Chapter 4: New Beginnings
~~~Chapter Four: New Beginnings~~~
The Welcome Feast was as welcoming as it had been the first six times Connor sat through it. There was the first crush of greeting friends missed on the train, the shuffle and scuffle of seating oneself in order of most importance at the table, and the eager anticipation of the sorting.
It never ceased to amaze Connor the amount of political maneuvering his house managed in even the most mundane situations. There was some degree of family rank that went into anything, but there was also emphasis placed on academic performance, things like Quidditch positions, and personal dueling. It was never official, but the Slytherin table had very definite ideas of who sat where. This was one of the things that Slytherins privately lorded over the other houses with their ridiculous ideas of equality for all magical folk, more or less. Every house had its prejudices, but at least the Slytherins admitted them instead of cloaking them in sanitized good will and political correctness.
As a prefect, and Quidditch player, not to mention seventh year in good academic standing who hadn’t lost a duel in two years, not that there were many takers, Connor took his place at the end of the table, scowling down midway to where Draco sat, snerking and guffawing at something his lumpish cronies had to say. Oh, Goyle and Crabbe weren’t that bad, a bit thick and definitely lacking in imagination, but they were pretty good minions. Draco needed minions, Connor decided. He certainly didn’t like competition. His baby brother got enough of that at home.
Connor’s mates, on the other hand, sat next to him, surveying the Slytherin domain. Marcus sat to his left and Silas to his right. They chatted across him quietly, commenting on the latest crush of first years, but Connor didn’t have the heart to listen too closely. Marcus would be sure to fill him in later in that slow, brusque way of his. Connor half thought the Quidditch captain kept his horrific teeth to disconcert everyone he talked to. It certainly worked.
The elder Malfoy was still shaking on the inside from his encounter with the dementors, though he couldn’t let it show. Showing fear lost you face, and losing face lost you rank, and losing rank would upset the delicate order and balance that had existed for the last few years in his house. Slytherins were at heart politicians, playing each other regularly, small games and petit intrigues. It was harmless mostly, though some of the duels could become vicious, which risked alerting Snape to the state of the Slytherin nation. The head of house would never interfere under ordinary circumstance, though if a student were truly in danger, there would be hell to pay. Keeping the balance of power, so to speak, kept the damage to a minimum in the common room and a generally happy population of students.
Connor liked order. It was soothing, making a space in the chaos. He didn’t know why chaos was so disturbing a concept, but he felt a vague tightening of his chest when he though about what a loss of order would do. Would there be people running through the streets panicking, despairing a loss of… loss of what? He shook his head as another thought dodged just out of reach.
The incoming crop of fresh meat paraded in, eyes wide. The Great Hall was certainly a sight to see, stars just beginning to twinkle through the overcast sky of dusk. He wondered whether there were any promising new Slytherins in the group, but couldn’t remember whether any of his father’s friends had children in that year. As the first girl took her seat on the stool, Connor thought back to his own sorting.
After a disconcerting second in which nothing came to mind, he could just hear the wheezy whispered song of the Sorting Hat in his mind.
“Hmmm, a Malfoy. No doubt where you should be headed, but… Hmmm, yes, there is that aspect of you- great courage. Great loyalty as well, but it’s overlaid by despair of betrayal. No, you would not be one to cross, though you may do well in Gryffindor.”
Connor’s panicked mental outburst of, “No! You can’t! Father would disown me!!” had startled the Hat.
“Would he? Fathers are tricky creatures, and there are many faces to yours. Are you sure you know which to trust, which is real?”
Eventually though, the Hat had declared the inevitable and Connor had proudly taken his place at the foot of the silver and green, just like countless generations of Malfoy’s before him. As the first Slytherin took the empty seat at the end of the bench, Connor could even feel the rim of the Hat as it settled over his ears. He gave himself a good shake to get rid of the feeling.
Connor was happy to settle in to a feast of epic proportions. Heaps of potatoes, rutabaga, squash, and beans went side by side with a large hunk of meat, bloody rare, and he was pretty sure he polished off three rolls. He helped himself to an immense slice of lemon pie for dessert, savoring the sharp, tart taste, reminding him of summer days soon to be gone.
All too soon, the feast was over, and Connor stood, beckoning to the first years. “Come on, this way. Follow me and I’ll show you the way to your new dormitories. As most of you know, we’re located in the dungeons. None of the other houses are located on the ground floor of the castle, and if you catch anyone you know isn’t from our house, chances are they’re not supposed to be there. Come find myself or one of the other prefects and we’ll take care of the problem.”
An appropriate snicker ran through the crowd as they moved along and internally Connor sighed. Just for once, he’d like some new house blood that didn’t think tormenting the other students was the most brilliant fun to be had. Sure, taunting a Weasley here and there had its merits, but overall, house rivalry just got old. Hopefully Draco would come to a similar conclusion one day, though Connor held out very little hope.
They wound their way through the increasingly cold and damp corridors. Some of the smaller and less confident students were drawing their cloaks tighter around their shoulders, eyeing the mold on the walls with nonplussed curiosity. Connor smiled to himself.
“Alright first years, this is the painting to your common room. All common rooms work on the same principle to let students in. You say a password to Angus here and he lets you in.” Connor tapped politely at the portrait frame and a grizzled, harsh looking Scot peered around the corner, tumbler full of amber liquid in hand.
“Eh? That you Malfoy? Heh, made good time this year.”
“Er, yes. Last year, as you recall, we were held up when one of the coats of armor ate Filmer Hasmon. Weasley wankers cursed it to attack the first Slytherin it saw.”
The old man chuckled at the wide stares of the new students. “Righty then. What’s the password?”
“Now listen closely because I’m only going to say it once. And never ever share the password with a non-Slytherin. The other houses, however, are fair game. First student that comes up with the password for each of the other houses first gets a prize. And you know we’ll make the prize worthwhile. The password will be changed at random, so make sure to read the posting board each morning: tap it with your wand and say ‘revealo’. Now, for the first password: leaping lemmings live longer. We’ll change it soon, don’t worry. This is just to make it easier for you to understand.” He put a bit of a sneer into his tone, reminding each and every student just who was boss.
Angus chuckled and swung the painting open, giving the new students their first glimpse of the common room. It was dark and heavy, full of soft couches in comfortable leather. Slytherin colored banners and runners covered each surface, and a raging fire was burning in the hearth. Someone, Connor had his bets on Snape, had charmed the flames to burn silver and green, crackling loudly to draw the eye. The first years were properly impressed, several wandering over to warm their hands by the fire. The rest ambled aimlessly around, finally settling on the couches. There were fewer this year than most, and Connor was a bit relieved. Maybe the trouble makers were placed in Gryffindor this year.
“Alright. The girls dorms are up to the right, the boys are down that hallway to the left. If we catch any of you violating the separate sex rules I’ll string you upside down from the center goal post. Just remember, that’s only if we catch you.” More snickers and Connor arched an eyebrow. “Your beds have been marked with your trunks and other belongings. You have about a half an hour before Professor Snape comes to give his introductory threats. Please be respectful of him or he will turn you into newts and let the seventh year students use you in potions.”
A smirk curved his lips as the students scattered out of the room. Threatening people just never got old, not really. Maybe it was genetic. Picking pointless fights with other houses was sort of a hollow entertainment, but a good real threat, the kind backed up with blood and pain…
He frowned then, wondering where the urge to slide his knife into soft, pale flesh came from. To watch the rivulets of red run down his fingers, warm and slick, while his victim writhed on the dirty ground. He shook his head rapidly. That didn’t feel like him. It felt almost as if he were thinking with someone else’s thoughts.
Just then, the older students came pouring through the doors. Draco was laughing with Millicent Bullstrode about something and nodded to his older brother before taking his usual seat under a wide high window. His position as Connor’s younger brother afforded Draco a status that most his age didn’t gain. And Draco wasn’t the type to let any advantage go. Connor rolled his eyes and went to sit at a small chess table across from Silas. Marcus was glowering at a rumpled bit of parchment.
“Schedule. Hafta retake Magical Creatures.” Marcus looked so glum that Connor almost didn’t laugh. Being a Malfoy, however, pretty much guaranteed a sneer at the least.
“Retake it?! What’d you do, forget to turn in the summer work?”
“Uh, huh. Didn’t think they’d really make me take it again. Horrid Hagrid.”
Connor just snorted and moved a pawn. Silas ignored the exchange and moved his own pawn forward.
“So, Silas, what’s your elective this term?”
“Magical basket weaving,” he said with a straight face, and it took a second for the other two to burst into laughter. Silas winked one hazel eye and lazily countered Connor’s latest move. “Economics.”
“You’re taking Economics as your elective? Marcus here is just taking two rounds of Magical Creatures.”
“Hardy har. It was Da’s idea. Seems to think it’ll help me with integrating into the business world. I don’t know why he’s bothering. It’s too much like arithmancy for my tastes: too many numbers.”
Marcus crumpled his parchment roughly and flung it into the fire, generating a sharp pop. “What about you, Connor?”
“Special study in Defense Against the Dark Arts. It’s an advanced class taught by that new professor, Lupin somebody or other.”
“Wicked. I wish Da’d let me take that, but no. Not practical. Prick.”
Connor frowned. “I’m not sure my Father even knows I’m taking it. Mother does, but she may not have seen fit to tell Father. Anyway, it sounded fun.”
The chess game continued on in silence for a few minutes, but no one’s attention was really on it. Even the game pieces seemed bored, looking off to see what other games were doing around the room. There was a feeling of anticipation in the air, and when Professor Snape stepped into the room, everyone sat up straighter. The first years looked on him with trepidation mixed with awe, and Connor exchanged a look with his head of house that was full of secret amusement.
“Well, well, well. Welcome to my house, the noble house of Slytherin. I expect each of you to conduct yourself in the manner befitting the long line of Slytherins stretching back to old Salazaar himself, and if you don’t believe it would make him proud, I’d think twice if I were you. There are always many cauldrons that need cleaning, and I’m particularly fond of the trophy closet on the third floor.”
Several students exchanged looks at this, and Connor glared in Draco’s direction. The opening speech never seemed to have an effect on his baby brother, but Connor always had hope that this year Draco would listen. He didn’t think that Father would let much more slide when it came to Draco’s misbehavior. It was one thing for Draco to act like a shit in private, but screwing things up in the public eye was damaging to the family name- and to hear dear Lucius tell it, nothing was more important than that name.
Snape continued talking, but Connor zoned out. This was it, the beginning of his last year. After this, he was an adult, taking his place at his father’s side. A shiver ran through him at the implications of that, but he knew in his heart of hearts the inevitable would happen. It always did just as the world revolved round and round. He spared another glance at Draco, his face too open for his own good, and Connor sighed.
Whatever fates had planned for him, he hoped his little brother would be spared. After all, there was only one true Malfoy heir.
A/N: I know I’ve read other fics in which the Slytherin House is ruled by politics and rigid rules, where rank is as important as breathing. I am aware that this has been done before, but when I went back to find other fics, the only one that came to mind is Two Worlds and In Between by Minerva McTabby. It’s a very interesting fic about Tom Riddle’s grandfather when he was at Hogwarts… I encourage the read, though it’s a bit rough at times. Any similarities are unintentional, but I thought it best to go ahead give credit. It can be found here: www.witchfics.org