Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I do own the very cool, pink and green knee socks that I am wearing right now.
Summary: Takes place in an alternate sixth year. Draco has a secret: he is a wizarding genius and is being pressured to take the Dark Mark. Bill Weasley got a job teaching Ancient Runes at Hogwarts, but he too has a secret: he is spying for the Order. What happens when these two discover each others secrets? Can they help each other survive the year?
Thanks to Ada Achlys for betaing.
Chapter 1: The Dissenter's Code
Draco had a theory, one to explain to himself why people acted the way that they did. Most people would say that people acted in response to stimuli by how they were raised or according to their nature. Draco figured that everyone had their own internal code. The code varied from person to person, but not just in the difference of rules. Some people were aware of their code and others had their code in their subconscious. Some codes had rules, while others just had values, but everyone had a code. If they didn't have a code, they wouldn't know how to act.
Draco watched the students clamor aboard the Hogwarts Express from his compartment window, his eyes lighting on a black haired boy with green eyes, a perfect example in his theory. The great Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived. Everything he did was dictated by his Gryffindor values, and his desire not to be like the Slytherins or Lord Voldemort. Granted this was all on a subconscious level, but the fact was that if Potter saw someone getting bullied, he would go to stop it because that's what heroes did, and that's what was in his code.
Now take someone like Theodore Nott. His personal code was the exact replica of Lord Voldemort's because he wanted to be a Death Eater, so if he saw someone being bullied, he would join in.
As for himself, he was in a bit of dilemma over it. You see, Draco had a secret, a secret that he had kept since he was four years old, a secret that only he knew. Once upon a time, his private tutor had known the secret as well. In fact, the old man had been the one to discover the secret and was the one who instructed Draco to keep it hidden, a fact Draco was thankful for.
Draco was smart. Of course he was smart, just last year he had received straight E's on his grade sheet from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The thing was that Draco had been receiving straight E's on his grade sheets for the five years he had attended the school. An idiot could figure out that no one received straight E's for five straight years just because that's how smart they were, and if any of the teachers opened up the school file on him (none of them would, he made sure that they hated him) they could figure out the secret that Draco had kept for twelve years.
Draco was a genius. A whiz kid. A child prodigy hidden underneath the disguise of a slightly-smarter-than-average, prejudiced, spoiled prat with a Death Eater for a father and a drug addict for a mother.
That was why he was having such a difficulty trying to figure out his own code. For as long as he could remember his own guiding light had been the Malfoy Family Code. Draco doubted that such a thing really existed, but his father used to quote rules from it to him, and Draco, being an obedient and awe-struck son, had copied down the rules onto parchment. He had sixty-four of the damned rules lying in his journal on his lap.
Because he had shooed Crabbe and Goyle away, he was alone and so gave a sigh, breaking rule number 23. Lately he had been having difficulties keeping the Malfoy Code, because rule number one was 'obey your father'. If only Lucius had stayed in Azkaban, then he wouldn't be having this problem. He let his head lean back on the seat and thought about that summer.
Two weeks. It had been two weeks since school let out and Draco was having one of the better summers of his sixteen years. Both of his parents were gone, Lucius was in Azkaban and Narcissa was 'visiting relatives'. Granted that 'visiting relatives' was code word for screwing another man, but Draco wasn't supposed to know that, though, as he was a genius, it was impossible to fool him. He had known since he was seven and his mother had invited another man over to the Manor when Lucius was away. Draco had gone into the kitchen to get something to eat and found her and 'Cousin Richard' doing something he had never seen before on the long table. He had immediately left (she swore and threw a candlestick at him) and looked it up in a book. And that is how Draco learned about marital activities and marital infidelity and 'accidentally' set the table on fire so that he wouldn't have to eat on it.
Draco was enjoying the relaxed feeling at his home. He walked around the Manor with no shoes on, sometimes sliding on the polished floors in his sock feet, and not bothering to tuck his shirt in. He knew he should be upset that his father was in prison, but at the same time he felt…relief. His father was smart, not as smart as Draco, but cunning and manipulative. Draco never knew when his father had his own agenda and to be constantly searching out hidden reasons or secrets was stressful and kept him constantly on edge, questioning and analyzing every move. Even though he was always braced for the worst around his father and even though he told himself over and over again that his father was a murderer and a schemer, the boy in him always treasured those moments when Lucius looked at him with pride in his eyes or laid his hand approvingly on his shoulder. It was the closest to 'I love you' Draco ever got.
Draco was not lonely being alone in the large mansion. Lucius was usually away on business, and even when Narcissa was home, she was usually high on illegal pleasure potions. Draco spent his mornings flying his broom or riding the thestrals and his afternoons reading books on topics anywhere from Conceptual Potions to the History of the Ministry of Magic to Advanced Physics and Modern Medical Discoveries. Yes, it was Muggle stuff, but Draco was a genius and he grew bored and restless when he wasn't challenged.
Right now he was playing the grand piano in the music room. Narcissa had hired a professional instructor when he was five so that she could show him off to her friends. While performing for an audience, Draco played exactly what was written, his fingers skillfully tripping up the keys to play complicated runs. While he was at home however, he varied the tempos and the volume and added in his own syncopated rhythms, inserting a passion he did not reveal to listeners. He crashed his fingers down to elicit the fury of the concerto, slowly transforming into a slow dirge, and ending on a slightly dissonant chord filled with longing.
Slow, slightly mocking applause caused him to whip around. Lucius was standing in the doorway looking absolutely perfect with his dark red robes falling in graceful curves around his body, his cane leaning against the door.
"You have never played like that before, boy," said Lucius in a slight drawl, raising an eyebrow with a lofty sort of humor in the grey orbs.
Draco felt a slight tinge of fear, though he could not explain why. "I didn't know you were released, Father," he said coolly, trying to keep a neutral expression on his face. He could feel the tension again, rising in his chest, threatening to strangle him like an exotic snake. How fitting, a snake, he thought, fighting back an inane bout of laughter. His father without an ulterior motive was as unlikely as Dumbledore giving up lemon drops, so what was he here for? What did he want?
"You didn't know on purpose," said Lucius. "I wasn't released."
Draco immediately understood; the Dark Lord had freed him. The snake around his chest constricted.
"No doubt you will read about it in the Daily Prophet tomorrow night. That's when the breakout will be discovered," Lucius said, flicking a bit of dust from his sleeve that Draco knew wasn't really there. "Well, come here, boy," said Lucius in a faintly annoyed tone. "Let me have a look at you. I haven't seen you since last summer."
Draco got to his feet in a gracefulness he inherited from both his father and his mother, and walked over, feeling Lucius' penetrating gaze sweep over him. He suddenly wished that he had tucked in his shirt and put shoes on. He had grown and was roughly the same height as Lucius now, but Lucius had platforms in his boots that made him two inches taller, though it seemed more like two feet.
He looked straight forward as Lucius walked around him, forcing himself not to shiver as he could feel the grey eyes study him, measuring him to some unknown standard. Lucius stopped in front of him, reached out to grasp his chin, and tilt his face up.
"You've grown," said Lucius softly. Draco detected a bit of sorrow in those grey eyes.
"Yes, Father," he said. "It has been nearly a year."
Lucius' finger traced his jaw lightly in a manner that almost portrayed fondness.
"I missed your birthday," he said, his voice now having inflections of regret. "Was your mother here for it at least?"
"She's visiting relatives," said Draco.
"Of course she is," said Lucius, his voice dripping with annoyance. Draco knew that Lucius was quite aware of his wife's activities. "Though it was probably a good thing she was not present for the occasion. Merlin knows what she would have done to you."
Draco flinched as he remembered 'the incident'. Yes, it was a good thing his mother was gone.
"What did you get for yourself?" Lucius asked, noticing the flinch and narrowing his gaze, disliking the show of emotion.
"I went to Diagon Alley and bought myself a new broom," said Draco.
"I thought you were not to go there alone," said Lucius, his tone darkening.
"I was not to go without a chaperone until I was sixteen," said Draco. "I was sixteen."
"Yes, but that was assuming that there was someone at the house who knew that you were leaving!" said Lucius sharply. "There are many people out there who prey on young wizards walking about alone."
"All of those people are Dark Wizards who know that if they touch me, you will hunt them down and torture them to death," said Draco, feeling like a normal teenager with an overprotective father for once, and not a teenager with Death Eaters for parental figures. "And those who are your enemies wouldn't dare do a thing as low as kidnapping because of their morals," Draco continued. "I am old enough to take care of myself."
Lucius' tense posture relaxed a millimeter, which was his equivalent of sighing. "I suppose you are then," he said. "Well, run along and do your school work. I have duties to attend to in my office."
Draco inclined his head to his father and went to his own study in his wing of the Manor. He had already finished his homework, but Lucius was to be obeyed, at least part of the way. He picked up his Muggle text on Calculus and lost himself in the equations.
Lucius was not at dinner that night, which was not surprising. What was surprising was that when Draco went down for breakfast, wearing his riding clothes, early the next morning, Lucius was there wearing similar attire.
"I thought I would join you," said Lucius. Draco figured that Lucius had checked up with the house elves on his daily schedule but for the life of him couldn't figure out why. The tension that he had managed to shake off last night came back.
After the morning meal they went out to the thestral stables on the property, Draco choosing Eagan, a fiery stallion, and Lucius choosing a slightly older, and better behaved Ammon.
"How was the year?" asked Lucius, once they were air born.
"The usual," said Draco.
"Your grades?" asked Lucius.
"Mostly E's," said Draco. They were all E's but Lucius wouldn't bother checking.
"I won't be here for the rest of the summer," said Lucius. "Our lord needs work done abroad."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know he had interests overseas," he said.
"It is a new development," said Lucius. "I want you to go to France for the summer as I will be unavailable and your mother is Merlin knows where."
"Why France?" asked Draco, not minding going to the country where he was born and raised.
"I will mostly be in France," said Lucius. "And our lord wishes to meet you."
Draco felt his blood run cold. "Is that so, Father?" he asked.
"He has heard about you and is most impressed," said Lucius. "He wishes you to join his ranks."
Draco didn't allow his panicking emotions to take control, instead he let the analytical and logical side take over and file the information away for a later time. "When?" he asked, seemingly unconcerned.
"The night school lets out," said Lucius.
"A good night," said Draco, neither accepting nor declining the position.
"I will let him know you look forward to it," said Lucius. "And when you meet him, you can tell him in person as well. I must go inside now and have the house-elves pack. No doubt the Aurors will be combing the Manor by nightfall. Don't stay out too long."
"I won't, Father," said Draco as his father kicked Ammon into a gradual dive. Once his father was back in doors, he let Eagan have his head and held on tightly with his knees as the thestral went into a steep dive and went into a barrel roll. His father did not approve of such actions, saying that anything reckless was in violation of the Malfoy code, rule fifteen, but Draco didn't care right then. He had no wish to be a murderer, but he had precious little choice about the matter. He could of course refuse, but that would mean being disinherited and probably killed. Not to mention he would have no where to go, and he doubted he would be welcomed with opened arms to Dumbledore's little resistance.
He urged Eagan on, wanting to feel even more danger to get his mind off the fact that for the first time in his life, he didn't know what to do.
It was the end of August now, and he still didn't know what to do. The train blew its whistle for a last time, and outside mothers and fathers gave their loud and obnoxious children one last hug good-bye through open windows while a few parents of first years blinked back tears. Draco glared out the window at the lot of them as the sight of the countless innocents made him think back on his impending decision to be made. The code he had adapted his life to would force him to take the Dark Mark like his father wished, but Draco wanted a choice. Unfortunately the only other choice was Dumbledore, and Draco was not happy with that option.
He opened the journal in a fit of rage and tore out the pages that held the Malfoy Code he had copied. A quick incendio later and all that was left was ash. Draco didn't like his options, so he would make his own, however logic demanded that if his theory was to be correct, then he needed some other code to follow. He frowned. Well he was a genius; he would just have to write his own.
He pulled out a quill and ink and in a script perfected by countless tutors he wrote on the top of the page in his journal 'The Dissenter's Code'. Now all he needed were rules.
Draco sighed again, and felt no guilt. He was following his own rules now, quite literally, and so he could do as he pleased. He set the journal aside and as Crabbe and Goyle weren't to come back (he had forbidden it) he was going to enjoy this train ride. He reached into his bag and pulled out Volsky's book, The Time-Turners Explained and a Muggle book The Physics of Time Travel; he wanted to mark the differences.
In a few moments he was lost in the world of time machines and alternate dimensions (now that was an interesting theory). His feet were stretched out on the seat in front of him and the book he wasn't currently reading placed on his lap with parchment next to him on the seat to write down anything that barred further investigation. He held the book with one hand, the fingers of the other used to tap out crazy rhythms on the book in his lap. If his hand stilled, it was only because he was then tapping his foot. He was slightly hyperactive, though you would never know it by looking at him (in classrooms his foot was constantly bouncing up and down so that his whole leg jounced, but it was silent and hidden by his robes). The way he saw it, when his mind was that active, his body had to be as well or he couldn't concentrate because he would be off balance.
He frowned then wrote down on the parchment 'black holes, rifts in time?' and picked up the wizarding book to see if it had anything to say on rifts in the fourth dimension. He doubted it would.
Bill Weasley sat in a compartment on the Hogwarts Express trying to calm the clenching in his stomach that had nothing to do with the rocking train. His youngest brother Ron sat next to him, Ron's best friend Harry was in the seat across from them with Ron's ex-girlfriend Hermione next to the boy hero. Apparently Hermione and Ron had tried dating over the summer, but had both decided it was best if they just remained friends. Bill couldn't help but notice that Harry seemed much more sober and duller than usual, but the death of his godfather had been a terrible blow.
The door slid open to reveal Ginny and Luna who came in to join them.
"Thought we'd say 'hi'," said Ginny, giving them all a bright smile.
"Aren't you a little old to be coming to Hogwarts?" asked Luna, turning her large eyes on Bill who immediately felt uncomfortable from the scrutiny.
"He's teaching Ancient Runes," Ginny explained.
"Ohh," said Luna, nodding so that the Christmas tree earrings she wore bounced up and down. Bill decided not to ask about the holiday décor.
"Hey, Hermione, shouldn't you and Ron be in the Prefect's compartment?" asked Ginny.
"The Head Boy and Girl decided that we would all be in our own compartments this year," said Hermione. "I don't think they want any problems between us and the Slytherins."
"Smart of them," said Ginny. She smiled at her eldest brother. "Nervous?"
"A little," he admitted.
"You shouldn't be," said Hermione, looking up from her book. "It's not like you can be worse than Umbridge."
Those present chuckled at that.
"I have heard the horror stories," said Bill. "But it's the curriculum I'm worried about."
"How so?" asked Hermione, immediately interested.
"The NEWT class is just a one year course now," said Bill. "As opposed to the two years it used to be. The other two classes are Introduction to Ancient Runes and Advanced Ancient Runes. Anyone can be in the classes though you need to take both for the NEWT class. Mostly fifth years will be in the intro class while the advanced class will have sixth years and some seventh years who want to take it but can't manage the NEWT class. I think there are some fifth year Ravenclaws in the Advanced Class, let me check." Bill rummaged around in his pocket for the list of students he had received late last night.
"Oooo," said Hermione. "Who's in my class?"
Bill pulled it out but Ron grabbed it. "Some seventh year Gryffindors," he said, skimming the list. "Mostly Ravenclaws though, and two of them are in fifth year! That's just sick. A few Hufflepuffs and – Malfoy?" The last was a yelp.
"What?" demanded Hermione. "He wasn't in Ancient Runes last year, how can he be in Advanced Ancient Runes?"
"Apparently he took a summer course," said Bill, shrugging. Sure the kid was a spoiled brat, but he couldn't be that bad, could he? The teenagers were looking at him with pity in their eyes. "What?" he asked.
"I'm sorry," said Ginny. "And good luck." She and Luna left to go talk to their friends and Bill turned to the trio.
"Is he that bad?" he asked, and was immediately regaled with terrible stories. Harry joined in as well, his eyes getting back some of their spark as they debriefed Bill on the history of their nemesis from Buckbeak to fake dementors to ratting them out to Umbridge. Bill got a little worried at the tales; the kid sounded like a miniature Lord Voldemort.
Gradually the topic changed to Quidditch and Bill stared out the window as the scenery rolled by. He would have never thought in a million years that he would be teaching Ancient Runes. AR had been his favorite subject as a student in Hogwarts.
The runes were the written language of ancient wizards and witches anywhere from 1200 B.C. to the sixteen hundreds. As the history of magic was a turbulent one, filled with bloodshed and treachery and warring clans, often time messages were coded so that they wouldn't fall into enemy hands. Unfortunately now those messages were still coded, and so many secrets and potions and spells were lost.
"Bill," said Hermione, then blushed. "Is it alright to call you Bill?"
"Sure," Bill grinned.
"Why did you get into curse breaking if you like Ancient Runes so much?" she asked.
Bill settled back. "Well, at the time there wasn't any demand for translators," he said. "The general consensus was that we know all we need to know about magic and that we don't need to go translating the hundreds of codes there are out there. When I enter pyramids or crypts or what not to break curses, usually they are booby trapped with some ancient code so it's the closest I get to doing real translations. However, now that Voldemort is back, people are beginning to realize that perhaps Old Magic might really be important, after all, that's how we think Voldemort got back into power."
"Then why aren't you at a job translating?" asked Hermione.
Bill hesitated. "Let's just say that Dumbledore wanted me here," he said.
He wished he hadn't said anything as they started pressing him for information.
"When you join the Order, you can know," said Bill. "Until then, just be on your guard. We have a bunch of new teachers this year and they aren't appointed by Dumbledore. Seems the Ministry still wants to control Dumbledore's power because so many people are turning to him for advice and not the elected officials. So watch your back."
"So you're coming for protection," said Hermione.
"That's right," said Bill, though he knew it was much more than protecting Harry he was getting into. In fact the thing he was getting into was so secret that only Dumbledore, Minerva, and Severus Snape knew what he was doing, and he was scared.
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