"It's true what they say, Harry. I am the oil in your fire. I bring out your worst qualities."
"And what does that mean?"
"That they're in for a treat."
Chapter One – First Pact
His heart pounding with excitement, Harry entered the library, which was bathed in night-time darkness. Only through the large windows did the silvery white light of the moon shine in dimly, giving the place an almost eerie grace. Harry would have liked to light a lamp, but he doubted that would be a good idea. Then he might as well have done without his Invisibility Cloak, that unexpected but wonderful Christmas present.
His destination was the Restricted Section. It was at the very back of the library. Carefully, Harry climbed over the rope that separated this area from the rest. He passed several of the steeply rising bookshelves, trying his best to read the titles on the spines. They didn't tell him much. They were written in languages he didn't understand, and some of the books didn't even have titles. One book had a dark stain on it that looked horribly like blood. A cold shiver ran down Harry's spine. Maybe he was imagining it, maybe not, but he thought he heard faint whispers coming from the books, as if they knew someone was here seeking forbidden knowledge.
He had to start somewhere or he would never find out who Nicholas Flamel was.
Harry reached out for a heavy book with mysterious golden symbols on the cover – but he stopped abruptly when he felt a sudden gust of wind above him.
Looking up, he could just make out the outline of a black crow flying overhead.
A crow? What was a crow doing here? After all these months in the wizarding world, he wouldn't have wondered about owls or even bats, but a crow?
Curious and a little confused, Harry watched as the crow landed on the ground just a few feet from him. His confusion was compounded when the crow suddenly underwent a strange change. Its contours faded and the black of its feathers blurred. Its shape became stretched like chewing gum, or like wisps of smoke in the wind. More and more the shape of the crow changed, until finally a girl stood where the crow had been. A girl with amber eyes and silky black hair that reached halfway between her chin and her shoulders. The girl was still wearing her school uniform and Harry could clearly see the green decorations on it in the moonlight.
It was then that Harry realised he knew the girl. It was Daphne Greengrass, a Slytherin from his year whom he didn't know much about, except that she was something of a loner. She was always one of the first to master a spell in class, he remembered that too. And now he knew that she could turn into an animal like Professor McGonagall – how cool was that!
With bated breath, Harry watched as Daphne drew her wand and pointed it at her left hand. Like her hair and the crow's feathers before, her wand was also pitch black. Daphne muttered something and a bleeding cut appeared on her palm. Yet she didn't flinch, even though the cut was bound to hurt. Instead, she used her bleeding hand to pick up a book from the shelf in front of her. The book's cover soaked up her blood like blotting paper and – Harry was sure he heard right – the book made a sound, almost like a blissful sigh. Harry moved closer to get a better look.
And then, to his horror, he realised that the cover of the book was not leather, as he had thought, but human skin!
Harry jumped back, banging his shoulder against the shelf.
Daphne whirled around. She looked exactly where Harry was standing under his Invisibility Cloak. Her eyes narrowed, but she could not see him. Harry's heart was hammering wildly in his chest. He put his hand over his mouth to hold in his breath.
A second passed. Two seconds. Three seconds.
Then Daphne raised her wand and murmured, "Nives."
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, all of a sudden, Harry felt a cold breeze over his head. The next thing he knew, snowflakes were falling on him. The snow stayed on his head and shoulders, revealing his invisible body.
Harry knew there was no point in hiding now. He took off his Invisibility Cloak.
"Potter?!" asked Daphne in surprise. "But ... what are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same thing," Harry said. "And I didn't know you could turn into a crow. That's so awesome!"
Daphne blinked at him. She was visibly at a loss for words.
"Why can you do that? Can you teach me how to do that? And why did you do that with your hand?"
Harry felt like Hermione but the questions were just pouring out of him. Daphne was still looking at him with wide eyes, her confusion as obvious as if it had been written in ink on her face.
This had to be a really strange situation for both of them, Harry thought, and from what Ron had told him, his Invisibility Cloak seemed to be at least as extraordinary as an eleven-year-old schoolgirl in bird form.
"Listen, Daphne. We –" he began, but Daphne wouldn't let him finish.
She grabbed his hand and began to pull him behind her. Harry winced as he felt her blood on his skin, but Daphne's grip was firm. However, Harry's instincts from ten years of living with the Dursleys kicked in now. He pulled away from her.
Daphne turned to him. Their eyes met.
She had truly unique eyes, with their amber irises, the likes of which Harry had never seen before. But by now his initial amazement had given way to caution; after all, he was illicitly in a forbidden place in the middle of the night with a classmate he didn't know and who, moreover, was a Slytherin. Nothing good had ever come from Slytherins. But then again, he had never had anything to do with Daphne before, good or bad. She had so far stayed out of his quarrels with Malfoy and his cronies. He shouldn't be a prick for no reason.
It didn't take Harry more than a second to think all these thoughts.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"I'll answer your questions," Daphne said in a whisper. "But not here. It's too dangerous here. Let's go to one of the classrooms, okay?"
Harry nodded to her. "Go ahead then."
Daphne gave him another deep look before finally turning back around. She still held her wand tightly in her hand, and so Harry also fumbled for his in his trouser pocket. Not being a prick and being naïve were two completely different things.
Together they left the library the same way Harry had come before. In the corridor they stopped at every corner, listening for sounds that would warn them of Filch or Mrs Norris, but there was nothing to see or hear. The whole castle – the part that had stayed there over the Christmas holidays – seemed to be fast asleep.
And so they finally reached one of the unused classrooms, of which there seemed to be countless in the castle. The room was full of desks and chairs with a thick layer of dust on them, as if they hadn't been moved in decades.
Harry walked past Daphne to sit down on one of the desks. After a moment's hesitation, Daphne did the same. She sat down next to him, but not before clearing her seat of dust with a spell he had never seen before. But Harry had also noticed something else.
"Your hand," he said.
Daphne looked at her hand. Then she looked back at him. "What's wrong with it?"
"It's stopped bleeding."
And indeed, Daphne's hand seemed to have healed completely. Only the dried blood on her skin still betrayed the cut she had made just a few minutes before. The wound itself was gone.
Daphne frowned. "Of course. Why would I walk around with a bleeding hand?"
Harry had nothing to counter this logic. It seemed that even after almost four months in this new world, he still had a lot to learn. Hell, every day in class he was reminded of how much there was that he didn't know that was perfectly natural to others.
"Is that an Invisibility Cloak?" asked Daphne, pointing to the cloak he was carrying in his arms.
"May I –"
"No!" Harry pressed his cloak tightly against him. Daphne stopped in her tracks. "I'm sorry, but I'm not letting it out of my hands."
The two looked at each other for a few moments. It reminded Harry a little of the moments of calm before the start of a Quidditch match, before the players shot up and chaos broke out. Except that the silence remained. He and Daphne looked at each other, trying to figure out the best way to start the conversation they both knew they had to have.
Eventually it was Harry who broke the silence. "What were you doing in the library?"
"I'll tell you if you tell me what you were doing there."
Harry pondered. If no one started, then they would probably still be sitting here in the morning. He just had to be careful not to tell her too much.
"I was trying to find out more about Nicholas Flamel," he finally said.
Harry looked at Daphne in surprise. "You know him?"
"Of course," she replied, "I read he was the only one who ever managed to make the Philosopher's Stone. With it, he can supposedly turn ordinary metal into gold. And make an elixir of life that makes him immortal. He's supposed to be the oldest wizard in the world, at something like seven hundred years old..."
Daphne's voice trailed off. She looked at him. "Why are you interested in him, then?"
"No reason," Harry shrugged, already thinking about how he was going to tell Ron and Hermione. Did this mean the Philosopher's Stone was hidden in the castle?
"I have a feeling you're not being completely honest with me, Potter."
"Well, I don't know you yet either, Daphne. What were you doing in the library anyway?"
Daphne clicked her tongue. "How rude you are. But well, I promised to answer your question..."
She looked at him again, and Harry felt as if her amber eyes were trying to see into the depths of his soul.
"I come to the library every night to read and study. But I've never met anyone there until today," Daphne said. It was obvious that this irritated her.
"What are you studying in the middle of the night?" asked Harry.
Daphne made a hand gesture that could have meant anything between heaven and hell. "This and that."
"And you can turn into a crow? Like McGonagall can into a cat?"
"Yes, we are both Animagae"
"Animagae," Daphne repeated. "I am an Animaga. Animagae is the plural. A man would be an Animagus, several men would be Animagi. An Animaga is a witch who can turn into an animal. But only one specific animal."
"But when did you learn this?" said Harry. It seemed that every answer he got to his questions only made him want to know more.
"A few years ago. There are different ways to become an Animaga, and one of them doesn't require a wand. That's what I did."
"Wow, that sounds really cool," Harry murmured.
Daphne leaned over to him. The silvery light of the moon shining in through the high windows played around her black strands like a crown. "Thanks. I'm a big fan of yours too, you know – don't worry, not like that" she added quickly. His expression must have given away his thoughts. "No, I'm a fan of the way you put Malfoy in his place."
This surprised Harry. "What do you have against him? You're in a house, aren't you?"
"That wasn't my decision..."
With that, Daphne suddenly jumped up from the desk, so violently that it trembled. Harry looked at the girl, who he still couldn't quite figure out, intently and also with curiosity.
"And what will your decision be?" she said.
Since she didn't continue, Harry finally asked. "What do you mean?"
"Are you going to rat me out?"
"Rat you out?"
Daphne's eyes narrowed. "What do you want from me for keeping quiet?"
Harry had never asked himself such a question before. Until now, it had always been he who had been blackmailed or taken advantage of by others. He certainly didn't want to become another Dudley. And so he said the first thing that came to his mind at that moment.
"Teach me too. How to turn into an animal, I mean."
That didn't seem to be what Daphne had expected, if he read her expression correctly. They both seemed to be constantly surprising each other that Christmas night, which Harry had a feeling he wouldn't soon forget.
Daphne tilted her head. She looked at him for several seconds and Harry met her gaze resolutely. He knew that he still had much to learn and that the world held many more wonders and secrets than he could ever have imagined in the first eleven years of his life. But he also knew that he did not have to be too modest. Even regardless of the dubious fame his victory over Voldemort had brought him, he was the youngest Quidditch player in a century, he had defeated a troll with Ron and Hermione, and he was no slouch with his wand either. He had a lot to offer, too. And so he made his proposal.
"I mean, surely we can learn a few things from each other, can't we?" said Harry. "If you want, we can be friends." He held out his hand to her.
"Friends?" asked Daphne. She made no move to take his hand. "Do you mean like business partners or like princess and knight?"
"Er, more the second, I guess."
"And what if I'd rather be a knight than a princess too?"
"Then we'll both be knights," Harry said.
Daphne looked at him again before a smile curled around her lips. It was the first time Harry had seen the Slytherin girl smile.
"Under those conditions, I can agree, Sir Harry," she said, taking his hand.
As with every story I write: English is not my first language. So if you find any mistakes, please bear with me.
Finally, a warning: this story will contain immoral, unscrupulous, and cruel behaviour by protagonists. Just to ensure that no one complains later...