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Chapter 4 : The Association of Slytherin Students
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The Association of Slytherin Students
Chapter image by Dojh167 @ TDA!
Grizelda Goyle looked like a troll, and her brother was even worse. We met at our Sorting: I remember staring around the Great Hall, taking in the flickering candles that emanated so much more light than any non-magical frame, the wondrous ceiling which reflected the night sky outside. Today it was a clear night, the bright moon shining down, I felt, just for me, in celebration of the youngest Greengrass-Yaxley girl finally ascending to Hogwarts. There was no doubt about where I would get Sorted, and I filled my spirit with the excitement of it all.
The large girl standing in front of me blocked my view of the Sorting Hat. Peeved, I tried to peek around her, brushing my dark braid against her back in the process. She stepped back and stomped on my foot, hard.
“Ouch!” I cried out, earning a snicker from Pyxis and a silencing glare from Professor McGonagall, the stern old woman who was explaining how the Sorting would be conducted. I had never met Griz before, though I knew some of the other Slytherin students who were good friends with my parents. The name 'Goyle' meant little to me save for a large, bumbling man who was sometimes at the brunt of my parents' jokes.
Griz was sorted right before me. I watched her plop her enormous self on the stool, her mean piggy eyes screwed up in concentration. The Sorting Hat took a long time deciding, and I’m convinced the Hat knew she wasn’t smart enough to belong at Hogwarts at all. She was too stupid to belong to Slytherin, but too mean to belong to Hufflepuff. Gryffindor and Ravenclaw weren’t even options. When the Hat finally roared “SLYTHERIN!”, I saw her brother Gregory and his monstrous friend Crabbe stand up and beat their chests like ridiculous gorillas, only more hideous. Draco Malfoy, sitting between them, smirked, tapping his fingers against the table.
At last it was my turn. I sat, trembling a little, eyes closed so I wouldn’t have to face the expectant eyes of the older students or, even worse, Daphne’s critical gaze.
Well, another daughter of Orpheus Yaxley,a voice said in my head. The weight of the hat was nothing compared to the uncomfortable feeling of allowing a strange force to invade my head.
Um, Mister Hat, sir? I thought, hoping I didn’t actually say something out loud. I’d really like to be… in Slytherin. Slytherin. Slytherin. But I'm sure you could have guessed that.
Are you sure? the voice of the Hat asked, and I realized I couldn’t tell what gender it was. I see inside your head. You are thirsty, yes, you crave greatness, to be set above your peers, for recognition. Yet I see something else: bravery, sacrifice, a power to love. A perceptiveness that not many have.
Not Hufflepuff, at least,I begged furiously. I think of the disappointment of my parents were I to be put into the weakest House of all, reserved for dudders and pinheads, like my mother said.
Well, if you’re sure… the Hat said warningly. I am hardly a seer nor pretend to know the futures of children. But I believe that for you, daughter of Yaxley, there will come a time when your loyalties will change, when you will doubt your House. It's all here: that potential, that fear. Hopefully it won’t be too late when you realize.
“SLYTHERIN!” the thing finally bellowed, and, numb with relief, I hopped off the stool. Though a sense of relief washed over me, I had never heard of the Sorting Hat issuing warnings to a student before. I soon learned that it was considered quite taboo, especially within Slytherin, to speak of what the hat may or may not have said inside my head.
As I took my place beside Theo Nott, who gave me a one-armed hug, I saw Draco Malfoy, who I recognized from childhood, miming passing out down the table. In typical self-conscious fashion, I hoped he wasn’t making fun of me and my Sorting - Daphne had whispered to me that I looked quite faint and to pull my complexion together when I stopped for her congratulations. Crabbe and the brute Goyle siblings roared in laughter at Draco, Griz Goyle giving me a piggish look. Rolling my eyes, I turned to cheer loudly as Amaris, my new friend from the Hogwarts Express, was Sorted into Slytherin as well.
Of course, that was four years ago now. Since then, my relationship with Griz hasn’t much improved. She’s just too dumb and cruel. Once at the beginning of third year, I walked into the dormitory to see her and Demetria teasing a kitten by lighting a fire with their wands next to it, then trapping it, and extinguishing the fire just as the kitten was about to burn. The poor thing was yowling pitifully. Panicking, I ran forward to save the little creature, scalding my arm in the process.
“What the hell are you doing?” I demanded, sheltering the little furball with my body and facing the girls.
“Bug off, Tor, this here’s mine and I do as I please,” Griz responded defiantly.
“I think animal cruelty is punishable under wizarding law,” I retorted, “sometimes resulting in prosecution and imprisonment in Azkaban.” Of course, I was making things up, but I knew Griz was too stupid to know the difference. If anything, animals were treated quite badly under wizarding law, often being used for experiments and practising spells. “The Dementors themselves are particularly hard on animal torturers!” With that, I stormed out of the dormitory and didn’t speak with either of them for a week.
That’s how I got my black cat, Guinevere, but I’ve kept her in the boys’ dormitories since then. Pyxis doesn’t mind, although Taurus is a little allergic and has a bitter habit of rubbing his fur-covered robes on mine when we meet up for breakfast.
Ever since the incident, I’ve treated both Griz and Demetria with an icy politeness. Griz is cruel and stupid, but I worry Demetria is even worse: causing pain not for the glory and final solution, not out of necessity, but for the pure pleasure of it.
I watch Pyxis Nott stuff his face with chicken. Does the kid ever stop eating? Its half eight now: we went out to do some flying and train after Transfiguration and to blow off some steam after Professor McGonagall chastised our entire class (except for Amaris) for not doing our reading over the summer. I actually felt guilty, too: most of my year only really tried hard in Potions to please Professor Snape, but I admire and respect McGonagall. She’s a brilliant witch, even an Animagus, and comes from a very old family. I’m actually quite sure we’re distant cousins.
Pyxis doesn’t take criticism lightly, even if its directed at the group. He’s a little soft-skinned, I think, like his brother Theo is competitive. I used to let both of them beat me in wizards chess just to avoid the fuss - it was a self-preservation thing. Pyxis threw the practice Quaffle at me so hard that it unseated me for a moment.
“Gotta fly better than that, Tor!” he shouted, voice carried by the wind. As dark shadows began to loom and night started to fall, I suggested we return to the castle. Not that I have much to fear from the darkness, but because of dangerous students like Harry Potter, there’s a school-wide curfew that’s being enforced.
Around half nine, Pyxis and I make our way to the room of Requirement together. We found out about it last year with the Inquisitorial Squad, when Potter and a bunch of his blood traitor friends were having some sort of secret organization that Professor Umbridge had banned.
It's been quite useful ever since. I know Phin and Taurus keep a stash of their Muggle drugs there. When Griz Goyle hid all my clothes before the end of year Slytherin party last summer, I wandered up to the Room to find it stocked with pretty dresses, each one a more brilliant shade of emerald green than the next (It turns out Griz only managed to temporarily Vanish my clothes, they reappeared a few hours later).
Now, Pyxis and I enter to find the room draped in the colors and emblems of Salazar Slytherin. Images of great snakes line the walls, mostly in the process of throttling some unworthy wizard. A series of comfortable cushions are set around the center of the room.
Best of all, pictures of the most notable, greatest Death Eaters line the walls between the hangings. Lucius Malfoy’s slimy smile turns towards the portrait of my father, and they exchange knowing looks like the close friends they once were. Father’s handsome silver beard and cunning smile bring an admiring grin to my lips. Beside him are Dolohov, Crabbe (though notably in a much smaller frame than my father’s), and Barty Crouch Jr., who impersonated one of the most fearsome Aurors alive and delivered Harry Potter right to the Dark Lord, therefore orchestrating his return. I bow my head slightly in respect for the fallen.
The only image which makes me shudder is a wild woman, her dark hair flying about her face, each tooth bared in a maleficent grin. This is Bellatrix Lestrange. She too was at the Ministry with my father last year: they say the Dark Lord used to favour her above all others, his most loyal servant. Personally, she gives me the creeps.
With an unpleasant twitch I realize that we are not alone: Draco Malfoy is already here, lounging back against the highest and most luxurious armchairs in the room. He snickers and runs a thin, pale hand through his icy blond hair.
“Well, fourth years, you’re the first to arrive. Eager to get started, are we?” I feel Pyxis tense slightly beside me. I realize suddenly that I have no idea of the real grudge he holds or doesn’t hold against Malfoy and his father.
“Alright, Draco,” I say coolly. I drag Pyxis over to a couple cushions as far away from Malfoy as we can muster.
“He’s so cocky,” Pyxis whispers, “but its his father locked up in Azkaban too, it's his father who failed the Dark Lord and who You-Know-Who will punish.”
“He’s a slimy git,” I agree, trying to sound cheerful. I look up and wave as my sister Daphne and Pansy Parkinson enter the Room of Requirement. To my surprise, their arms are linked and they are whispering together conspiratorially. When Pansy sees Malfoy, she simpers – an awful thing to see on a face that looks like a pug – and throws herself down into his lap, wrapping her thin arms around his greasy head.
I turn away in disgust, and wiggle my eyebrows at Pyxis. He sticks out his tongue, mocking panting like a dog, and I stifle a laugh before Pansy starts glaring at me.
Within ten minutes, Crabbe, the Goyles, Theo Nott, Demetria and her brother whose first name I actually don’t know, Blaise Zabini (who always looks like he’s smelling something unpleasant), my cousin Zelda, and a small blond girl who I’ve never seen before have entered the Room. To my surprise, Theo takes the other chair of privilege next to Malfoy.
“Welcome, children and supporters of the Dark Lord,” Theo begins, as Pyxis and I roll our eyes at each other. “In light of the anti-You-Know-Who sentiment in this school and the increased need for the unity of Slytherin house during these times, we thought it prudent to get to know each other a little better and to discuss our cause.”
“Yes, oh mighty master,” Pyxis says, but only for my ears. His brother glares at us.
“We’ve decided to call ourselves, for need of secrecy, the Association of Slytherin Students,” Malfoy announces, his high, cold voice like teeth grating on a chalkboard. There is a pause.
“Wait,” says Pyxis, leaning forward towards the two sixth years. “ASS? You’re naming the gathering for the children of the most esteemed wizards in Britain ASS?”
Cousin Zelda, the small girl and I can’t contain our laughter. Pansy gives us a look that could curdle blood.
Malfoy continues on as if there was no interruption, while Theo silently begs me to shut up.
“ASS,”Zelda mouths at me every time I look in her direction. I try to keep cool for Theo, though.
“As some of you know,” Malfoy gives a knowing look to Crabbe and Goyle (the male Goyle, although from the back its hard to tell him and Griz apart), “I am not simply a student anymore. I am here on other business. The Dark Lord himself has granted me a certain, special task. I am here on his business.”
Pyxis rolls his eyes at me, but I feel the tense silence go through the room, as each of us wonders if he tells the truth. Personally, I think Malfoy’s full of crap, but that’s a huge lie to tell.
“Now, there’s obviously certain enemies behind the walls of this castle,” Malfoy continues. “The Dark Lord has trusted me with keeping an eye on these enemies and alerting him to their every movement. Since, of course,” he infuriatingly brushes his hair out of his eyes again, and I can feel Pansy melting from here, “I am extremely busy, I will count on you, the children of my father’s peers – of my peers – to assist.”
He snaps his fingers and a chalkboard with several names on it descends from the ceiling of the room.
“Dumbledore. The half-blood oaf Hagrid.” He snarls. “I’ve caught that idiot up to illegal activities before. If we get him, for the right thing, we might be able to finish what Professor Umbridge started and rid the castle of the giant forever.”
I wonder if he’s talking about the time he snuck out in first year and lost 50 points for Slytherin. Theo had written to me about it at the time.
Malfoy’s finger moves down the list.
“Trust no one who is not in this room. And of course, there’s Potter and his band of misfits and losers.”
I thought I knew hatred but the Malfoy boy’s eyes are spitting flames. It is both comical and terrible to watch.
“Potter has been tailing me, I’m sure of it. He knows something. Potter and the Weasley scum and the Mudblood Granger are plotting, always plotting, and their… success, is our destruction.”
Looking at Malfoy, I almost forget the spoiled little boy who would come over to our home with his father and brag about his new broomstick, his expensive dress robes, his personal collection of vintage Snitches, his shrunken hand of glory. He has become a madman like the rest of them, like his father, like Mr. Nott, like Bellatrix Lestrange.
The meeting, if you could call it that, continues as such. Though I know that Malfoy is an idiot and a leech, there is something comforting about knowing that I’m not here alone, stuck in this den of Muggle lovers and prejudiced people. Looking around, I think with a fleeting sense of pride that these are my people.
Then Pyxis lets out a loud belch and ruins the moment.
When Malfoy and Theo have finished with their fanatical speeches, Selby the House Elf brings up some food and alcoholic drinks from the Hogwarts kitchens. We set up a game of wizard pong, a drinking game which involves Levitating ping pong balls into plastic cups. As the game goes on players have to do so from weirder and weirder places, such as hanging off a broom upside down.
It's hardly an intimidating group.
In an hour or two, all the members of ASS, except for Daphne and I, are good and drunk. Me because I have some Potions homework to polish up for tomorrow, and Daphne simply because she’s too good for everything. Blaise Zabini stumbles over to us, and uncharacteristically lies down and puts his head in Daphne’s lap. I see an unusual smile poke at her mouth as she lightly rests her arm on his chest. Is the ice princess melting? I decide to ignore her and head over to find some more non-alcoholic punch.
I pass Pansy Parkinson trying desperately to snog Malfoy as he appears to be checking his cuticles. Turning away in disgust, I stop by Theo and Pyxis, who are arraigned in a ruthless brother-against-brother match of wizard chess. For each piece lost, the opposite player has to drink. Clearly, Theo is winning.
“Oi, Tor.” I turn around in surprise and see Gregory Goyle sprawled out on a cushion, a drooping cup perched in his hand. Quickly, I right the cup to keep it from spilling all over him.
“Tor,” he slurs, “you’re sooo pritty!” He drunkenly pats the cushion beside him.
Against my better judgment, I sit down next to him. After all, everybody else is ignoring me.
“How’s your new term going, Goyle?” I ask politely, hoping to bore him into leaving me alone. “Got any good classes for NEWT?”
He shakes his head both sloppily and tragically. “Naah. I gotta do Defense OWL all over again, cuz I failed,” he looks up at me tragically.
“Oh,” I say, “well, that’s too bad then…”
“Yeah, yeah, Profezzer Snape’s a git, he’s…” then he uses a derogatory word you don’t usually hear grown wizards use.
Surprised to hear the son of a Death Eater speaking so harshly of one of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s inner circle, I hurry to change the subject. Who knows the range at which Snape can read minds.
“How is your father, Goyle?” I ask. “My father hasn’t mentioned him of late, but I know they think highly of each other.” Lies. My father knows Goyle senior is a dumb troll, just like his son and daughter. The Dark Lord keeps him around for brawn and his unquestioning loyalty, nothing else.
To my surprise, this question piques Troll junior into bursting into tears.
“Me dad,” he sobs, wiping his eyes with his meatloaf-like hands. “Me poor dad! Locked up, he is! Locked away wif dem Dementors!” Does he try to talk like that?
Disgusted but feeling empathetic, I pat him a little on the back. This seems to satiate Goyle, for me looks at me again.
“Its going to be alright,” I tell him in what I think is a reassuring voice. “The Dark Lord will get him out, and you’ll see. We’ll have a new world order. We will be great. We will change the course of the future.”
I stare off vacantly into the distance, until I realize I’m looking straight at Vincent Crabbe sloppily snogging Griz Goyle. I hastily avert my eyes. Gregory Goyle has apparently noticed too: he gives a terrifying all-body shudder and grunt.
“I’ll kill ‘im,” he mutters, but seems to forget about it instantly. “Tor, yer pretty,” he adds again wonderingly. I take that as my cue to bid him goodnight and escort the extremely intoxicated younger Nott brother back to Slytherin house.
Theo and I heave on Pyxis arms and tuck him into bed like a little child. The kid is snoring already.
Theo grins. “He’s going to have a rough time in class tomorrow. Clearly fourteen is a little young to be drinking.”
“We have Potions again in the morning," I inform Theo, laughing. "I’ve heard Potions class hungover is the worst: Barty Binsley, that Hufflepuff, puked into his Singing Solution last year and the smell was horrible.”
I roll my eyes as I remember Bagshot’s face growing even queasier as he realized what he’d done, and Professor Snape’s coldly disgusted face as he gripped the kid by his ear and – holding him at a distance – dragged him out of the Potions classroom. The Singing Solution sounded like it had caught laryngitis.
“Sleep tight, little Pixie,” Theo soothed, pretending to smooth the hair back from his brother’s face.
"Don't let the Nifflers bite," I whisper.
Arm in arm, we return to the Slytherin common room. It's empty, and Theo and I settle down on my favorite couch by the dying fire. I grab an afghan knitted with soft woolly snakes and snuggle into it.
Absently, Theo picks up my wand and examines it. This is a sign of our closeness: touching another wizard’s wand is a bit like using their toothbrush.
“Unicorn hair?” he asks.
“Thirteen inches, spruce. Nice and springy.” Theo looks at it more closely, feeling the weight and length of it in his hands. He’s always been fascinated by wandlore: he once told me he wanted to be a wandmaker. Then again, he was seven at the time.
I lean back and admire him, grateful for this chance to be together, just the two of us, no silly fourth year boys trying to prank us, no soppy girlfriend hanging on his arm, no hard-hearted sixth years trying to get the upper hand.
For the first time since peeking into his mind on the train, I cautiously let my thoughts wander towards Theo’s. Its still there, the raging, blind anger, the fear, the face of his father wavering constantly at the edge of his thoughts. There is a desperation to prove himself, to be strong. Yes, desperate is the word that describes Theodore Nott’s inner thoughts.
And I am desperate for him. I watch him, the candle shadows flickering on his smooth, pale face, his thin bones protruding. His hands, long-fingered and white. I remember that he plays the violin. His mouth, flickering into a quick smile as he looks up at me. Somehow my hand finds his, and we clutch onto each other’s fingers, not speaking, frightened for our families and anxious for what will become of us.
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