their bodies, legs, and tails actually were horses—with large eagle-like wings. The colours of their gleaming coats and feathers were different for each one.

"Beau'iful, aren' they?" Hagrid said happily, waving a hand at the hippogriffs.

"Very," Krios murmured, transfixed.

Hagrid rubbed his hands together, beaming. "So, if yeh wan' ter come a bit nearer…"

Krios stepped forward at once. What did he have to fear from creatures held by chains with a giant of a man between him and them? He was almost immediately followed by Potter, who was trailed, cautiously, by Granger and Weasley.

Hagrid spared them all another beaming smile before beginning his lecture.

"Firs' thing yeh gotta know abou' hippogriffs is they're proud. Easily offended, don't ever insult one, 'cause it might be the last thing yeh do."

Krios noticed, out of the corner of his eye, that Draco wasn't listening. He was whispering to Crabbe and Goyle. When it looked like Potter would say something to stop them, however, Krios shook his head with a quick wink and a smirk.

Potter frowned, but remained quiet.

Hagrid gave some more instructions on how to treat hippogriffs before asking for volunteers, though what they would be volunteering for, he had, in his enthusiasm, forgotten to explain. Most of the class stepped away at once, eyeing the way the hippogriffs tossed their heads and flexed their wings.

But, with a shrug, Krios stepped forward and climbed over the paddock fence. "Sure, I'll do it."

Behind him, a couple of Gryffindor girls gasped, and one whispered, "Oh, no."

"Good man," Hagrid said, looking relieved. "Let's see how yeh get on with Buckbeak."

He untied one of the chains, at which point Krios started to feel more nervous about this, and slipped the leather collar off the stormy grey hippogriff. Hagrid guided the hippogriff away from the others, closer to the students, causing a wave of gasps to ripple behind Krios.

"Easy now," Hagrid said quietly. "Yeh've got eye contact, now try not ter blink—they won't trust yeh if yeh blink too much."

Krios's eyes watered almost immediately, but he fought the urge to shut them. Remembering what Hagrid had told them in the lecture, he slowly bowed, keeping his eyes locked on Buckbeak's. He averted his gaze for only a brief moment to lower his head before meeting the hippogriff's gaze again.

Buckbeak stared for a moment, but just when Hagrid started to tell Krios to back up, the hippogriff bent his scaly front knees and sank into a bow.

"Well done!" Hagrid boomed, clapping. "Well done! Yeh can touch him now. Go on, pat his beak!"

It would have been preferable to move away, but Krios took a deep breath and slowly moved toward the hippogriff. He reached out and patted the beak, and Buckbeak lazily closed his eyes, enjoying it. Krios couldn't help but smile; this was incredible.

Applause broke out behind him. Daphne and Hestia were grinning. The look in Draco's eyes, however, would have caused Krios concern if he was in a better mood.

"I reckon he might let yeh ride him, if yeh want," Hagrid said, stepping up beside Krios and Buckbeak.

Krios forced a smile. "Not this time, sorry."

Hagrid shrugged. He looked like he couldn't understand why someone would say no to riding on the back of a hippogriff, but thankfully said nothing about it. He turned to the rest of the class and asked, "Who else wants to pat one?"

Flora and Potter stepped forward first, soon followed by the rest. Hagrid untied the other hippogriffs one by one and spread them out. Krios continued patting Buckbeak while the others chose whichever hippogriff they wanted. Daphne stepped up to his side after bowing, and receiving a bow in return, and smiled as she patted Buckbeak's feathers.

Buckbeak seemed to relish the attention.

"Check it out," Krios said quietly, gesturing with a nod. Daphne followed his gaze, grinning when she spotted Draco approaching an inky black hippogriff with his usual arrogant strut.

"You're not so dangerous at all," Draco said to the hippogriff. "Are you, you great ugly brute?"

Twin smirks appeared on Krios and Daphne's faces as the hippogriff reared and lashed out, and Draco fell to the ground with a high-pitched scream. Hagrid was there in a flash, wrestling the hippogriff back into a leather collar before turning to Draco, who was curled in the grass with a bloody arm.

"Serves the git right," Krios muttered.

"You knew that would happen, then?" Granger asked from behind him. She, Potter, and Weasley, were approaching Hagrid, as if to help, but paused. "You let him get hurt?"

"Yep," Krios said, unrepentant.

Granger was aghast. "Why?"

"Because he annoyed me," Krios replied with a shrug. He truly didn't care how awful that sounded, not when it was Draco who had been hurt. "Been annoying me for months—two years, really."

Potter stepped forward, his face flushed and his fists clenched. "He's just going to get Hagrid in trouble now, though!" he growled. "He's going to go whine to his dad and—"

"And nothing," Krios interrupted. "Too many witnesses saw him fuck up because he chose not to listen to the professor. If he tries anything, it makes him look bad, not Hagrid."

"I don't think Lucius Malfoy's the kind of wizard to care about that," Weasley muttered darkly.

"Which is why you have to wait for the proper moment." Krios smiled. "Like when dear old daddy shows up to try and figure out why his son and heir is in the hospital wing." He pointed over his shoulder, where Hagrid was hurrying to the gate with Draco in his massive arms. "If someone points out the truth when staff are close by, Lucius won't be able to get away with anything."

Granger was still frowning, but Potter and Weasley sported gleeful grins. The two of them scampered off, probably to share what they'd learnt with the other Gryffindors. But Granger stayed behind, biting her lip and shuffling her feet.

"Did he really deserve that, though?" she blurted.

Krios's lip curled. "I'm not done with him yet. He's… said some things he shouldn't have."

Realization flashed in Granger's eyes. She definitely didn't know the full extent, but she was intelligent enough that she could probably make some close guesses, given the right information.

Krios easily suppressed the sudden urge to glance at Nott.

"See you later, Granger," he said, turning around to walk away.

"Hermione," she said, rushing her words out. "Call me Hermione."

He paused to look back at her, frowning.

"I know we're not friends," she said, then licked her lips, "but I don't want to treat you like Malfoy, and I don't want you to treat me like he does. I know you wouldn't ever call me a mudblood," she added hurriedly when he glared at her. "You're not that kind of person, especially considering, well…" She gave a helpless shrug. "I just think that—" She cut herself off, biting her lip again.

When it didn't look like she would finish that thought, Krios said, "See you around, then… Hermione."

Hermione smiled as he turned his back on her.

"That was weird," Daphne murmured when they were far enough to not be overheard.

Krios agreed, but he only said, "I'm going to the hospital wing to make sure Draco doesn't get away with anything stupid."

"Have fun," Daphne replied cheerily before rushing off to join Flora and Hestia.

When he arrived at the hospital wing, Krios found the perfect group already present: Lucius Malfoy standing beside a bed, where Draco lay moaning as Madam Pomfrey tended to him, and Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Snape. They looked up at his entrance, and while Lucius and Snape both appeared confused, Professor Dumbledore's eyes twinkled.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Black," he said pleasantly.

"Good afternoon, sir," Krios replied in a similar tone. "I just wanted to check on Draco. It looked like he had quite the scratch when Professor Hagrid escorted him up here."

"He does indeed," Lucius said before anyone else could speak. His tone was somehow both cold and respectful, conveying his anger without a specific direction.

"Well, I'm sure Madam Pomfrey will have him fixed up in a few moments." Krios smiled when Lucius's eyebrow twitched. "After all, she is very experienced and capable. I don't doubt she'll have Draco all patched up without so much as a scratch before dinner is ready to be served."

"I'm almost done," Madam Pomfrey cut in. "Thankfully, the hippogriff's talons didn't go deep enough to break the bone. A couple sips of Blood Replenishing Potion and Mr. Malfoy will be cleared to leave."

Lucius gritted his teeth, but his voice was steady when he said, "It is fortunate that my son did not come to further harm. However, I must confess my concerns for the other students."

"What concerns might those be?" Professor McGonagall asked, her lips pressed into a thin line.

"If a student can be harmed in the first lesson, why, clearly the creatures were too dangerous to be introduced so soon. How can parents be guaranteed their children will not be harmed or, worse, lose their lives while under the… careful instruction of the Care of Magical Creatures professor?"

Professor Dumbledore's eyes hardened, though his smile remained and his tone was as pleasant as always as he said, "Hagrid has my full confidence in keeping the students safe."

"And mine," Krios said before Lucius could retort and continue their pointless battle of words. Lucius turned a furious gaze on him, but Professor Dumbledore's eyes twinkled again, which gave him the courage to continue. "After all, it's not Professor Hagrid's fault Draco wasn't listening."

Lucius froze. "What?"

Draco's face, already pale from blood loss, somehow grew whiter.

Professor McGonagall looked as if she was fighting not to smile.

Krios frowned, forcing as much innocence into the expression as he could as he looked at Lucius.

"Draco wasn't listening to the professor," he explained. "I mean, I would have said something during the lesson, but I didn't want to interrupt and ruin the experience for the other students. They were all so fascinated to be learning about hippogriffs, captivated by Professor Hagrid's every word. Hippogriffs truly are wonderful creatures, aren't they?

"Well," Krios continued, frowning again, "so long as you don't insult them, anyway—that's what Professor Hagrid told us right from the start."

He suppressed a smirk as his gaze landed on Draco, who silently pleaded with him to stop talking.

Naturally, Krios ignored him.

"It was when this was being instructed that Draco wasn't listening."

Lucius closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then let it out slowly as he turned to face his son.

Professor McGonagall and Snape looked just as furious.

"You insulted… a hippogriff, Draco?" Lucius's voice trembled in his anger.

Krios gathered that Draco had led them to believe it was a random, unprovoked attack.

"Minerva, please let Hagrid know that this problem is no fault of his," Professor Dumbledore said. He sounded so disappointed that Draco flinched.

Professor McGonagall nodded at Professor Dumbledore, glared at Draco with a promise of several detentions in his future, then swept from the hospital wing to find Hagrid.

Krios grinned at Professor Dumbledore before slipping out after her.

He spent the rest of the time until dinner in the library with Daphne and the twins, starting their homework on animagi. Flora happened to know a suspiciously great amount about both the process and how the transfiguration itself worked. When asked, however, all she would say is, "I heard about it last year and thought it was interesting." Then she shrugged and returned to doing her work.

After dinner, they all went back to the Slytherin common room together, at which point Krios made an excuse to disappear into his bedroom. He only had to wait a few minutes before Daphne slipped inside and fixed him with a stare that demanded answers.

He smiled and let the mask fall. He could trust Daphne with this.

So he explained everything that he had figured out on the train, on top of what he realized when she mentioned that his adopted name was almost literally 'Black Sheep'. By the time he finished, he felt more exhausted than he had in months. He sagged on his bed and let his head fall back on the pillow.

"Well…" Daphne grimaced. "That sucks."

He couldn't help but laugh.

"Yeah," he said. "It really does."

"But it's like you said, you don't have any proof." She sat down next to him and set a hand on his shoulder, looking down at him with a worried frown. "What are you planning to do?"

He sighed. "I don't know. I was hoping you had an idea."

"I don't know much about those kinds of enchantments beyond the fact that they exist," she said. She seemed truly apologetic that she didn't, so he reached up and squeezed her hand with a smile. "All I do know is that a lot of the old families like to use those kinds of spells because it allows parents to filter the mail and keep their kids safe, since they can sort out what might be cursed and such. I've never heard of someone using them like this."

He was silent for a long time after that. Daphne sat by his side throughout it all, rubbing his shoulder with her thumb, a reassuring, comforting presence.

"I don't know what to do anymore, Daphne," he whispered. "It just feels like…" He swallowed thickly, fighting back tears. "Any progress I make towards a better life is always undone by something like this. When will it all just… stop and—"

When would it become easier?

Daphne stared at him for a moment, then jerked her head. "Scoot over."

He frowned, but moved over anyway.

She laid down next to him, so that they were side by side.

"Life isn't easy," she said softly. "That's what my mum says when I get upset. 'Life isn't easy, Daphne, but it isn't supposed to be. A part of life is proving that we're strong enough to deserve to live.'"

"But what if we're not strong enough?" he whispered.

Daphne turned her head to smile at him. "Then we know we can't do it alone, so we find someone to shoulder our burden with us. There's a reason there are so many people in this world. It's so we're not alone, no matter what troubles come our way, no matter how often it feels like we are. There will always be someone out there willing to help us through life's challenges."

She reached down to hold his hand in hers.

"I'm here for you, Krios," she promised. "You're my best friend."

"Harry." He smiled back at her. "Call me Harry."

Daphne rolled over to hug him. He felt her smile against his neck.

"I can do that," she mumbled happily. "Welcome back, Harry."

He smiled and wrapped his arms around her.

"Thank you, Daphne."

For the first time in a while, he felt hope for a better future.

AN: I hadn't planned on having him choose to be Harry instead of Krios this soon, but, well, I decided to change those plans (obviously). Naming him Krios wasn't ever going to be a permanent thing, not in this version or the original. I thought it fit better here than later on, though, so here it is.

Thanks to Mtk757 for their patron support.