A/N: Sorry for the wait, everyone. I was travelling and then studying, and time just got away from me.


Chapter 2

Something was tickling his nose. Harry wrinkled the offended appendage and sneezed a little. Something else tickled his ear. Harry batted at it and rolled over, dragging with him the silky smooth blankets that warmed his feet even as they soothed and cooled his face. They really were wonderful blankets, Harry mused to himself, much better than the blankets in Gryffindor tow-

Harry realized that he was sleeping in the dormitory of the house he still thought probably had hidden away corners with the blood of Muggleborns dripping down the walls and sat bolt upright even as whoever-it-was-tickling-him grabbed his feet and pulled. Harry shrieked and twisted as his stomach muscles protested being directed in two different directions at once, and the idiot tugging on him yelped as one of Harry's feet connected with something solid.

Someone handed Harry his glasses as he struggled upright, and he promptly shoved them on his face, paused, took them off, and put them back on right-side-up. Malfoy-call-me-Draco glared up at Harry, holding his nose. Tracy Davis stood next to the blood, staring cross-eyed at the blood that dripped between his fingers.

Oops.

"I tink you boke by nose."

Eh?

Harry blinked at Malfoy, trying to figure out what the usually articulate twelve year was attempting to say. Something about a nose…

"Botter! you boke by nose! Don't just look at be like a sdubid i-i-id-sdubid berson! Ow!"

Tracy looked apologetically at Harry, having just whacked Malfoy over the back of the head with the book she had been holding. Harry blinked. Did she always carry books with her? He distinctly remembered her having two during the conversation yesterday after the whole snake fiasco…oh. Damn. Hermione and Ron must be frantic, thinking he'd been kidnapped by evil Slytherins. They didn't know yet that the Slytherins weren't evil-at least this years lot (Harry hadn't met the other Slytherins yet, but he was pretty sure there must be some evil ones in the house. Probably in the older years, though…they'd had time to cultivate their resentment and evil squickiness of doom); they were just severely unaware of the fine points of talking with people their own age, despite those hoity-toity lessons on etiquette they had defended so vehemently the day before.

"Harry?"

He snapped out of his rambling contemplations-really, no wonder Snape thought he was a dunderhead-and looked at Tracy, who was staring at him in concern. Malfoy seemed to be muttering under his breath.

Tracy seemed to be measuring the width of Harry's pupils. Having decided that they looked relatively normal (and how would she know that?), she backed away and said, with a barely hidden smirk, "Draco's just mad that you broke his nose, but don't worry. Greg will fix it up easily. Do you have any idea what time it is?"

Harry gave her a blank look, and she sighed. "It's nearly noon. The rest of the school's in an uproar. The Gryffindors are convinced that we've either killed you or brainwashed you into hating mud-muggleborns; the Ravenclaws are playing devil's advocate and working them into a frenzy, and the Hufflepuffs are preaching doom and despair. It's wonderful!"

Harry had no idea why she thought that a clearly nightmarish situation was wonderful, but he thought that, since Tracy clearly had no morals against hitting injured comrades-and didn't Malfoy look even paler than usual?-she would have absolutely nothing stopping her from shoving her point of view in his face. Violently.

Instead, he said, "Why don't we go find Greg?"

He had learned earlier that at the start of their first year, the Slytherin firsties had all been advised to figure out who did what best-whether it be schoolwork or otherwise, and improve that knowledge before they started trying to branch out in their knowledge. Harry had realized that this was why a) everyone seemed to think that a house full of the ambitious could seem to have so many one-trick-ponies b) this was probably why Snape cut his younger years so much slack, and c) how the Slytherins got away with so much. Disgruntled, Harry wondered why the hell the other houses didn't seem to have such a clever system. Pansy had snorted and gently patted Harry on his newly groomed and improved head.

Now, Tracy simply nodded and bent down to help the still freely bleeding Malfoy to his feet before heading out the door. Harry absentmindedly followed the two, going over the list of talents he had learned the past day.

Draco Malfoy: Potions and Politics

Vincent Crabbe: Herbology

Gregory Goyle: Healing

Theodore Nott: Counter Charms and Shields

Blaise Zabini: Hexes and Curses

Lillian Moon: Charms

Pansy Parkinson: Astronomy and Genealogy

Daphne Greengrass: Grooming and Etiquette

Tracey Davis: Transfiguration

Millicent Bulstrode: Contacts and Blackmail

Harry wasn't sure what he thought about a bunch of twelve-year olds who considered etiquette and blackmail among major talents that should be cultivated, but he didn't really feel like arguing the point with either Daphne or Millicent. Millicent could probably sit on him until he agreed with everything she said, and Daphne-golden, ethereal Daphne-was scary. He didn't know what she would do to him if he scoffed at her contributions, and he didn't want to find out.

He wasn't even going to think the words Pansy, Genealogy, and useless in the same hundred words. Absolutely not.

After firmly deciding that girls were strange and mysterious and could probably slaughter Voldemort if they ever decided to take over the world, Harry looked up from his feet and blinked at the sight of the Slytherin common room.

It was a mess.

The first years were huddled in the corner; wide-eyed, white, and…

Sporting red and gold striped hair?

Harry looked around wildly and ducked as a red spell jetted by him. He straightened back up and glared at the caster. Millicent blushed and shrugged. Aim was not her specialty.

Harry turned his glare onto the causes of the chaos in the common room: the Weasley twins. Before he could draw in enough breath to bellow, though, yet another red head had invaded his personal spaces, wrapped his arms around Harry-who was only just starting to understand Malfoy's distaste of all things bright red-and bellowed, right in Harry's ear, "I've got him! Retreat! Gred, Forge, cover me!"

Feeling completely baffled as to why Ron had suddenly decided to emulate an army officer in a very bad war film, Harry tried to wriggle out of Ron's grasp, only to realize that his friend's lanky figure was really very bony, and that bones were uncomfortable when digging into one's stomach and sternum, and that really, struggling was only going to make this whole fiasco even more uncomfortable than it already was.

Out of the common room, down the hall, up the stairs (and really, did Ron have to be so bouncy when he climbed stairs with a captive thrown over his shoulder?), and down another corridor before another, very welcome, voice intruded on the unbearable jouncing, jolting run.

"Honestly, Ron, put poor Harry down before he passes out. All the blood is rushing to his head. Look! He's all red."

"Hermione!" gasped Harry as he was practically dropped to the ground ("Cor, Harry, you really need to eat more. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to carry you?") "What in Merlin's name is going on?"

"Oh, Harry!" He tried not to choke as his vision and airways were blocked by bushy brown hair. "I'm so glad you're alright!"

"Yeah, mate," said Ron, still rubbing his shoulder. Boney? Harry would show him boney! "Who knows what those slimy snakes would have done to you if we hadn't got there in time."

"Snakes aren't slimy." Harry felt like banging his against the wall when he felt his mouth open and start talking without his permission. Ron looked like he thought Harry already had banged his head enough to give him a severe concussion.

"Well, no," said Hermione. "They are rather dry, aren't they?"

"Dry? Dry?" Ron bellowed, looking like his head was about to explode. Harry wondered absently if strokes ran in Ron's family and if, at twelve, Ron was in any danger. "Hermione! We're not here to talk about bestiality!"

Harry choked. Hermione looked torn between giggling like the schoolgirl she was or fainting. "Zoology, Ron. Bestiality is, is-"

"Something else," Harry supplied, lips twitching at Hermione's torn expression.

"We're not here to talk about word thingies either!" Ron was now waving his arms around rather indignantly. "We're here to talk about Harry being brainwashed by sli- by rather dry snakes!"

"Funny," said Harry. "I don't feel very brainwashed."

"Well, no," Hermione answered. "I didn't think you would."

"Exactly!" Ron was shaking now. "You wouldn't feel brainwashed if they did it properly! You'd feel like this was how you were always supposed to feel!"

"Well, actually, I didn't think Harry would feel brainwashed because the people who grabbed him were twelve." Hermione looked concerned, but Harry wasn't sure whom she felt more worry for: Ron or himself.

"They start them early on nef-nef- evil plots and talents and, and whatever else they need to act slimy but really be rather dry." Ron crossed his arms defensively and nodded his head rather vigorously.

"Did you mean nefarious?" Harry tilted his to one side as he eyed Ron in concern. The was bad. Ron only tried to use big word when he was absolutely conviced of something and had made it his personal mission to convince everyone else to come around to his thinking. Which was really rather counterproductive, and stammering and using very wrong and odd words tended to distract people from the original point Ron was trying to make.

"Sorry, Ron. What were you trying to say?"

Ron's face turned even redder. "We have to save you from being brainwashed!"

"But, I'm not," Harry protested. "Blaise-"

"Who?"

"Blaise."

Ron still looked confused.

"Zabini?" Harry tried again.

Still no recognition.

"The dark, quiet boy in our year at Slytherin?"

"Sorry, mate." Ron shrugged. "I only know Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and that Parkinson bint."

"Don't call her a bint!" Harry cried, feeling indignant on the behalf of the very scary Pansy.

"Well she is! She's a Slytherin!"

"She's twelve, she isn't old enough o be a bint yet."

"I'm with Harry on that one." Hermione remarked.

"She's a Slytherin!" Ron seemed convinced that this particular line needed no further backup and clearly explained the root of all evil.

"Ron," said Harry seriously, "with your lines of reasoning, you really should consider becoming a politician. Or maybe one of those television preachers."

Hermione stifled a giggle, and Ron narrowed his eyes.

"Merlin, Harry! All it took was one night with them, and you're already starting to sound like them. Going to start setting snakes on more people like Justin? Who's next? Hermione?"

"What are you talking about?" Asked Harry. "I haven't set any snakes on anyone."

"You did it just last night," screamed Ron. "You want to get rid of all the muggleborns! I bet it was you who did for Mrs. Norris and Creevey!"

"Er, Ron." Hermione looked bewildered. "We were with Harry when Mrs. Norris was attacked, and Harry was in the hospital wing when Colin went down."

"He was faking it!"

"His bones were vanished. You can't fake that?"

"He's being taken over by evil, Hermione. The snakes have corrupted him! He'll go after you next because you're muggleborns."

"Sorry to put a dampener on you infallible reasoning, Ron." Harry was finally starting to get angry. "But you seem to have forgotten that my Mum was muggleborns."

"Yeah," Ron shouted, "and she's dead, too, isn't she? You did for her before you could even talk properly!"

Harry snapped. Before anyone could do anything, he was on Ron. Punching, kicking, biting scratching. All he knew was that he wanted Ron to hurt as much as that last accusation had hurt him. Deaf to Hermione's shrieks of horror, Harry head butted Ron, who, after his initial surprise of the slender boy hurling himself towards him, had promptly started giving back as good as her got.

It was only when a tall, batlike figure had swooped down on the fight and plucked Harry up by the back of his neck that Hermione was able to grab Ron and clamp her hand over his mouth that the yells, grunts, and thwacking sounds finally died away, leaving in their wake the hoarse sobbing that Harry had bothered to try to stop while he was mauling every inch of Ron he could reach.


A/N: To those of you who listen to or are television preachers (or politicians), I am not insulting you directly, just playing on stereotypes