That night after dinner, the Slytherin Quidditch Team had their second practice. It went well. Montague was tough, but Harry was just happy to be playing Quidditch. Yes, he wasn't a Seeker, but he found he was quite enjoying being a Chaser, at least at the moment. He wasn't too fond of either Montague or Pucey, but so far, they were working rather well together. Actually, he wasn't really fond of anyone but Draco, and the blonde still got on his nerves sometimes. At least he was trying to practice. He would let the Snitch run around for a bit, before going to find it. That was really the only way to practice without having someone to practice against.
The rest of the school week was relatively boring, at least for Hogwarts. Umbridge was still doing her inspections, and there were three that week. On Tuesday, she did the fourth year Ancient Runes class, followed the next day by the third year Arithmancy class. On Thursday, she sat in on the seventh year N.E.W.T Charms class. Thankfully, Harry wasn't in any of those classes. He had enough of her in the Defense classes without seeing her outside of them, too.
Saturday came, and Harry was glad that he had been exercising every morning. He had to admit that Hermione was right - it was better to exercise early in the morning. He was glad that he had started doing it now. He usually felt better now once he had done that. It was a good way to start the morning. After breakfast, he made his way to the Chamber entrance, where Hermione was waiting for them both, as she usually was. "Morning, Hermione," he said. She didn't respond and was simply sitting there. Hermione wasn't a daydreamer, so this was odd for her. He took a step towards her. "Hermione?"
She looked up at him then, seeming to snap out of her reverie. "What? Oh, sorry, I was just… thinking."
"Thinking about what?" he asked.
"You know, what we talked about last week…" she said. "I really do think it was a good idea. It's just… There's no one to teach it. None of the adults we know can get involved for obvious reasons." She gave a heavy sigh. "It's been occupying my thoughts a lot lately. I don't blame you for this, because you know, me saying that you'd be perfect to teach everyone. That's not what I mean. I just mean that we're going to be stuck with Umbridge, and I hate her, that bitch…"
"Such language, Hermione," he said, sitting down next to her as they waited for his father to arrive. "And I know what you meant. I don't like her, either.
"A lot of people will fail. You and I won't, but a lot of other people will."
"It's not your responsibility to help everyone, Hermione," Harry told her. "If they don't realize they're going to fail and don't do extra studying, that's their problem."
"It isn't that easy," Hermione said. "You can't learn everything from a book. You of all people should know that. We need a teacher, a proper teacher."
"Then why don't you do it?" Hermione looked at him like he'd grown two heads. "I'm serious. You're top of the class, and you can argue about me beating you the year Lupin was teaching all you want. I can't just show up as Harry Potter, and Jacob Snape can't do it. You're the next logical choice if you ask me."
A deep blush crossed Hermione's cheeks. "I - I don't think so. I mean, I don't think I'd be any good at it, and no one would listen to me," she said.
"I think you would," he said. "Besides, if they don't want to help themselves, they deserve to fail. You've been taught by my dad this past month or so, same as me. I'll even help you if you want."
"What, the power behind the throne?" She said, smiling at him.
Harry laughed, not realizing at all that it had come out like that. "That was not at all what I meant," he said. "I just meant that if you needed advice, you know I would -"
It was Hermione's turn to laugh now. "I was just kidding. I knew what you meant, and thank you," she said. "But I don't know about this." She started wringing her hands together. "I just… do you really think I could do this?"
"Of course," he said, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I wouldn't have suggested it if I didn't."
Hermione was silent for a few moments before responding. "Okay, then, let's do it," she said.
Harry nodded, slipping his hand off her shoulder. "Okay, I'll mention it to Draco." The words came out of his mouth so quickly. He wanted to tell him. It seemed a bit strange that it wasn't that long ago that he had hated him, and here he was, wanting to tell him about a secret defense club.
Hermione's body instantly stiffened beside him. "Er, Harry," she said nervously. "Look, it's not that I don't trust Draco. It's that I don't necessarily trust his friends, the people that he hangs out with. He doesn't have the best track record. I know you two have gotten rather close recently, but if he told one of his friends, and they told the wrong person… It could be over for us before it even starts."
A weird mix of emotions ran through him then. He knew he was already lying to Draco, but for some reason, adding on another lie seemed to make him even worse. Harry thought that it didn't make sense. It shouldn't bother him that he was adding another like onto the big one. Besides, Hermione did have a point. Draco and the other Slytherins didn't have the best track record as far as trust went. It made sense to be a bit wary.
"You know the hat stressed house unity," Harry pointed out.
Hermione nodded. "I'm aware; I just think we should be cautious, okay?"
"Sure, Hermione, whatever you say," he told her. He wanted to tell Draco, and it almost hurt thinking that he would be lying to him about something else, on top of all the lies he was already telling. They were friends, and Draco had been a good friend, too. He didn't necessarily trust all the other Slytherins, though.
"I'll start spreading the word as much as I can without drawing too much attention," she said. At that moment, his father came in, and they went down into the Chamber for their lesson.
Harry didn't mention the news to Draco, just as he hadn't mentioned it to him last week. He told himself it was for the best, that Hermione had a point. It seemed wrong to him, though. He told himself that it was just because he had become friends with Draco. However, he was friends with Draco as Jacob, not as Harry. That barrier meant something - that no matter what, there was a wall between them. It was a bit depressing, but he put it behind him. It was necessary, and this was his life now.\
The next day, Harry was spending the day was his father, as he did every Sunday. The two of them were playing chess when Harry told him about the defense club idea that Hermione had come up with. Severus was silent for a bit before responding. "It is not a bad idea," he said. "I believe that you and Miss Granger would do a more than adequate job. While I do not think that either of you has to help the other students, I agree that it is unwise for everyone to be helpless because we have an incompetent Defense teacher again ."
Harry was glad. He had been a bit worried about what Severus would say, but he was glad that they weren't the only ones who thought it was a good idea. "I have some warnings for you, though," Severus continued. "Be careful about who you let in, as one wrong word to Umbridge, and your little fun is over. I cannot help you again if you are caught, you understand?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, I understand," he said.
"Good," Severus said. "My other piece of advice is not to be fooled by meeting in some off the wall place because you think it's secluded. In some place public and loud, a large meeting of people is less likely to go noticed." Harry hadn't thought about that. He assumed that quiet equaled secrecy, but he trusted his father's advice. "My last piece of advice is to use the Room of Requirement. The Chamber would have more secrecy, but that would mean revealing that you are a Parselmouth which is unwise, to say the least. Few know about the Room of Requirement, and I have already explained to you how it works. If you are careful, it can be just as secret as the Chamber."
Harry nodded. He had a lot to think about now, and he needed to talk to Hermione about it. He would probably have to wait until next Saturday, prior to their next private lesson with Severus. He knew better than to ask him about this again because they needed to keep him out of this. If Umbridge did manage to find out, he didn't want anything to tie this to his father.
Harry's first class of the day was Double Potions, and the first thing he noticed as class was fixing to start was that Umbridge was there. Obviously, she had chosen this class as her evaluation period for Severus. The most annoying thing of all was that he had her class first thing after lunch, and he had already seen her for another evaluation two weeks ago - Care of Magical Creatures. Figures, he thought to himself. He did not want to see her any more than he had to. It didn't seem as if that was going to happen. Hopefully, she would be finished with the evaluations soon.
"As you can see, we have a visitor with us today," said Severus. His voice had a low, seething tone to it as he gestured towards a dim corner of the dungeon. Harry could tell he was not pleased about this, and he didn't blame him. Umbridge was sitting there, her clipboard sitting on her knees. "You will be doing the Death Cap Draught today. This potion is excellent practice for some of the more dangerous potions you will be doing over the next couple of years. That is if you are lucky enough to move on."
Umbridge' hem hem'- ed from her corner, but Severus just ignored her. "You will find any necessary ingredients in the store," he said, waving his wand. "I recommend using gloves, as the Death Cap Mushroom is highly toxic. Getting any of this Draught on your skin will be most unpleasant, let me assure you. While touching the mushrooms will most likely not cause you any distress, you are better off having the gloves on during this lesson." The students rustled in their seats a bit. "The directions are on the board." He waved his wand again. "You may begin."
The entire class put on their gloves before milling around Snape's stores to get the ingredients they didn't already possess - like the highly poisonous mushrooms they were working with. Neville was shaking so badly, Harry was worried for him, especially without Hermione to help him. After all, she sat next to him on the Slytherin side. Everyone began work on the potion, a lot of students being more cautious with the Death Cap Mushrooms. Meanwhile, Umbridge spent the first half an hour making notes in her clipboard. Harry was very interested in what her questions to his father would be, so much that he was being a little careless with his potion. A sharp nudge in his side from either Draco or Hermione reminded him to pay more attention when his mind would wander off.
Umbridge finally decided to get off her feet, and strode over the Gryffindor side of the room, peering into Dean Thomas' cauldron. "Well, your class seems very advanced for their age," she said brusquely to Severus's back, "though I question how wise it is to teach them this potion. The Ministry would prefer it if it was removed from the syllabus."
Severus turned around, his face a mask as he stared at her. Umbridge cleared her throat. "How long have you been teaching at Hogwarts?" she asked him, her quill positioned above her clipboard.
"Fourteen years," Severus replied, his expression still unreadable. Harry just stared at them before getting a nudge from Draco and going back to his work.
"And you first applied for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position, correct?" she asked.
"Yes," his father said simply.
"And you were unsuccessful?"
Severus's lip curled. "Obviously."
Umbridge scribbled on her clipboard, as both Professors ignored the few snickers that went around the class at his remark. "And I hear that you have applied for that position every year since then, is that correct?"
"Yes," his father said quietly. He looked very angry, which Harry figured wasn't good for Umbridge if she didn't shut her mouth.
"Do you have any idea why Professor Dumbledore has consistently refused to appoint you?" Umbridge asked.
"I suggest that you ask him," Severus said venomously.
"Oh, I shall!" Umbridge said, smiling sweetly as she made a few notes on her clipboard.
"I suppose that this is somehow relevant?" Severus asked, his black eyes narrowed as he looked at her.
"Of course," Umbridge said. "The Ministry wants a thorough record on the, er, backgrounds of the teachers here at Hogwarts." She turned away after that, going to question Pansy about the lessons. Harry got another nudge from Hermione and went back to his potion. It was a bit pinker than the bright red it was supposed to be.
Severus made his way around the room, glaring at each student. Neville's potion was jet black, while Ron's was so pink it was almost white. "Bottle your potions, put your name on them, and set them on my desk for evaluation. Your homework is two pages on Billywig Stings, their uses in potions, and how they work with other ingredients."
Harry slowly poured the potion into the vial and bottled it before setting it on the desk. He needed to get to lunch. He gathered his stuff and looked up at his father. He still seemed rather angry, not that he blamed him. He would be angry, too, if Umbridge had asked him all those questions. Harry liked Umbridge less and less as the days went on, and he had never liked her to begin with. He swung his bag over his shoulder and walked out with Hermione and Draco.
Over the next two days, Harry thought of little else but Hermione's defense training thing, and more precisely, if he should tell Draco or not. It was driving him a bit mad. Part of him thought he shouldn't be obsessing about this, particularly not with whether or not to tell Draco Malfoy anything. The other part of him thought it made perfect sense, considering the fact that they had become quite close over the past six weeks or so. It made him more confused and torn than anything else. He wasn't sure what to do. He hadn't mentioned it to his father, but he would probably stress caution.
On Wednesday, they heard that Umbridge had evaluated the fourth year Muggle Studies class. One of the Slytherins had heard it from one of their friends who happened to be in that class. Harry would be glad when these evaluations were over. He just had to hope that he didn't happen to be in any of the other evaluations that were going to be done. Her classes were still a joke if you asked him, and seeing her, there was more than enough for him.
That night, Harry went up to the dorm instead of staying in the common room after dinner. There had been so much on his mind over the past couple of days; he had just needed to get away. Of course, it didn't take Draco that long to come up and find him. When the blonde found him, he had been lying on his bed half-studying/half-thinking. He looked up when he heard the door open to find Draco standing there.
"So, feeling more antisocial than usual today?" Draco asked, coming over to sit on the edge of Harry's bed. The blonde set his homework towards the edge of the bed.
Harry shrugged. "Just wanted a bit more peace and quiet to study," he lied. "That's all."
Draco glanced down at the book that was open in front of Harry before looking back up at him. "That's the same page you were on when you came up here ten minutes ago," he said. His gray eyes glanced over to the page notes. "And you haven't written anything else since you've been up here."
Before becoming friends with him, Harry had never given much credit to Draco's perceptiveness. Now, he noticed it more, and in cases like this, it was actually kind of annoying. He sighed. "I'm fine, really," he said, looking down at his book. He hoped that Draco would just let it go.
"You're obviously not fine."
Harry groaned. Of course, he should have known that he wouldn't let it go. What was he supposed to tell him? He looked back up at Draco, and suddenly it clicked for him. The truth. That's what he had to tell him - the truth. If anything, his time as a Slytherin so far had taught him that they were not evil. Sure, some of them were definitely worse than others. Draco had shown that he was not the person that he had always thought he was. Yes, the blonde had been horrible to them over the years, but the person sitting across from him now didn't even seem like the same person that had antagonized them over the past four years.
It wasn't just that, either. He was realizing that his prejudices against the Slytherins were unfounded. Yes, some of them may deserve that, but he was starting to believe more and more that they didn't deserve it as much as the other houses thought they did. Especially now that he was on the other side of the fence, so to speak. Being Severus' son as well didn't help matters either in that regard. No one outside Slytherin house - aside from Hermione, Fred, and George - had even attempted to talk to him. Sure, when he had been in Gryffindor, he hadn't spoken to people outside of his house that much, either. Maybe that was part of the problem. After all, didn't the Sorting Hat stress house unity?
"Is there a reason why you're staring at me?" Draco asked, breaking Harry out of his reverie.
"Oh, sorry, I didn't realize." He had been thinking so deeply; it hadn't occurred to him that he had been looking at Draco the entire time. "Look, if I tell you this, you have to swear you won't say a word to anyone."
Draco looked shocked. It was clear that was not what he had expected Harry to say. "Sure. Okay."
"No, this is important. You have to promise me," Harry said, leaning forward slightly. "Promise me that you won't say a word to anyone, ever ."
Draco looked even more surprised at Harry's insistence. The look of surprise faded into one of acceptance. "If it's that important to you, I could always take a Vow." Seeing the blank look on Harry's face, he continued. "A Vow of Secrecy. Surely, you've heard of them. I just vow not to say anything about whatever it is you're going to tell me, and I will be physically unable to say anything. It's not like a Wizard's Vow, which can cause you pain or even death if you break them, which of course, you knew already."
No, I hadn't heard of them, Harry thought to himself. There are vows that can kill you if you break them? That was a scary thought all by itself. Luckily it seemed as if Draco had thought he might have confused the Vow of Secrecy with the Wizard's Vows and not that he hadn't ever heard of them before. He concentrated on what Draco had said about the Vow of Secrecy, though. He hadn't heard of any of it before. "I - I can't ask you to do that," he settled on saying. It didn't seem right, because it seemed as if he didn't trust him at all. He did, or he wouldn't be telling him this.\
"You didn't. I offered." Harry blinked as he thought it over. It meant a lot to know that Draco was even willing to do this. "Look," the blonde continued, "this obviously is serious and means a lot to you. If it will make you feel better, I'll do it. It won't hurt me or cost me anything. It's just a formal promise that makes me unable to say anything about it."
Draco didn't seem to think it was a big deal, or at least he wasn't acting like it. It was a big deal to Harry, though. "If you're sure," he said.
"I'm sure," he said, getting up. He walked over to his bed before coming back and sitting back down on the bed. He had a thick book in his hands. He quickly flipped through it. He seemed to find what he was looking for after a minute as he set it down on the bed, moving Harry's homework over. Open was a page about the Secrecy Vow. "I wanted to make sure that I had the wording right." He held out his hand, and Harry slowly put his own over his as Draco gently gripped his hand. Harry returned the grip, looking down at the book before looking up at Draco.
Draco looked back up at Harry. "So, I'll vow not to repeat anything you say to me over the next… five minutes?" Harry nodded. "Good. Oh, and what is your middle name?"
Harry hadn't realized that was necessary, but glancing down at the book, it was. "Alexander."
The blonde nodded and then cleared his throat before taking his wand and tapping it on their joined hands. "I, Draco Lucius Malfoy, hereby make a Vow of Secrecy to you, Jacob Alexander Snape. I vow that what you say to me in the next five minutes I will not repeat. Do you accept?"
Harry could feel the magic as soon as the wand was tapped on their hands. He could still feel it now. He glanced down at the book to make sure he said the words right. He wasn't sure what would happen if he had them wrong and didn't want to find out. "I, Jacob Alexander Snape, do hereby accept those terms." The magic surged for a moment before fading away. It took Harry another moment before he let go of Draco's hand.
"There? Painless," Draco said. Harry nodded, though he could still feel the warmth of Draco's hand. He was sure that was because of the magic involved in the Vow. "Now, what is this all about?" The blonde folded his arms across his chest.
"Well, Hermione had this idea - and it is her idea - and it's a good idea -"
"I should have known Granger was involved if you didn't want to tell me," Draco said, interrupting.
Harry rolled his eyes. "I wanted to tell you, or I wouldn't have. Okay? Can I continue now?" He nodded, and Harry told him about Hermione's defense idea.
"Well, something Granger and I agree on - Umbridge is a joke," he agreed. "It's not a bad idea."
"Do you want in? Hermione's going to try and spread the word to some of the other houses. It just… doesn't seem right that the Slytherins be excluded completely, but…"
"You don't trust some of the others," Draco said, finishing Harry's thought. "And Granger doesn't trust any of us, not that I blame her. Pansy and I haven't been very pleasant to her in the past." That was an understatement, but Harry wasn't supposed to have first-hand knowledge of any of that stuff, not as far as Draco knew.
Harry nodded. "Yes, that's it exactly," he said. "I know they're your friends, and I feel guilty because I'm making you lie to them."
"Don't be," Draco said. "I wanted to know. The Vow was my idea." After a bit more discussion, they decided the group of Slytherins that they would tell, and those that they would leave out. It was a small group. Crabbe and Goyle were left out, and after some discussion so was Pansy Parkinson. They agreed that if things got tough, she couldn't be trusted, and she wouldn't be willing to take a Vow of Secrecy to prove herself to Hermione, either.
"So, you've been having secret meetings with Granger?" Draco asked, narrowing his eyes at Harry.
Harry blinked. "No… we just ran into each other last week, that's all." \
Draco looked at him for a second and then seeming to see that Harry was sincere, nodding. They continued studying before going to bed. This may seem like a small step, but bringing in the Slytherins felt like a big step to him. He could only wonder what Hermione was going to say about this when he told her Saturday morning.