Chapter 25 - Offers

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It had been a very long summer and with only a week and two days left before the Hogwarts pupils were to arrive back there was little time left before some would be leaving the school forever. The last week was to be a holiday for those who had worked so hard all through July and August, and Harry and Draco planned to spend it with Ron at the Weasleys.

Molly had invited them almost before the holiday had been announced, and it was difficult to turn down an invitation from a Weasley, especially the matriarch of the family. Hermione was spending the first three days with them as well and then would be heading home to catch up with her parents.

It seemed like over the last week all people had done was talk about what they would be doing once the summer was over, and on the Friday evening Dumbledore finally instigated his course of action. When Harry and Draco had returned to their room they had found a note on their pillow asking them to be present at a meeting in the headmaster's office the next day at ten sharp. The postscript had requested that they tell no one about the gathering.

"Dumbledore has made his choice then," had been the closet Draco could come to a witty comment.

He had enjoyed a summer with his friends where house rivalries had been reduced to the playful one-upmanship that it was supposed to be, and he could not help but be worried that the headmaster's plan would upset that again. There were only thirteen posts left and there were more ex-seventh years at the summer school. Draco knew that Dumbledore was not as biased as he had once thought, but the headmaster was known to favour other houses above his own.

Hence when he and Harry walked, hand in hand towards Dumbledore's office the next morning, he could not help but be a little nervous. When he saw Pansy in the cluster of ex-pupils waiting outside the gargoyle he was at first filled with surprised happiness and then automatically counted the number of people to see if what they had assumed the meeting was about could be correct. There were several Gryffindors including Ron and Hermione, but not all of those who had stayed from that house were present.

[Ten so far,] Draco concluded silently as he nodded at Pansy in greeting, [would he have called us all here?]

[I don't think so,] Harry replied, and Draco was pretty sure his soulmate had been doing his own headcount. [It would be too awkward for those not chosen, and Dumbledore doesn't like to make people feel awkward.]

[Unless it serves his purpose,] Draco said and gave his lover a look.

Harry was not naïve, but every now and then he said such Gryffindor things it was almost painful; Draco considered it his duty to point them out. Looking at his watch it was only ten to ten so everyone milling around was painfully early. No one seemed to be in the mood to chat and there was only the odd whispered conversation as they all waited patiently.

At about five to Susan Bones arrived and quickly took a place next to Hannah Abbot, appearing embarrassed at turning up after just about everyone else; then much to Draco's growing delight Goyle appeared and gave him an understated smile before walking over to Pansy; and it wasn't until just before ten that Seamus can hurtling round the corner.

"Who died?" the Irish Gryffindor asked with a huge grin as everyone looked at him.

Draco fought the urge to roll his eyes; it was so typical of Seamus to be loud and totally ignore the ambiance of the situation into which he was entering.

"No one, I hope, Mr Finnegan," Professor McGonagall's calm tones put in with perfect timing, "although I am sure it can be arranged if you are volunteering."

There was amusement underlying the head of Gryffindor's voice, but Draco was pleased to see that Seamus had the good sense to blush.

"Oh, I don't think that would be a good idea, Professor," the Irish boy said lightly. "After surviving seven years at Hogwarts, me ole Da's heart wouldn't take it if I was to pop me clogs now."

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