House Category: Slytherin
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Lucius Malfoy, Draco Malfoy, Scorpius Malfoy, Horace Slughorn, various members of Slytherin House
Beta Reader(s): the_minx_17, eeyore9990, red_dawn
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Note: The title and the scene headers come from At Seventeen by Janis Ian.
Summary: The heads of Slytherin House have a proud tradition of helping pupils in their sixth and seventh years reach the heights of Wizarding society.
Love was meant for beauty queens
The window from Slughorn's sitting room, Lucius decided, was a poor substitute for the one in the Common Room. And that was a sad statement on how low Slytherin House was sinking, accepting a Head of House who was not only barely competent at potions, but was incapable of attracting even the ugliest merperson to his window.
The loud clearing of someone's throat forced Lucius to return his attention to the wizard in question. Slughorn stood by the fireplace, one arm laid proprietarily along a shelf covered in framed photographs of wizards and witches he had supposedly helped along their way to greatness. Lucius snorted. As if their family connections hadn't been of any help at all.
"What was that, Lucius?" Slughorn said, smarminess oozing from his voice. "You must learn to enunciate, if you wish to advance in this world. Why I gave that very same advice to—"
Stifling a yawn, Lucius stretched his legs and placed his feet on the brocade cushion of an elaborately carved footstool. The toes of his boots caught the light from one of the many candelabra and he examined the polished surface carefully for spots. The Slytherin house-elves were far superior to those that worked for other houses — at least if you judged by the clothing disasters that their pupils frequently sported — but they were still a far cry from the perfect efficiency of the Malfoy house-elves.
"Hssst Malfoy." Artemus Rosier accompanied his hiss with a sharp-elbowed nudge to Lucius's arm.
Lucius turned his head slowly and favoured Rosier with an arched eyebrow and his best sneer. He brushed a hand over the velvet sleeve of his jacket and straightened out an imaginary wrinkle. "Do you mind?"
"Not at all." Artemus sipped his mead with perfect composure. "I was merely wondering whether we'd decided on a parting gift for our inglorious Head."
"The picture frame, I think. With a box of custom-treated crystallised fruit.
Artemus's gaze flicked to Lucius briefly. "Dare I ask what that fruit will do?"
"You could ask," Lucius said, "but it's much more fun to make you wait and see."
"Fun for whom?"
"Do I really need to answer that?"
Slughorn raised his voice a touch, cutting across the low hubbub of chatter. "The Heads of Slytherin House have a proud tradition of helping pupils in their sixth and seventh years reach the heights of Wizarding society. We have old boys and girls in the Ministry, heading up St Mungo's, running some of our most successful businesses. I'm here to offer you the power of the Slytherin network." Patting his stomach, Slughorn gave them his most unctuous smile. "You don't have to be part of my Slug Club—" he gave his trophy shelf a light tap "—to take advantage of it."
To Lucius's relief, that seemed to be some kind of signal. The curtains at the far end of the room vanished, revealing a table of food and drinks. Artemus was on his feet and off to join the ravening horde swarming around the food without so much as a word or a backwards glance.
Marking Artemus down a couple of notches in his personal connections chart, Lucius pushed away the footstool and stood up. He caught Narcissa's eye, arched an eyebrow, and she began to move towards him.
"Darling." Narcissa smiled, the real one that let her eyes crinkle slightly at the corners, as she smoothed her hair.
Lucius smiled back. He couldn't help himself. She seemed to bring out the best and the worst in him. Mother insisted that was a good sign for their future, and he had no reason to doubt her.
Favouring the table and the students crowded around it with a disdainful sneer, Narcissa said, "Shall we?"
"Please." Lucius tucked Narcissa's hand in the crook of his arm, and they began walking towards the door.
Less than five feet away, Slughorn materialised in front of them. "Leaving so soon, dear ones?"
"Homework waits for no wizard," Lucius said, giving him his best patronising sneer. "And whilst my future is hardly dependent upon them, I don't intend to let down either my family or my house by failing a single NEWT."
"And when you leave Hogwarts—"
Narcissa cut him off. "When we leave Hogwarts, we have no fears or illusions about our futures. With our families and our friends behind us, we have only the world to gain."
"Perhaps," Lucius continued smoothly, flexing his left hand, "Slytherin would be better served by you assisting those who actually need your help, rather than those who could help you."
"You have no idea the things I can do, the connections I have."
"And you have no idea of ours," Lucius said. Then, placing his hand over Narcissa's on his arm, he brushed past Slughorn and walked out the door.
In debentures of quality and dubious integrity
Draco slipped into Slughorn's sitting room after he was sure that everyone else was already there. Glancing quickly around the room, he settled into an armchair near Pansy, across the room from Crabbe and Goyle. He forced himself to sit up straight. No one needed to know that inside, he was curling protectively around his magic and his soul.
"You're late," Pansy whispered.
"What difference does it make?" Draco shrugged. "Slughorn hardly cares about the likes of us. You don't see him slobbering in our direction, do you?"
"He's still our Head." Pansy brushed her fringe out of her eyes and primped her hair. "And he does have some influence."
"With whom? Potter isn't around these days, and he didn't have time for the useless arse when he was. Who else on that side is worth impressing these days?"
Pansy sniffed and recrossed her legs, hitching her skirt up a little higher to show off her thighs.
The shift of attention in the room over to her was palpable. Draco rolled his eyes and looked out the window. Sadly, Slughorn's influence extended into the lake. A single anaemic-looking grindylow clung to a stalk amongst the rather dead-looking underwater plants. Filled with contempt, Draco ran a finger along his wand and cast a Stinging Hex. The grindylow jumped, then bared a mouthful of sharp, green teeth and flipped a pair of long, thin fingers at him before launching itself away.
"Go ahead," Draco muttered, scowling at the now empty view. "Abandon me like every other pillock in this miserable place."
A rap of knuckles on wood drew Draco's attention back to the front of the room. Slughorn knocked on the shelf one more time, rattling the picture frames, before smoothing a hand over it.
"As I'm sure you've all heard from your families," Slughorn said, "the heads of Slytherin House have a proud tradition of helping pupils in their sixth and seventh years reach the heights of Wizarding society."
He paused, raising an over-encrusted goblet to his shelves of honour, and someone at the back of the room sniggered. Nott, Draco was sure of it, since it sounded like a fourteen-year-old girl with a bad cold.
"And that," Slughorn continued his clearly rehearsed speech, as if he hadn't heard a thing, "is why our old boys and girls are everywhere that matters: in the Ministry, at St Mungo's, at the very pinnacles of power on both sides of this war."
"Great Circe's tits," Pansy hissed, "you'd think he hadn't spent his life in Dumbledore's pocket."
Not so many years ago, Draco would have laughed out loud at that. Not today though. Not when his Dark Mark prickled in warning every time his thoughts strayed off the straight and narrow, when he couldn't trust anyone, expect anything but betrayal.
Slughorn's gaze slid over to him, and for a moment, Draco wondered if the man might talk to him and actually do his job. But Slughorn's eyes narrowed as he glanced down at Draco's left arm, and he turned his attention back to the room.
"If you wish to use the Slytherin network to advance in this world," Slughorn aimed his unctuous smile at Daphne Greengrass, "don't hesitate to come speak to me. In the meantime, shall we?"
With a grand wave of Slughorn's arm that sloshed a little red liquid over his hand, the curtains at the far end of the room disappeared and a table appeared, its top completely covered in platters and bowls of food. Crabbe and Goyle were on their feet in an instant, almost bowling Davis over in their eagerness to reach it.
Draco stared after them briefly, but they paid him none of the attention that they'd done in the past. He wasn't disappointed, he told himself as he stood up. "I'm leaving."
"Might as well." Pansy got up gracefully. "There's nothing here for us."
She ran a hand down his arm, fingers lingering near his. He caught her hand in his, then let it go. "You shouldn't," he said.
"I know." She smiled at him, shining almost as brightly as she'd done before, and clasped his hand. "And maybe I won't tomorrow, but we need it today."
Smiling back at her, Draco held onto her as they headed for the door. They were nearly there when Slughorn stopped them. "Off already?"
Pansy's hand tightened on Draco's. "We have homework to do," she said. "This is, after all, our NEWT year."
"Like father, like son," Slughorn said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Far be it for me to so much as consider offering help when you have such influential friends and family."
A muscle in Draco's cheek twitched, and his left arm prickled again. "Exactly," he said, because there was nothing else he could say. Then, keeping his head high and his back straight, he held onto Pansy's hand as they walked away.
When dreams were all they gave for free
"Slow down, will you," Scorpius said, laughing as he chased Albus Potter down the corridor. He caught up with him at the door to the Seventh Year Common Room, and they burst inside together.
The room was filled with sixth and seventh years from all houses, and they all turned to look at Scorpius and Al.
"Still making a grand entrance, I see," Rose Weasley said, as she pushed past them and headed towards an unoccupied sofa.
Before Scorpius could come up with an appropriate response, his father inclined his head in the direction of the seating. Scorpius smiled back at him and dragged Al over so they could sit on either side of Rose.
She pushed at them. "Shove over. I don't like you that much."
Scorpius might have believed her, if she hadn't been smiling. "Of course you do," he said. "I'm a Malfoy. You can't resist me."
"Idiot," Al said, reaching behind Rose to whack him. "It's Potters who are irresistible."
"Shut up, or I'll hex you both into silence." Rose glared at each of them. "Honestly." She sniffed and crossed her legs. "You'd think you were raised in the back room at the Hog's Head."
Before Scorpius could respond, his father cleared his throat. The buzz of muttered conversation lasted for a few more seconds but died out when Draco rose to his feet. Even the merpeople in the window behind the professors' table seemed to pay more attention. Scorpius blamed it on the lighting, and his father's insistence on wearing the full robes of a Slytherin Head of House although most professors dressed more casually these days.
"As some of you are probably aware," Draco said, "Slytherin has had a long tradition of offering career assistance to its sixth and seventh year students." He moved around to the front of the table and perched on the edge of it. "That tradition worked well for Slytherins over the centuries. Our former students have typically found a way into the careers they desired."
Al imitated an exaggerated yawn, and Scorpius snickered.
Raising an eyebrow, Draco turned to them. "Potter! Malfoy! Keep that up and the pair of you will lose even more points for Slytherin."
A combination of groans and muted cheers followed Draco's threat.
"Yes, sir," Scorpius muttered. He discreetly elbowed Rose, who was sitting there all prim and proper and smug as can be.
"Hush," she said, elbowing him back. "This is important."
Yeah, Scorpius thought, because I'm going to ask my father to help me with my career choice. Slytherins, and Malfoys for that matter, still had a fair bit of influence, but none of it extended into the music business. And having his grandfather buy his way in just wasn't on. Scorpius wanted to do it on his own talent. He sighed and settled back. He might as well get comfortable. It wasn't as if he had any choice, after all.
"If I may continue..." Draco said, his voice level but firm, and the chatter died down again. "This year, after talking with the other Heads of Houses and with Mistress Bulstrode from the Ministry's Department of Career Services, we've decided to update this tradition."
Millicent Bulstrode made her way around the table to join his father, and Scorpius sat up. If his Aunt Millicent was getting involved, this might actually turn out to be useful.
"This year," Millicent said, "and every year from now on, Hogwarts, with assistance from my department, will be offering career assistance to sixth and seventh years. You don't have to know what you want to do when you leave school to sign up. Your Heads of Houses and I are here to talk with you about your options as well as to help you find a suitable job, apprenticeship, training, or placement in a post-secondary programme."
Al raised his hand. "What if we want to do isn't something that our Head of House can help us with?"
"Then I recommend you talk with Mistress Bulstrode, and she'll do her best to help you," Draco said. He crossed his arms over his chest and surveyed the room. "However, I also recommend that you focus on achieving an Outstanding on all your NEWTs. All the assistance in the world will not help you succeed in your chosen career if the best you can manage is an Acceptable."
Before Scorpius could find the words to ask his questions, a sea of hands went up. As he sat and tried to work out if he ought to talk to his father first — he was Head of Slytherin after all — the other students began to move. Rose was over by Professor Longbottom, quill and notebook in hand, scribbling furiously. Most of the students were clustered around the table of food and drink in the back. A few were spread around the room, talking with each other, with the Heads of Houses, or with his Aunt Millicent.
"What do you want to do?" Al whispered.
"Trust my father," Scorpius said.
"But what about—"
"Come on." Pushing himself up from the sofa, Scorpius headed for the front of the room without checking to see that Al was following him. He made it as far as the place where his father was standing, and then all his doubts returned. He hesitated and Al ran into his back.
"Watch where you're going," Scorpius snapped.
"Then don't stop right in front of me without warning." Al slapped Scorpius's arm. "You know I'm pants at Legilimency."
"Malfoy! Potter!" Draco was glaring at them from the middle of a group of Ravenclaws. "Don't make me say it."
"Yes, sir," Scorpius and Al chorused.
Catching Scorpius's eye, Draco inclined his head towards Millicent and mouthed, Good luck. Then he returned to his own conversation.
Scorpius grinned. Then, catching hold of Al's hand and tugging it to get him moving, Scorpius walked towards his Aunt Millicent and, he hoped, a way to the future he wanted.