Author: John Sexton
Genre: Harry Potter Slash
Love your feedback via: email@example.com
Please donate, to keep Nifty alive!
Chapter Sixteen -- The Slug Club
Pucey braced himself, as he stopped on the rickety, metal foot-plates that bridged the prefect carriage and the first student car. He did not open the connecting door, effectively isolating him and the impostor from the rest of the train.
They stood, facing each other. Pucey pulled out his wand, and pointed it at their feet, then, waving it up above their heads, he intoned, "Secreto bivius!"
That did not surprise the fraudster, nor should it have, were he a Slytherin: after all, the first half of the spell was standard Slytherin behaviour, when some degree of privacy was required. The rest of the spell had simply blocked out the din from the foot-plates and the tracks.
However, Pucey was perplexed: why in the Wizarding World would a Slytherin want to impersonate Malfoy? he wondered.
So the swish of his wand finished with a jab to the Polyjuiced charlatan's throat, which took the blonde unawares.
"Tell me now," spat Pucey, with a no-nonsense snarl, "whoever you are: where is Malfoy, and what have you done with him?"
The infiltrator dared not move, it was obvious that Pucey was deadly serious, and he had his victim at a lethal disadvantage.
"Have you lost your mind, Pucey!" the blonde snapped indignantly, "remove your wand this instant!"
"You might sound and look like Malfoy," snarled the Hogwarts Head Boy menacingly.
He jabbed the point of his wand harder against the blond's neck.
"But no Slytherin would ever turn his back on someone with a wand, not even one so inept as Weasley."
Pucey pushed his wand a little harder against the impostor's neck, with each new accusation...
"The real Draco Malfoy would never display anything but contempt for a Mudblood, let alone that know-it-all slut from Gryffindor. And... as good as I am," Pucey grinned wickedly with that remark, "Malfoy would never allow me to get the drop on him, as easily as I just did on you!"
"Very good, Pucey," snarled the blonde with a cynical smirk, "but it just so happens that you are wrong. So remove your wand this instant!"
An all-knowing smile creased the fraudster's mouth.
"Or I may be forced to tell every one of our fellow prefects about the broom closet in the lower dungeons," he delivered his threat with relish.
The blonde licked his lips salaciously, then he winked at Pucey.
"I'm sure they'd all love to know that you have been the resident `head boy' for much longer than you've had that pretty badge," he added snidely.
Pucey flushed a rather nasty shade of crimson, before he jerked his wand away from Malfoy's neck.
"That's better," Malfoy smirked, "I'd be careful with that badge, Adrian," he added spitefully, "people might begin to think it's an invitation, or even worse, a desperate come-on."
The new Hogwarts Head Boy made no attempt at reply, the Prince of Slytherin had him by the short and curlies; the status quo had been restored, in a trice.
"I can understand your concerns, Pucey," Malfoy adopted a serious tone, "but, as Granger and I have already told you, things have changed."
Pucey was still sceptical and made no effort to disguise it, so Malfoy pushed on... "I knew that the weasel wouldn't get very far, not with four Slytherin prefects and the Head Boy and girl present... besides," Malfoy chirped smugly, "I trust you, Adrian."
That really stung Pucey, but he maintained his stolid mask.
Then, with a manifest air of contempt and authority, Malfoy declared, "as for Granger... we have an agreement." The subtext was: `that's all you need to know.'
Pucey quickly regained his composure; he was not about to let Malfoy call all the shots.
"Has this got anything to do with Potter being out of the picture, Malfoy?" he asked brusquely.
"Not really," the blonde drawled, "it's more to do with the lie of other lands, actually."
The seventh-year eyed Malfoy with caution.
"Cryptic as ever, I see," he sniped sarcastically.
Malfoy smiled, and an aura of conspiratorial superiority descended upon him.
"You may not be aware," he taunted Pucey, "Salazar Snape will be sorted into the Sixth, tonight, in the Great Hall," the blonde announced authoritatively, "and he is certain to be a Slytherin."
"Merlin's Beard, Malfoy, that is hardly news, where have you been for the past month? The weasel's little spat with you and Snape, at Edburg's, was in the gossip columns of all the papers... so what's your point?"
If the blonde was stung by Pucey's retort, he masked it effectively. The Head Boy laughed, never-the-less.
"I've been with Salazar Snape, if you must know," Malfoy snapped; then he smirked and arched an eyebrow, "and with Granger... and we were well aware of that mindless gossip. However, unlike you, we didn't have time to waste on rumour and innuendo."
"Ah!" cried Pucey in triumph, then he smirked at Malfoy wickedly, "that explains your behaviour towards the Mudblood! So that stupid bitch, Skeeter, got it right for once: Granger was with you and Snape at Edburg's," said Pucey.
He eyed Malfoy suspiciously.
"What are you up to, Malfoy?"
"All in due time, Pucey."
Malfoy eyed the Head Boy, with a haughty sneer.
"For now, it's enough that you know that Snape and I are acting on behalf of The Dark Lord; we are his most trusted lieutenants! That is what you need to know!"
"That may well be, Malfoy," huffed Pucey dismissively, behind his best Slytherin mask, despite this revelation taking him by surprise, "you, Snape and the Mudblood can form your little Triumvirate, if you must. But just remember to clear things with me before you go flexing your muscles at Hogwarts."
A sinister grimace distorted Malfoy's face. The transformation unsettled Pucey, and he was sure that the blonde could see the raw fear behind his fašade.
The younger Slytherin now clearly held the upper hand, and it was reflected in those cold grey eyes. Malfoy simply smiled, and in that smile he made certain that Pucey knew his place in the new hierarchy.
"I actually thought you were more perceptive, Adrian," said Malfoy with a scathing glare. "You answer to me... and to Sals..." then, pre-empting Pucey's confusion, he added, "Granger is merely the window dressing."
"So, then," Pucey sneered, "there's been a power shift over the summer?"
"You could say that," said Malfoy, then he smirked icily. He clearly knew that Pucey was desperately trying to hide his fear and resentment.
"Just in case you think I'm delusional, Adrian," Malfoy taunted, then he smiled again, but this time it was pure condescension, "I suggest you contact home by the first available owl," he grinned maliciously. "I'm sure your pater will be able to put your doubts to rest."
Pucey scowled; that had stung: his father was not a member of The Dark Lord's inner circle.
Malfoy adopted the sinister visage that had so unnerved Pucey only seconds before.
"In the meantime," the blonde added, his voice now low and menacing, "you, and the rest of Slytherin, would do well not to cross either Sals or me... on any issue. You do so at your peril!"
Pucey was utterly taken aback by that, but he said nothing.
"Sals and I have an agenda, to be sure..." Malfoy smiled cynically... "but, for now, it will suffice to say that we will be doing everything in our power to bury old animosities."
Pucey could not mask his confusion; he looked mildly perplexed.
"The Sorting Hat will, again, call on Hogwarts to unite, tonight..." Malfoy pressed on, "and we -- all of us -- will be doing everything in our power to support that call."
Pucey was dumbfounded; Malfoy merely laughed.
"Don't look so surprised, Adrian," the blonde teased, "surely you must have wondered why that old fool, Dumbledore, chose a Slytherin as Head Boy."
Malfoy's cynical intonation taunted Pucey, with another tacit reference to the broom closet, before he quickly adopted a serious tone.
"You and I -- along with Slougham, Granger and Salazar Snape -- will be the pin-up boys and girls of a united Hogwarts."
"For the moment that's all you need to know, Pucey," snapped Malfoy impatiently, "that is how The Dark Lord wishes us to proceed and -- until Sals or I inform you otherwise -- that is the agenda that we shall pursue, without question!"
Pucey knew that anything he might say would be futile, so he made no further attempt to respond.
Malfoy, on the other hand, adopted a condescending tone.
"I suggest that we return to the prefect carriage. You and Slougham can do the rounds."
The Prince of Slytherin smiled at Pucey's sullen reaction, then quipped, "it will foster school unity."
By the time the Hogwarts Express was well under way, a steady stream of students had already passed Ginny's compartment, to peer inquisitively at the new boy.
"Merlin!" Sals cried in exasperation, "I feel like a specimen, in a jar in Dad's laboratory."
"It was always like that with Harry," Neville observed, before a dark cloud descended on him, and he grew suddenly introspective.
"You miss him, eh?" Sals commiserated, a move that elicited a sad little smile from the tall, quiet Gryffindor.
"We all do," said Luna, as she looked up from her magazine and took off her psychedelic glasses, "it won't be the same without him."
A silence fell over the carriage, which none of them was prepared to breach, for a few moments at least, until Neville spoke up boldly.
"So... will you be doing Herbology, Sals?" he asked, with a cheerful smile.
They all tried to ignore the almost constant parade of moronic posers and sticky-beaks traipsing past their compartment. But, oddly enough, none of them made a move to draw the blinds.
Ginny thought that odd, but made no attempt to do so, either.
Sals engaged her and Neville in pleasant chitchat, while Luna dove back into her magazines.
Most of the silly young witches, and the occasional brace of wizards, merely ogled at them, or rather, at Sals; some just whispered or giggled, then rushed on.
A sudden flurry of titter and gush caught Ginny's attention, and she recognised several fourth-year Slytherins, who were being particularly indiscreet.
Just as Neville dived under his seat, to retrieve Trevor, his notoriously wayward toad, one of the Slytherin witches opened the door, then stuck her head into the compartment. She leered at Sals salaciously.
"Hi," she drooled unashamedly, "are you really Professor Snape's son?"
Before Sals could reply, a blonde girl -- with a nose that could be used as a battering ram -- pushed the other girl aside. Ginny was pretty sure she was Daphne Greengrass's sister, and her grey eyes flashed boldly, as she announced her presence.
"Hi, I'm Astoria... Astoria Greengrass," she declared.
She leered at Neville's great arse, poking out from under his seat, and sneered at Luna's Spectrespecs. However, she completely ignored Ginny, before she directed her catty comment at Sals...
"You shouldn't have to put up with them, we've got room in our compartment."
Sals merely smiled.
"Thanks, but they are my friends," he replied.
"But they're Gryffindors!" the haughty Slytherin screeched in disbelief, then she sneered towards Luna, and added, "and she's--"
"My friend," Sals cut her off firmly but gently.
"Well, I'm sure I'm sorry," the Slytherin retreated, "didn't mean to offend or anything," Greengrass flustered an apology.
She finally left, in a huff, without closing the door behind her.
Sals glared at the door, and it slid across and slammed shut with a bang.
Neville and Luna both gave a little jolt.
Ginny flinched; she was gob-smacked.
Hermione had told her about Sals' raw power: an iron fist in a velvet glove, was how the older girl had described it. Even so, Ginny was still shocked by the dark, mysterious boy's awesome display.
"No wonder Neville and Luna both jumped," she thought.
"Sorry!" Sals cried, "I didn't mean to slam it so hard," he sighed.
"Sweet Merlin, I hope that doesn't happen again!... I don't think I could handle another episode like that," he huffed apologetically.
"Don't worry, Sals," Ginny cooed brightly, blushing as she did, "I thought you were very patient with her."
"Yes, I agree," Neville smiled. "But I don't think that will be the last of it, Sals," he frowned and continued, "there're a lot more where she came from... from every house."
As if to prove Neville right, on cue, another coven assembled outside the door, a mixture of fifth and fourth year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs.
That was followed quickly by more fourth years, this time from Gryffindor.
Ginny knew quite enough about the leader of this pack, Romilda Vane.
"Romilda Vain, would be more appropriate!" Ginny snorted to herself.
Vane had drooled over Harry for years, and it had always angered Ginny.
"Didn't take her long to track down Sals," Ginny fumed; "she'd go after anything with a wand!"
She snickered nastily at her own double entendre.
Vane smiled at Sals, as she opened the door, but -- like Greengrass before her -- she completely ignored Ginny.
"Hi," she waved coyly at the newest Hogwarts senior.
Ginny wanted to scratch her eyes out, there and then.
"I'm Romilda Vane," she added, "my friends and I have room in our compartment, if you'd like to join us."
"No thanks," Sals smiled at her, and for all the world it was genuine, "my friends and I are comfortable where we are."
"Oh," Vane replied, quite obviously shocked that a spunk like Salazar Snape would prefer Ginny, Neville and Luna for company.
"Oh," Vane repeated, "would you mind if my friends and I sat here, then?"
She gestured towards her three friends and the four empty seats next to Sals and Neville.
"Well, actually," Sals smiled again, "we're expecting some friends, any minute now," he apologised.
Then, as if by Magic, right on cue, the enormous hulks of Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe darkened the doorway. They pushed the other three Gryffindor girls aside.
"And here they are!" quipped Sals gleefully.
The Gryffindor coven disappeared without a word, while Ginny, Neville and Luna ogled at the two hulks and then at Sals.
"Are you Snape?" asked Goyle cautiously.
Before Sals could answer, Crabbe added, "Malfoy said you'd probably be with the Weaslet."
Ginny scowled at the epithet, but Crabbe didn't react.
"Yeah," Sals stood as he answered, then held out his hand to Crabbe, "hi, I'm Sals, pleased to meet you... we've been expecting you."
Even if she had wanted to mask her surprise, Ginny doubted that she could have, she looked gob-smacked, once again.
Crabbe sniggered at that, then grinned wickedly at Ginny, before directing his comment back to Sals.
"Well you might have been expecting us," he teased, then grinned back at Ginny again.
"Ginny!" Sals turned to her enthusiastically, "since you seem to know the boys, perhaps you could introduce us?"
Neville looked startled, but Ginny simply smiled at Sals.
"Of course..." she stood up and turned towards the fit lad.
"Sals, this is Vincent Crabbe," she turned to Crabbe and then to Goyle, "and this is Gregory Goyle," she concluded amicably.
Neville was obviously oblivious to the details of Hermione's relationship to Sals, and her truce with Malfoy; and Ginny had no way of bringing him up to speed, at least none that was even remotely tactful. So she just smiled at Sals, instead, and went with the flow, hoping that Neville would catch on as they went.
Luna was already retreating into the world of The Quibbler, with her Spectrespecs firmly in place, so Ginny decided to let her be.
"Sit down and make yourselves comfortable," Sals offered the Slytherin hulks the seats next to him and Neville.
They accepted the offer, and Crabbe sat next to Neville.
"So," Sals asked Goyle, "do you prefer Greg or Gregory?"
The great buffoon looked blankly at Sals, then shrugged his massive shoulders.
"Everyone just calls me Goyle," he replied glumly, before twisting his mouth awry.
"Okay," Sals replied, "but what would you prefer to be called? What do your friends call you?"
That seemed to confuse the great oaf even more.
"What does Vincent call you?" Sals asked patiently.
Ginny smiled at Sals' approach, but tried not to distract from his question.
"He calls me Greg, sometimes, when we're..." Goyle blushed... "when no one else is around," he explained.
Sals smiled at the great lump, then he asked, pleasantly, "would you mind if I called you Greg, then?"
"No," Goyle smiled, "that'd be fine by me."
"You can call me Vince," chorused Crabbe, unsolicited.
"Good," Sals chirped, then rubbed his hands together, a gesture that fascinated Ginny.
Sals proceeded to reintroduce the two Slytherins to Neville and Luna, by their given names.
Finally he turned to Ginny, and said to Crabbe and Goyle, "and you both know Ginny, of course."
Ginny found this whole thing suddenly amusing, but she held off grinning like a loon, lest she bring Sals' work undone.
She was starting to wonder if it was possible to hold a conversation with either of Malfoy's goons. But she was not about to find out any time soon, because, just then, a nervous young witch -- a third-year, if Ginny remembered correctly -- opened the door. She was holding three scrolls in her hand.
"Who is this Professor H.E.F. Slughorn, exactly?" asked Ginny.
Ginny, Neville and Sals perused their invitations once more. She was mystified as to why he had invited her to lunch.
"He's taking over Potions from my father, and he was at Hogwarts about fifteen years ago, I think," Sals replied airily, then shook his head.
"Other than that... I've got nothing," he added, with a shrug that Ginny thought was particularly cute.
Neville's reaction to that news was to roll his eyes in disbelief, then shake his head: the first year that Neville did not have to do Potions, and Snape wouldn't be teaching it.
Ginny merely smiled, but neither of them made any comment.
"I know what you're thinking, Neville," quipped Sals, "just from what Hermione has told me; you're thinking how cruel it is that my dad's departure from Potions coincides with your own. Am I right?"
He smiled at Neville, who gave a little nod.
"Yeah," Neville chuckled, "that about sums it up."
"I wonder what Slughorn wants with the three of us?" Sals mused, clearly as mystified as Ginny and Neville.
Ginny felt terrible, leaving poor Luna in the compartment with Malfoy's two goons, truce or no truce. She didn't trust either Crabbe or Goyle, despite Hermione's earlier assurances.
Poor Luna was even picked on by kids who were not normally cruel, so Ginny could only wonder how she'd cope, left all alone with those two bullies.
However, Ginny soon forgot Luna's predicament, as repeated squeals of recognition -- and much pointing and face pressing -- erupted from almost every compartment that Sals, Neville and Ginny passed.
It continued, along their own and the next carriage, all the way to compartment C.
Although they ignored it all, by the time they reached the new Potions Master's compartment, it was obvious to Ginny that Sals was pretty pissed.
The sight of the new professor stunned Ginny; she had not really known what to expect, but she never imagined anything like what she found.
She was even more disconcerted when Professor Slughorn insisted that she sit in the corner, next to him, where his large bulk, which almost took up two seats, squashed her up against the window.
Stuffed behind the great keg, Ginny felt miserable.
Slughorn welcomed them to the "Slug Club," then proceeded to ingratiate himself with the two seventh-year boys that Ginny knew only by sight.
Well, of-course, she knew McLaggen by name, as well: he was a Gryffindor after all. But she wasn't really taken with him, nor Belby, from Ravenclaw; and she was even less impressed with Zabini, from Ron's year.
The Slytherin was a pompous arse, and a proper git.
It soon became pretty clear to Ginny, just what Professor Slughorn's agenda was, and why he had invited the three opposite.
Sals' invitation made sense, and Ginny suspected Slughorn would soon turn his attention on him. But she had absolutely no idea why she or Neville had been invited. She was starting to wonder if it was because of her father.
Ginny didn't have to wait very long, though, before the Potions Master focussed on her and Neville. He began to pump them for information, about the events of last June, and the Department of Mysteries.
"I should have known!" Ginny grumbled to herself.
Eventually Professor Slughorn turned his attention towards Sals.
"Well, young Salazar," he boomed excitedly, "you have already gained a reputation, if the gossip columns have been even remotely accurate. Quite the accomplished young wizard, if the stories are true..."
The rotund, old wizard heaved a sigh, when he received no response from Sals; then he added another teaser.
"And quite one for the ladies, if we are to believe everything we read in the Prophet."
Zabini snorted at that remark, and it was just the trigger Ginny needed to set her off.
"Yeah, Zabini, because you're a real hit with all the girls... if we are to believe everything we hear... or is it the boys?"
"Oh dear me!" Slughorn declared,
Zabini shot daggers at Ginny, and the other boys all chuckled slightly.
"I'd be careful, Blaise! I hear that this young lady is quite the expert with a wand, and is capable of the most marvellous Bat Bogey Hex. I don't think I'd cross her!"
Slughorn turned his attention back on Sals, which afforded Ginny the chance to shift, to catch sight of the newest Hogwarts student.
But she was disappointed to see that, unlike the other boys, Sals was not smiling.
She wondered exactly what that implied: sympathy with Zabini, offence at her queer barb, or, hopefully, Sals's unease at being probed by his father's replacement.
When they finally managed to extricate themselves from the Slug Club, Sals turned to Ginny and smiled, as they trailed along the corridor, within earshot of Zabini.
"So, Ginny," the hot young wizard chirped playfully, "no love lost between you and Blaise, I see."
Ginny darted a quick glance at the tall black boy, who did not falter, not even to turn around and sneer. In fact, he went to great pains to make his disinterest clear.
"No, none..." she replied, then added, as she thought of Hermione, "but not because he's a Slytherin."
That remark did cause Zabini to stop and turn his face, just enough to catch Ginny's wicked snigger.
"He's just a pompous git, who doesn't know his arse from his elbow!" she added, with relish,
"Really?" Sals teased, "from what you seemed to--"
"Oh!" she cut him off, "I didn't really mean anything by that," she elaborated, before blushing.
"Glad to hear it."
Sals smiled, and this intrigued Ginny even more. He had captured the youngest Weasley's attention so completely that she never even noticed Zabini's miffed departure.
She was mesmerised by the tall, dark, stunning wizard standing before her. She tried to rationalise, again, that this gorgeous spunk was Professor Snape's son.
Sals broke the awkward silence.
"By the way," he asked, "how on earth did old Slughorn know you could cast a wicked Bat Bogey?"
"Oh," Ginny leered playfully, "I had an opportunity to get in some practice, back on the platform, just before you arrived with Hermione."
"Oh," Neville piped-up, "who was the lucky specimen?"
"That idiot from Hufflepuff, Zacharias Smith."
"Oh, him," Neville replied, "from the DA?"
"Yes," Ginny huffed, recalling the incident," he wouldn't let up about the Department of Mysteries and the Ministry, so I hexed him." She looked at Sals with a modest blush, "I don't suffer fools lightly," she explained.
"Good to know," Sals grinned mischievously, "I'll keep that in mind."
Ginny merely smiled at that, and her ruddy cheeks deepened, just as they arrived back at their compartment.
To Ginny's great surprise, Hermione and Draco Malfoy were already there, chatting amicably. Ginny was stunned, but not by the fact; after all, she'd already seen them talking, back on platform nine and three-quarters, albeit from a distance.
It was the tone of their voices, and their demeanour, that took Ginny by surprise.
But what really knocked the young Gryffindor's hat off, was the sight of Crabbe and Goyle, sitting in the corner with Luna. They were all wearing Spectrespecs, and totally absorbed in copies of the Quibbler.
Ginny nudged Hermione, who merely smiled and shrugged her shoulders in shared bemusement.
The rest of the trip north to Scotland passed pleasantly enough, though Ginny and Neville seemed to find it all a little too surreal.
For the first time in Ginny's experience, and quite possibly for the first time ever, Slytherins and Gryffindors shared a Hogwarts Express compartment.
However, it soon became clear to Ginny that something was not right with the really weird dynamic between Sals and Draco Malfoy.
She could not put her finger on it, but there was something going on there that had strangeness written all over it. It wasn't really tension... well... maybe it was... she certainly felt uneasy, as she became more conscious of it.
Draco Malfoy was so far from the obnoxious prick that she knew; she had a hard time accepting it all.
Ginny wondered if Hermione saw it, but the opportunity to discover that never presented itself.
By the time they arrived at Hogsmeade, she still could not describe it, and it had become really disconcerting.
If you are enjoying this, you might like my other two Nifty stories...
This is a two-chapter Potterverse short story [complete].
This is on-going and I'm updating it as I write each new chapter.
All feedback is appreciated via: firstname.lastname@example.org