Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Locus :: 02

02

He was walking toward class when he felt the impact against his back. A moment later he was falling, falling fast, the cold stone floor several storeys down rushing up to meet him. He had heard the saying that your life passes before your eyes when death approaches; he actually managed to snort. All he could see was that cold, hard, unforgiving stone floor. Joshua jerked to a stop a bare inch above the surface, then dropped the final distance, out of breath and slightly hysterical with relief.

After shakily getting to his feet he looked around, scanning both the floor he was on, as well as those above him. He saw nothing and no one. Moments later he was deep within the shadows of a nearby corridor, trying to get his breathing under control, and gradually becoming aware of a rather uncomfortable feeling in his trousers. Joshua huffed and quickly spelled himself clean and dry, then waited. As soon as a bunch of students walked by he tagged along behind them, hoping for safety in numbers.

The next incident involved a troll roaming the halls late one night. Joshua also often roamed the halls late at night, either exploring or heading to or from the library’s restricted section. He was chased along countless halls, stairs, and eventually ended up in the dead-end forbidden third floor corridor. It was all he could do to magic open the heavy door at the end, just in time for the troll to be close enough to rush him. It ended up inside, the door slammed behind it, and he raced back to the safety of Gryffindor.

He was beginning to get the idea that someone was trying to kill him. That someone must be either a part of the school, or able to enter it at will. That someone was most likely strongly connected to Voldemort. It also occurred to him that invisibility and silence were wonderful things, but smell was also a sense he should take into consideration.

When a snake slithered down the hall toward him he entertained suspicions that Voldemort himself was somehow involved, despite everyone ‘knowing’ that the man was gone. And that made him think of Quirrell, He Who Stutters, the man who sounded almost sibilant when his S’s went funny. Giving no one who might be spying the least idea that he could talk to snakes, Joshua turned abruptly down a hallway to the left and ran, ducking into one of the secret passages he had found, one which would take him up three floors in no time, and get him that much closer to Gryffindor.

Much later he was relaxing after final exams, reading yet another book. It, sadly, had to be tucked away in order that he might join his fellow Gryffindors for the leaving feast. The rumor mill was hard at work up and down the table, letting him know that Professor Quirrell had gone missing, quite likely on the same night that the headmaster had been called away from the school. He was, indeed, absent from the head table, and had been for days.

A surreptitious sweep of his eyes along there showed that the headmaster was gazing at him with something akin to disappointment in his eyes. Was that because Slytherin had won the house cup? Or because the old man had expected some great feat out of him, and he had failed to deliver?

The train ride back was filled with the chattering of so many children excited by the prospect of months of summer freedom. Ronald was there, still that devoted puppy clamoring for attention, babbling away thoughtlessly, promising to write, inviting him to his home for later in the summer. Like they were friends or something.

Vernon was there to pick him up, looking exceedingly put out by the inconvenience. The man said nothing, however, either then or during the ride back to Little Whinging. One look at Joshua’s cold expression was all it took for him to remember what the child could do.

As before Joshua spent much of his time reading at the library, some for pleasure, and some for the purpose of investigating what he would have been learning had he not been whisked away to the magical world for their idea of an education. Personally, he found the magical world’s idea of pleasure reading to be singularly dry and mostly aimed at small children. Did the wonder of magic in their daily lives remove the fantasy that came with fiction?

It also struck him rather forcefully that a magical education was quite static. There were no classes which encouraged creativity, free thinking, debate, art, music, or really, anything that challenged the mind. It was as though these people were a subset of humanity so entrenched in their way of life that new ideas were almost actively discouraged. It was no wonder that pranksters tended to be looked down upon, even as they made people laugh; they were attempting to innovate.

With that in mind he did more than simply investigate muggle education, and instead, actively began trying to teach himself what he was missing. Perhaps he could arrange, at the appropriate time, to take muggle tests after returning from Hogwarts, even if he had to pay for it.

Not long after his twelfth birthday a strange creature appeared in his bedroom. It had huge, glassy eyes, elongated, almost bat-like ears, and the body size of a small child. Clothing it was a tunic fashioned from what looked like a pillow case, and he wrinkled his nose at the threadbare state of it. “What are you?”

“Harry Potter!” squealed the creature. “So long has Dobby wanted to meet you, sir. Such an honor it is.”

He repeated, “What are you?”

“Dobby the house-elf, sir.”

“I see. Why are you here?”

The house-elf fidgeted before saying, “Dobby has come to tell you, sir . . . it is difficult, sir . . . Dobby wonders where to begin. . . .”

Joshua’s eye twitched in irritation. He would have to read up on house-elves to know why this one was acting so strangely.

“Dobby heard tell,” it said rather raspingly, “that Harry Potter has braved so many dangers already! But Dobby has come to protect Harry Potter, to warn him, even if he does have to shut his ears in the oven door later. . . . Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts.

Joshua just stared. House-elves punished themselves?

“If Harry Potter goes back to Hogwarts he will be in mortal danger. There is a plot, a plot to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year. Harry Potter must not put himself in peril!”

So someone, presumably a Death Eater, a sympathizer, or Voldemort himself, was plotting, and he might be affected by it. How shocking. Later on he would attribute his blasé state of mind on the surreal quality of the encounter. All he did then was say, “Thank you for the warning.”

Dobby started wringing the hem of his tunic (incidentally showing Joshua more than he had ever wanted to see about house-elf physiology) and wailing something about sir being so very kind to be so kind to a lowly house-elf.

“I guess you’ll be leaving, then,” he finally said, cutting through the house-elf’s awed babblings. “Someone might miss you.”

Dobby went silent, fear making his eyes bulge. A second later he disappeared with a crack.

“I really need to learn about them,” he murmured, “and about how he was able to find me.”

The next morning he was on a train into London, then in a cab to the vicinity of the Leaky Cauldron. Magic once again altered his appearance and he was able to browse through Flourish & Blotts without notice, and while he was there he picked up his books for the coming year. Joshua was seated in one of the many comfortable reading chairs trying to decide exactly what additional books to purchase when the sound of an altercation brought his head up.

A man who looked astonishingly like Draco was sneering at a family of redheads; Ronald was with them and spitting mad. He didn’t listen to the words, but rather watched faces. The blond was supercilious, Draco had his nose up in the air, and the redheads were torn between anger and uncertainty. As the older blond turned to go he knocked into a girl Joshua assumed was Ronald’s sister, and then they were gone, leaving behind a very upset family.

Later on Joshua was sitting by the window, staring outside without seeing, running through his mind the information gained on house-elves. Very powerful creatures, bound to serve a family (with only few exceptions), and capable of a great many feats of magic that many wizards and witches would have trouble with. It seemed that most people thought so little of the creatures that wards against them were almost never emplaced, which would explain how it had found him.

Would Dobby have assumed that he had agreed not to return to Hogwarts? Would he be watched? Given that he lived in the muggle world. . . . Joshua shook his head and turned from the window, his mind already looking forward to reading more about the world he should have grown up in.

*

He spent the night at the Leaky Cauldron, then used the floo to get to Platform 9¾. He picked the same compartment he had before, used magic to keep it mostly aversive, and pulled out a book. It wasn’t until after the trolley lady had gone by that Draco showed up, striding in like he owned the place to take a seat opposite. His two hulking brutes stood guard at the door.

“So, how’s life in Gryffindor?”

Joshua smirked faintly. “About as I expected. Yes, I hate it, and I don’t fit in at all, but they seem to overlook that and have convinced themselves I do.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t killed any of them yet,” Draco replied with a matching smirk.

He shrugged a shoulder. “Much as they grate, that would sort of point out that I’m not one of them.”

“If you’re cunning enough, they won’t know it’s you behind some of their unfortunate accidents,” Draco pointed out as he stood. “I’ll be off, then,” he said, then strode out briskly.

Joshua shook his head slightly and magic’d the door closed, and returned to his book.

*

He had barely taken a seat when Ronald dropped down beside him and started whining. “You didn’t return any of my letters!”

“I am unable to receive post where I live,” he said, not bothering to look over. In point of fact he had wondered why the only letters he had ever received had come from the school. Surely if he was the Boy Who Lived he would have adoring fans pestering him with well wishes and such. As Ronald started babbling about his summer he cast a surreptitious look at the head table. Maybe Dumbledore? He also noticed that Quirrell was missing and a blond with a blinding, self-satisfied grin was present. Wonderful.

The headmaster’s speech revealed the man’s name—Lockhart—but said nothing about the third floor corridor from the year before. It was also impossible to miss how half or more of the female population (and some of the males) sighed and aimed calf eyes toward Lockhart. At least now he knew what buffoon had written the Defense books, not that they were. More like a puffed up and fictionalized dramatic recounting of events which may or may not have happened.

Joshua briefly entertained the idea of slipping the man something to touch up that white smile. He shot a sideways glance down the table; the Weasley twins would probably be blamed, if he did. A glance in the other direction brought to his attention the youngest Weasley; the second their eyes met she blushed hotly and looked away.

Sadly, it happened on a regular basis. The girl could barely look at him without blushing and making herself scarce. The bright side was that she never attempted to speak to him, as he had the feeling she would stutter worse than Quirrell ever had. Her behavior was both irritating and amusing, and he realized that she spent quite a lot of time scribbling away in a book of some sort, a diary perhaps. That made him shudder, unwilling thoughts about just what she might be committing to paper coming to mind, and strengthened his resolve to ignore her in the future.

He was walking quietly down an empty corridor Halloween evening on his way to dinner when something grabbed his attention forcefully. Cold words, faint, came to his ears, their content making him shiver. “. . . rip . . . tear . . . kill . . . .” He followed them without thought. “. . . soo hungry . . . for so long . . . kill . . . time to kill . . . I smell blood . . . . I SMELL BLOOD!

Ahead of him was a large puddle of water reflecting Filch’s cat hanging from a bracket, the feline stiff as though long dead, and blood red words painted the nearby wall: The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir beware.

Being a reasonably smart boy, Joshua committed the scene to memory, then slipped back the way he had come, ducking into one of the secret passages he had found to regroup. Moments later he was off again, taking a different route to the Great Hall, and as he slipped into a seat and loaded up a plate he noticed that the youngest Weasley seemed both out of breath and confused.

In early November Colin Creevey, a particularly persistent pest of a muggle-born photo maniac, was found petrified in one of the corridors and taken to the infirmary. And while Joshua felt neither happiness nor dismay over the boy’s fate, he was rather gleeful that the camera Creevey always carried had apparently been destroyed. Mid-December brought about another two victims, this time Justin Finch-Fletchley and Nearly Headless Nick. Hagrid was also complaining about how his roosters kept being killed.

The holiday itself seemed to pass peacefully. Most of the students had left to return to their homes, so there were very few of them left in the castle to disturb Joshua in any way, though he was stuck with Ronald the overeager puppy, Ginny the blushing stutterer, and Hermione the incessant nag. He was so pleased when second term began, it being so much easier to avoid the attention of others simply by being one in a crowd, even if that did occasionally mean ducking into the first door available when certain persons were seen to be headed in his direction. In one such instance he ended up in an out-of-use bathroom and collected the curiosity of a somewhat familiar book from the floor, which was tucked away for later investigation.

He found the time while Ronald was in a panic over homework, slipping away quietly to a secret passage which had dust thick like felt, the only disturbances in it the footprints he himself had placed. The book itself was unassuming leather, flaking gilt letters spelling out Vauxhall Road, and the initials T.M.R.

That gave him brief pause, but perhaps coincidence was simply wishful thinking on his part. He opened it and was surprised to see blank pages within. A twist of his vision, however, showed that the book was far from innocent, and was heavily magical. On a whim he pulled a quill from his pack, along with ink, and wrote the date on the first page. Seconds later the ink sank into the parchment.

“That’s not normal,” he muttered, then carefully wrote, ‘What sort of book are you?’ The writing sank in again, but nothing else happened, causing some frustration on his part. ‘My name is Joshua.

That time the writing remained in place, even after several minutes, and a strange sense of familiarity rose within him. ‘Joshua Blake Durand.

The letters sank with exceptional speed, to be replaced with ‘Joshua? How can that be? You disappeared.

He blinked repeatedly, having trouble understanding what he was seeing. ‘Yes, I disappeared, but only one person witnessed it.

Yes, it was I. Joshua, this is Tom. What happened to you?

He blinked again, a familiar sting coming to his eyes, and he raised his left hand to rub them. How on earth was he going to explain?

Begin at the beginning.

Joshua laughed slightly. The demanding tone came across so clearly, even in simple letters.

Do you remember when I came to live at the orphanage?

Yes.

Well. . . .’ A bit later he had gotten to the point in his explanation where he was about to set off for his first trip to Diagon Alley. ‘Isn’t there some easier way to do this? My hand is getting tired.

There was a pause before the words formed. ‘Are you in a safe place?

Safe enough. I don’t think anyone has found the passage I’m in for years, maybe centuries.

Good.

A second later the quill fell from his fingers as the book began to glow with an unearthly light, and the next thing he knew he was sitting in a stone room. Tapestries softened the walls, the chair supporting him was slightly yielding, and across from him, in a similar chair, was a young man. “Tom?” he said hesitantly.

“You don’t look so much different than from when you left,” was the slow reply.

“But you look a lot older. Why?”

Tom narrowed his eyes for a moment, making them seem even darker than usual. “I was sixteen when I . . . imbued the book with my magic.” He tilted his head slightly, then said, “Joshua, what do you know of a person named Harry Potter?”

His eyes widened. After a moment he shrugged carelessly. “That’s who these people seem to think I am. I didn’t know about it until after Hagrid brought me to Diagon Alley. It didn’t take long for me to realize these people were going to expect someone completely different from who I am.” He frowned and continued, “I bought a lot of extra books. I convinced the hat to put me in Gryffindor, even though I think I should be in Slytherin. Like you?”

Tom’s cold expression softened slightly. “Yes.”

“I thought about what you might have done,” he confided. “I thought, if I went into Gryffindor, people would fool themselves into seeing what they expected. I really don’t like it in there, but they’re easy enough to ditch when I get too annoyed. I figured since we could do the same things you would have ended up here, too, so I’ve been sneaking into the restricted section. I didn’t want you to be disappointed in me, not learning as much as I could.” He went silent, really wanting to admit just how much he missed Tom, but not sure how he would take something like that said out loud.

His eyes must have said it for him, as Tom’s expression softened even further. “I missed you.”

Joshua smiled brightly, the first time he had done so in almost two years.

“Joshua, there’s something I need to explain to you. The book has been in the possession of a girl named Ginny Weasley for a number of months. She’s been writing to me, telling me every little thing about her life, her hopes, her dreams, and . . . her infatuation with the Boy Who Lived.”

He grimaced.

Tom chuckled lowly. “What you won’t like to hear is that I am Lord Voldemort.”

Joshua felt a shock like ice water engulf him, his eyes widening in disbelief. “But—”

“It’s all right,” Tom said soothingly. “I admit that I do not know what happened. The girl’s accounts were scattered, so it is obvious she knows very little. Something must have happened. Joshua, the book is something very special, it’s a part of me. That’s how I can speak to you this way. This is the me at that age, and I have never forgotten you. The rest of me . . . well . . . I don’t really know. Perhaps I went crazy. I don’t have the capability of sensing that, or myself. Maybe together we can figure it out.”

“Tom. . . .” He huffed, at a loss. “Tom, I . . . I think you’re trying to kill me. Last year, there were three attempts on my life. This year people keep getting petrified.”

Tom frowned slightly, his eyes narrowing again. “Then I obviously do not remember you for some reason.” He stood quickly and moved forward, kneeling before Joshua’s chair and placing his hands on Joshua’s. “I’m going to tell you something very important, something very secret. No one must ever learn of this, do you understand?”

Joshua nodded.

“The book is a Horcrux. It is a soul anchor, in the event my physical body should ever be killed. I can be reborn from it.” Tom’s hands tightened over his. “Listen to me. For me to be reborn there must be a death.”

Joshua sucked in a breath, then relaxed, realizing that the death of some irritant really did not upset him. “How does it work?”

“The girl. The more she writes, the more she pours into the book, the more of her life force and soul goes toward restoring mine. The more she allows herself to be overtaken, and does my bidding as she’s been doing, the easier it becomes.”

“Oh,” he said in realization. “It’s been you. What exactly have you been doing?” He was mildly shocked a short time later to realize that Tom had been using the Weasley girl to command a basilisk. It was only pure chance that nobody had been killed. He was further shocked when Tom admitted to more.

“There’s something else you should know. You came back to me.”

His eyes crossed briefly at the idea. “I did? Must not have happened yet. Er. . . .”

Tom chuckled again. “You came back to me, though I don’t know how. Nothing I tried could reveal the answer to that. It seems as though time itself refused to let you part with that information, perhaps to preserve the time line? However, I don’t know anything beyond the point when I enchanted the book. You chose a new look, though. Neither of us really trusted Dumbledore.”

Joshua scowled. “Dumbledore is the one who left me with those people,” he said acidly. “And last year, he looked at me with disappointment at the leaving feast. I don’t know by what right he can have any expectations of me. I get the feeling you—Voldemort—had a lot to do with our defense teacher, Quirrell. Every time the man’s back faced me I felt pain, here.” He tapped the scar on his forehead.

Tom reached out to trace the scar with his fingers, then gasped, utter surprise suffusing his face.

“Tom, what is it?” he asked urgently.

Tom looked almost embarrassed for a moment. “Joshua, I think the night Voldemort tried to kill you he left a little something behind. I think your scar is another Horcrux of mine, unintentionally so. So long as you live I can never truly die. Maybe . . . maybe the reason for last year is that you called to me, whatever I am now. Even if I did not understand why. Or, maybe, I just recalled when Harry Potter was due to attend Hogwarts.”

A pregnant pause ensued before Joshua spoke quietly. “What do we do now?”

Tom’s gaze sharpened with resolution. “I start teaching you some things, like how to protect your mind. I am fairly certain that Dumbledore is a Legilimens and does not scruple to contain himself from poking around. After that, we’ll see about finishing up with the girl.” He paused, then shook his head. “Concurrently, actually. At times I will need to be with her to continue the draining, but I will always have her, without her knowledge, turn the book over to you so we can have our lessons. When the time is right we shall see to her end, and my rebirth.”

By the time May rolled around Joshua had a fairly good handle on Occlumency, but not in the style those proficient in it would necessarily recognize. Everything sacrosanct was hidden away, certainly, but everything harmless was allowed to inhabit his mind as usual, as though he had no training at all. Neither of them could be certain of just how effective his defenses were without a real test, and unfortunately, being a Horcrux himself meant that Tom could pierce Joshua’s mind with very little effort. That, and they were working within a mindscape to begin with, which made it doubly difficult to see the real results of their efforts.

Hermione Granger and Penelope Clearwater were found petrified just prior to the final quidditch game of the season and rushed off to the infirmary to join the other afflicted. He cared not so much about that news as finding out that Dumbledore had been removed as headmaster for failing to see to the safety of the school. And on a side note, Hagrid had been taken away to Azkaban on suspicion of being the culprit behind everything.

On the one hand he found that amusing, but also rather sad. Tom had explained about the previous time he had used the basilisk and how he had pinned the death of Myrtle on Hagrid, but Joshua was disgusted to realize that something like a trial was not forthcoming. The people in charge seemed more concerned with their own version of the witch hunts, and less with actual justice. But, then, that played into their hands, and Hagrid, sadly, was blindly devoted to the old man, despite the fact that he had never managed to get the poor half-giant a fair trial the first time around. Joshua just shook his head, bemused.

Was it just that because Dumbledore had defeated Grindelwald so many people seemed to think the man was Merlin reincarnated? That he could do no wrong, make no mistakes, and be forgiven just about anything? It had crossed his mind, very briefly, when Hagrid had told him that Dumbledore himself had sent the half-giant, to be grateful to the old man. But then he had learned exactly who had placed him with the Dursleys, and any thoughts of gratitude had vanished into suspicion. Must be Tom’s influence, and that of the more common sense muggles.

It was just prior to exams week when Ronald came barreling down the hallway, sliding to a stop next to him; he already wished he had not left the more isolated parts of the castle. Ronald was so out of breath that Joshua couldn’t understand a word the other boy was saying for some time.

“Gotta help,” Ronald insisted. “Overheard the professors. Ginny’s been taken, to the Chamber.”

His brows raised. “Right. What does this have to do with me?”

“You’re the Boy Who Lived! Of course you can do something!”

Tom had been very insistent he stay out of it, so Joshua thought for a moment, casually glancing around to see if there was any type of spy in the vicinity, and frowned. Much as he would like to obliviate Ronald, he did not yet have enough power and control to do so. “Look, I don’t have the first clue what to do. You should leave this to the adults.”

“Lockhart,” Ronald gasped. “Said he knew where the Chamber was. We should go talk to him!”

Joshua suppressed a snort. Lockhart? That fraud? The man’s office was five storeys down from where they presently were. Perhaps he could arrange for an accident along the way? Before he could finish even putting together a hastily-conceived plan Ronald grabbed the sleeve of his robes and dragged him off.

As they were moving down the second to last set of staircases which would lead them to Lockhart’s office Joshua realized there was someone up ahead, and it was Tom. The problem was, Tom was semi-translucent. Joshua jerked to a stop, not really thinking about the consequences, and pulled Ronald off balance entirely, as the redhead still had his sleeve in a death grip. Ronald fell backward and bashed his head against the stone and Joshua ended up on his ass, one hand gripping the rail.

Tom approached, looking seriously pissed off. “Something did not go quite right. And nobody seems to be able to see or hear me but you.”

Joshua just stared, confused, then glanced down to see that Ronald was out cold.

“Take him to the infirmary. I will follow, and we can talk afterward.”

Madam Pomfrey was not happy in the least to see them, but directed Joshua to levitate Ronald onto a bed. Once he had explained what happened he was shooed away, and he was more than happy to go. On Tom’s advice he proceeded to the Great Hall where he had dinner, seemingly unconcerned about anything, then headed back to Gryffindor where he settled in to study for exams. It wasn’t until later, after his roommates had fallen asleep, that he handed his wand over to the semi-corporeal Tom so a set of privacy spells could be emplaced around his bed.

Tom still looked pissed off. “I’ve had some time to think about this and the only thing I can come up with is that it did not work correctly because the greater part of me is out there somewhere, somehow. However, in this form, I have a serious advantage in being able to find out what’s going on.”

Joshua, for his part, was deeply disappointed. “You’re going to try to track down Voldemort?”

Tom nodded. “If I can. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be with you, as well, as much as possible. I can continue to teach you, even like this. I am slightly concerned, however. I’ve already heard that there’ve been plans to shut down Hogwarts, just like when Myrtle was killed.”

Joshua frowned, as that would mean having to spend all year with the Dursleys, but on the other hand, it would mean a lot more steady practice at magic without a wand, and no nosy Gryffindors (or really, anyone from any other house) trying to take up his time. “What about her body?”

“I used her wand to spin webbing around her body and drained it of blood. The basilisk moved her to the forest for me and wedged her in a tree, and then I spun more webbing. Hagrid had a pet acromantula, you see, and it ended up in the forest. Should she be found. . . .”

“Clever,” he said admiringly, “very clever.”

Tom smirked at him. “I would like to think so. And even should anyone be brave enough to question the spiders, I sincerely doubt they would believe they were uninvolved.”

“Question them?”

Tom favored him with a patient look. “Acromantula are capable of speaking the human tongue. Still, they are seen as very dark beasts.”

Joshua shrugged. “I’ll just have to study Creatures on the side.”

The year ended on a sour note. Dumbledore had been reinstated, while Lucius Malfoy had been sacked as a school governor. According to Tom, Malfoy had threatened the other governors into suspending the man, but Dumbledore had somehow divined this and acted to secure his position again. And, while Ginny’s body was found (by Hagrid of all people, having been released from Azkaban when it became obvious he could hardly have opened the Chamber from the prison), Ronald could not remember several hours from that evening when he had tried to enlist Joshua’s help, all thanks to the fortuitous knock on the head. Lockhart had fled the school sometime during the whole episode, so with luck they would not have to deal with his incompetence again. It was also true that with Malfoy’s influence greatly lessened, the school would remain open, though Tom stated that Lucius held a great deal of pull with Minister Fudge.

On the train ride back to London he went very early and secured a compartment at the very front, not wishing to be around Ronald or any of the Weasleys in their grief. Tom sat with him, keeping him company, but went silent when Draco Malfoy appeared and took a seat.

“Fun year. Too bad none of the mudbloods died.”

Joshua shook his head faintly. “Do try to remember that my mother was muggle-born, would you?”

“Oh, right.” Draco seemed rather discomfited, probably because he had forgotten that little detail. “How are you holding up?”

He waved his hand carelessly. “The same. I still hate it there, but what can you do? What did you pick for electives?”

Draco raised his chin. “Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, and Creatures. What about you?”

Joshua arched a brow. “Why Creatures? You don’t seem the type.”

“What, I’m not allowed to like them? Do you know, Malfoy Manor boasts a whole flock of albino peacocks.”

“Huh.” Rich people had strange tastes. “I opted for Arithmancy and Ancient Runes.”

Draco nodded. “Perhaps I’ll see you there, then,” he said, then got up and left, once again trailed by his brutes.

Joshua shook his head and closed the door, then looked at Tom. “Weird.”