Chapter 8 : Destination Hogwarts?
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Note: A previous chapter, 'Neville's party' has been rejected on the basis that 'Longbottom is on the list of banned characters on my new archive'. It was not my intention to breech the rules of this site, and since I am currently unable to locate the list of banned characters this is likely to be my last post here.
On the morning of Sunday the 1st of September, 1991, Draco Malfoy left Malfoy Manor still not entirely sure where his educational future was going to lie. He had multiple trunks packed, to cover the different possible contingencies. As far as he could see, there were three possibilities currently in play: Hogwarts and a traditional wizarding education, return to Malfoy Manor to be tutored at home by mother and private tutors, or being sent to study under Lily Snape at her home. Whilst his father had been vacillating between the first two for quite some time, mother of course was now pregnant again, and after the tragic experience of a couple of years ago, wanted as little stress as possible this time around. Having Draco’s four year old sister, Gabrielle, underfoot at the Manor was taxing to mother, since Malfoys supervised as much of the early years of their children as possible – it wouldn’t do to have them left to be reared by house elves or anyone human but socially too inferior. That had left Hogwarts the front runner, as far as Draco could see, but his father seemed to be playing a game which involved keeping the Lily Snape option open for as long as possible which was something that Draco did not understand. She associated with muggles, for Merlin’s sake, and had he himself not seen her involved in the operations serving refreshments at that village fair two years ago, seeming to fit right in? That was another of his father’s whims, which Draco still didn’t understand. It had been his father’s idea to have an outing to ‘the muggle world’ to see that May Day fair, the purpose of which had apparently also included to observe Lily Snape and her husband and children, and see them they had; though they had also, to Draco’s amusement, bumped into some former girlfriend of Sirius Black, who was apparently looking for any rumour of his current location on the grounds that he was likely the father of the grumpy toddler she had had with her, and that she wanted him to acknowledge his responsibilities (and to hand over large quantities of cash).
Draco’s mother, who was of course Sirius’ cousin, tended to refer (in private) to the head of the Black family as ‘that playboy auror idiot’. Sirius was apparently aware of the sentiment, but as long as Narcissa kept her opinion strictly to family circles he seemed to regard it as rather amusing and tolerated it. He tended to get really nasty if anything damaging leaked into the press however; he had deployed the Black family wealth and influence to utterly annihilate a once moderately popular reporter who had made the mistake of writing an article containing allegations about uncle Sirius’ time at school. The journalist in question, one Rita Skeeter, had last been heard of ‘on permanent special assignment’ to Timbuktu, somewhere out in the Sahara Desert. The Hogwarts defence against the dark arts teacher who had been her source had simply vanished from the face of the Earth, six weeks before the end of that academic year.
But, the scary machinations of the Black family aside, Draco was supposed to be concentrating on the forthcoming morning which would determine his fate – although actually, come to think of it, hadn’t uncle Sirius been the godfather of Lily Snape’s son by her first marriage to the Potter pureblood? Maybe if the slightly scary Sirius Black considered Lily worth associating with, then she couldn’t be a complete write-off. Then again, maybe he had been more an acquaintance of James Potter, and hadn’t had much to do with Lily since her first husband died.
Anyway, Draco’s head was hurting with the complications of all these family angles, and trying to work out what possible ramifications remarriage should have for blood and social status. Fortunately, the limousine which the ministry had been kind enough to send to convey Draco’s father and Draco to the station was arriving at its destination smoothly now. Mother had had one of her attacks of morning sickness, and wasn’t coming to the station today, but staying home with Gabrielle.
Draco and his father emerged from the limousine, Draco carrying his owl, Mercury, in his cage, and made their way into the station, protected by charms from being noticed or bothered by muggles. As they approached the wall between platforms nine and ten, Lucius took Draco by the arm and guided him through the barrier to platform nine and three quarters where the carriages headed by a steam locomotive of the Hogwarts Express awaited.
The platform by now was busy with parents and children and trunks. Lucius had of course shrunk Draco’s trunks down and stowed them about his personage in various pockets for now. He paused at the entrance to the platform, surveying the mob ahead, then apparently fixed upon something, and set out, at a dignified pace, walking cane clicking and Draco trailing dutifully behind. As they went, Draco nodded to some of the children he knew, as they passed. He would have liked to have stopped to have a word, or even to just wave in passing, but that would have been presuming upon his father, who had still not yet stated to Draco exactly where Draco would be ending up.
And then, rounding a knot of those Weasley menaces, Draco came into sight of what his father had apparently been looking for, and Draco had to remember his manners and force himself to keep from gaping.
The idiot schoolmaster, Severus Snape, whom Draco had last seen two years ago having sponges thrown at him for that muggle entertainment was garbed as a dignified footman today, all in silver and white, and holding an infant. And, trailing the rest of her children in silver-grey about her like constellations, Lily Snape was dressed and cloaked in a velvety black so breathtaking it made the eyes water and the heart ache, her wavy red hair tumbling about her shoulders. She half-turned from the wizard she had been talking to, as Draco’s father approached her, and lifted her gloved left-hand for Draco’s father to politely bend and formally kiss, which he duly did. It was his mark of the highest respect for a woman, and up until now Draco had only ever seen his father do that to Draco’s own mother and to the dowager Augusta Longbottom.
Draco was vaguely aware of his father saying something to Lily Snape, and Lily Snape returning the pleasantry. Her green eyes seemed to be sparkling with polite amusement this morning. Draco couldn’t understand it. Where was the woman of the Humble-on-the-Down May Day village fete of two years ago? This woman radiated an aura of practically tangible power and command. This was unquestionably a woman who had vanquished a dark lord. He was experiencing difficulty reconciling his two wildly contrasting impressions of the same woman. Unless she deliberately lived on the edge of a muggle community and swathed herself in nonentity as a cloak so she would not be bothered? Had Draco’s father known that this other Lily Snape existed, but gone to that fete to view the masquerade she executed in her seclusion from the magical world? Why would she hide though? None of this made much sense, but Draco had discovered that sometimes first impressions could be wrong, and appearances deceptive. Yes, he had read the theory of it in books, and forgotten about it or sneered at something so simple it should be obvious, but this was the first time he had experienced in a personal context that it could actually be true.
Get on her bad side, and Draco was certain that Lily Snape would prove at least as dangerous as his Aunt Bellatrix had been before she became a long-term guest of the aurors and dementers of Azkaban.
Draco saw his father engaging in conversation with Lily Snape and the wizard she had been conversing with before, and so Draco looked around for anyone he recognised to similarly engage with. There wasn’t anyone of his age in the vicinity, except Lily’s children. He wished he’d paid more attention to his genealogy studies, as at least the name of the son, born before the business of Godric’s hollow, out of Lily’s union with the Potter line was known in the wizarding world, although he wasn’t sure that any of the others were.
Draco approached the boy, with his dark hair and round glasses, put his owl down, and as a matter of habit stuck out his hand.
Except of course, the boy’s hand was currently occupied with keeping hold of a girl of maybe four or five who had wavy black hair, green eyes, and was staring at everything going on around them on the platform as if this was one of the most interesting things ever that she’d seen.
The oldest girl in this group – who looked perhaps a year or so younger than her brother – moved in to relieve the potentially embarrassing social situation. She had wavy dark hair, but her eyes were dark, unlike those of her brother and sister.
“Hello. Celia Snape.”, she said brightly, taking Draco’s hand and shaking it. “My brother Harry, as you can see, is busy with Laura.”
Harry Potter. That was it, Draco remembered. Harry James Potter. And the mention of ‘Snape’ reminded him that the man who was Lily’s second husband must be Severus Snape, one of the youngest potions masters ever. Draco recalled that his father had mentioned that at one time there had been a possibility that Severus Snape might have ended up as Draco’s godfather, but that the notion had fallen casualty to the swirling tide of war.
“Draco Malfoy.” Draco introduced himself. “Umm.” His mind was completely blank. In a moment he was going to say something really dumb like: “So what’s it like growing up in the house of Lily Snape?” Oh Merlin, that sounded awful. Like he was some brainless fan, or worse…
Celia was busy suppressing a laugh, so Harry had the kindness to answer.
“Weird. Mum and Dad only told us about magic several months ago – didn’t want us experimenting I guess – but a lot of stuff makes sense now. Like some of their friends, and what Celia’s godfather does and why mum wants us to learn Arabic…”
Draco saw Celia administer a brief nudge in the ribs to Harry.
“Uh, right, forget the Arabic. Only uncle Vernon goes…”
“My brother, is an idiot at times who doesn’t know when to shut up.” Celia said, elbowing him rather more vigorously this time. She smiled a predatory smile at Draco, and Draco was suddenly rather relieved that he was on a station platform with dozens of other people and his own father only a few yards away… Although of course Celia’s mother was standing there too, and even though in the interests of family loyalty Draco would like to be able to honestly believe that his father was tougher than Celia’s mother he wasn’t quite sure what the result would be if the pair of them did square off. “So, Mr. Draco Malfoy.” Celia said. “What’s it like growing up in the house of Narcissa Malfoy, formerly Narcissa Black?”
“Well he’s…” Draco started, before catching the question. “Wait, huh, what, you’re asking about my mother?”
“Well you asked in the context of ours.” Celia shrugged. “Turnabout is fair play.”
She was a merciless inquisitor. Draco wondered whether she got it from her mother or her father – or perhaps both? And she knew his mother had been a Black before she married, which was more than he could say about her mother.
“Uhh, Harry, some help here please?” Draco looked at the other boy for some reassurance. Harry seemed to be easy-going, or maybe it was just that he was currently preoccupied with small sister control duties.
“Well what was it like growing up at Malfoy Manor?” Harry asked. “We’ve heard about your mother and father and your father’s various day to day activities with the magical government, but we’ve been a magical household less than six months – and mum still makes us do household chores by hand – whereas you’ve lived in a world where a flick of a wand does goodness knows what for your whole life.”
“Oh, right. I suppose I hadn’t thought of it like that.” Draco said. “Well given how rich and important the Malfoys are, we probably don’t count as a normal magical household” he had the grace to colour slightly here “since not every wizarding family lives in a large mansion with marble all over the place and albino peacocks on the lawn, but…”
Draco’s father eventually came back to join Draco, accompanied by Mrs. Snape.
“Draco.” Draco’s father waited politely until Draco had finished narrating an anecdote regarding the antics of a house-elf, before intervening. “In what has to be some sort of record, the latest Hogwarts defence against the dark arts teacher is dead before the school year even started, and I regard it as unacceptable for you to attend a school where the headmaster has had to grub around for last minute replacements to the teaching staff. Although other developments in the wizarding world are sufficiently disturbing that I would prefer to keep you at home under normal circumstances, I am sufficiently convinced of Mrs. Snape’s ability to ensure your safety that if you wish to go to live at her house and take tuition – at least up until Christmas – alongside her own children I am prepared to countenance that. Be warned that owing to the steps she takes to maintain her own privacy most regular communication with the wizarding world is impossible from her house, although she is prepared to adjust the defences to permit the passage of your own mail owl.”
So there it was at last: Draco’s father had sensed something in the wind – anticipated that sending Draco to Hogwarts might be highly undesirable – and had formed this backup plan. Sensitive to events, he had kept his options open right up until the last minute. Or at least Draco supposed that that might be at the heart of his father’s actions; there were probably rather more layers to it than just that. The teacher dead before the school year had even started was just the final nail in the coffin – or the perfect cover excuse for Draco’s father to initiate a pre-planned course of action.
It occurred to Draco that technically he had been asked by his father to express his opinion on what happened next? Oh hell. He was being asked to choose between staying at home with the family – thereby throwing whatever arrangements his father had been making out of the window – and spending at least two and a half months away with people who were currently practically strangers probably incommunicado (except for the occasional owl) from the wizarding world in general. No pressure then.
Some sort of female bushy-haired menace brushed past Draco, heaving her trunk on a luggage trolley. Her seeming age and manner, accompanied by the duplicate of a page from a book that she occasionally glanced at before staring around suggested she was a first year muggle-born student. She stopped and turned to Draco.
“Excuse me please.” she scowled. “Have you seen Lily Potter around anywhere?” She looked at the page from the book. “I figure her son Harry must be eleven this year, so if she’s still in the country she must be sending him to Hogwarts, and there’s a good chance she’ll be on the platform.”
Draco glanced at the picture on the page and had to resist an urge to smirk. It depicted one of the more outrageous images of Lily Potter which cropped up in dubious works these days.
Celia reached over and pushed her brother’s mouth shut, and muttered something at him about celebrities.
“I think I’d have noticed any seven foot tall blonde-haired women crowned with lightning and dressed in mink-furs and cloth of gold.” Draco observed in as neutral a tone as possible.
“Well she could be invisible. Or have sent her vampire praetorian guard retinue instead.”
“Again, I do not see any invisible women, or obvious undead Roman soldiers.” Draco said.
“A lot of good you are.” the bushy-haired girl said. She resumed her progress along the platform, trying to spot Lily Potter, apparently blithely unaware that she had just walked straight past Lily Snape and family.
“And that is a very good reason for being in seclusion from the wizarding world with no floos and highly restricted owl access.” Lily dryly said to Draco’s father.
Something about the encounter had crystallised Draco’s mind for him. Stay at his home or Lily Snape’s, he wasn’t going to see much of his childhood friends this year, but it would be insane to not even sample an opportunity to reside with a mysterious icon of the wizarding world. And Harry and Celia, at least, would be some sort of company.
“I thank you kindly for the offer which you have made to the Malfoys, and graciously accept.” Draco turned to Mrs. Snape and gave a formal little half bow.
Draco noted a faint flicker of approval in his father’s eyes, and then the nearly unreadable mask he wore in public was back once more.
Before Draco’s father took his leave, he murmured a few pieces of advice to Draco, including a reminder that since Draco was not going to be in public, he could afford not to pretend that he cared about blood status. Draco was not stupid enough to think blood status comments could go down well given Mrs. Snape was muggle-born, and sincerely hoped that his father had not thought that he was, and that this was thus simply his father’s ‘official’ sanction not to take that line…
Supplied with appropriate trunks for his trip to Mrs. Snape’s home, Draco looked at Mrs. Snape.
“So what next, Mrs. Snape?”
“Well, there’s some time for you to chat with friends who are going to Hogwarts, as we’re waiting on another student for the coming year who’s supposed to be meeting us here. Her father’s in the army, and at least as annoyed as your father about the inability of Hogwarts to hold down a defence professor. Since I know the girl’s godfather, and he speaks very highly of her, I offered to teach her as nobody in her immediate family is magical.”
Draco did some rapid reckoning and concluded that meant this other mysterious student was a muggle-born. He concluded it wouldn’t be a good idea to comment on that though, unless specifically invited to do so.
“I think I should have a word with Daphne Greengrass if I can find her.” Draco said thoughtfully. “And maybe Neville Longbottom too. A number of us hve been owling one another over the summer and had sort of been expecting to get together in Hogwarts this year, and I should probably at least attempt an explanation that I’m not going with them today...”
I know the Malfoys could probably floo or apparate to King's Cross, but I came across the idea in 'Erasing Time's Tracks' by another author of them travelling by car to King's Cross, because it's a symbol of Mr. Malfoy's standing with the Ministry, and so borrowed it.
The bushy-haired menace looking for Lily Potter is Hermione Granger, with a bad case of hero(ine)-worship for The-Woman-Who-Lived but relying on books which are basically works of fiction to try and 'spot' her. Lily has had little interaction with the magical world for a decade or so, and newspapers, magazines, and writers have just tended to make things up. Miss. Granger is destined for rather a nasty disappointment when she encounters Dudley Dursley and another first year on the train who actually have some idea of who she should have been looking for.
The line the Malfoys adopt on blood-purity has somewhat blurred in this universe, ever since Lily Snape so forcibly gatecrashed the 1986 Malfoy Yule Ball. In public, given many of their friends and their social contacts tend to do so, they adopt a pure-blood supremacy line, but Lucius and Narcissa don't actually believe it; Draco isn't sure if he's supposed to believe it or not as of the time of this story. Several months at Grassguards are going to put him quite clear on the issue.
The 'other student' that the Snapes are waiting for is Sergeant Tapping's daughter, Samantha, whose father made clear his displeasure at an institution which can't hold down a defence teacher in 'Bawled Out'. Lily has encountered Samantha's godfather, in the work she occasionally does when the army runs into problems such as kelpies, linnorms, or shoggoths.
Finally, thanks to those who have reviewed this, and I hoped you enjoyed these glimpses into an alternate universe where events took a rather different course back in 1980...