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Taako Yuno-Fromtivi and the End of Days

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“I imagine our class at Hogwarts will be much smaller than before,” said Draco, voice sharp but just too thin to sound quite right.  He shook the paper slightly, flattening out the newspaper he held in front of the small group of Slytherins. “Get rid of the mudbloods for good.”

“It’s about damn time,” said Blaise, his hand in Taako’s shifting slightly.  “Clean up the place.”

“What happens to them?” asked Greg, sitting on the too-plush bench outside the ballroom at Malfoy Manor on Taako’s other side.  Greg leaned against Draco, and Taako watched, as he adjusted the paper to better see the headline: “Muggleborn Registry Instated.”  “I mean, where do they go ?”

“Back to their hovels, hopefully,” said Draco, trying for a characteristic sneer, and falling far short.  Mentally, Taako rolled his eyes. He needed to get better at his acting skills if he wanted to make it through this year.

“I don’t see why it matters where they go,” said Pansy, shifting her dress.  She, Daphne Greengrass, Millicent Bulstrode, and Tracey Davis-- the four Slytherin girls in Taako’s year-- sat perched prim on the bench opposite the boys’.  They wore fancy elf-made dresses, while the boys wore top-of-the-line dress robes. It was an important night at Malfoy Manor, after all, and everybody knew it.

“How much longer, Draco?” asked Tracey, uncrossing and then recrossing her legs.

Draco sighed, folding the newspaper across his lap.  The beaming, somewhat vacant face of Pius Thicknesse-- the new Minster of Magic, that anybody with a brain knew was a puppet of Voldemort-- stared up at them from the front page.  “It’ll be soon, Trace,” he said. “My mother--”

“Wants to make sure we all have our best social graces on, yeah, yeah,” said Taako, rolling his eyes, not mentally.  He’d spent the past six years with this group of kids, and even if it was tense as fuck some times, he’d gotten, well... comfortable wasn’t the right word.  He wasn’t comfortable. But he’d gotten used to them.

Pansy huffed a quiet laugh, once again rearranging her emerald green silk skirts.  The very color a well-born Slytherin girl was born to wear.

“Really, though,” said Theo from Blaise’s other side, adjusting his glasses, “Couldn’t you find anything better to do, Drake, than read the newspaper?  We all know that thing’s full of shite anyway.”

Draco’s eyes widened slightly, and he leaned forward, glaring at Theo.  “You--”

The wide doors on the end of the small antechamber the seventh years waited in flew open dramatically.  Not with a bang, though, because that wouldn’t be classy-- and Lady Narcissa Malfoy practically oozed class.  She swept into the room, a demure smile playing on her lips, the distant strain of a band coming from behind her.

“Are we all ready?” she asked, coming over to Draco, and brushing a loose piece of her son’s hair back into place, before straightening up and smiling over the rest of them.  Taako felt her eyes linger on him-- and he winked at her, overexaggerated, as they all stood and paired up.

Draco and Pansy in the back, with Daphne and Theo in front of them.  Taako felt pretty bad for both girls-- if he had to guess, he’d say that they were both bisexual at the very least -- but there were fewer girls than guys, and apparently pureblood society only really tolerated gay shit when straight wasn’t an option.  Which, in Taako’s opinion, fucking sucked .

“Ready to go, Taako?” asked Blaise, his probably-boyfriend, standing and offering him a hand.

Taako took it, grinning, toothy and wide as he stood in his heels, still not quite as tall as Blaise.  “Absolutely, kemosabe.”

Blaise extended his arm, and Taako took it, as they moved to stand in front of Daphne and Theo.  Greg, arm in arm with Tracey, took their places in front of Taako and Blaise, and Vincent-- with Millicent on his arm, looking very much like she’d rather not be touching him at all-- in the front of the procession line.  Their positions in it directly correlated to their social status: a very important thing, given that this was technically their Debutante Ball. It was a bit of a weird thing, Taako thought, considering all of them had been attending these events since they could walk-- or, in Taako’s case, since they showed up on the Plane of Magic in a fancy-ass, magical spaceship.

Was he proud that he had a higher social ranking than Tracey, Greg, and Vincent?  Well, only a little bit. But a lot bit smug.  He was Taako , after all.  Even without a family background, he’d done very fuckin’ well on the so-called dark side.

Taako pushed any thoughts about Lup and the rest of the Starblaster crew firmly to the back of his mind.  He had more important things to worry about, after all. 

Narcissa, standing slightly to the side, adjusted Greg’s collar, smoothed down a stray piece of Daphne’s hair.  Then, a small smile playing on her painted lips, she stepped towards the magically darkened doorway, and disappeared from sight.

The music swelled.  The darkness magically suspended over the doorway melted away like curtains.  Vincent and Millicent swept out into the ballroom. Some announcer that Taako couldn’t see said, “Lord Heir Vincent Crabbe, escorting Miss Millicent Bulstrode!”

There was a polite smattering of applause.  

After waiting the appropriate amount of time-- seventeen seconds, with if you asked Taako was pretty fuckin’ arbitrary, but also he didn’t know jack shit about music so sue him-- Greg and Tracey entered the ballroom.  The announcer said, “Lord Heir Gregory Goyle, escorting Viscountess Traceline Davis!”

“Who’s the Davis heir, if it’s not Tracey?”  Taako asked Blaise, muttering so his voice wouldn’t be heard over the music.

“Her little brother,” he replied, foot tapping out the seventeen seconds before it was their turn to enter.  “Don’t think he’s at school yet.”

“That fuckin’ sucks for her,” he said, as they began to walk forwards.

Blaise shrugged, just slightly, before straightening his back.  Taako pasted on a blinding, tv-ready smile just before they passed through the curtain of darkness and into the ballroom.

The room was huge and white and marble, silver accents and chandeliers, ostentatious as all fuck.  The greens and grays, silvers and blacks of the dress robes of the attendees matched very well. Taako appreciated Narcissa’s eye for aesthetics.

“Lord Heir Blaise Zabini and--”  the announcer paused for a moment, and Taako felt Blaise’s arm shift under his hand.  “Excuse me,” said the announcer. “Lord Heir Blaise Zabini and... Lord Taako Yuno-Fromtivi.”

“You’re a full Lord now, then?” asked Blaise, voice smooth, and faintly amused, as they descended the staircase and into the crowd below them.

“You know it,” said Taako, beaming at the mass of people.  It was very fuckin’ easy to claim you were a Lord when no records of your parents actually existed.  “Summer developments ‘n all that jazz.”

“Guess I really got quite the catch,” he said, musing, guiding Taako around a woman in a silver dress with a hoopskirt so wide that the area within five feet of her was entirely vacant of people.

“Nah, that’s just Taako, no title necessary.”

“Hm, if you say so.”

---

Taako spent the rest of summer break-- just another week-- at Malfoy Manor.  The Slytherins stayed on the third floor, kept to themselves, and did their very very best to ignore the fact that literal ass Lord Voldemort held meetings just floors below them.  They got their class schedules-- featuring mandatory Muggle Studies, and more worrisome still, no Defense Against the Dark Arts: the class slot replaced with Dark Arts.  A Head Boy badge arrived with Theo’s letter. But even with that good news, there was quite a bit of a damper on their gossip sessions.  Especially when most of the gossip was about who would be coming back to Hogwarts, and who... wouldn’t.

But somehow, they made it out of the house with their trunks packed and their owls in tow, all the way to Platform 9 3/4-- which seemed suspiciously empty, quiet, with dark-robed “aurors” that Taako recognized as Death Eaters from a summer spent at Malfoy Manor.

“Obviously, none of the mudbloods are coming back,” said Pansy once they’d found an empty train compartment and levitated their trunks onboard.  (Even if they weren’t all seventeen yet, who was going to enforce the Underage Magic Restriction on them ?  They were untouchable .)  As soon as they’d gotten onboard, and Theo had slid the door to their compartment shut behind them, Pansy had sprawled across one of the velvet benches, grabbing a bag out of her purse and pulling out a thing of nail polish, starting to paint her nails.  “I’d bet some of the blood traitors ran off, too. Get out while they can.”

“Potter, too I bet,” said Draco from across the compartment, slouched on a bench, book open in his lap but not actually looking down at it.

“No shit,” said Taako, flopping down onto the bench by Pansy, grabbing her bag and rifling through it before coming out with a sparkly green nail polish.  “Public Enemy Number fucking One isn’t gonna waltz back to school.  Take his, I dunno, exams and shit.”

Theo laughed, like a jangling of coins.  “Do his Potions essays.”

“Speaking of Potions,” said Tracey, next to Draco, Witch Weekly in her hand, “Who’s teaching this year?  Since Snape’s Headmaster now.”

“Slughorn, I’m sure,” said Pansy, not looking up from her nails.  “I don’t see why that’s relevant.”

“Just wondering if we’d had any summer reading,” Tracey responded, a little bored.  “No need to bitch about it.”

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck you too.”

The door swung open, and Blaise stuck his head in, his arms loaded with the chocolate frogs he had gone to find.  “Why are you fucking each other?”

Taako snickered, putting one hand up to catch the chocolate frog that Blaise tossed his direction.  “It’s all friendly, thug.”

---

Hogwarts’ aesthetic hadn’t changed, which kind of disappointed Taako.  Sure, the black bone-and-smoke thestrals pulling the carriages were spooky as fuck, but they weren’t, like, a new development.  He’d almost hoped that the change in regime would result in some like, cool atmospheric effects.  Maybe a gothic architecture makeover. Hell, he’d even take a tasteful fog machine or two.

Instead, Hogwarts seemed just as magical as ever, windows glittering against the darkening sky as the carriages trundled up the road.  

A strange silence, too, had fallen over the carriage shared by the Slytherin seventh years.  The lighthearted gossip of the summer vacation and Hogwarts Express journey was gone. Disappeared like the tasteful fog that Hogwarts didn’t actually have.

Instead, they sat in silence, looking at each other and the floor and out the windows of the carriage.  Solemn and scared.

Taako closed his eyes.

He’d been playing the “evil” side for six years now.  He’d be fine .  He knew what he was doing.

And Lup was out of the castle, out of danger.  She was safe.

Davenport was with her, he was safe.  Barry was dead and safer than any of them.

Lucretia in No Man’s Land breathed secrets more than air, Merle was well-practiced in being just weird enough to fly under the radar, and Taako, of course-- Taako was fucking brilliant at what he did.

If Magnus survived the year-- as an open leader of Dumbledore’s Army, as a loudmouthed Gryffindor without any sort of filter, well-- if he survived the year, he owed Taako at least a firewhisky for all the worrying he was probably gonna have to do about his stupid, dumb ass.

The carriage rattled to a stop.  Pansy climbed to her feet, ignoring Theo’s attempt to open the door for her, and hopped out, hands on her hips.

Taako climbed down after her.  Much less hopping, just like, whenever the fuck possible.

“Ready for this?” she asked, under her breath, smoothing her already-perfectly-smooth bob behind her ear.

“Am I ready ?” asked Taako, mock-offended, twirling his wand, and absentmindedly casting a minor illusion to touch up his makeup.  He looked up at Hogwarts, looming. “I was born ready, darling.”

---

 

Chapter Text

As predicted, the Great Hall was sparse and near-empty when Taako arrived for the welcome feast.  Flanked by Tracey and Blaise, he joined the group of silent Slytherin seventh years at their table, as far away from the Head Table as possible.  The rest of the hall filled in quietly, too, the older students positioning themselves as far away from the teachers as possible. Just like every other year at Hogwarts.

Except it wasn’t.

Because Snape sat in Dumbledore’s chair, in the chair of a man he had killed so Draco didn’t have to.

Because the Carrow twins-- thuggish and frankly stupid Death Eaters that Taako had done his very best to avoid over the summer-- sat at the Head Table.

Because whatsername, the Muggle Studies teacher with the soft smile, was nowhere to be seen.

Because McGonagall looked like she was walking to her death as she led a line of too-quiet first year students through the hall and up to the Sorting Hat.

“Look at Gryffindor,” Tracey whispered in Taako’s ear, barely more than a breath of air. 

He twitched his shoulder slightly to let her know he’d heard her, casually glancing over at the Gryffindor table.  It wasn’t hard to act like everybody was beneath him: it was only necessary.

The Slytherin table was still about as full as it had been in previous years.  Taako knew there had been Slytherin muggleborns, but they were smart enough, he was sure, to see which way the tide was turning and stay away from Hogwarts.  Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were down a visible amount of students. But Gryffindor was missing at least a quarter of it’s students-- muggleborns, seventh years, students whose families had chosen to run away than send their children to Hogwarts under the thumb of the Dark Lord.

Well.

Taako was glad that they , at least, had that option.

Under the table, Blaise’s hand found Taako’s and squeezed, just once.  Taako squeezed his hand back, and the first new student sat on the stool.  McGonagall dropped the Sorting Hat onto their head.

Ravenclaw !” shouted the hat.  Taako closed his eyes.

After ages , the sorting was finished, and all the little scared first years had been distributed to their respective houses, although fewer were in Gryffindor than Taako figured should’ve been.  Just by, like, math and shit.

Fucking finally, though, he figured it was dinner time.  The house elves in the kitchens-- who, thanks to Lup and Lucretia’s campaign a couple years back, now had stipends and paid vacation time and work hours or some shit-- should be sending up their food any second now.  Any second now.

“Why the fuck is this taking so long,” Taako complained under his breath.  Blaise just jutted his chin forwards, motioning to the high table.

Snape had stood from the Headmaster’s chair, and walked to the owl pedestal.  Looking distinctly unimpressed, he surveyed the students. “Welcome to another year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” he said.  “We are... delighted to have you all here.  This year, we are excited to announce a handful of staff changes.  Miss Alecto Carrow--” the female Carrow stood, and gave the students what she probably thought was a friendly smile and looked more like she was trying to digest a fantasy golf ball-- “Will be serving as Deputy Headmistress, as well as Muggle Studies teacher.  Please note that on your schedules, Muggle Studies is now a required course.”

A murmur of complaint rippled across the hall.

“Where’s Professor Burbage?!” demanded somebody at the Gryffindor table.

Taako looked away: he knew exactly where Burbage was.  In the stomach of Nagini, the creepy-fucking-ass snake.  Taako had been at that dinner. He had spent it mentally critiquing the food, avoiding eye contact with Voldemort, and trying not to yartz.

Snape sneered over at the Gryffindor table.  In the hubbub, Taako spotted Magnus, glaring back at the Headmaster defiantly.

Weird hill to die on, Maggie.  Day fucking one .

But thankfully, Snape said no more, just sighed.  “Our other new staff addition is Mister Amycus Carrow--” the male Carrow stood, without the attempt for a friendly smile-- “who will be serving as Deputy Headmaster, as well as Dark Arts teacher.  For more information, see your prefects about your schedule. In other news, Mister Hagrid --” his lip curled-- “will no longer be serving as Care of Magical Creatures professor, and only as Groundskeeper.  Care of Magical Creatures is, for the meantime, no longer offered at Hogwarts.  In more positive news, Professor Slughorn has generously agreed to remain with us as our Potions Master.  Enjoy the feast.”

Snape and the Carrows sat.  Taako joined in a chorus of applause that mostly came from the Slytherin table, because they all knew how to play the game.

Unlike fucking Magnus , who just sat there glaring .

Like glaring was gonna get anything done.

Taako looked away from Magnus, down at the table.  He wasn’t his problem, not right now, not this year.  

Golden plates laden with food of every sort bloomed into being.  Hooray, house elves. Taako started to fill his plate. He didn’t have time to worry about the Gryffindors or about Magnus or about where all the muggleborn students had gone to over the summer, vanished like ice in the sun.

After all, he had himself to think about.

Because Taako knew things that nobody else in that room did.  Yeah, sure, shit about the Starblaster and the planar system, magic spells that didn’t even exist on the Plane of Magic, how to make a fucking delicious creque monsier.  But he also knew one thing.  One small, little, tiny thing that Lup had told him about before they split up for the summer, him off to Malfoy Manor and her to stay on the Starblaster with Davenport.

Lord Bitch-Ass Moldymort?  Had these fun, fun little items that he had split his soul into called horcruxes .  Seven of them, in fact.  And he couldn’t be killed until the horcruxes were destroyed (although Taako personally thought that a good Banishment spell could yeet Voldemort off to the Plane of Fire or some shit and fix their whole problem).

But as far as he knew, Taako was the only person in the room who knew about the horcruxes.  Yeah, Lup and Davenport were looking, as well as they could, using a modified version of Lup’s Lightfinder potion.

But Taako wasn’t the best fucking transmutation wizard and creative arcanist in the planar system for nothing.  He looked up at McGonagall, sitting at the head table, no longer Deputy Headmistress. McGonagall, member of the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s right hand.  McGonagall, who had been his mentor for the past six years and who still came back to Hogwarts even though Taako knew very well it could cost her life.

They made eye contact for a split second, maybe less.  

Taako had forbidden knowledge and one ally, at least.  He could find those horcruxes, or at the very least, try to keep Hogwarts safe while Lup and Davenport and whoever-else-the-fuck was looking for them went a-questing.

---

“What the actual fuck is an Entrance Interview ?” asked Pansy, disgusted, as they crowded into the Slytherin common room after the feast, making a beeline to the board of announcements, flyers, and general good-to-know information.

“How should we know?” sniped back Tracey, elbowing past a cluster of sixth years to be able to see.

“Wasn’t it in the letter?” Taako asked, looking around the rapidly filling common room.  “C’mon, I wanna get a seat before all the firsties think they deserve the good couches. They gotta earn them.”

“You stay and read the poster, Draco,” said Pansy immediately, spinning on her heel and grabbing Tracey’s arm, who grabbed Taako’s elbow, who grabbed Blaise’s hand, the whole line of them stumbling after Pansy across the common room to claim one of the nice leather couches by the fire.

Theo was already standing there, Head Boy badge pinned neatly to his robes.  He raised an eyebrow at their group, and Pansy flipped him off.

“Settle down, everyone,” said Theo.  He didn’t have a necessarily loud voice, but it was cutting, and when Pansy wolf-whistled everybody shut up and looked their direction.  “Thank you, Pansy.”

“No problem,” she said, with a shrug.

“Welcome, everyone, to Slytherin!” said Theo.  

“Fuck yeah!” Taako shouted, and a ripple of laughter moved through the room.

“I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this,” he continued, “but you’re in the best house that Hogwarts has.  You are here because you are creative, ambitious-- c’mon, folks, help me out here--”

“Cunning!” shouted a fifth year.

“Clever,” said Tracey.

“Any words that don’t start with ‘c’?” asked Theo, quirking his eyebrow.

“Resourceful,” offered a second year.

“Determined,” said someone else.

“Perfect,” said Theo, reining the discussion back in.  “Here, you will make lifelong friends. Here, you will learn what you need to to help you succeed throughout school-- and throughout life.  We’re not just a house , not in Slytherin.  We’re a family. We’re united.  And I don't care if you despise each other and hex each other all day long when you’re in the common room-- the minute you leave those doors--” he pointed across the room to the exit-- “you support and stand with every Slytherin.  Past, present, and future. We are united .  And we do not betray our own.”

“Got a little dark there, Theo,” said Pansy, in the uncomfortable silence.

He shot her a look.  “So rest assured. I have had nothing but good experiences in Slytherin.  It has placed me where I need to be in order to succeed. And if you let it, it will do the same for you.”  A beat. “Where are our new first years?”

After a bit of shuffling, a small group of six or seven eleven-year olds ended up in front of the room, standing next to Theo, all looking highly intimidated as though they would rather be anywhere but there.

“I’m not going to ask your names, because I’m going to forget them anyways,” said Theo bluntly, to a ripple of laughter.  “But each of you is going to get a seventh-year mentor. They’ll be the person you go to for help and explanations. Need to know how to get to your next class?  Ask your mentor. Need to know how to sneak past the no-food in the library rule? Ask your mentor. Need a good place to go have a snog?” Another round of laughter.  “I’d say ask your mentor, but you’re literal children, so keep your snogging habits to yourself, please.”

Taako snickered, elbowing Blaise in the ribs.  

“Now, there’s more seventh years than there are firsties, so I’ve already chosen your mentors.  Millicent, Blaise, Daphne, Greg, Tracey, Vincent, and Taako. C’mon up.”

“Ugh,” said Taako, slouching further into the couch.

Blaise laughed, standing up, and offering him a hand.  “C’mon, mi amor ,” he said.  “We’ve got children to impress.”

“Have fu-un ,” said Pansy, with a shit-eating grin, as she (and Draco, still by the message board) remained the only ones (besides Theo, which, rude ) not getting a little anklebiter buddy, or whatever the fuck.

Taako flipped her off as he moved to stand by Theo.

“I know we’re all super duper excited to find out who’s mentoring who,” said Theo, dragging the room’s attention back to him.  “But some quick other news. The prefects-- prefects, raise your hands--” Pansy and Draco, along with the fifth and sixth year prefects, did-- “Have your class schedules.  Each of you also has a scheduled Entrance Interview with the Carrows.  That is nothing to be worried about-- they’re just checking your bloodline, that sorta thing.  Make sure you can recite your heritage up to three generations, both sides. And for Merlin’s sake, be on time.”

“We weren’t born yesterday, Theo,” piped up a fourth year.

“And yet you’ve still got your tie tied wrong,” he said, carelessly.  “Get Draco to help you fix it. If you have any questions, ask your Prefects.  Please don’t ask me.  I still need to do tomorrow’s Transfiguration essay.”

Another ripple of laughter moved around the common room, and Taako did have to hand it to Theo.  Guy knew how to play a crowd.

As the crowd of Slytherins split apart, finding friends and showing off new haircuts, discussing new pets and-- in hushed whispers-- the events of the past summer, Theo gathered the mentors and the first year mentees into a cluster.

“Millicent, you’re with Wu,” he said, peering down at a piece of paper.  Millicent and a young fantasy Chinese girl-- who looked vaguely terrified-- stepped aside.  “Blaise, Hernandez.” Blaise smiled down at his first year, a kid with dark hair and tan skin, as they too filtered out of the group.  “Taako, you’ve got Davis.”

“Hi!” said one of the boys, with dark skin and tightly curled black hair.  He smiled up at Taako, baring a missing tooth. 

“Oh, shit,” said Taako, looking between the kid and Tracey.  “Trace, this your brother?”

“Mhm, unfortunately,” she said, although her smile really ruined the look.

The kid stuck his tongue out at Tracey.  She rolled her eyes, and turned back to the group, and Taako and the kid stepped aside.

“So you’re Taako,” said the kid, sounding slightly starstruck.  “Trace’s told us lots about you! You’re so cool !”

“Ch’yeah,” he said, leading the kid over to a pair of armchairs, and glaring at the third year sitting there until he moved and let them sit down.  “And don’t you forget it. What’s your name, kiddo?”

“Lord Heir Matteo Davis,” said the kid, and oh yeah, Tracey wasn’t her family’s heir.  Instead it was this literal absolute child.

“Alright, Matthandrew--”

“Um, that’s not--”

“We gotta get one thing clear real quick.”

“Okay?”

“Don’t go flinging around that title.  Nobody here gives a shit.”

“We’re not supposed to swear--”

“Yeah, fuck that sideways.  Welcome to Hogwarts. Nobody cares what you say as long as you sound good sayin’ it.  Anyway, don’t go callin’ yourself Lord Heir. It’s pretentious as fuck, my dude”

“Okay,” said Matteo, dubious.  “Um, aren’t you supposed to, like... show me around?”

“What?  Absolutely not.”  Taako shrugged. “I’m sure some of the other firsties’ mentors’ll take pity on them and show them the ropes, you’ll figure it out.  Nah, I’m here to answer questions that, uh, don’t involve any walking.”

Matteo stared up at Taako, and then he giggled.

“Hey, hey, cut that out,” Taako said, but Matteo just laughed harder.

Merlin ,” he complained, slouching back in the chair.  “Kill me now. Grab out your class schedule, pumpkin, I’ll tell you where everything is.”

---

Taako didn’t believe in being early, as a principle.  Either be fashionably late, or don’t show up at all, was his M.O.

But he was still ten minutes early to his Entrance Interview with the Carrows.  Principles be damned, Taako was a Slytherin , and he knew how to play the long con.  And sometimes that even meant he could be early to things.

He sat in the too-hard chair outside their office with his Transfiguration book open, pretending to study.  Not that he needed to, but it was a better excuse than just... Regular Ass Lurking. After a couple minutes, the door to the office swung open, and out stumbled Seamus Finnagan.  He glared over his shoulder at the Carrows, one hand reaching up to wipe a trickle of blood away from his nose.

Well.

It wasn’t like Taako was friends with any of the Gryffindors, hadn’t had any nice contact with any of them that weren’t Lup.  Well, contact that the other Slytherins knew about, at least. Family meetings didn’t count.

But Taako still recognized Seamus as the kid Lup complained about being her “pyrotechnic competition.”  And he recognized the glare on his face-- a classic Lup look.

It felt like a punch in the gut.

Taako looked very pointedly down at his Transfiguration book, staring at the words and reading none of them.  He didn’t look up again until he heard Alecto Carrow’s voice, too-sweet, say, “Mister Yuno-Fromtivi?”

“Right here, ma’am,” he said, tucking his book away and smiling up at Alecto, every bit as roguishly charming as he had been all summer long at Malfoy Manor.  Keeping up the mask. Playing the goddamn game.

She nodded, trying to force a smile to her face as she looked him over.  Slytherin to the bone, summertime guest of the Malfoys. “Come in, Mr. Yuno-Fromtivi.”

Taako followed Alecto into the office, which turned out to be just a large desk with one chair close to the door, and two chairs on the opposite side.  Her twin brother, Amycus, was already sitting, and Alecto shut the door behind Taako then joined him. “Please, sit.”

Taako sat, his bookbag at his feet.

“So... Taako Yuno-Fromtivi,” said Amycus, pulling out a sheaf of parchment and glancing over it.  “Seventh year... Slytherin... former member of the Inquisitorial Squad. Signed up for Transfiguration, Charms, Dark Arts, Muggle Studies, and... a Transfiguration Lab?”

“Correct,” said Taako, very narrowly avoiding calling Amycus kemosabe .  He didn’t deserve that title.  “The lab is for advanced students, which you know I am.  After all, I’m a Slytherin , aren’t I?”

Alecto smiled at Taako as though he were some clever dog who had jumped when she told him to.

Ugh .  Fucking bitch.

“Now, your accomplishments are impressive.  But as for your family history,” said Amycus, shuffling some of the parchment, squinting down at it.  “You’re... fantasy American?”

“Oh, yes,” said Taako, letting himself smile.  He’d been keeping careful note of his entirely bullshit backstory for the past six years, and he slid easily into the lie.

Finally-- after an entirely wasted half hour, in Taako’s opinion, of him bullshitting stuff about his Entirely Pureblood Heritage and oh you haven’t heard of dear old auntie Elote? -- well, fucking finally they asked the bombshell question.

“You have a twin sister, correct?” asked Alecto, wrinkling her nose like she’d smelled something bad.

“Hah, yeah,” said Taako, casually kicking one foot up on his knee.  “Well, let’s just say that I was always the sensible twin. We can’t all go around bein’ like you two-- gettin’ both of you in Slytherin.”

“Your sister is a recorded member of Dumbledore’s Army.”

“Uh, yeah, and it pissed my parents off so bad they shipped her off to Ilvermorny,” he said, faking boredom.  “She’s always been way too headstrong for her own good. As I’m sure you can tell, I know much better.”

Alecto and Amycus looked at each other, calculating, and then back at Taako.  He smiled up at them, bland.  

“Thank you, Mister Yuno-Fromtivi,” said Amycus, finally.  “Perhaps...”

“Perhaps?”

“We’re considering reinstating the Inquisitorial Squad.  Would you be interested in joining, when we implement this?”

Taako tilted his head to the side.  Slytherin, cold as steel, twice as strong.  Playing the game. “Y’know what? I would be just delighted .”

---

 

Chapter Text

“Welcome, all of you, to the Inquisitorial Squad!” said Alecto Carrow with a wide grin that only really made her look like a clown.  And not even a cool clown, either, Taako thought, glancing around the room. He was sitting in some desk in some classroom that the Carrows had decided would serve as a great headquarters for the newly reinstated IS.  “We’re so happy you’re all here!”

Bullshit.  Taako could lie better than that when he was a literal fucking child .

One of the Hufflepuff fifth years in the back started to clap, and it spread quickly around the room.  Taako normally would refuse to clap-- oh, the labor! -- but, y’know, desperate times and all that jazz.  He clapped.

There were fifth and sixth year purebloods from every house in the IS, but seventh years were only from Slytherin.  The Carrows had gotten all of them, too, except for Daphne. She’d procured a “doctor’s note” excusing her due to her “delicate health,” which everybody knew was bullshit.  

But because Daphne was an infinitely better liar than the Carrows, they’d bought it.  So now she got to sit pretty in the Slytherin common room while Taako and everybody else did the Carrow’s dirty work for them.

(Taako kind of wished he’d thought of the doctor’s note thing first.)

They hadn’t gotten Millicent, either, but only because they hadn’t wanted her.  Everybody else (well, except Taako) was from a noble family, had big money or a big title behind them.  Millicent... well, wasn’t .  However, she’d looked plenty smug as the rest of them trooped out of the Common Room to go face the Carrows and she got to sit around and work on her Charms essay.

“Many of you were part of Dolores Umbridge’s original Inquisitorial Squad,” continued Amycus, looking around the room with an expression of the utmost disdain.  At least Alecto was trying to pretend that she liked students.  “That was a, hm, a good start. But we will be enforcing a bit stricter set of rules.  We need to get Hogwarts back into the finest Wizardry school in the world!”

“And Witchcraft,” Pansy muttered under her breath.

“You’ll be enforcing rules to help make that happen.  No sitting at house tables that aren’t your own at meals,” said Alecto.  As she spoke, the words appeared behind her on the chalkboard, and there was a rustling of bags as people grabbed out parchment and quills to copy down the rules.  Taako didn’t, because honestly? Fuck that. “Nobody other than teachers and Inquisitorial Squad members are allowed in the halls after hours, without exception.”

“Um, Professor Carrow?” said a Ravenclaw sixth year, raising his hand nervously.

“What?” she snapped.

“What, um, how’re we gonna be enforcing these?  I mean, sorry, are we patrolling like the prefects do, or...”

“That will be covered as soon as we’re done with rules,” said Amycus, sneering.

The Ravenclaw gulped, visibly, and ducked his head.

“All clubs, as of now, are disbanded.  Groups of more than three students need to get renewed club permissions from us.”  The words appeared behind Alecto, and the frantic scribbling of quills filled the room.  “Students are not allowed to talk to teachers about anything not directly relating to their subject.”

After a couple other rules that had existed before but never been enforced-- no magic in the hallways, nobody on the grounds after hours, nobody on the Quidditch Pitch without written permission-- the Carrows finished their list of rules that they would make the IS enforce for them.

In a twisted way, Taako admired it.  Getting the IS to enforce their draconian laws would mean that the rest of the students would be too busy hating the IS to care about hating the Carrows, or Snape, or Voldemort.

It wasn’t half-shabby.  It might even be smart.

“The Inquisitorial Squad will be headed by our seventh year Slytherins,” said Alecto, with another forced smile as she pointed at the group of them, Taako in the middle.  He waved, over-dramatic, at the students staring at him. “They will be referred to as the Head Inquisitorial Squad, and they will serve as seventh-year Prefects for the remainder of the school year.”

A murmur-- half surprise and half complaint-- rippled across the room, even though there weren’t any other seventh years there.

“Many of our seventh year prefects haven’t proven themselves the way the Head Inquisitorial Members have,” Amycus said, his voice a low and threatening growl.  The murmurs died immediately. “Fifth and sixth year prefects from all houses are also being temporarily suspended. Fifth and sixth years here will take over their daytime patrol duties.  The HIS--” he said it like an acronym, H I S, short for Head Inquisitorial Squad-- “will patrol alongside Mr. Filch at night.”

That settled the room.  The fifth and sixth years there were all the non-blood traitor and non-muggleborn overachievers.  They all wanted a taste of dignity, a piece of the pie. This was a good way to do it.

“You will be given patrol pairs,” said Alecto,starting to list them off.  Taako didn’t bother paying attention until she reached their little cluster.  “Theodore Nott and Blaise Zabini--” damnit, there went his boyfriend-- “Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe--” could’ve seen that one coming a mile away-- “Pansy Parkinson and Traceline Davis--” aw, damnit, that left-- “Taako Yuno-Fromtivi and Draco Malfoy.”

Taako leaned over Pansy to see Draco, his new fuckin’ patrol buddy.  He was pale-- well, he was always pale-- but now it seemed almost unhealthy.  Voldemort living in his house for a year or whatever, plus being pushed to the brink last year to try and kill Dumbledore hadn’t done anything good for his health.

“Ready to patrol the shit outta this school?” Taako asked, for the sake of conversation.

Draco looked at him, tired, and more than a little afraid.  “I suppose.”

---

Neville Longbottom got detention before classes even started after supposedly mouthing off in his Entrance Interview.  Magnus got detention, too, for trying to take Neville’s place in the detention. They showed up to breakfast the next morning and they looked exhausted, and Magnus had a black eye, but their arms were slung over each other’s shoulders.

Hagrid got in trouble with the Carrows for being in the castle after hours.  He was no longer staff, they said, just the Groundskeeper. And if he came in after hours again, there would be consequences.

Taako and Draco reported  on a pair of Hufflepuff second years just minutes past curfew who couldn’t remember the password to get into their common room.  They told the Carrows about the curfew breach, but-- despite every apparent effort-- neither Taako nor Draco could remember the names or faces of the second years.  They got suspicious looks from the Carrows, but were quickly shooed out of their office, because Tracey and Pansy caught Magnus out in the halls after hours and he wouldn’t tell them what he was doing.

Taako hoped that it would get back to Magnus that his stupid, stupid midnight mission or whatever the fuck had helped out those second years.  He’d probably appreciate that.

---

“Uh-huh,” said Taako, leaning against the wall and staring down at whatever little fourth year they’d stopped.  “And why are you out of your House at, uh-- what time’s it, Draco?”

“Eleven forty-nine,” said Draco, voice flat, checking his watch.

“Yeah, kiddo.  What’re you doin’?”

“I, um.  Um.” It was some Gryffindor girl, her arms full of books.  “I just... lost track of time in the library, and, and I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to--”

Taako glanced down at the book on top of her stack.  Protective Magicks: Advanced Edition .  She followed his gaze, and hugged the books tighter to his chest.  Yeah, that for sure wasn’t a book for class.

Good for her, Taako thought.

He looked at Draco, who was looking down at his own feet.

Gods fucking damn it, Draco.  Get it together.

“Look, I’m really sorry,” said Taako, surprising himself by how true that was.  “But we’re gonna have to report you for this.”

“I-- I--”

“Listen.  Give us your name, we’ll write it up, and we’ll return those books to the library.  You’re not supposed to have them.”

See, Taako really did admire her guts, borrowing protective magic books.  But someone had to be the bad cop and it sure as fuck wasn’t Draco. So Taako would do it.  He’d make sure they had troublemakers to tell the Carrows about, so it would seem like they were doing their goddamn job.

“Alright,” said the girl, her voice shaking as Taako took the books from her arms.  “My name’s Joanne Fandrow. I... what’s gonna happen? Isn’t it just, um, just taking house points?”

Taako shook his head, with a sigh, and a quick levitation of the books.  No magic in the corridors didn’t apply to any members of the IS, and especially didn’t apply to the HIS.  “Well, kiddo, it’ll be a detention with Filch.”

Joanne gulped.  Yeah, they’d all heard the stories, seen Magnus and Neville with bruises like medals.  “Oh.”

---

The next morning on his way to Charms-- with his HIS badge in shiny gold pinned to his chest-- Taako saw Joanne, walking away from the Hufflepuff common room.

He very pointedly looked away from her and the bandage wrapped neatly around her arm.  The Hospital Wing had been closed to students needing its services after a detention, but Taako wasn’t nobody’s fool.  There was more than one healer in the castle, no matter how much shit they gave him.

He continued to Charms, head held high, as Merle sidled up to him.  

“Not here,” Taako muttered, before the old man could ruin the whole gig.

He shrugged, and waddled off.  Fucking good .  Merle could ruin his whole fucking game, and Taako had come far too far to let that happen.

---

After Charms was the very first Muggle Studies class of the year.  It only met once a week, which was already pretty sketch: made even more sketch by the fact that it was taught by Alecto Carrow.  (Taako hadn’t had Dark Arts yet, so he didn’t know how much of a teacher her brother Amycus was, but so far-- in his Entrance Interview and the IS meeting-- she’d seemed to be the nicer one.  Or at least, the less evil-on-the-surface one.)

When he walked into the classroom, there were a whole bunch of desks in a multi-rowed semicircle, a bit like an auditorium except no stairs.  There were more desks than there were seventh-year Slytherins.

“Ready for class?” asked Pansy, as she and Taako and all the rest of them took their seats in the middle of the room. 

“Readier than they are,” he said, jutting his chin forward at the small gaggle of remaining Gryffindor seventh years who had just walked in, and took seats in the back of the room.

“Yeah,” she said, twisting in her chair to stare at Parvati Patil as she took a seat next to Lavender Brown.  “Yeah, they lost their leaders , didn’t they?”

Taako didn’t turn around, didn’t want to see Magnus.  “They sure fuckin’ did. Blood traitors, the lot of them.”

The Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs-- their numbers, too, significantly diminished by the lack of muggleborns-- filtered in, Lucretia and Merle among them.  A couple of them squeezed in the back with the Gryffindors, but mostly they ended up in the front row.

Hah.

And that was the only good reason to be early to anything, Taako figured.  Not having to sit front and center and be expected to, like, do shit.

The last person in the room was Alecto, the door slamming shut behind her as she took her place in the front of the room.

“Welcome to Muggle Studies,” she said, not sounding particularly welcoming.  “Today we’ll start with an overview of the muggle, as many of you have had lacking educations in that respect.”

Alecto turned, pulling down one of those old, lame, pull-down poster thingys.  It showed a wizard-- dressed in fancy robes and holding a wand aloft, shooting out a stream of sparks-- and what Taako figured was meant to be a muggle.  Smaller, shorter, dirty. Non-magic.

“The muggle is a lesser species,” she said, voice flat.  “They are less intellectual, less kind, less powerful, and most notably, unable to do magic.”

“Professor Carrow?” said somebody from behind them.  Taako looked back-- it was Parvati Patil, looking as polite as anything, her hand in the air.

“Yes, Patil?” said Alecto, looking highly annoyed.

“How do squibs fit into this?” she asked.

Alecto’s brow furrowed.  “This isn’t Squid Studies, Patil.  But if you’d had any good education at all, you would know that mudbloods stole their magic.”

“So if muggleborns can steal magic from wizards and turn them into squibs, why aren’t all the muggles magical, and we’re not all squibs?”

Alecto’s shoulders hunched up, and Taako swallowed a laugh.  If she were a cartoon, he was pretty fuckin’ sure that she’d have one of those scribbly “angry” marks hanging over her head.

“Ten points from Gryffindor,” Alecto managed, after a long moment.  “Moving on. Muggles are naturally more inferior than wizards, who deserve to rule.”

“So why don’t wizards rule?” asked Seamus Finnagan, without bothering to raise his hand. “I mean, uh, it’s been like a thousand years since Merlin.”

“Fifteen points from Gryffindor!”  A pregnant pause. “Don’t interrupt me.”

 The class was silent, tense.

“This year you will be learning about the superiority of wizards,” she continued, after another long moment.  “You all have your textbooks?”

A murmur of assent.

“Good.  You should all have read the first chapter by today.  Let’s discuss: in what ways are wizards inconvenienced and downtrodden by muggles?”

Hannah Abbot raised her hand, and Alecto pointed to her.  “Yes, Abbot?”

“We have to hide magic,” she said, slowly, like she knew what side she was supposed to be on-- but she also knew who controlled the school, and it sure as hell wasn’t Dumbledore’s cronies.  “And that’s... inconvenient?”

“Correct.  Yes, Burnsides?”

Oh, gods above and below.

“I’m inconvenienced by such blatant racism,” said Magnus.

The class gasped.  Taako wanted to applaud, he wanted to scream.  Good for him and how dare he and don’t get yourself killed don’t leave me alone .

“I don’t believe I heard you, Burnsides,” said Alecto, dangerously slow.

“I think I said that you’re being a huge racist, and that I won’t stand for that.  And neither will anybody else here. Right?”

Taako turned in his chair.  Magnus was standing, now, and slowly next to him Seamus climbed to his feet.  And then Neville. And then, looking like she was about to cry, Lavender.

“They are lesser !” Alecto screamed, spittle flying over the first row of Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws.  “Sit down, now !  Fifty points from Gryffindor.”

If it was this easy to work Alecto up into a tizzy, well.  This should be an interesting year.

“That’s not how free speech works,” said Susan Bones, climbing to her feet, defiant.

“That is how it works now !”

“Fuck you,” said Magnus, a cold smile on his face that Taako barely recognized.

By the time Alecto let the class leave, Magnus, Neville, and Lavender all had detentions, and Susan Bones had lost Hufflepuff an impressive sixty points.

Taako admired their guts.  But he had kept his head down the whole class long, and dealt with it.  Taako admired their protests-- really, he did. But it was the third day of school.  He’d have time for protests, rebellion, revenge-- later. For now? It was just survival.  One day at a time, baby.

---

Chapter Text

The day after the first Muggle Studies class of the year was the first Dark Arts class.  Taako had been worried-- of course he had!-- that it would be another big classroom with all the seventh years from all the houses, and that it’d immediately dissolve into chaos, threats, and detentions just like Muggle Studies did.

Holding hands with Blaise, and walking in the middle of the huddle of seventh year Slytherins, Taako entered the Dark Arts room.

“Gods fucking damn it,” he said, under his breath, looking around.  It was less of a classroom and more of a courtroom.  Tiered chairs worked their way upwards, and down in the center stood a large table.  He didn’t have much of an idea of what the point of Dark Arts was, but given what he’d picked up vacationing with the Malfoys? Spending holidays with the Dark Lord himself?  Well, he could think of lots of uses for this room, none of them good.

The room was already half-full: the Slytherins hadn’t been early enough to score the exactly-middle seats that they preferred.  There was a quick buzz of deliberation among them-- Millicent especially advocating for seats more towards the back-- but Pansy and Theo won over.  They climbed the stairs and sat down just below the people sitting in the middle, closer to the front, closer to the floor.

“Is it just me,” said Taako to Theo, as they hiked into the seats, “or are these, like, not seventh years?”

“No shit,” say Theo, tone fairly bland.  “Unless the seventh year population just, hm, quadrupled, and also shrunk, then I’d say that this is students from every house, and from every year.”

“I don’t like this,” said Taako, doing his best to sound like he didn’t care at all.  “I mean, how’re we supposed to learn, like, cool Dark Arts if we’re saddled down by all the firsties?”

A Ravenclaw first year caught Taako’s eye, squeaked, and looked away very quickly.  Taako rolled his eyes, sitting heavily and tugging Blaise down next to him. First years.

For it’s ridiculously huge size-- Taako was reasonably certain that the entire school (or, what remained of it after all the muggleborns had run off, or been run off) was in that huge courtroom-- the class was still very, very quiet.  Maybe it was the title of “Dark Arts,” maybe it was the rumors that had been circulating the school since they arrived about what they’d be doing in the class, maybe it was what had actually happened in Muggle Studies.

Pansy and Blaise started to halfheartedly bitch about the new trend of velvet dress robes.  Taako could care less, and he could tell that they could, too. It was just something to talk about, something to talk about that wasn’t “Are you as scared as I am?” or “What are we doing here?” or “How can we possibly support this side?”

Nah, velvet dress robes were a good topic.  Even if the shoulders were, like, itchy as fuck .

The conversation dropped abruptly as Amycus Carrow-- Death Eater, twin of Alecto Carrow, Dark Arts Professor, and creepo extraordinaire-- walked into the room.  He stalked straight forward to the long table that was spread in the bottom of the courtroom.

“Welcome to Dark Arts,” said Amycus, voice flat.  “This year, you will learn how to actually defend yourself, how to actually fight.  The spells used have gotten a bad reputation as “evil” or “dark,” but I assure you, that is no longer the case.  These are the tools of the new generation: you should be grateful that you are being taught them.”

Silence.

Amycus just stared up at the students, like he was waiting for them to do something.

Aw, fuck it.

“Hell yeah!” shouted Taako, clapping his hands together, obnoxiously loud and startling in the dead silence.  

But thank all the gods, Theo took up the cheer, proving him once again to be one of the most sensible Slytherins in Taako’s opinion.  He knew when to jump on the bandwagon.

The clapping spread through the room, applauding-- however reluctantly-- Amycus’s statement.  After a long moment, the professor raised his arm, and the applause died instantly.

“We will start the year learning the theory behind these spells,” said Amycus, waving his wand behind him.  A chalkboard appeared out of thin air, between Amycus and the long table. Get a fucking whiteboard , dude, gods .  “Eventually we will be practicing real-life applications of the spells.

“We’ll start with Chapter One: Coercion Curses.”

---

There was, uh, lots of shit inherently wrong with the way Taako’s life had gone so far.  He certainly didn’t sign up for an infinitely long trip between planar-verses.  He absolutely didn’t choose to masquerade as, like, a literal fucking child on this plane of magic, must less for seven years.  Having to do puberty all over again ?

Fuckin’ sucked .

Taako also didn’t choose who to let in on the secret of the Starblaster and who to, like, not .  But, because his life sucked and he couldn’t control anything, apparently, three people knew.  Well, three people besides everybody on the Starblaster. Plus Fisher.

Dumbledore-- well, he was dead.  Fuck him, too, for good measure. But he was dead and couldn’t betray the Starblaster to either side more than they’d already been.  Yeah, everybody basically knew about the light, everybody’d gone after the Starblaster looking for it. But as far as Taako knew, nobody had put together the Starblaster and the light with him .  

McGonagall knew the truth, too.  Taako hadn’t gotten a chance to talk with her yet seventh year-- his Transfiguration Lab, as an extra class, wouldn’t start until school had been in for a month.  But he trusted her as much as he trusted anybody at Hogwarts-- which is to say, hardly-fucking-at-all.

But like, whatever .  There was one real fuckin’ big potential way that their secret would get leaked, and it wasn’t that McGonagall was about to go run off and tattle to Voldemort.

No, the hole in the metaphorical boat was good ol’ Headmaster Snape .  He knew the secret of the Starblaster-- fuck, he’d even taken care of Fisher for the past six years until Lup and Davenport stole the tank back after Snape fucked off with Draco and Voldemort last summer.

And, uh, Taako absolutely did not trust him to not sell out the Starblaster crew at the first opportunity to Mr-Lord Moldy Shorts.

Which meant that something had to be done.

Taako kept a careful eye on the Ravenclaw table at dinner the next evening, halfheartedly bitching about the terrible lasagna to Tracey and Millicent.  And when he saw Lucretia stand up and begin to make her way out of the Great Hall, Taako pushed his half-empty plate of lasagna away from him, dramatically.

“That bite was crunchy !” he exclaimed, drawing glances from across the room.  “This is dis-fucking-gusting !”

And he stormed out of the Great Hall, all in a tizzy.  Sometimes it was really fuckin’ good to have a reputation of a drama queen: when he slammed right into Lucretia in the doorway, she stumbled against the door frame, and he just said, “Fuckin’ move it !” and swept off in a huff.

Two hours later, Taako left Charms, and made his excuses-- bathroom, homework, gotta fix my makeup-- and ducked into an empty classroom.  Lucretia was sitting on top of one of the desks, wand out, looking highly disgruntled.

“Hey Creesh,” he said, casually locking the door behind them and casting a quick muffliato over it to block their conversation from anybody in the hall.  “Ew, I can’t believe you still wear the fuckin’ tie. It’s ugly as all fuck.  How’s it shakin’?”

“Oh, it’s great,” she said, tucking her wand behind her ear.  “Other than that the first time you even so much as look at me in four months is to run into me and then insult my fashion.”

Taako laughed, leaning against the wall.

“Really, though.  What do you need?”

“So, y’know how Snape knows about the Starblaster?”

“Yes, I was there.”

Taako stuck his tongue out at her.  “I don’t need your sass, young lady.”

“We’re the same age, Taako.”

“Physically, yes, but spiritually ?”

Lucretia rolled her eyes, and something about the familiarity of the whole conversation hit Taako hard in the gut.  He pushed himself away from the wall, standing upright. “Ch’boy has a plan .  You-- me-- Snape’s office-- an Unbreakable Oath.  Now. Am I a genius, or not?”

“Not,” said Lucretia, entirely deadpan, only Taako knew her well enough to know that this was peak Lucretia humor.

“Okay, uh, first of all, rude !”

“Second of all?”

“I’m getting to it, Creesh.  Fantasy Jesus Christ, let a guy catch his breath!”  She rolled her eyes, again. “ Second of all.  Ahem .  Do you actually know how to get into Snape’s office?”

“Do you want to do this right now?”

“Normally I’d let Maggie do all the rushin’ in, but, uh, now or never, right kemosabe?”

“Do you know if Snape will actually be in his office?”

“You’re boringly practical, you know that?”  

She nodded.  “It’s my crowning achievement.”

“He doesn’t need to be there right now , Creesh, we can just sit around ‘till he shows up and then-- bada bing bada boom-- we get that Vow and we’re free before it’s even bedtime.”

Lucretia stood, with a heavy sigh.  “Fine. But you owe me three favor points for this.”

“Wait-- wait, no!  I thought we’d discontinued those!”

“No, they came back into effect this year.”

What ?!”

“You didn’t read the fine print, did you?” asked Lucretia, grinning as she removed the muffliato, unlocked the door, and opened it like she didn’t have a care in the world, glancing up and down the hallway.  “Favor points come back into effect on the seventh year we spend in any given cycle. It was just a contingency for me to cash in all my favor points once we’re done with these cycles, but, it’ll work here too.  Coast’s clear.”

Taako followed Lucretia out into the hall, tugging the door shut behind them, and trailed half a step behind her as they wound their way through empty, little-used hallways-- they’d both had experience sneaking around Hogwarts without being too obvious about it.

“I can’t believe you made me sign a fuckin’ sneaky contract .  That’s illegal .”

“Hmm, no.”

“What d’you mean, no ?!”

“The fine print says that it’s not illegal.”

“Well, then, I’m cashing in my last favor point from Cycle twenty-three to get you to change the contract!”

“You already used it.”

“Uh, no the fuck I did not !”

“Uh, yes the fuck you did.  You got Magnus to eat the light of creation.”

Ooooh , right, that.  Yeah. Fuck.”

It was a really, really good thing that the hall was empty, because Lucretia started to laugh, and the hand Taako clapped over her mouth didn’t do much to muffle it.

---

The stone gargoyle stepped aside from his post, dabbing back at Lucretia.  Taako looked between her, and the gargoyle, and back at her.

“It’s that easy ?!”

“Lup taught him to dab,” she said, with a shrug, following Taako past the still-dabbing gargoyle and into the steep spiral staircase that lead up the tower to the Headmaster’s Office.  “He’s friendly.”

“I can’t believe I’m friends with people who dab ,” Taako grumbled, hiking up his robes with one hand to make the climb a little bit easier.

“I can’t believe you’re related to somebody who dabs.  You’d think you’d be a lot cooler.”

“Fuck you.”

“Oh, very much the wrong twin.  Plus I’m ace.”

Taako turned on the staircase to stick his tongue out at Lucretia, before climbing the last few steps.  She stepped up next to him on the landing, the door to Snape’s office rising in front of them. 

“You ready?” he asked, reaching out his hand to the handle.

“Wait,” said Lucretia, and he turned to look back at her as she raised her wand to her own head, tapping herself-- and suddenly going invisible.

“Woah.  Rad, and dramatic as fuck, which I can get behind, but uh... why ?”

“Snape can’t know it’s me,” she said, and halfway through her sentence Taako assumed she cast some voice changing spell ‘cause her voice turned all raspy and indistinguishable.

“Well, he knows somebody’s gonna be sealing the Unbreakable Oath.  And he knows you’re one of us anyway --”

“It’s not just for me, Taako.  If this-- gods forbid-- if this goes badly, I’m the best defense that No Man’s Land’s--” Oh, right, her super-secret group of neutral students or whatever the fuck-- “got.  They need me to keep them safe.”

He rolled his eyes.  “Whatever floats your goat.”

“That’s not--”

“Listen, can we, uh, fuckin’ do this ?”

Lucretia was invisible, but Taako could practically feel her rolling her eyes at him.

Taako grabbed the door handle, and pushed it open like he did all things: dramatically.  The door slammed against the wall, and Taako strode into Snape’s new office. Snape himself-- seated at the desk-- stood abruptly, drawing his wand and levelling it at Taako’s chest.  “Yuno-Fromtivi.”

Taako, cutting a dramatic silhouette in the doorway, felt a rush of air and a brush of fabric as Lucretia, invisible, slipped past him and further into the room.  He pointed his wand right back at Snape. “Snape.”

“What brings you to break into my office?”

Taako took a slow step forward.  Snape didn’t curse him immediately, which was probably a good sign.  “I need to have a chat with you.”

“And you chose now as the best time to do so?”

“Apparently, my dude.”

Snape sighed.  “Yuno-Fromtivi--”

“It’s Taako , don’t ruin the brand--”

“Taako.  We are both on the same side here.”

“Yeah, the Dark Lord’s,” he said, immediately.

Snape nodded.  “So, do tell , just what you are doing here?”

“You know something about me,” said Taako, voice cold, as he took another step closer to Snape.  Just another step or two and they’d be close enough to grasp hands and make the vow. “And I don’t want anybody else to know that.”

Snape raised his wand, just slightly, and fired off a spell--

Taako ducked automatically, all the dexterity he’d learned inventing surfing during the Beach Year coming in handy--

But the spell just hit the door, closing it behind Taako.  Snape raised an eyebrow, as though to ask, did you really think I was going to curse you ?

“And how do you intend to guarantee my silence?” asked Snape, lip curling.  “Please do tell me you’re not here to murder me, or anything quite so crass.”

“I’m a Slytherin ,” Taako said, straightening, all offended.  “Of course not.” He took a step towards Snape, then another.  “ I want you to make an Unbreakable Vow.”

“You are aware that you need another person to serve as the binder, so I’m afraid that such a vow--”

“I am already here,” said Lucretia in her creepy-ass, raspy voice, from like, right next to Snape’s ear.  

He jumped at least a foot into the air, and it was all Taako could do to not burst into laughter right then and there.  Fuck , he loved Lucretia, and her ridiculous love of all things dramatic.  It was almost as refined as his.

“See? We’re all set, kemosabe.”  Taako switched his wand to his other hand, and extended his hand to Snape.

Snape looked at Taako for a long time, and then over to the space where Lucretia had been.  She’d surely moved by now-- Taako could practically see the gears turning in Snape’s head. Make the oath, and gain Taako’s trust?  Refuse to do it, and have to fight Taako-- a ridiculously good wizard anyway-- plus some unknown assailant?

Snape took Taako’s hand, his expression carefully neutral.

“Do you, Severus Snape, swear to not reveal any information about the Starblaster or it’s crew to anybody who asks you about it, whether or not by magical means?” asked Lucretia.

“I do,” said Snape, and a thin band of white light encircled their clasped hands.  Snape moved to pull his hand away, but Taako only clung on tighter, digging his nails in.

“Do you, Severus Snape, swear to protect the students of Hogwarts as best you are able?”

He tried to pull away again, but the thin bond that bound the Oath held strong.

“Do you?” asked Lucretia, again.

Snape glared at Taako.  Taako smirked.

“I do,” he said, tone full of loathing.  Another band of white light wound around their hands.

“Thus mote it be,” said Lucretia.  The light vanished.

Snape pointed at the door to his office.  “Get out.”

---

Two days later, the hallways are ablaze with rumors.  It’s not until Taako manages to find Pansy-- resident gossip queen of Hogwarts-- that he can ferret out what actually happened.

Neville Longbottom, Ginny Weasley, Luna Lovegood, and Magnus-- fucking Magnus , of fucking course he was involved-- had gotten caught attempting to steal the sword of Gryffindor from Snape’s office.

“They only got detention with Hagrid ,” said Pansy, examining her nails, bored.  “He’ll go easy on them, I’m sure.”

“Yeah,” Taako replied, pushing his worry about Magnus down down down .  “What’re they doin’?  Lines ?”

“Pshaw, but it’s about as easy,” she said, flaking off a bit of green nail polish.   “Just being sent out to the Forbidden Forest with him. Some nightly routine? I dunno.  Something about giant spiders, though, so that’s fun.”

Magnus hated spiders.

“It’s more fun when we’re not the ones actually goin’ out there, amiright?” Taako asked.

She laughed, high-pitched, like bells.  “Exactly! I don't know why they wanted a stupid sword anyway , so... here’s to Slytherin sensibilities!”

“Cheers!” shouted Taako, with a laugh of his own.  “Here’s to not being fuckin’ idiots!”

“Here’s to the winning side!”

---

 

Chapter Text

Lucretia accidentally bumped into Taako’s shoulder in the crowded fourth floor hallway between classes.

“Watch where you’re going ,” he snapped, palming her note and slipping it into the pocket of his robe.  “ Merlin .”

“Sorry,” said Lucretia, already on her way, winding around a large cluster of Hufflepuff third years and away.

“Nobody’s got manners these days, do they?” asked Blaise, offering Taako his arm.  Taako took it, and they fell in with the cluster of seventh year Slytherins winding their way back to their common room before dinner.  

“Nobody at all ,” he agreed, grinning at Blaise.  “You got any weekend plans, handsome?”

“Well,” said Blaise slowly as they rounded the corner and down one of the slowly moving staircases, “There is this one guy.”

“Just one, huh?” asked Taako.

Blaise nodded.  “Yep, just the one.  He’s blindingly smart, ridiculously pretty--”

“And he’s got the hottest boyfriend in the plane-- world?”

He raised an eyebrow at Taako’s slip of words, but thankfully didn’t comment.  Stupid fuckin’ new terminology on every plane. “I’d agree to that, abso lutely .”

Taako laughed, reaching forward with his free hand to tap Pansy on the shoulder.  “Pans? You got weekend plans?”

“Actually, I’ve got three entirely different hot dates.”

“Uh-huh, and how many of them are real ?”

“Rude.”

Taako laughed.  “You’d know about it.  Nail polish party?”

“Uh, of course ?  I-- oh, damn.  Damn .”

“What’s up?” he asked.

“I think I’m on patrol-- Blaise, do you and Theo wanna take our shift?”

“What’s in it for me?” asked Blaise, raising an eyebrow, with a slow smile.

“You won’t incur the undying wrath of the Slytherin girls?”

“Mhm, not good enough.  Taako, you got anything to sweeten the deal?”

Taako laughed, grabbing Blaise’s tie and pulling him down for a quick kiss.  “Kemosabe, you know I do.”

“Public displays of affection are tacky,” said Pansy.  Taako flipped her off, and Blaise chuckled, as Draco opened up the wall to the common room and they all piled inside.

Taako made his excuses-- lots of homework , gotta run to the restroom , gonna change for dinner -- and managed to peel away from Blaise and Pansy and the rest of their group.  He was very very grateful that the Slytherins, unlike the other houses, got their own, individual rooms.  On one hand, that meant that Taako’s room could be as much of a colorful, disastrous mess as he liked.  And on the other hand, that meant he had some goddamn privacy, for fucking once .

He stepped into his room, kicking aside a sequined cloak that he’d dropped on the floor, and tugging the door shut behind him.  A quick locking spell and muffliato made sure that nobody could come in without his say-so, nobody could overhear.  It wasn’t that he didn’t trust the other Slytherin seventh years, it was just-- well.  He didn’t trust them!

Taako kicked off his heels, and flopped down on his bed.  Or, he flopped down on the pile of blankets, pillows, clothing, and other general soft shit that sat where his bed used to be.  He was a hoarder of the worst degree: and without Davenport around to make him clean up his shit, it was very fuckin’ fun to go wild with it.  Plus, like, Taako could transmute golden galleons from like.  Pebbles and shit. He had unlimited money, basically.

He pulled out the note he’d gotten from Lucretia, unfolding it, and lazily summoning his notebook from across the room.  

It had been kinda tricky, figuring out a way to talk to each other that, like, didn’t involve pulling her off into obscure classrooms and hoping against hope that they wouldn’t be caught.  (Besides, like, both of them were way too gay for the usual implications of that experience.)

But this had worked.  

A combination of Tosun V’s phonetic alphabet-- the IPA (for the Interplanar Phonetic Alphabet)-- plus the mongoose language from Cycle fuckin’ One -- made for a basically unhackable code.  Nobody on the Plane of Magic used the same IPA-- Creesh’d checked.  And like, for sure for sure none of them spoke the mongoose language.

Lucretia was real good at translating into and out of the IPA.  It wasn’t quite as easy for Taako, so he’d scribbled down all the symbols into his notebook, encrypted.  A quick DNA spell-- he hadn’t had fuckin’ Science Queen Lup as his sister and Science Nerd Barold hangin’ around for almost a century without pickin’ up a trick or two.  The only other person who’d be able to unlock the IPA symbols would be Lup, and like, she wasn’t even in the castle .

It took annoyingly long to translate the note, but finally, he got in.  In Lucretia’s neat, looping handwriting, it read:

 

Hello, Taako,

I hope everything is going well with the IS.  Merle did his best to help Ernie Macmillon, but he’ll be limping for a while.  

If you see Magnus (or Neville, Ginny, or Luna), please don’t encourage them.  Everybody saw how beat up they were after whatever happened in the Forest-- and, no, none of my sources have been able to discover what really happened in there-- but surely you’ve seen them now.  Magnus and Neville especially. They won’t fucking shut up in classes.  

In better news, No Man’s Land is expanding significantly.  I believe this is partially due to seeing Magnus and Neville so beat up for being so vocally anti-Dark Lord.  Similarly, nobody wants to kiss the Carrows’ asses. (And before you complain, I know you don’t want to, either.  Lup isn’t here, so I’ll say it for her: suck it up, Koko!)

We’ve gotten almost two dozen members over the past week or so.  One of them especially is somebody who I thought was deeply entrenched in the side that they’d chosen.  For their security, I can’t tell you who defected, or even what side they defected from.  

I’ve instituted wards over No Man’s Land that prevent anybody but myself from naming its’ other members, by the way.  I’m the only person I trust enough to be able to protect my mind to know all of them.

 

She didn’t sign it, but then, she didn’t need to.  That blend of confidence, gravitas, and sass that was just veiled enough to escape anybody who hadn’t lived with her for seventy-off years: well, it couldn’t be anybody but Lucretia.

Taako slipped his response to her during Charms: a quick invisibility spell and levitation and abjuration charm secured it safely in her bookbag, warded so nobody could open or see it but Lucretia

 

Creesh--

C’mon, you can’t just say that there’s some big hat who defected!  You GOTTA tell me who it is. It could be IMPORTANT!

 

He found her response in the brim of his oversized hat later that day.

 

Taako,

Absolutely not.

 

Taako sent his next response into Lucretia’s mashed potatoes at dinner.

 

Creesh,

I can’t believe I let you date my sister.

 

Her encoded letter was sitting on top of his pile of soft things/bed when he got back to the Slytherin dorms after dinner.

 

Taako,

You didn’t “let” me do fucking anything.

Also, I would tell you, but I don't trust you to keep that information safe.  

 

He rolled his eyes as he read it.  This was hilariously petty, but gods had he missed Lucretia.  When she wasn’t dripping with gravitas she was dripping with sass, which was honestly even funnier.  And something Taako could definitely get behind.  

He waterproofed his next note, teleported it across the windows of the Slytherin common room into the Black Lake.  Made it invisible and floated it up to the Ravenclaw Tower, plastered it across Lucretia’s window.

 

Creesh,

I can protect my fuckin’ mind.

 

Her response appeared curled up the next day in his ink jar, with all the ink missing.  It was, uh, very fuckin’ annoying to deal with McGonagall glaring at him while he desperately pestered Draco to let him use his ink.

 

Taako,

I know as well as you do that you haven’t studied Occlumency.

 

So that was annoying, which meant payback .  Taako folded his next note into a tiny, tiny, invisible paper airplane, and sent it off after Lucretia.  If he’d gotten the charm right-- and he had, of course he had-- it would be poking the back of her head all day long until she managed to catch it.

 

Oh, and you have?

 

Her response was an origami duck that quacked whenever Taako tried to speak.  He had to pretend he had a cough for four fuckin’ hours until he caught the flying, invisible duck.

 

Taako--

Yes.  Of course I have.  Who do you think I am.

 

He appreciated that none of their letters mentioned just how petty they were being.  He appreciated it more as he sent Lucretia his next note, designed with glowing, magically sparkling letters on the ceiling of her dorm room.  (Fun the things you could convince house elves to do, if you paid them well, now that they’d got a workers union and everything Lup’d set up fourth year.)  Hopefully, it’d take her a good couple days to figure out how to break the spells keeping the words plastered up there:

 

Fuck you.

 

Lucretia’s return note was a lot longer, but equally as all-over Taako’s belongings: one letter of the IPA was emblazoned onto each page of one of his blank notebooks.  The whole thing hummed softly until he opened it-- and then it spit a huge wad of glitter into his face.

 

Taako,

First of all, rude.  Second of all, I really am sorry I can’t tell you.  But their protection is a lot more important to me than your feelings are.  Also, if you see Magnus, he’s got two black eyes, and so a lot of the first years have taken up painting on black eyes on their own faces as a mark of rebellion.  If you can get the IS to get them to stop that BEFORE the Carrows put two and two together and start sending first years to detention, that’d be great.

 

Well, glitter was starting a whole ‘nother war entirely .  So Taako took inspiration from the graffiti and the falling glitter that still wouldn’t come out of his hair no matter how many times he washed it.  His message hung in midair, letters made entirely of glitter, and the only way to get them to stop floating was to wave your hand through them-- bursting the glitter bombs.

His only regret was that he wasn’t there to see the damage it caused to her dorm room.

 

Creesh--

Fantasy Jesus Christ, fine.  I’ll do your dirty work.

---

Taako walked with Tracey and Theo and Millicent-- everybody who’d been awake-- to breakfast late on Saturday morning.  Normally they’d just take the shortcut to the Great Hall, but there was a racket of noise going on in the Entrance Hall.

“What’s that?” Taako asked, glancing at the others.

Theo shrugged, his shoulders tense, the Head Boy badge on his chest (just above the HIS one) gleaming.  “C’mon. Let’s find out.”

They trailed after him, eventually shouldering their way through a gathering of students who were whispering nervously among themselves.  The students watched the members of the Head Inquisitorial Squad-- plus Millicent-- as they moved through, conversations dying as they spotted them.

Theo stopped so quickly that Taako almost ran into him.

“Hey, watch it--” 

And then Taako looked up.

“Oh, Merlin,” whispered Millicent, so quiet only Taako’s (admittedly disguised, but still elven) ears could pick it up.  “Oh, Merlin.”

It was almost as though they had taken inspiration from Taako and Lucretia’s little, loving, magical-graffiti spat.  But in a horrible, horrible way.

Painted onto the huge, empty wall in bright crimson letters were the words “ POTTER LIVES .”

“Everybody go to breakfast,” said Theo, loudly, all eyes turning to him, the Head Boy, member of HIS.  “This is a cruel prank. Go to breakfast.”

“You hard the man,” said Taako.  “Get!”

He walked towards a group of second years, one of whom audibly squeaked , and their whole little cluster rushed off into the Great Hall.  Slowly, too, at Tracey and Theo’s command, other groups of people moved into the Great Hall to get breakfast until it was only the four of them remaining in the Entrance Hall-- plus a couple clusters of people on the edges of the hall, upper-years mostly who weren’t as intimidated by the IS.  People wanting to know what was goin’ on.

“The Carrows will be here soon,” said Theo, quietly, to the other Slytherins.  “I... well. You know what’s coming.”

Taako nodded.  The Carrows burst through the doors: Amycus’s face turned deathly white, and Alecto’s red, red, horribly angry-red.

Taako squared his shoulders, and rocked back on his heels.  He didn’t know who exactly had done the grafitti, but he got the feeling that Dumbledore’s Army-- Neville and Magnus and Ginny and Luna and whoever-the-fuck-else-- had gotten tired of being silent.  Or they just hadn’t learned their lesson after the Forbidden Forest.

“Who.  Did. This?” asked Amycus, his voice dangerously slow.

“We’re not sure, sir,” said Theo, stepping forward.  Taako appreciated him for taking the fall, in one way or another.  “We cleared out all the students who were here--”

“Why would you do that ?!” hissed Alecto.  “One of them was the perpetrator !”

Taako knew exactly why they’d done it, even if they hadn’t said the reason out loud: to keep those little kids away from the Carrows’ wrath.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, I didn’t think--”

Alecto backhanded Theo across the face.  It wasn’t hard-- Taako’d been around Magnus long enough to know what a hard slap was-- but he still stumbled back a step, silenced.  Gaped up at her, the beginnings of a red handprint forming on his face.

Theo was Head Boy .  He was a member of the Head Inquisitorial Squad .

Taako hoped that the upper-years hanging around the edges of the room just saw that happen.  He hoped they realized what it meant: that the Carrow’s power-- so shaky that they’d turn on Theo , who should have been their go-to-- well, it meant the Carrow’s power was a lot less stable than they’d want the students to know.

Amycus turned to the graffiti on the wall, glaring up at it, and raised his wand.  “ Scourgify !”

Despite the cleaning spell, nothing happened.  The words remained constant: POTTER LIVES .

“Tergeo!”  Nothing. “Evanesco!”  Nothing at all. Taako had to hand it to Dumbledore’s Army: they knew their charmwork.

“New rules, enforced now ,” said Alecto to the three of them (plus Millicent) like she hadn’t just, uh, slapped Theo.  Her face was still unnaturally white.  “Detentions will be with us and the Inquisitorial Squad instead of Filch.  He isn’t gettin’ the job done, apparently. And!  Nobody in the halls alone. Anybody alone in the halls gets a detention.  Two detentions if it’s after curfew.  Understood?”

“Understood,” said Theo, after a long moment.

“Get Filch in here,” barked Amycus, glaring back at them.  “And get the Entrance Hall blocked off. Nobody goes in or out.”

Taako and Theo made eye contact.

Aw, what the hell.  Theo’d already taken enough of a blow for one day.

“I don’t think that’ll work,” said Taako.  “Students have to go through here to get to the Great Hall.  To, y’know, eat.”

Alecto glared at him.  He resisted the urge to take a step back out of slapping range-- but she didn’t slap him, thankfully.  ‘Cause then Magnus would’ve killed her and ruined Taako’s entire undercover shtick. “Go. Get. Filch.”

“Consider it done, ma’am,” said Theo, grabbing Taako’s arm with one hand and Tracey’s with the other, hauling them-- and Millicent, who Tracey grabbed onto-- out of the Entrance Hall.

“Shit, Theo,” said Tracey, as soon as they were out of earshot, “Are you okay?”

Theo shook his head, jerkily.  The handprint was like a, a stamp of one.  Perfectly visible. “Let’s just get Filch.”

“We could take you to the Hospital Wing,” offered Millicent.

“And have the Carrows find out and ban us from the Hospital Wing, too?” asked Taako. “Uh, no fuckin’ way.”

“I’m fine ,” said Theo.  “C’mon. I don’t know if he’s in his office but--”

“You need to put ice on it, or something --” Tracey tried.

“I’ll get you something for it,” said Taako, and then immediately regretted it.

They all looked at him.  

“From... the Hospital Wing?” Millicent asked, after a long moment.

Taako raised an eyebrow.  “Slytherins never give away their secrets, Millie.  Now go find Filch and get me a cinnamon roll and I’ll meet you outside the Common Room.”

“Alright,” said Theo.  A beat. “Be safe, Taako.”

“That’s rich comin’ from Mr. Handprint over here.”

There was an uncomfortable moment, and then Theo laughed, and Taako laughed, and then Tracey was laughing too, almost hysterical.

“You guys are weird,” noted Millicent, entirely deadpan, but that just made the whole situation funnier.

Chapter Text

That evening when Taako and Draco showed up to help the Carrows supervise detentions in the small, musty, basement corridor of rooms that they used, it was-- well.

“It’s fucking crowded ,” said Taako, as Draco opened the door for him.  

The walls were lined with hard wooden benches, and the benches were crammed with students, who looked up at Taako and Draco-- with various degrees of fear and hatred-- as they came in.  Taako recognized a couple of them: Ginny Weasley flipped him off, Luna Lovegood offered him a pleasant smile. Magnus, thank the gods, didn’t look up when Taako walked past him.

A few other members of the IS-- not the HIS, so Taako automatically didn’t care to remember their names-- were standing stationed at regular intervals between the benches, wands out.  Ready to quash any... whatever trouble might arise.

Had the benches been crammed with the Gryffindor seventh years?  Yeah, that coulda been bad.

But for the most part, the two dozen or so students down waiting for their detentions weren’t upper years.  Fuck, they weren’t even the troublemakers .  Most of ‘em were real small, first or second years.  They’d’ve had nothing at all to do with the “Potter Lives” sign.

Fuck.

Taako stopped looking at the students, eyes straight ahead.

The doors to the detention rooms were at the end of the hallway, and Taako and Draco had almost reached them when one of them swung open with a thunk against the hall.  A bunch of the first years jumped.  Taako didn’t, because he was a fuckin’ adult .

Pansy stood in the hall, a quiet sneer scrawled across her face.  She pushed the door open behind her, and a small Ravenclaw kid-- second year, maybe?-- stepped out.  His face was pale, and he swallowed hard as he walked down the hallway.

There was a murmur of encouragement-- and Magnus, practically fuckin’ shouting , “Good job, Devin!”

“No talking!” said one of the other IS members, shooting off... some spell or another at Magnus.  It hit him in the shoulder, and he winced, and--

“Are you comin’ in or not ?” asked Pansy.

Taako turned back to her, very purposefully.  “ Gladly .”

She rolled her eyes as he stepped past her, following Draco through the door.  Pansy was right behind them, letting the door fall shut with another bang .

The inner hallway was, well, kinda objectively worse.  There weren’t any benches or students-- everybody waiting for detention was outside being monitored by the IS.  No, it was just a bare and bleak stone hall, with heavy wooden doors set at even intervals. They were thick enough to block most of the sounds coming from within.

“Oh,” said Taako, looking at one of the doors as they walked past.

“Yeah,” said Pansy, quietly.  “They’d been threatening it, but... now they’re going through with it.”

“Ugh,” he said.  Playing the fucking part.  

“What?” asked Draco, face pale-- well, paler than usual, which was really saying something.

“Casting curses makes me tired .”

“Yeah, well, step it the fuck up,” said Pansy, elbowing Taako in the ribs.  “The Carrows just had to head out to go to a staff meeting.”

“And we gotta go through everybody out there?”

She nodded.  “Yup. I know we’re supposed to do it in pairs but like, we’re all competent adults.  None of them have wands, so like, just holler I guess?”

“Alright,” said Draco.  “Empty rooms?”

“Yeah, here.”  Pansy grabbed one of the door handles, swung it open.  Draco, with a small nod at both of them, stepped inside.  She opened the next door, Taako stepped in, looking around.  It was, well.

Empty, except for the chair in the middle, with chains loose around the arms.  Taako sighed, turning back to Pansy. “Are we just doing stinging curses, or...”

She shook her head, meeting his eyes square on, face hard.  “Cruciatus Curse.”

“I-- really ?  I mean, fuck , we’re kinda pullin’ out the big guns quick, aren’t we?”

“You’re not wrong,” said Pansy, after a long moment, examining him.  “But that doesn’t change our orders, and you know it.”

“I know, it’s just--”

“It doesn’t have to be long .  Go get someone, we don’t have all day.”

Pansy turned away with a snap, marching down the hall, back to pick up somebody for their own detention.

Taako sighed, pushing his wand behind his ear. Time to get to work.

---

Taako wasn’t mean about it, as best he could be.  Grab some first year kid who didn’t deserve to be in detention, sit them down in the chair and make sure the chains weren’t too tight.  Ignore their panicked tears, do a quick and super-weak cruciatus on their non-wand hand, send them off.  

Rinse and repeat.

It got later and later, and the crowd of people waiting for detentions thinned.  Finally, the last person waiting was Magnus.

“C’mon, let’s go,” said Taako, when he got out there.  Glanced around at the remaining IS guards. “Y’all can head out, I got this.”

They murmured their goodbyes and left: none of them wanted to do it, either.  Passing through the heavy door, trailed by Magnus, back into the room with the chair.

“Sit down,” said Taako, tugging the door shut behind them.  It didn’t click-- he tugged it again-- aw, fuck it. He was tired.  Wanted to go to bed.

Magnus sat. The chains wrapped around his arms. “Oh!”

“Yeah,” said Taako, walking to stand in front of Magnus. “ Oh .  What the fuck are you doing here?”

“No idea,” said Magnus, with a smile that told Taako he was absolutely lying. 

“Graffiti was stupid as fuck, my dude.”

His smile dropped. “Taako, we-- we had to do something --”

“Uh, no, you didn’t.  You coulda sat back and--”

“And let the Carrows and Snape destroy the school?!  You’ve been to their classes. You’ve seen how scared everybody is all the time.  Fuck, you enforce their rules!”

“Yeah, and, uh, those’re only gonna get worse if you guys keep resisting -- look where we are now , those kids didn’t deserve this and now I have to torture you !”

A moment of tense silence.  “We had to do something.”

Taako shrugged, one shoulder, didn’t meet Magnus’s eyes.  “Actions have consequences.”

“Taako, I--”

He levelled his wand at Magnus, careful to point for his left hand-- though he was ambidextrous anyway, so, what the fuck.  “ Crucio .”

And Magnus screamed. 

Taako held the spell as long as he could, as long as he needed to to convince the other Slytherins that he was doing his job and--

He was panting when he dropped the wand, and angrily swiped at his eyes.  “Gonna make me streak my fuckin’ eyeliner, asshole.”

Magnus, too, was panting, and crying, but for different reasons.  “Gods, I-- I-- Taako, I’m sorry, I just-- had to show that we’re still here, I--”

“You’re gonna get your dumb ass killed and leave me all alone here,” he said, tapping the chair with his wand.  The chains unfurled. “C’mon. Go find all those first years and kiss their boo-boos or whatever the fuck Gryffindors do.”

“Okay,” said Magnus, very slowly pushing himself to his feet, a shudder running up his arm.  He winced. “Fuck.”

“I’m not sorry,” said Taako.  “But-- gods. I wish it wasn’t this way.”

Magnus wrapped an arm around Taako, grabbing him in a hug.  “Me neither, bud.”

Taako accepted the embrace for a long moment, face smooshed up against Magnus.  Then he pulled away, tugged the door open. “Get outta here.”

Magnus stepped out.  Taako followed-- and there stood Pansy, in the middle of the hall, raising an eyebrow at them.  Magnus stepped around her, and down the hall, out the door. When Taako tried to do the same, she stepped in front of him.

“Draco and Tracey finished earlier,” she said, without moving.  “And you know how even we aren’t supposed to be alone in the halls.”

“...yeah.”

“So I had them head back together.  So you’re going back with me.”

“Okay,” said Taako, somewhat suspicious.

They walked in silence out of the corridor, past the benches, locked the door behind them.

“That was a pretty interesting conversation you were having in there,” Pansy noted, as they walked down the hall.

Taako’s breath caught for a split second.  She couldn’t have heard, no way-- the door -- it didn’t fully close--

“I don’t know what you’re talking about--”

“Yes, you do.  You’re friends with Magnus.  If you ask me, it sounds like you might even be something more than that.”

Taako almost laughed-- he sure as fuck wasn’t dating Magnus but family was for sure more than friends -- but he didn’t.  “Uh, what the fuck ?”

“If you’re friends with Magnus, then you’re friends with one of Potter’s greatest defenders.”  When Taako looked down at her, her face was hard, and her wand was drawn, almost in attack position.

Fuck it .

Taako whipped out his wand, casting before it was even fully positioned.

A shield bloomed in front of Pansy, skittering the spell sideways, splashing with a hiss against the ceiling.

“Stop!” she shouted, barely blocking another spell, high-level and nasty.

They met eyes.

Taako raised his eyebrows, and, very slowly, lowered his wand.

Pansy dropped her shield spell, tucked a loose piece of black hair behind her ear.  “There’s a place you can go.”

Taako couldn't help it this time: he laughed.  “Uh, what ?”

“You’re in HIS, but you’ve got Gryffindor friends,” she said, like it was obvious.  “You don’t want to be part of this. I-- I don’t, either.”

Huh .  “And what’s that to do with anything , hm?”

“There’s a place you can go,” Pansy repeated, her voice getting stronger.  “It’s people from all sides, who don’t want to be where they are. They help, they--”

“What, a fuckin’ support group?”

Her eyes squinted, very slightly, like she was sizing him up again.  “It’s called No Man’s Land.”

Lucretia’s thing -- the one that’d just gotten a new, important member-- Pansy .

“I’m part of it,” she said, voice hard.  “You could be, too, I’d vouch for you.”

“Why would you do that?” he challenged.

“That thing with Burnsides.  Plus I’ve seen you-- none of us are aiming to hurt too much with those spells, but you’re not aiming to hurt at all.  Not when you can help it.”

“So you want to let me in to your little friendship group?  How’s that gonna help me ?!”  Gods, Taako wanted to join, wanted to not have to pretend-- or, be like Pansy, not have to pretend all the way, and--

“Somebody to talk to,” she said.  “Somebody to heal you if you’re hurt.  New spells to learn, protection spells.  Once you graduate, a group of people who’d help you escape the Dark Lord, if you want.”

“Okay,” said Taako, very slowly.  He had to be logical about it-- clever and smart and whatever other synonyms fit Slytherin.  He had to be the one to think things through. And that meant that, since they already had Lucretia in with No Man’s Land, well-- they didn’t need another person in there.  “I really appreciate it, Pans, really I do. But I gotta stick where I am.”

“Oh, fuck,” she whispered.  She raised her wand and in a fluid motion-- “ Obliviate !”

Taako’s flip wizard status came really in handy as he dodged out of the memory earasing spell.  She fired another spell, silent, but he’d already pulled up a shield--

Block, cast, shit he missed -- dodge another frantic spell, ignore how terrified Pansy looked thinkin’ he was loyal to the Dark Lord and she’d just betrayed No Man’s Land and--

Expelliarmus !”

Pansy’s wand skittered out of her hand.  Taako pointed his wand at her throat: to her credit, she didn’t tear up, or plead, or beg.  Just stared him in the eyes.

“Do it.”

“Nah,” he said, lowering his wand.  “No sweat. I already knew about No Man’s Land--”

“I-- you what ?  They said, they said nobody knew--”

“I’m a special case,” said Taako, with a shrug.  “And I’d join you if I could.”

“But you can’t.”

“Nope,” he said, popping the p.  “Get your wand, I’m tired. Plus my heels are fuckin’ killing me.”

Shooting him another suspicious glance at Taako, Pansy crossed the hall they’d dueled in, bent over, and picked up her wand.  He didn’t curse her, raised an eyebrow like “you really thought I would?”

“How many secrets are you keeping?” she asked, after a long moment.

Taako laughed.  “Oh, and I’d tell you ?”

She rolled her eyes, something like a smile flickering across her face.  “You know occlumency?”

“The mind protection thingy, right?”  Taako vaguely recalled Lucretia mentioning it before.

“Yes.”

“No.”

Pansy shot him a look.  “You need to know.”

“Look, uh, I’m perfectly loyal to the Dark Lord, far’s they know, and so--”

“As long as you have any secrets you need to know how to do it,” she shot right back, angry.  “Now that you have my secret, you need to know how to do it.  I refuse to die because you were too much of a whiny bitch to learn some fancy magic.”

Taako raised an eyebrow.  Fuck, sometimes he really did love Pansy.  “Alrighty, then.”

“You’re my new patrol partner,” she said, face hard.  “I’ll start teaching you occlumency tomorrow.”

---

Chapter Text

A little clever manipulation on Pansy’s part, and suddenly she and Taako were placed as patrol partners-- pairing up Draco and Tracey, too.  Draco grumbled, and Pansy bitched halfheartedly (like she hadn’t been the mastermind behind it all) about the situation. Tracey ignored it, and Taako did his ‘I’m-too-aloof-to-care’ routine.  

But life fell back to normal soon enough-- or the strange, convoluted life that had become their normal.  Taako woke up, complained about waking up, went to class, sniped at the Gryffindors, did homework, complained about doing homework, kissed his boyfriend, went on patrol with Pansy.  Rinse and repeat.

Well, for two days, that is.  For two great, great days, life went back to normal.  The Carrows didn’t call in the Inquisitorial Squad to go torture a bunch of first years plus Magnus.  Dumbledore’s Army didn’t pull any further pranks (though the Carrows still hadn’t managed to get “POTTER LIVES” off of the wall, thus resulting in the huge curtain hanging over it).  Pansy had even started to teach Taako the basics of occlumency.

And then, like-fucking-always, things went to shit.  Again .

It was nighttime, but not late enough that Taako and Pansy’s shift had begun, just two days after the detentions.  Yeah, a couple more first years had been dragged into detention, and the lower years of the IS were basically terrorizing the halls, but like, whatever .  There’d been nothing to justify-- well, anything!

Taako and Pansy walked side by side down the Charms corridor, towards the central part of Hogwarts where all the staircases rose high into the air, swinging back and forth listlessly.  A cluster of third years hurried past them, Pansy sneering at them. Taako only didn’t sneer because he was trying to “calm his mind” or whatever-the-fuck occlumency hack he’d been trying to learn.  He was an elf, he already knew how to meditate-- that had to count, right?

And then somebody screamed.

“Aw, fucking shit,” said Taako, jolting out of the “mind calming” bullshit.  “I was close that time.”

“Just come on,” said Pansy, grabbing his sleeve and pulling him along behind her.  

Taako grabbed his wand out, scrambling behind Pansy to keep up with her as they raced towards the staircases.  “Ugh!”

The two of them rushed out onto one of the landings, maybe halfway up the huge, vertical chasm that was criss-crossed with staircases.  Well, normally crisscrossed with staircases.  Because in that moment, the staircases were... well.

They weren’t holding still .

In fact, they looked like they were basically trying to spin fast enough to fling anybody unlucky enough to be caught on them to their deaths.

“What the fuck,” whispered Pansy.

“What the fuck ,” agreed Taako, squinting up at the staircase-tornade.  “Is somebody in there?”

A quick spell and sure enough-- two figures, black-robed, were in the middle of the tornado, barely managing to hang onto one of the staircases.  The stairs swirled again, whipping them out of sight-- and then back, turning their faces towards Taako and Pansy--

“The Carrows,” said Pansy.

“Fucking shit ,” hissed Taako.  “Okay, you’re-- you’re good at Charms, right?”

She nodded, tightening her grip on her wand.

“Try to stop the stairs.  I’m gonna go try and stop whoever’s doing it.”

“What--”

“See?  Over there.”  Taako pointed across the chasm of spinning stairs, grateful for a high perception check, to where one of the other landings hung isolated.  There, inside the hall and thinking they were out of sight, was a cluster of people.

“Maybe they’re just watching.”

Taako shook his head.  “They wouldn’t. Get the Carrows out, they’ll be pissed otherwise.”

“Fuck you,” said Pansy, pointing her wand at the staircases.

“Fuck you too,” said Taako converstaionally, pointing his wand at himself, and Blinking out of existence.

---

Some fun spellwork and a bit of creativity involving different planes of existence got Taako through the tornado of staircases.  He couldn’t hear when he was travelling through the Ethereal Plane, but he got the picture-- Carrows, slowly being trapped inside of a cage that the staircases were forming around them-- Carrows, being ridiculously uncreative and useless, are they magic or not, what the fuck -- and Pansy doing her very best to keep them alive.

‘Cause if the Carrows died?  That would come out on the students.  And Taako would bet anything that whoever Voldemort sent to replace the Carrows would kill first and ask questions later.

Taako stayed in the Ethereal Plane as he emerged in front of the people, long enough to get a good look at the perpetrators.

It was probably a good thing they couldn’t hear him from inside the Ethereal Plane, ‘cause he literally sighed.

The perpetrators: Magnus, keeping an eager watch out at the Carrows and the staircases that were trying to trap them.  Ginny Weasley and Neville Longbottom, wands out, watching the entrance to the hall, wary. And Luna Lovegood and Merle fucking Highchurch -- godDAMNIT MERLE-- kneeling next to the wall.  Taako couldn’t hear what they were saying, if anything, but there were like... runes, carved into the wall?  Runes they were altering? And, yeah. That’d do it. If you got Hogwarts to work for you, then, well... you could do anything.

Time to turn that around.

Taako cast a quick invisibility on himself, before popping out of the Ethereal Plane, right behind Merle and Luna.

“The Inquisitorial Squad is coming,” he said, casting Lucretia’s voice-buzzing spell on himself, to make his voice utterly indistinguishable.  Couldn’t be too safe, right?

Merle jumped, managing to slam his head against the wall.  Ginny swore, Neville squeaked, and Magnus looked over, eyes narrowing.  Only Luna didn’t react.

“Who’s there?” demanded Neville.  

Taako blinked again, behind Ginny.  “Get outta here. They’re coming.”

He blinked behind Magnus as she frantically punched at the empty air behind her.  

“Seriously, Maggie,” Taako whispered, right up in his ear, dropping the spell just long enough for Magnus to realize who it was.  “ Go .”

Magnus nodded, just a bit.  “C’mon, guys, lets go.”

“But--”

Go ,” Taako insisted, starting up the voice spell again.

“I hear someone,” Ginny said, glancing back down the hall.

“Let’s go,” said Merle.

The four of them rushed to the end of the hall-- and Luna stayed there, at the runes.

“Luna,” said Ginny, looking at her, then looking panicked back over her shoulder--

Huh, looked like the IS actually might be on their way.  Good for them! How competent .

“Go, Gin,” said Luna, perfectly calm.  “I need to finish this. I promise you, I will be fine.”

Ginny nodded, hesitate for a second later, and then ran after the others.

Taako dropped the voice spell, dropped the invisibility, right behind Luna.  “You need to, like, stop fucking with the stairs?  Like, right now?”

“Hello, Taako,” she said, unperturbed, not looking up at him.  “I’m not doing anything to the stairs. I’m just having a conversation, and you’re interrupting it.”

“Uh, with whomst ?”

“Hogwarts, of course.”

“The castle’s alive ?”

“You sound like you think it’s silly,” she noted.

“I do!” he said, glancing down the hall, after Magnus and the others.  “I need to, like--”

“Arrest me?” asked Luna.  Slowly, she stood, the glowing runes on the lowest part of the wall fading away, until they were so faint that Taako wouldn’t have noticed them had he not seen them glowing just seconds ago.  “I understand.”

“I-- uh, sorry.  What the fuck ?”

Luna shrugged, one shoulder.  “I thought it was a silly idea, too.  But Magnus insisted we needed to stop them.”

“Listen, if you’re gonna kill someone, do it yourself, first off,” said Taako.  “And then make sure nobody worse is gonna come afterwards.”

She nodded.  “I agree with you.  Magnus isn’t the best strategist.  I don’t think he knows how to fight this kind of a war.  But everybody follows him.”

“Yeah.  So, like...”

“Oh, you can knock me out if you need to,” said Luna.  “Or you could punch me? I’ve always wanted to know what a black eye feels like.”

“Uh, fuck if you think I’m gonna punch anybody , that’s so much fuckin’ work .”

Luna smiled.  “Go ahead and stupefy me, then.  I understand.”

Taako pointed his wand at her, and she just stood there, smiling.  What the fuck , Luna?

Stupefy .”

---

Pansy had managed to get the staircases to slow down long enough to keep the Carrows from falling off, and Snape arrived to sort them back to normal, but that wasn’t enough for the Carrows.  Taako’d done his best to stay out of their way, but they were mad-- seething, seething mad .

They’d tortured Luna themselves.  Taako didn’t know whether to be fucking pissed at them, or grateful that he at least hadn’t had to do it.  But she’d refused to name names, and Taako’d looked good for bringing in the perpetrator himself.  

A regular one-man vigilante of justice, he was.

But maybe worst of all was what they’d done to Hogwarts.

Like, maybe the castle was alive?  Merle sure believed it was, and so did Luna, a-fucking-parrently, so like, maybe?  But either way, it had founding runes that kept it going. Kept it warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  Moved the staircases, created the secret passages, listened to and helped the students if they asked, if they were desperate.

But the Carrows had destroyed the runes.

So the stairs didn’t move, just hung like stairs normally did in the air, like dead animals.  Motionless.

And the castle was cold, too.  House elves lit fires in every room and Taako still had to use a warming charm on his shoes every hour or so.

They locked Luna up, for “extended detention.”

When he could, Taako brought her her favorite foods-- though he could tell the House Elves were doing the same thing anyway-- and smuggled her textbooks.  She was a Ravenclaw, boredom was the worst punishment they could be given.

And like, well.

If anybody else had known that Taako-- top, loyal member of the High Inquisitorial Squad-- had told the other rebels that the IS was coming?  Well, Taako’s be freaked out of his fucking mind.

But it was Luna.

“I know how to keep a secret,” she’d said after he’d dropped off another textbook, instead of saying thank you.

“Yeah, whatever,” said Taako, tucking the book he’d picked up from her into one of the pockets of his robe.  “You warm enough?”

“I could use a warming charm on my bed,” she said, like an offering.  “They took my wand, and I don’t need it bad enough to use wandless magicks.”

“Don’t go telling the Carrows you can do wandless magic.”

Luna tilted her head to the side, looking rather like an owl.  “I’ll put it this way-- no shit.”

Taako couldn’t help himself-- he laughed, desperately pressing his hands over his mouth to muffle the sound.  Luna, inside her cell, smiled as he cast a heating charm on her cot, vaguely pleased.

---

All clubs disbanded.  The Quidditch season ended before it even began.  Dementors arrived at Hogwarts in a great cloud of fog, scaring the students into staying inside Hogwarts’ halls.  Taako started avoiding Magnus and Merle even more than usual-- fuck, even Lucretia, even McGonagall, his transfiguration mentor.  Some hills were worth dying on-- and being able to protect the students from inside the IS was more important than having rebel friends.

Taako held his tongue, kept his cool.  Attended classes, went on rotations with Pansy, complained about homework.  Did his very fucking best to act like he couldn’t see the fog of pallor that had fallen over Hogwarts-- how the Ravenclaws were quiet, and the Gryffindors were angry, and the Hufflepuffs were hiding, and the Slytherins were terrified.

Taako went to Muggle Studies and ignored Magnus earning detention on top of detention as he mouthed off.  He went to Dark Arts and cringed as Amycus Carrow started to make randomly selected students from every house, from every grade, duel each other: a fun little way to show the students who was still in charge.

A Ravenclaw seventh year versus a Slytherin fourth year.  Draco versus a fourth year Gryffindor. Magnus-- Magnus versus a second year Hufflepuff.

Magnus, refusing to curse the second year.  Magnus, getting Carrow to curse him instead.

Fuck .

And the next Dark Arts class-- people’d tried to skip class but they’d only get detention for that and detention was even worse--

A fifth year Hufflepuff versus Matteo.  Versus Matteo, Taako’s little Slytherin buddy.

Taako held onto Blaise’s hand, gripping so tightly it hurt, and watched as Matteo screamed.  That evening, he pulled Daphne aside, and asked her how she kept going.

She didn’t need to ask to know why.  Her little sister, Astoria, had been up on the duelling platform the week before.  And instead of giving Taako an answer, she just hugged him, and pretended not to notice that he was crying.

---