Chapter Thirty – In Which Slytherin House becomes a Home

Duels out of the way, Slytherin House seemed to settle down. There were some glares, there were some mutters, but they were smart enough to stay mostly silent. Most of the House, though, as Hermione had thought, didn't particularly care about them being there.

Particularly not when there was so much to appreciate about the newcomers.

They were Slytherin House, after all, and they knew what to really look for in allies- useful skills.

"Can I ask the two of you a question?"

Harry and Hermione both looked up in surprise.

"Hey, Dean." Harry grinned after a minute. "Stephen. Ernie. What's going on?"

"Can I?" Dean repeated.

"Sure." Hermione said, gesturing them in. "Close the door behind you, though."

She had found this room with only a little bit of hinting on Severus's part. At one time, she thought it might have been an Apprentice's lab, it was very tiny, with only two tables and some cupboards set up in the back with mostly empty vials. It had taken her and Harry no time at all to clean it up and now they could do their own plotting, such as it was, in privacy.

They were far from the only ones in Slytherin who had taken over an unused room. Neither was theirs the only one with a password on it that they'd had to solve to get to the room. Hogwarts had once had a much larger population, she'd read that in Hogwarts, A History long ago. It was only as they went wandering around the school that the numbers really made sense; a Year of forty, such as their own, was barely a fourth of a year back in Hogwarts' heydays.

Even Ginny's much bigger class of seventy-two, due to the post-war baby boom, wasn't nearly the biggest class around.

Harry had given Dean the password to the room soon after they'd found it, as he knew Dean's position was almost as precarious as Hermione's in Slytherin, both of them being Muggleborns. He just hadn't expected Dean to bring others, which was dumb now that he thought about it. They weren't allowed to travel without others, though more Slytherins wandered solo down in the dungeons than anywhere.

"What are you doing?" Dean asked, wandering over to the table where Hermione had two cauldrons set up.

"Brewing." Hermione said, grinning up at him. "What are you guys up to?"

"No, we meant that more specifically." Stephen and the others joined them around the cauldron Hermione was carefully stirring. "You and Potter always have plans. I'm still not sure how either of you made it into Slytherin, but you must have done it for a reason. Why are you here? And what are you doing brewing Teachers' Bane?" He asked, jaw dropping as he took in the second potion that was boiling rapidly.

"Don't touch." Hermione warned Ernie as he leaned over the potion she was on. She finished her stirs, pulling out the stirrer. "It's a hexed potion; it's a hair remover."

She peeked in the other cauldron before turning Stephen's way. "And why do you know what Teachers' Bane looks like?" She asked curiously. "Oh, wait, don't answer that. Lorraine offered me some in Third Year, so I know the Ravenclaws use it."

"What is Teachers' Bane?" Dean asked curiously. It wasn't a potion he'd heard of.

"It focuses your mind, enhances your memory." Stephen explained. "And you don't need sleep. Unscrupulous students use it right before a test. Skip a night of sleep, review your notes and you'll likely ace the test the next day."

"Or if you're really focused on a subject, you can finish it quicker." Hermione admitted. "Not everyone uses it to cheat, some people just like the focus."

"It's against Hogwarts bylaws." Ernie knew that much. "Because students use it to cheat. You could get in a lot of trouble for brewing this, Hermione."

She grinned. "I am definitely not the only one brewing this." She assured him. "Nor will I get in trouble, because none of you are going to tell."

"Hermione, anyone getting caught with this is going to give you up." Dean explained, as she definitely wasn't getting their issue. "I know you wouldn't cheat with it, but others will."

"Maybe." She agreed. "But they still won't give me up, as that would get them in just as much trouble with Professor Snape."

That made them all pause. Her words drew them back to the House-wide punishment they had all just suffered through. Snape was a lot stricter with the Slytherins than any of them had ever expected.

"Look, guys," she offered them all a smile. "I don't use it to cheat; I hope you all know that. I work hard for my grades, but I don't feel the need to cheat to be on top. But, when we got reSorted, we contacted a few people we could trust. They told us the best thing to do was to play the game the Slytherin way. So that's what I'm doing."

"So you're just going to brew them illegal potions?" Ernie asked, aghast at the notion. "We all thought that's why Weasley and Potter started hanging out with you in the first place- you were doing their homework. You're just going to buy off the Slytherins too?"

Hermione glared at the former Hufflepuff. Even now, as he was watched warily by his former Housemates, he was still far too judgmental, in her opinion. "I never bought off anyone." She snarled at him. "I am, however, smart enough to play to my strengths. Slytherin House is all about building alliances. We've all seen them play Quidditch. They're willing to break the rules, to bend them for all their worth, in order to win. So now, yeah, if they're willing to pay for it, they can have all of the Teachers' Bane they want. And if they try to bother me, we're going to end up with a house full of bald Slytherins."

Dean, having seen her vicious streak come out before, started to laugh. "That actually makes a lot of sense." He admitted. "That's why you were dueling them," he said to Harry. "That would be your strength."

"Slytherin is all about showing off your strengths and then utilizing it." Harry said, shrugging. "A couple of the Seventh Years have been hinting about the Chamber. They'd like to see where Salazar Slytherin hid away from the others. I just so happen to be the only one who can get them in. Think about it, Dean, aren't you tired of them hissing at you? Calling you names? I don't know if you're still trying to play Gryffindor or what, but I know you're smart enough to get them to leave you alone."

Dean sighed. "I still hang out with Seamus a lot." He admitted. He was the only one of them who regularly headed up to the room they'd set aside for all Sixth Year to use as a Common Room. "He's already commenting on how different I am. I don't know if I want to make friends with them, really. How many of them are going to be Death Eaters in a few years? If You Know Who's back, this is really dangerous."

"We don't know." Hermione admitted, shrugging her shoulders. "But think of it like this- everyone we make an impression on is one more Death Eater who might hesitate at a pivotal moment. For some of them, for a lot of them, we're the first Muggleborns they've ever spoken to. All they usually do is insult Muggleborns and then retreat to the dungeons."

Stephen frowned. "I don't know that I have any special talents, though." He confessed. "I can't do that."

Harry laughed. "I don't think I have anything special either, really." He assured the other boy. "I can't brew these potions, like Hermione. We're just brainstorming, really, trying to figure out what could give us an advantage. What's your best subject?" He asked curiously. Except for the fact that the boy was always reading, he didn't really know much about him, even now.

Stephen frowned. "I like all my classes." He admitted. "But, I don't know, I guess Runes. I like languages."

"Do you speak other languages?" Hermione asked curiously. "You could form some sort of Language club. I know Zabini speaks French and Italian; he's from Italy. Montague speaks French, I heard him one day."

"I know some of all the romance languages." Stephen admitted. "My parents travel a lot. My sister goes to Beauxbatons, so I'm fluent in French too. Why isn't Zabini in Beauxbatons, then, if he's from Italy? It's closer."

Hermione shrugged. "I don't know." She had never asked the boy. "Go find out."

Ernie's nose rose. "I think this is awfully manipulative." He said, sneering down at the others.

Hermione didn't hesitate to laugh at him. "So says the only pureblood in the bunch." She shot back. "You've never had to fit in, have you? You're already part of the elite. You think Dean likes that he can't talk about football without someone jeering at him to just play Quidditch already? You think I like that no one knows what a computer even is? Don't you come into my lab and act like I'm doing something wrong. I'm doing what I need to do to fit in. We've been playing catchup since we were eleven. If you can't figure it out, that's your problem. Graduate with everyone hating you, see if I care. Or maybe you'll join the Death Eaters now. They'll accept you with open arms. A pureblooded Slytherin."

Ernie stepped back, more alarmed than he realized at the hatred in her eyes. "I'm just saying!" He protested.

"I'm just saying." She snapped. "You're not a Hufflepuff anymore, Ernest. The rules of fair play don't apply. If you want Slytherins to respect you, you have to earn that respect. It's not just given to you. And I earned Gryffindor's respect and I will be respected in my own House. If you don't like it, stay out of my way!"

"I don't have to take this!" Ernie turned, heading for the door. "You know, the other Hufflepuffs are saying that I've changed too. And unlike you, I don't think it's a good thing."

He slammed the door behind him.

"I don't think he's changed any." Stephen said, rolling his eyes. "He's just as arrogant as ever."

The others snickered.

"Here, I do have something for you two." Hermione hurried back to the cupboards pulling out the necklaces she'd finished only a few days before. "They ought to be dry by now."

She brought them back, handing one to each of them. Stephen and Dean laid them out side by side, studying them. They were both small metal discs on a leather cord. "These are runes." Stephen squinted, trying to dredge up his collection of memorized runes. "For protection, right?"

Dean sniffed at the necklaces. "They're dry, but they still smell. I can smell the garlic. And what is that? Hellebore?"

"These will deflect basic hexes that might be sent your way." Hermione admitted. "We're all outsiders in a big way, Muggleborns and Halfbloods in Slytherin. They're not going to attack and they're likely not going to duel us anymore, but that doesn't mean they're not still going to try to show us our place. That's all we're trying to do, make them admit that we're just as worthy to be in Slytherin as they are. Unfortunately, that means playing by Slytherin rules."

Harry grinned. "It just means we don't have to be as sneaky as we used to. Dean, you and Neville saw Hermione stealing potions ingredients in Second Year. She's been brewing on the sly for years. You know how much I snuck around. We aren't trying to be perfect Slytherins or anything. But they value this sort of stuff more than other Houses do."

Dean smiled bleakly, lifting the necklace over his head. "It's just like First Year all over again. A whole new world to fit into. At least I know some of them read Loony Nonby." He said cheerfully. "And none of them know anything about footie. Maybe I can make them all West Ham fans!"

As the weeks went by, Hermione was happy to see the others taking her and Harry's advice. She wasn't sure Dean managed to infect his love of football on them, but then again, she wasn't sure how Quidditch worked anyway and Harry had been infected by it pretty quickly.

He did, however, move pretty quickly into a forgery circle made up of fifth to seventh years. Harry informed her of Dean's offer back in Third Year to forge his uncle's signature on his Hogsmeade form and she burst out laughing. She did help brew a potion for him that would hide the forger's own magical signature, something that Dean and his new compatriots greatly appreciated. What he was forging and for whom, she didn't bother to ask.

"Is it easier for them because they're boys?" She wondered when she and Harry passed Stephen and Blaise as well as a Fourth Year girl, all of whom were rapidly speaking in French. "The girls aren't nearly as accepting."

While Fay was on pretty good terms with her, the others were still standoffish. Pansy had tried several more times to get into her trunk and Hermione had refused to help undo the hexes Pansy had gotten for her troubles. Once she would take pity on her, not more than that.

As much trouble as Pansy seemed to have with her, though, she was flirting with Dean in a major way. It was okay that he was Muggleborn? Then again, he wasn't best friends with Harry Potter; Hermione was pretty sure that was a major mark against her.

"I dunno." Harry admitted. They were snuggled together in a large armchair, as the Sixth Years had scattered to their own hobbies for the night. Neither of them had felt like doing anything, in particular, so they were exchanging gossip. "I guess." He said after he thought about it. "Any issue me and the boys had, we usually had a quick brawl and it was over. I hit Seamus in Second Year when he kept ripping on me. It didn't mean he believed I wasn't the Heir of Slytherin, but it did teach him to keep his mouth shut."

"Did you hit Ron in Fourth Year?" She asked. She hadn't heard that story before- the boys never told her anything. Then again, she'd never told them about some of the adventures Lavender and the other girls got up to. Harry never needed to know that her first kiss had been Sophie Roper when Eloise decided they all needed to know how to kiss before any of them got interested in boys.

Some things were private.

"No, I didn't." Harry laughed. "It probably would have solved things sooner if I had, though. Or maybe not- Ron is stubborn. I kept thinking though, that he was my friend. I didn't want to hit my friend. Not that I wasn't friends with Seamus, but we weren't close friends."

"Best friends." Hermione clarified.

Harry nodded. "Yeah, that." He grinned. "At least he's too busy being angry at Malfoy to make us his targets," he went on cheerfully.

If anyone was truly enjoying the reSort, it was Draco Malfoy. He proudly wore his red-lined robes, even on weekends when they could wear their own clothes. He was flirting with the girls in a way he never had before and was even making friends amongst the others.

The only one who really hated that he was in Gryffindor was Ron. From the way the points were dropping so dramatically, the rumours about the fights the two of them kept getting into had to be true.

The fact that Malfoy had made the Gryffindor Quidditch team and Ron hadn't probably hadn't helped a damned thing.

The fact that Lucius Malfoy had then bought brooms for the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team had shocked everyone. Nimbus Two Thousand and Twos might not be Firebolts, but they were the newest broomsticks on the market.

Malfoy had even, in his own special way, tried to be nice to Harry and Hermione. He stopped them one day before they entered the Great Hall. "How's Slytherin treating all of you?" He asked curiously.

They both turned warily. They had been late leaving class, so the halls were empty. He was leaning on the wall against a suit of armor, smirking at them.

"Can't complain." Harry answered, shrugging. "They only tried to attack us in our sleep once. That didn't work out for them."

Draco grinned. "Yeah, it wouldn't." He agreed.

"You know, we would have thought things were a lot different if you'd told us how strict Snape was with the Slytherins." Hermione pointed out. "He punished the whole House for that."

Draco nodded. "He would." He agreed. "Uncle Sev believes in being equally unfair to everyone. You know why I didn't, right? Who believes Snape would punish Slytherins?"

Hermione laughed. "It's certainly not something I ever thought." She admitted. "He's your godfather, right?" She asked, though she knew the answer. "How's he feel about your reSort?"

The blonde let out a moan. "He told me he always knew I was a hiding a Gryffindor side. I'm not sure if he's joking or not." He admitted ruefully.

"How's your dad taking this?" Harry asked curiously. Since Lucius Malfoy had been let off, again, on claims of Imperius after the Ministry attack, no one had seen him. Even the Order hadn't heard any news about Lucius Malfoy, from the little he'd heard from Remus.

Draco's smile slipped. "I dunno." He admitted. "I haven't heard from him. He doesn't really write to me, anyway, it's usually my mum. She doesn't seem bothered by it."

"That's really good." Hermione was honestly happy for him. She didn't want bad things to happen to him. "How do you like Gryffindor?" She asked curiously.

He shook his head. "It's different." He wasn't sure he'd ever get used to how different. "Seriously, does McGonagall really ignore you guys this much all the time?" He hadn't figured out how to ask one of the other Gryffs, so he figured he'd ask a former Gryff.

Harry nodded. "We never really had private conferences with her, outside of our career meetings." He agreed. He grinned. "And a few times when we got in trouble. She's definitely not pre-emptive like Snape is. Seriously, how does he have time for anything? I feel like he's always in his office, in another meeting."

"Severus tries really hard to make things better for Slytherin House." Draco said fondly. "From what I heard, his experiences in Hogwarts weren't great."

He shot a look Harry's way, earning himself a rueful grin. "Yeah, I heard about my father and his gang." Harry admitted. "I gotta say, not something I really wanted to know about my father."

Draco offered a sheepish smile of his own. "I don't think any of us really know that much about our parents. It's easier to worship them if you think they're perfect, right?" He said, scratching at his chin.

"Growing up sucks." Hermione summed up what they were all thinking. "I have to admit though, I like a more hands-on Head of House."

"I'm used to it too." Draco admitted, laughing. "I think I could get to like this lax supervision, but I really only wonder if it means McGonagall has too many duties. Maybe the Heads shouldn't be allowed to be the Deputy Head. I don't know that leaving the House of the Brash unsupervised is a good idea."

That earned him surprised looks from both of the others. "What?" He demanded, crossing his arms defensively. "I have a seat on the Governors waiting for me when I come of age, even if Father is no longer allowed to sit in it. I have to consider how I want things run for my children. What if they're in Gryffindor? I was, so they could be. I have the self-control that five years under Severus would give anyone. They might have five years undisciplined in Gryffindor before they're maybe resorted. You two have risked your lives how many times over the years? Can you honestly say you would have tried that many times under Severus? I guarantee you wouldn't."

It was maybe the longest speech Hermione had ever heard from him that wasn't a rant about Mudbloods. Actually, she wasn't even sure those rants were that long; he just didn't know enough about the Muggle world to rant that much about it.

"That's actually true." Harry couldn't see them getting past Second Year before Snape came down on them so hard, they couldn't travel ten meters without seeing him. "Snape- Severus-," he corrected, "wouldn't have put up with that. But in First Year, when we went to tell McGonagall what we knew about the Stone, she blew us off."

"To be fair, so did Professor Snape." Hermione pointed out.

Harry shook his head though. "No, that's because he was as suspicious of us as we were of him. We thought he was after the Stone." He explained to a confused-looking Malfoy.

The story of the Stone, as with most of their adventures, had filtered through the school rapidly afterwards. They were never sure how, as they were almost positive the Headmaster didn't go spreading tales, but somehow the bare bones of their adventures always made it out. Then, of course, the rumours went wild, but none of their adventures had ever stayed secret.

Draco snorted. He hadn't known they had suspected Severus in stealing the Philosopher's Stone, but remembered that the First Year Gryffs had been terrified of his godfather. "If there's one things Sev doesn't want, it's eternal life." He remembered his father talking about Severus when he was younger, about his lack of care for his own personal safety. He'd spent years being afraid Severus was suicidal; he still wasn't sure the man wasn't. "And you have no idea how much money he makes in creating brand new potions. He doesn't spend any of it; he's really quite wealthy." "

"Well, we know now he's not." Harry defended their eleven-year old selves. "But we didn't then. I don't even know if he'd have believed us. But Snape- Severus- would have at least lied about going to check so we'd shut up about it. To be honest, I never even thought about going after the Stone until I realized McGonagall was going to completely blow us off."

Hermione frowned, realizing the truth behind his words. He hadn't gotten desperate, really desperate, until after they'd spoken with McGonagall.

"You should be thinking about these things too." Draco informed Harry. "The Potters have a seat on the Governors board as well. Lady Longbottom can't wait until you come of age; the Potters and the Longbottoms have had an alliance for centuries."

"Neat." Harry liked the idea of allying with Neville, though he wasn't sure about the formidable grandmother than Neville sometimes talked about. "I hate to admit it, but you might have a point about McGonagall," he admitted reluctantly. "I don't know how Flitwick and Sprout are, but Snape is in a whole different league than she is."

Both boys looked repulsed at the thought that they might agree on something, quickly parting to head for lunch.