"If you won't put the jacket on, at least keep your wand out," Tonks said, shaking her head at him. "Good vampire you are, wandless and frostbitten."
Harry grimaced, which incidentally caused him to catch his bottom lip with his left fang. "Ah!"
"What? Oh, for Merlin's - here, Harry. Let me heal it. Stay still." Harry would've preferred Madam Pomfrey to mend his lip in the Hospital Wing. He trusted her healing skills more, but it seemed rude to tell Tonks this so he stayed quiet. "Episkey!"
His lip burned scorching hot, then went cold again. Like the rest of his body. Apparently, a shirt and jumper wasn't enough to keep himself warm now that he was in Scotland. Knew I should've worn gloves. And thicker socks. His hands and legs were freezing.
He sniffed. "Thanks, Tonks."
"You can thank me by putting the damn jacket on." She patted his shoulder. "And if Draco moans about you burrowing it, you tell him it was his own damn fault for leaving the thing. My cousin should know better than to leave his belongings lying around."
"Your cousin?" Harry said, struggling to remember the Black family tree at Grimmauld Place.
"My mum and his mother are sisters, so yeah. Draco's my first cousin once removed."
Harry wondered why Draco hadn't spent more time with his extended family members, then realised that it was probably because of his parents. If Pansy was uncomfortable because her girlfriend's family had a television in their lounge, who knew what the Malfoys thought of Tonks and her muggle-born father. Or of Sirius Black, whose name had been burned off the Black family tree.
He stopped and eyed the jacket in his arms. It really wouldn't do for him to freeze. And though Malfoy would probably be annoyed, the Slytherin was unlikely to retaliate. Malfoy already has enough on his plate right now. I'll just tell him Tonks made me to wear it. He didn't know why he was so anxious about seeing Malfoy again. It wasn't like they owed one another. They weren't even friends. The git did tell me to duck, though.
"Harry, hurry up!" Tonks called on ahead, a little further up the steep path.
Harry put his wand in his trousers' pockets again and pulled on the jacket. It was too long on his arms, reaching his knuckles. The hem came to his knees. It was probably tailored only to fit Malfoy. Bloody posh git is too tall, he is. Harry did up the buttons, then hurried to rejoin Tonks.
She grinned. "Feel better?"
"Good. I'd never hear the end of it from Sirius if I let you get frostbite under my watch." Tonks laughed, and her short, spiky hair quickly turned black and shaggy. "Harry caught a cold? A cold! Why, we should've sent Mad-Eye. Yes, he would have remained vigilant. Constant vigilance is required around my godson, Nymphadora."
That made Harry laugh. "Have you seen Sirius?"
Her hair turned back to pink again. "Yes, I'm sorry, he's still in St. Mungo's. But he's not getting any worse, Harry, that's the main thing. And he's not experiencing any more strokes. The Department Healer is just...he told me that Sirius keeps lashing out after a nightmare. He injured a trainee-healer last week. But if - if he can just go two weeks without any complications, then we can take him home. And I can...yes, I can watch over him at Grimmauld Place. Remus even volunteered to stay over and help, too."
"Why is he lashing out?" Harry asked, tentatively.
"Healer Montgomery says the reason is probably 'cause his nerves still feel like they're being fried by the Cruciatus, so his mind is reacting similarly. He needs a Mind Healer, is what he needs. But obviously, what with all the disappearances across the country, and Sirius only just being declared innocent, and Sirius also having intimate knowledge of the Order itself, well, we just need to be careful in whom we go after to ask for help."
"Can't someone in the Order help him?"
"There is an Order member who could help. We'll let you know when we've had a response from him, Harry." She gave him a small smile, then tapped his shoulder. "You just watch out for yourself now. Remember what I said about you not freezing."
As they drew closer to the gates of Hogwarts, Tonks quietened. The wind was louder then, brushing through the trees, making the branches creak and leaves sway. She shushed Harry each time he tried to strike up a conversation.
"Tonks, what's wrong?" he asked, growing anxious.
"The Ministry permitted the dementors to return again. They've been ordered to patrol the forests - the boarders around the school - not to go anywhere near the gates or the lane. Stay close, Harry. Stay close."
"Why are they even back?"
"For the school's protection. They could be anywhere." Tonks turned and stared at the woodland to their right. Shaking her head, she glanced back at Harry. "Wotcher, keep your wand out! Don't put it away."
Harry took his wand out again and followed her on to the gates of Hogwarts. Two pillars stood either side of the black gates. When they reached them, they found the gates chained shut. Tonks had sent a patronous on ahead once they had left the train earlier, but they didn't know who'd received the message.
"Anti-intruder jinxes have been put on the gates. Security's been tightened elven-fold this summer."
"That mean I'll be sleeping outdoors tonight?"
"No, probably not. Doubt you'd be willing to sleep in my cousin's clothes, anyway." She laughed at the grim expression on Harry's face. She turned back to the stare beyond the gates and frowned. "Look - someone's coming."
A lantern was bobbing up and down in the far darkness. Harry could make out a thin figure wearing either a long coat or dark robes coming down the lane from the castle's entrance. He hoped it was Filch. He could stand his rants about forbidden punishments and time-wasters. He even hoped it was Professor McGonagall. Though she would be annoyed at having to leave the feast mid-way, she likely wouldn't be too harsh with him.
Slowly, the darkness gave way to reveal Professor Snape strolling down the lane with his greasy, black hair tied back into a bun. His lips had already pulled back into a sneer by the time he reached the gates.
Harry tugged Malfoy's jacket closer around him, the cold settling in now that he was standing still. Please don't recognise Malfoy's clothing. Please don't -
"Well, well -" Snape pulled out his wand from his robes and tapped the gates once. A spark ignited from the wand and the chains unlocked and snaked down to lie on the ground, leaving the gates to slowly retreat and open. "How good of you to finally gift us with your presence, Potter. And in such casual attire, too. Clearly, you must feel like the school's policies do not apply to you."
"I couldn't change. My robes were in my trunk, in the -"
"Nymphadora, there is no need to wait. You may be off," Snape said, cutting off Harry. "And you, here, Potter - drink this," he went on, fishing for something in his robes. He brought a flask out from his pockets. "Pig's blood. Perfectly safe. It will sooth the vampire blood in you, preventing further stress. In other words, it'll calm your nerves and make your fangs rescind, a feat you have evidently not yet learned to accomplish."
Harry took the flask. "They only just came out on the train, it isn't my fault I don't know how to retract them."
"Just drink the blood, Potter," Snape muttered, bringing his hand up to rub the bridge of his nose.
Harry snorted and took the cap off the flask. The liquid looked red and thick. He brought it to his lips. The blood tasted sweet, much like a sugary drink only stickier. As he finished off the flask, however, drinking the last mouthfuls quickly, the blood became tangy and metallic. It was as if a slab of iron was melting on his tongue.
He gave the flask back to the professor, and then wiped his chin.
Tonks grimaced. "I had meant Hagrid to get my patronous," she said, looking at Snape. "But as you're here, that matter I wrote to you of -"
"Hagrid was late to the feast, just like Potter here. A Gryffindor trait, no less, it must be, so I took your message." She scowled and tried to respond, but he held up the lantern, blinding her. "As for that matter? I said, I would consider it."
"You're needed, Snape. He needs you! No one else is as good at Legilimency as you are."
"I am the last person he would need," he sneered before he turned his gaze onto Harry and motioned him to pass through the gates with a wave of his lantern. Harry watched as Snape then cast a spell and chained the gates together once more, locking Tonks out. "Now, come on, Potter. Move."
"You're wrong, Snape. You are needed," Tonks called behind them.
Harry wondered whom even needed Snape that badly. To have Tonks speaking on their behalf to Snape of all people, that person must've been desperate. "Delusional woman," he heard Snape mutter. They walked up the lane, the professor murmuring to himself half the way. "I daresay you've already missed dinner, Potter. If you miss drinking your dose of blood tonight, too, I'll personally give you your detention. There are many, many ways - potions and otherwise - to force a vampire to drink."
"I have to drink blood again tonight?"
"A jug will be beside your bed in your dorm room. Do not forget, lest you put your roommates at risk." Snape raised the lantern higher as they came to the entrance of the castle doors. "Oh. And twenty points from Gryffindor, I think, for your lateness. And another five for not wearing school regulation robes. Tell me, Potter, is that your own jacket?"
"Someone left it on the train. Tonks told me to wear it, I was cold." He left out the part that it was Draco Malfoy who had forgotten it. "I know whose it is, I'll return it.
"Make sure that you do. I'd hate to take even more points away from Gryffindor for stealing." He snorted. "You know, I don't think any house has ever been in the negative figures so early into the year. You might've set a record, Potter."
Harry hated Snape then. He hated Snape for goading him now about being late. And he hated the man for goading Sirius last year, for mocking the fact that Sirius had to always remain behind at Grimmauld Place because he was a wanted man whilst the rest of the Order worked against Voldemort. Snape was probably the reason, if not a good motive, for why Sirius had gone to the Ministry of Magic. If Snape hadn't been so spiteful, Sirius wouldn't be in the hospital. He wouldn't have even gone to the Ministry.
Harry didn't think he could forgive Snape for that.
They entered the castle by the exterior steps. Once inside, they quickly made it to the entrance of the Grand Hall, two large doors that behind them echoed the sounds of laughter and the tinkling of cutlery pieces. Harry wondered if he could use his Invisibility Cloak to enter the Hall unseen. He still had blood on his face from his cut lip. And he didn't want Malfoy to see him wearing his jacket.
"No Cloak, Potter," Snape said, as if reading his mind. "You can walk in wearing that jacket, too. After all, we wouldn't want the Chosen One to catch a cold."
Harry turned on the spot and marched straight through the doors: anything to get away from Snape. He walked so quickly, the Hall was all a shimmering blur to him. The four tables had been positioned as they had been every year before. He saw heads turn as he passed by people. Quickly, he found Ron and Hermione and forced his way into the seat on the bench between them.
"Where've you - Blimey, Harry, what happened to you? You look awful. And what's with the jacket? That's not yours."
"I know it's not. Thanks for pointing that out, Ron," Harry muttered as he made to grab a spare plate, a couple of chicken legs and a bunch of chips. "I'll tell you later what happened."
"But, you disappeared. We thought -"
Harry swallowed a mouthful of chicken and gave him a stern look. "Tell you later." There were other students staring and listening in. Ginny, Dean, Seamus, Neville, Nearly Headless Nick, and even Hannah Abbott at the Hufflepuff table. He didn't want to look over and see what the Slytherins were doing.
"Well, at least do something about your face. You've blood all over you, people will think you've gone mad." He gave her a look, as if to remind her that most people already thought he was mad. Hermione huffed, took out her wand and pointed it at his face. "Tergeo!"
Harry rubbed his chin. It didn't feel wet from the blood now, and he felt cleaner. "Thanks, 'Mione," he said, then went back to eating his chips. Shortly after, though, his food vanished, and a new, clean dish replaced it.
Where the bowl of chips had been on the table, was now a treacle tart on a large dish. He grabbed a knife, cut himself a large piece and pulled it onto his clean dish. The treacle tart had been layered with golden syrup.
"Do you think the kitchens have more treacle tarts?" Harry asked, not wanting to eat the entire dish by himself. He knew that others at the table like that desert as well.
"Hmmm. The way you go through them, they probably have loads."
A little while later, Dumbledore stood, and the deserts vanished as well. The talk and laughter lowered to whispers. "Welcome to Hogwarts!" the Headmaster cried, his arms outspread.
Hermione nudged Harry in the side, and she said, "Look at his hand." He looked at the staff table, past McGonagall. He managed to catch the sight of Dumbledore's blackened hand before the Headmaster could cover the injured limb with his sleeve.
He cleared his throat. "Nothing to worry about. Now, the very best of evenings to you. I have a few announcements to make before we all head to our beds. Mr. Filch, our resident caretaker, would like to remind everyone that the forbidden forest is out of bounds to all students. There is a blanket ban on all joke items purchased from the shop called Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. And belongings, left in the dorms last year, will be returned once asked for. Please see him in his office on the forth floor."
Harry looked over to see Filch grinning.
"A quick warning. With the return of Lord Voldemort, I - and the Ministry - have seen fit to reinforce the school's boarders with a patrol of dementors from Azkaban. Likewise to forbidden forest, do not go beyond the boundaries of the school, should you value your very soul." He paused for a moment, allowing students to murmur and the news to sink in, then smiled. "On a more pleasant note, those wishing to play in a Quidditch team should give their names to their Heads of House as usual. We are also looking for new Quidditch commentators. We are also pleased to welcome a new member of staff this year. Professor Slughorn." Slughorn rose from his chair, his bald head gleaming in the candlelight. "He is a former colleague of mine who's agreed to resume his old post of Potions Master. Meanwhile, Professor Snape will be taking on the position as teacher for Defence Against the Dark Arts."
Harry knew this. Dumbledore had already explained to him upon leaving the residence where Slughorn had been residing that the Potions Master was inexperienced at Defence Against the Dark Arts, which meant that the only role he could take upon returning was his old job. This meant that Professor Snape would need to vacate his old profession and take up Defence Against the Dark Arts instead. Old Snape's wanted that job for years, though, he must've loved being asked.
It did irk Harry that he didn't know whether he could play Quidditch or not now. Harold and Samuel had said that due to his new and improved senses, he probably wouldn't be allowed. Was there even a point to him asking the Team Captain or McGonagall?
"And finally, as many of you may have heard in the papers, there was a new education law last month, which permits the education of selected half-humans here at Hogwarts. For many, this will not affect you, but for those who have been denied a public education due to their genes, or to those who learned only of their inheritance during their attendance here and so wouldn't have been able to continue their studies, it may be considered a blessing. Indeed, a great opportunity to unite communities and further our knowledge of wizarding kind. I wish you all the very best for the coming year."
McGonagall stood and took up a scroll from the staff table. "A new tower was constructed over the summer for those of you who are creatures. You will remain of your old house, but these will be your new sleeping quarters from now on. When I call your name, you will stay behind and wait for Professor Flitwick to escort you to your new common room. Now, from our seventh years: Mike Elstone, Emma Flint, Maria Glossop, Gerald Kingston, Nancy Scott. Sixth years: Hannah Abbott, Michael Corner, Tracey Davis, Seamus Finnigan, Hermione Granger, Su Li, Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter. And lastly, from the fifth years: David Dankworth, Julie Elstone, Adam Robinson, Ryan Stanton, Mary Taylor, Celia White, and Angelina Wilson."
Hermione leaned in and nudged Harry in the ribs. "That's so many. Twenty one students in all."
McGonagall lowered her scroll. "Again, First Years to be escorted by House Prefects. Half-Humans, to be escorted by Professor Flitwick. Now, I wish you all a goodnight's rest."
"Malfoy and Corner are creatures? Oh, that is precious," Ron snickered.
"Part-creature, Ronald. They're still human and, moreover, very capable wizards. If they were just creatures, they wouldn't be able to return to Hogwarts," Hermione admonished him. "And don't act like that, Harry will be sharing a dorm with them from now on. Have you thought about that? I'm sure this situation will be horrible enough without you insulting his new roommates."
"Me not insult his roommates? Are you mad, Hermione? You can't be happy about having to share a dorm with Davis?"
Tracey Davis was a Slytherin. Harry had seen her in classes and the library, almost always quieting reading by herself, but he had never spoken to her. In fact, he couldn't really recall who she usually hung out with. She didn't seem to like hanging out in gangs, unlike her fellow housemates. Even so, she's still a Slytherin.
"No, I'm not happy to switch dorms, but I'm certainly not going to start insulting my peers," she replied. Ron bristled at the use of his full first name. "There is a lot more to worry about."
"Exactly. I'll be there with ya, Harry. We won't be totally alone with 'em other houses," Seamus said, cutting into their conversation. "And yeah, the dementors being back is awful. Enough to make ya not want to go outside."
"All right. Harry, Hermione, I'll see you tomorrow, al'right?"
Ron rose from the bench. Harry noticed that many of the older students was scrambling for the Hall doors. Anthony Goldstein and Padma Patil were attempting to hurdle their house's first years together. They must be the Ravenclaw prefects. He watched as Ron skirted down the Gryffindor table towards the entrance, all the while calling out to the first years and herding them together.
"Shouldn't you be with him?" Harry asked, turning to Hermione.
"It was decided on the train. Only one prefect is needed to show the new first years to the common room. Ron is capable enough to do it himself." She looked over at the Slytherin table. "It's the same for the other houses, too. Parkinson agreed to take her house's first years alone down to the dungeons, so Malfoy could stay and be shown to his new common room."
"I'm surprised Parkinson is still a prefect. Seems she only took the job to be close to Malfoy."
"Snape gave her that role for a reason, Harry, it isn't up to you to question the way he runs his House. And why shouldn't she get to be friendly with a fellow prefect?" Hermione scowled. "I'm friends with Ron."
"That's different. I saw something earlier on the train. The Slytherins are protecting one another," he muttered.
"Protecting one another?"
"I'll explain later."
Flitwick was coming down from the staff table. "Come along, come along, students," he bellowed. "Don't loiter."
He made to stand by the head of the Ravenclaw table, where he began shooing away the lingering students from his house. Why is Flitwick the one leading us up to Half-Blood Tower? Hermione rose from her seat to skirt around the students. Harry followed on slowly behind her.
Other half-humans were beginning to encircle Flitwick. Harry arrived to find Sue Li, a Ravenclaw with midnight-black hair, in the midst of asking him what they were studying for their first Charms class of the year. Harry didn't hear his answer. He saw Malfoy and Davis approaching their group. Davis was holding two books in her arms, Malfoy holding three.
"On our way now, here were go," Flitwick said, motioning with his hand onwards.
He urged their small group to follow him out of the Grand Hall. He was slow up to the Grand Staircase, though, always keeping a hold of the banister.
"This is the way to the Dark Tower," Hermione said, nudging Harry. "Why are we headed there?"
"Maybe it's on the way, or they created a new tower near it?"
Hermione hummed thoughtfully.
They approached the North Wing. Flitwick was still leading without a needing a break, while Davis, Flint, Kingston and a few other students seemed out of breath. Davis herself looked flushed in the face and was panting. The Wing had hundreds of bookshelves lining its walls, along with various tables and furniture placed around the long room. When Harry and Ron couldn't find Hermione in the library, they would often find her secluded away near one of the bookshelves in the North Wing.
Harry passed by the Fat Lady's portrait. He felt resentful that he couldn't rejoin his fellow housemates up in the Gryffindor common room, but he also knew that he couldn't risk staying there anymore. He was a vampire now.
Flitwick stopped just outside of a new portrait. Harry remembered that a door had been there before. Now, there hung the portrait of Sir Cadogan, a portly knight sitting astride a pony.
"Ah, ha, Professor Flitwick. Excellent, very excellent. I was awaiting your arrival," Cadogan said.
Flitwick smiled behind his beard. "Good evening, Sir Cadogan." He turned to his students. "It was decided the Dark Tower should be reconstructed into a new tower. The Half-Blood Tower. It shall act as your new home for the foreseeable future. And for his fine service and bravery, Sir Cadogan was selected to be the portrait to your common room. The password is, Treacle Tarts. Don't forget it. Now let's go inside."
The common room was much like the Gryffindor's. There was a table in the corner with a wizard chess placed on it. A coffee table sat near the giant fireplace. There was a large window in the far corner, with curtains outlining it. A window seat lay beneath. And opposite them, on the far side of the room, was a set of stairs that went upwards.
"Your dorm rooms are up those stairs. First floor dorms belong to Fifth Years. Second floor dorms, they're for Sixth Years. And third floor, Seventh Years. There are separate dorms for each gender. Men on the left, girls the right. Much like your past dorms, boys may not enter the girls' dormitories. Try it, and you'll see the defensive charms that have been put in place. Some I personally placed." Flitwick sounded proud. He swaddled past them towards the door. "Your belongings have already been transferred to your dorms. Don't stay up too late. You'll be getting your new timetables tomorrow morning."
Flitwick left. There was a brief silence.
Seamus shook his head. "I'm gonna go to bed. Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and this will all be a dream."
Malfoy glanced at Harry, his eyebrows raising, before he followed Seamus up the staircase. Nervously, Harry fiddled with the long sleeves of the jacket. When is he going to ask for his jacket back? Most of the students followed Seamus' lead, tired from the long walk to the common room.
Hermione pulled him over to the window seat. He perched himself upon the soft cushions and laid his back against the wall. They waited as the common room slowly emptied, until only two other students were left. The remaining two were both fifth years and had occupied themselves with a game of wizards' chess beside the fireplace.
"They won't hear us if we're quiet," Hermione said, eyeing them. "Now what's wrong, Harry?"
"What's wrong, is Malfoy's a Death Eater. He showed me his Mark. The actual Dark Mark, 'Mione." Harry ran a hand through his hair. "Voldemort stayed at the Malfoy Manor during the summer. I think something is wrong. Something is definitely wrong with Malfoy and I want to help him but I don't know how."
"Slow down. Tell me exactly what happened on the train?"
"I can't - I can't slow down," he stuttered, placing his head in his hands. "After Neville and I met with Slughorn and the others, I snuck out after Zabini. I followed him to the Slytherin compartment and hid up in a luggage rack."
"Harry," she admonished, clearly disapproving of his sneaking around.
"I can't remember why I did it, I just thought it'd be a great way to spy on Malfoy. But he admitted it, 'Mione. He admitted to all his mates that Voldemort had been staying at his home. He said he thinks he won't survive the year."
"Oh, dear. You're right, Harry, something is clearly wrong." She frowned. "But how does this prove he's a Death Eater?"
"I'm getting there. Malfoy then told his mates that he was a veela. And when we reached the station, they volunteered to look out for him but they left him alone on the train, because he said he'd catch up with them. He knew I was up in the rack, see. He cast the full body-bind curse on me. I fell onto the floor, and Malfoy - he said that he knew we'd followed him to Borgin and Burkes. Borgin had told Malfoy that you followed him after into the shop and started asking questions."
Hermione snorted. "Well, Malfoy was acting fishy. I won't say sorry for investigating it."
"He didn't seem to care, 'Mione. Only wanted us to stop following him. He rolled up his sleeve and showed me his Mark, and said he hoped we'd stop spying on him. The Mark didn't look...normal, though. It was all bloody and cut up."
"Okay. And then what happened? Did he leave - is that why you were late to the feast?"
"No. Ah. He took off the body-bind curse. And there was so much blood on his arm, 'Mione. And he was close, we were both sitting on the compartment floor." He took a breath. Hermione was eyeing him, expecting him to continue. "I wanted his blood. I leaned in to him and then...and then the whole compartment exploded. The windows smashed and glass came down at us, the racks broke. He didn't mean to. I mean, Malfoy cast accidental magic, but he didn't mean to. He pulled me down first."
"He pulled you down?" she asked, sounding surprised.
"Malfoy yelled "Duck!" and pushed me to the floor. When it was over, he said that I shouldn't have surprised him. That I shouldn't try and touch a veela. Then...then he noticed my fangs. "
"Your fangs came out? They weren't meant to come out for another week, Harry."
"I know. It was a shock for both Malfoy and me." He snorted at the memory of Malfoy's horrified face. Of course he'd look that way when faced with a vampire. "He ran out after. Grabbed his suitcase and ran. Then Tonks came and brought me to the gates. Snape collected me from there. He gave me some pig's blood to make my fangs go away and made me go into the Hall without my Cloak on. That's it. That's what happened."
Hermione fiddled with her hands. "Well. It seems like Malfoy's under a lot of pressure right now. Are you going to tell Mr Weasley, Harry? I'm not sure if it's a good idea. Malfoy could panic again."
"Yeah, I agree." She looked up from her hands, her eyes widening. Clearly, she hadn't expected him to agree. "I'm not gonna tell Mr Weasley. Maybe I'll tell Dumbledore, I dunno. I'll see what happens first, I don't think Malfoy wants to hurt anyone."
"But you've been so adamant that he's been up to something."
"He is, but you should've heard him on the train, 'Mione. He sounded so scared. He doesn't want to be a Death Eater, I'm sure of it. And I want to help him. Parkinson and Zabini aren't staying here, he has no one. I need to help him."
"As long as you're sure, Harry. And you keep your distance." She gave him a stern look. "Just because you want to help him, doesn't mean he wants you to. You said it yourself, he doesn't want you spying on him."
"I won't be spying on him. I'll be trying to be his friend."