Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 1: The Forsaken’s Ascension
Chapter 12: Developments and Destiny
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter universe. All recognizable characters, plots and settings are the exclusive property of J.K Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to my betas Yoshi 89 and Umar for their work on this story. Additionally, a massive thank you is extended to Fezzik. She became a beta for me at a later date and has graciously agreed to assist me in revising these early chapters.
Self-Promotion: I have a discord server where you can chat and read all of my chapters early. If you would like to join, simply copy the link on my profile.
If you would like to dive further into the AoCverse, you can check out the AoC Wiki and TV Tropes Pages by following the links on my profile. You can do likewise to follow the official ACI100 account on Twitter and to check out the official website.
November 9, 1991
The Grounds of Hogwarts
The moments that followed what Charlus considered to be a rather impressive catch of the snitch were a blur of motion and chaos. He remembered being hoisted onto the shoulders of his teammates, remembered being swarmed by the near entirety of Gryffindor and even remembered catching his brother’s eye as he was making his way out of the stadium. The brothers only shared a brief nod, but to Charlus, that may have been as valuable as any congratulations. His bubble of euphoria didn’t remain intact for long, as he and Ron quickly began to make their way towards Hagrid, only to find him standing in the doorway of his hut and arguing with an irate looking Hermione Granger.
“I’m tellin’ ya,” Hagrid was saying, “Snape’s a teacher, Hermione, he would never-“
“I saw him, Hagrid!” Granger bit back, and Charlus nearly flinched at the heat in her voice. The movement caught Hagrid’s attention, and he smiled a rather relieved looking smile in their general direction.
“All right there Charlus, Ron? Care for a cup o’ tea?”
“Yes please!” Charlus answered quickly, running a hand through his still windswept hair that was now somehow even messier than usual.
Ron cleared his throat as they entered the hut with a look towards Hermione. Charlus shrugged, indicating that he had no more idea of what was going on here than Ron did.
“Tha’ was sum match, eh?” Hagrid asked them as he bustled around his teapot. “The Slytherins were all o’er yehs.”
Charlus scowled. “I’d have had the snitch a lot earlier if Flint didn’t decide to be a wanker about it.”
“It was a good block though,” Ron admitted grudgingly. “Bloody dirty, but a good block.” He turned to Hagrid. “Do you reckon that’s what messed with Charlus’s broom, Hagrid?”
“Nah, no bump like tha’ could hur’ a Nimbus 2000. Usually only dark curses ‘n such could do some’in like that.”
“Mmhm,” Hermione said rather smugly.
Ron, who was not an overly patient person in the best of times, turned to Hermione. “I… err… don’t mean to be rude, but what are you doing here?”
Hermione quickly bristled, and Charlus could practically see her reflexively revert to a defensive posture. “I was trying to tell you two why Charlus’s broom made an attempt to kill him, but if you would rather I didn’t-“
“No,” Charlus cut in quickly, eyeing Granger up and down. She was a lot of things. She was annoying at times and overbearing constantly, but Charlus didn’t really dislike her. He could admit, if nothing else, she was brilliant. “What do you think happened?”
Hermione stuck up her chin, suddenly looking to Charlus a lot more like a pureblood heiress than a newly discovered muggleborn. “I don’t THINK anything! I KNOW what happened!” Hagrid grunted; apparently, they were drawing awfully close to the topic of whatever argument the two of them had been having before Charlus and Ron had arrived. “It was Professor Snape! He was cursing your broom; I saw him!”
Charlus’s eyes widened as his jaw fell open. Beside him, Ron had much the same reaction, as both of them just stared at Hermione, aghast.
“You’re… uh… sure?” Ron asked, sounding sceptical.
Hermione huffed. “Of course I’m sure! I’ve read all about curses, you see, and one of the characteristics of curses like that — from far away, I mean, is that the person doing the cursing has to maintain eye contact the entire time.” She looked pointedly from Ron, to Charlus to Hagrid. “I was watching Professor Snape with the Omnioculars, and he was looking at you the entire time, Charlus. He didn’t break eye contact once, and he was muttering under his breath.”
“Why would Professor Snape try ‘n kill Charlus?” Hagrid snorted. “I’m sorry Hermione, but tha’s ridiculous!”
“He and Dad hated each other,” Charlus said thoughtfully, dread and realization suddenly spreading through his veins. “Dad said — well, he never explained it, but he said he was sure Snape would do him in if he could. I think something major happened in their school days. Something more than them just hating each other, I mean.”
“Professor Snape wouldn’t curse yer broom!” Hagrid argued defiantly. “What Hermione must o’ saw was Professor Snape mutterin’ the coun’er-curse!”
“Hagrid, I’ve told you this already! When I saw that Snape was cursing your broom,” she said, turning to look at Charlus, “I went over to stop him. I… um… used bluebell flames on his robes. As soon as I did that, he looked away from you, and your broom was fine.”
There was suddenly a deafening kind of silence in every square inch of the small hut. Normally, Charlus would have laughed openly at the idea of Snape with his robes alight. At the moment, with everything else weighing so heavily in the air, he couldn’t find the humour within himself. Neither, apparently, could Ron, who sat as stone still as one may expect from a thousand-year-old statue.
Charlus was gaping at Hermione again. “You… you saved me?”
Hermione looked back at him, seemingly just as confused. “Of course I saved you! I wasn’t just about to let you die!”
Charlus nodded mutely before turning to Hagrid. “She’s right, Hagrid. It must have been Snape. He has a reason to do it, and she’s right about curses; I’ve been studying that stuff for ages. It had to have been Snape, there’s no other solution.”
“I bet he let the troll in, too!” Ron said, sounding positively gleeful.
Charlus nodded. “Yeah… yesterday — his leg. You reckon?” he asked, remembering Snape’s horribly mangled leg in the staff room.
“Yeah. Yeah, I do actually.”
“He probably tried to steal whatever that three-headed-dog is guarding.” It wasn’t until the words had already left Charlus’s lips did he realize what a mistake they had been.
“Three-headed what?!” Hermione shrieked in horror, clasping her hands over her mouth.
“How did ya find out about Fluffy?” Hagrid asked, looking every bit as surprised as Hermione.
“Fluffy!” Charlus heard Ron mutter.
“I… uh… we… uh, had a bit of an… accident.” He looked at Hermione with a gleam in his eye. “That’s what’s in the third-floor corridor that Professor Dumbledore warned us about. It’s guarding something — standing on a trapdoor — some kind of stone, we think?”
“Some kind of… stone?” Hermione asked, blinking back her obvious shock and confusion. “What kind of stone would be worth stealing in the first place? Let alone hiding it behind a Cerberus?”
They all looked at Hagrid, but he just glared back at them angrily. “You lot stay away from Fluffy and tha’ corridor, ya hear? What Fluffy’s guardin’ ain’t none o’ your concern. Tha’s between Professor Dumbledore ‘n Nicholas Flamel.” Then he froze, a horror-struck look crossing his gigantic face as he realized what he had said.
“So there’s somebody named Nicholas Flamel involved!” Hermione noted victoriously.
“I should not o’ said that,” Hagrid muttered ashamedly. “I definitely should not o’ said that.”
“Well,” Hermione said briskly, “I’m off to the library to research magical stones and Nicholas Flamel.” She looked at Ron and Charlus. “You could… help me if you wanted?” The statement sounded more like a question to Charlus, and the brilliant muggleborn that carried herself with so much confidence in lessons suddenly seemed terribly uncertain of herself.
“Yeah,” he answered, smiling his most winning smile at her to try and put her at ease, “yeah, I think we will. What do you say, Ron?” Ron nodded eagerly. “We’ll be up in a bit,” Charlus said, gesturing for her to go. “Hermione… uh, thanks for… you know? Umm, saving my life and all.”
Hermione smiled, holding out a shaking hand. “That’s what friends are for, right?”
Charlus beamed at her and took the hand firmly, the way his father had told him to shake hands from an early age. “You bet!”
Later that night, in the Slytherin common toom
Harry, Tracey and Daphne had occupied the abandoned room in which Harry practised with Professor Hurst for much of the day. Harry had told them what he’d seen and the two of them seemed hell-bent on debating. Tracey thought Snape was the culprit, where Daphne was certain it was Sinistra.
“Snape would never do something like that out in the open, Tracey!” Daphne had argued exasperatedly.
“Don’t you see it, Daphne? That’s the brilliance of it! The only people smart enough to punish Snape would be the people with the power to do it. But, like you just said, they’d never blame Snape because they’d think it’s too obvious. Besides,” she scoffed, “why would Professor Sinistra kill Charlus?”
“It is too obvious, Tracey — that’s the point! Any plan that relies on other people’s intelligence is a bad one and how am I supposed to know? There’s strength in anonymity; maybe she’s not Sinistra at all. Maybe she’s under Polyjuice potion or something-“
“Poly what?” Harry asked absentmindedly, pausing his quill. He was not overly interested in this debate, so he had chosen to write an essay instead.
“Polyjuice Potion,” Daphne said shortly. “It’s a potion that lets you basically transform into somebody else. You just need a bit of their hair or any bodily piece; toenails, eyelashes, flaked off skin. Most use hair to add to the potion. Oh, plus you need to be sure that they are most definitely human.”
That seemed way too easy to abuse but as Daphne enlightened a minute or so later, possession of it was illegal. Not to mention both the potion and its ingredients costed a fortune. Most people were simply priced out by default.
By the time the three of them returned to the Slytherin common room that night after dinner, their argument had still not blown itself out, but Harry found himself more interested in a different kind of mystery.
When the students had returned to Hogwarts earlier in the week, it had been announced that Terence Higgs had died in a tragic run-in with the troll. Harry hadn’t really thought on the matter until Higgs’s name came up that morning in conversation with the older Slytherins. But come to think of it, he had been face to face with the troll, as a matter of speaking, and he was pretty certain it hadn’t killed Higgs. Trolls tended to make a mess of their victims, and there hadn’t been a trace of blood anywhere to be found.
So, as Harry spotted a girl with shiny, black hair scribbling away at an essay in the corner alone, he casually stood from his seat and made his way towards her. Daphne and Tracey were so entrenched in their own whispered debate that they didn’t even notice the movement.
“Good evening, Heiress Parkinson.” Harry said politely, calmly sliding into the seat beside her after whispering “Muffliato” to make sure they would not be overheard.
Her quill did not stop scratching. “Potter.”
“You’ve been sitting alone a lot since Samhain.” Both of them knew that was because Malfoy was not at Hogwarts, but neither of them said it.
“I fail to see why that’s any of your business.”
“I’m only being polite, Parkinson.”
Finally, her quill stopped writing and Pansy focused her brown-eyed stare upon him. “No, you’re not,” she told him with crossed arms. “You want something from me, so get to the point.”
Harry couldn’t help but notice the way she seemed to try and dismiss him. It was both extremely irritating and mildly amusing. In the end, he decided to show the former with a twitch of his lips. “Blood matters, Parkinson, but ability matters more. Do you know who said that?”
She glared at him for ignoring her queue to get to the point. “I don’t know, Dumbledore?”
“Hardly. It’s probably been spoken by a lot of people, but it’s most famous user was Gellert Grindelwald.” Parkinson’s eyes widened a fraction. “Between the two of us, I tend to agree with that line. My point,” he continued, “beyond the fact that you shouldn’t underestimate me because of blood, is that you shouldn’t assume anything about people or things you know nothing about.”
Her look still wasn’t complimentary, but it had cooled a margin. “Fine.” she conceded. “Now, what is it you want? I doubt you’re enough of an idiot to think you could change my opinion over the course of a conversation.”
Harry snorted. “No, that would probably be my Brother.” He leaned towards her. “I have it on good authority you’re pretty tuned in to what goes on in the castle?”
Translation, nobody, perhaps not even any of the upper years were more in tune with the Hogwarts rumour mill than Pansy Parkinson. If anybody could sort out the truth about something, it was her.
“And if I am, what good is it to you?”
“I guess that depends on whether or not you’re willing to do me a favour.”
Pansy looked at him with the appearance of someone seeing him for what he was at long last. “What do I get out of it?” she asked him curiously. “If you need help with it, it would probably take up a lot of my time.”
Harry nodded reasonably. “What would you like out of it?”
“I have three conditions,” Parkinson said curtly.
“You leave me out of any spat between you and Malfoy.”
“That can be easily arranged.”
She hesitated. “If I… see you and your group of friends as the more advantageous party, you will grant me entry into the circle.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. It was clever, but there was a whole in her logic. “Why would you assume I can make that promise? Daphne outranks me politically.”
She smiled knowingly at him. “Let’s just call it a gut feeling and go from there, shall we?”
Harry shrugged. He figured it wouldn’t be all that hard to meet her demand whether her assumption was correct or not. “Done.”
“Final condition; I want a favour at a later date.”
Harry’s eyes narrowed as he thought rapidly. “Nothing that could be used against me, my friends or my family in any way, shape or form.”
For a second, Parkinson’s eyes flashed but then she smiled. “I’ve underestimated you again, Potter,” she admitted casually. “I’m impressed. That sounds perfectly agreeable to me.”
“Then we have ourselves a deal.” He leant forward, his eyes taking on a faint glow that put Pansy immediately on edge. “If you could find out, Parkinson, I would like to know what really happened to Terence Higgs.”
November 29, 1991
A Room in the Dungeons
Mercifully, the weeks after the fiasco that had been the opening Quidditch match of the season decided to give Harry a mild reprieve, something he was immeasurably grateful for after Samhain and its aftermath. He had managed to get Calypso, who had asked to be called by her first name, to tell him what the end of year examinations entailed for the first years. He’d wanted to cross-reference with what Grace had told him, to be sure that it didn’t change with the year. It didn’t. He had, as a result, been making sure that he could not only perform the tasks perfectly, but he had been coming up with impressive ways he could top them in order to earn the O+’s that he was looking for.
An O was not overly rare at Hogwarts. Usually, most subjects had a couple of Os at least given out within each year set. Defence, Potions and Transfiguration were the notable exceptions, where it was rather difficult to achieve an O, but it was still rather rare that a year passed with nobody in the year set managing an outstanding. On the other hand, an O+ was extremely rare.
Harry had found this out while scouring the old records kept in the library. It turned out that his grandfather, Charlus Potter Sr. had been one of two students who had the honour of saying they were the first of the century to pull it off. He had managed to achieve an O+ in Defence Against the Dark Arts in 1939, during his fourth year; a feat he repeated in the subject each year until his graduation. He’d even earned the grade in Transfiguration during his last three years at Hogwarts, making him one of only a handful of students in history to receive the mark in multiple grades on the O.W.L and N.E.W.T exams.
The other student, however, interested Harry just as much, if not more than his grandfather. Though she didn’t have a name like Potter behind her, a student by the name of Emily Riddle had proven in her first year, (the same calendar year as Charlus’s fourth) that she was a prodigy among prodigies. In her first year, Riddle achieved the grade of O+ in Charms, Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts, a feat that had never been done before. The first year joint record for O+s had been two.
Most recently before Riddle had come around, it had been achieved by Albus Dumbledore in 1893, when he earned the mark in Charms and Transfiguration. Before him, Emeric Emalaus was the most recent, having managed O+s in Transfiguration and Defence Against the Dark Arts in 1402. The only other student in history to earn two O+s was a part of Hogwarts’ first ever school year when Myrddin Emrys, (the man who would later be known as Merlin) achieved it in Charms and Transfiguration.
Riddle had outperformed even him with her three O+s, a feat she equalled the next year. By the end of her third, she had added Transfiguration. On her O.W.Ls she had achieved O+s in Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Potions and Transfiguration. That had broken the previous record of Albus Dumbledore, who had managed it in Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Transfiguration. She edged him on N.E.W.Ts as well. They both managed all the marks they had in their O.W.Ls, and each of them had received an O+ in Alchemy; a class for N.E.W.T students that was no longer offered.
Harry had gone down a bit of a rabbit hole searching for Riddle’s accomplishments after Hogwarts. There honestly wasn’t a lot. She had apparently been a key player in one of the final battles of the Blood War. According to the records, she’d held off Grindelwald personally during The Battle of Katalysator until she and Dumbledore together had driven him off. After that, there hadn’t been a mention of her in any avenue he had tried.
In large part thanks to his memory, Harry did manage to connect her name with a mystery that had been pressing at the back of his mind for months now.
Somehow, this hiss sounded more powerful than the rest. It was, if such a thing was possible at all in the language of snakes, a rather authoritative statement. Slowly but surely, all the snakes depicted around Harry fell silent and one of the largest snakes Harry had seen slithered its way into the painting directly in front of him.
A black mamba!
The snake was, contrary to what many may believe by its name, a dark, greyish-brown colour, though its belly was noticeably pale, especially in contrast with the rest of its body. Though Harry could not see inside the creature’s mouth at present, he knew that if he could, he would see an odd, inky-black coloured maw. It was, as a matter of fact, the reason the snake had been given its name at all.
The snake surveyed him with dark, black eyes; eyes that were surrounded in a pale, yellow colour. “You speak?” the snake hissed. Harry almost jumped when he realized that he was the one being addressed.
“Not a great question considering I could technically speak English and you’d never understand me, but I know what you’re getting at. And yes, I speak.”
Harry could have sworn the snake sneered at him.
“With a bit too much cheek for my liking, but it does indeed appear that you speak.” The snake surveyed him more critically, seeming to be sizing him up. If the serpent in front of him was not confined to a portrait, Harry very much doubted he wouldn’t have already fled. “What is your name, human?“
“Harry.” he hissed back, having to put less thought into the language the more he used it. ‘Harry Potter.“
“Potter, you say?” hissed back the Mamba. “We have never spoken to any with that name, though it has been many years since we spoke to any at all.“
“How long ago?” Harry asked.
“Time is difficult, immaterial to portraits, and you humans think about it more than us snakes. I do not know how long it has been, but it has been a long time.“
“Can you tell me who the last one was to speak to you?“
“She did not give us the first name as you have done,” the mamba informed him. “Her surname was unique as well. We had never heard it before her arrival.“
“What was it?“
Well, he supposed that question had been answered, at least.
He supposed it was possible that Emily had not been the only Riddle to attend Hogwarts. At the same time, she fit the description perfectly and had been a prodigious Slytherin student. It all lined up too well.
Except for the fact that if anything, her Parseltongue ability only made it all the more strange that she had not ascended to admirable heights after Hogwarts.
‘Unless she left the country?’
Harry supposed that it was possible if the stigma about Parseltongue had truly been that bad fifty years ago. Either way, he decided he really couldn’t solve the mystery one way or another, at least not to completion, so he let it drop.
As for the grade of O+, it had only been achieved by nine other students this century. Minerva McGonagall had earned the grade throughout most of her Hogwarts career in the late 1940s and early 1950s, a feat matched by another student in a similar time frame. Sigmund Lockhart had earned the grade in Charms and Transfiguration throughout his Hogwarts tenure proceeding his third year in the mid to late 1940s. Alastor Moody had received it several times during the 1950s in Defence Against the Dark Arts. Bellatrix Black had done the same in the mid to late 1960s.
In the 1970s, four Hogwarts students had achieved the grade. Coincidentally, two of them happened to be Harry’s parents. His mother had done it in Charms and his father in Transfiguration. Bartemius Crouch Jr. had achieved the mark from his fourth year onwards in Defence Against the Dark Arts, and he had also managed the grade in Transfiguration and Potions on his O.W.L exams. He had not replicated that feat exactly on his N.E.W.Ts. Instead, he managed it in Defence, Transfiguration and Charms. The other, just as odd to think about, in Harry’s opinion, was Snape; who had achieved the mark every year in Potions and had also pulled it off in Defence during his last three years at Hogwarts.
Since the graduation of Harry’s parents and Potions professor, Hogwarts hadn’t seen the grade recently with one exception. Grace had managed it from her second year onwards in Charms. To achieve an O+, one not only had to perfect the exam itself at the end of the year, but perform a personal showcase during it that went above and beyond the scope of the examination itself. Even then, it was still at the discretion of the professor whether or not they granted the exceptional grade to the student. Harry was determined to add his own name to that illustrious and prestigious list.
He was certain he could do it in Transfiguration, as he already had something planned after reading through much of the second-year material in the last number of weeks. Charms would be more difficult, and he had no ideas as of yet, but he was sure he would come up with something. Defence too, he thought was possible, but he had no idea what he could do, and he figured Hurst would be a brutal marker.
Speaking of Hurst, they had gone through two lessons in the weeks following the Quidditch match. The first had been much like the week previous, with an emphasis on stance, accuracy and dodging. The next week had been a bit of that too, but Hurst had also gone over a variety of situations, explaining what kind of spell would be apt in each and why. Harry had found that rather interesting. She had also asked him for a list of all of the spells he knew that he thought would be useful in combat. Now, as Harry knocked on the door to enter his fourth session with Hurst, he awaited her verdict and was interested to see what they would do that night.
After entering on Hurst’s command, Harry quickly took a seat on one of the two chairs his professor conjured from thin air with a wave of her wand.
“I was impressed,” she told him. “Frankly, I doubt any first year has your repertoire of spells at the moment, but it is still limited enough that you would struggle against any with more diverse attacks.” She eyed him critically. “The Protego shield did admittedly jump off the page for me. Are you simply aware of the spell, or can you actually cast it?”
“I can cast it.” Harry was trying hard not to smile as he saw surprise briefly flash in her eyes. He was still rather proud of that accomplishment, and privately, he thought himself perfectly justified seeing as it was a fifth year spell.
“Show me,” she ordered, getting to her feet and drawing her wand. Harry stood and raised his own wand in a defensive position. Without warning, his professor sent a Stinging Hex towards him at high speed, but he managed to snap off his shield in time. Hurst examined it for a few moments before nodding in approval. “It is not perfect. It will take more practice to increase its potency, but it is remarkable you can cast one at all, let alone with such admirable proficiency.” She smiled thinly. “Tonight, we are going to see if we can add a tool or two to your offensive arsenal, as well as continuing to shore up your defence. A strong defence is essential, but it will only delay the inevitable if you are incompetent in regards to attacking.”
Harry struggled to keep the grin off of his face. He managed, but barely.
“We will start on the defensive,” Hurst decided, “since the spell I have in mind is less difficult to cast. The spell is called the Impediment Jinx, and the incantation is Impedimenta. There is no necessary wand movement. The effect of the spell is to slow the path of an object or living being for five to ten seconds. Just focus on that intent while casting the spell. Once you become familiar enough with it, you won’t need to think it all.”
“I was wondering about that. Spells like Wingardium Leviosa and Tempus. When I first started with them, I needed to visualize the effects of them but now, I can do them without a thought. Just the incantation is enough.”
“To say magic is a muscle is extremely oversimplified and cliché, but it does summarize the general idea. Your magic is linked to you as a human being, even though we have no magic within us. The more you cast a spell, the more you will gain an affinity towards that spell. Wizards like our Headmaster would need to think barely, if at all.” Harry nodded; it made sense. “Now,” said Hurst, waving her wand and conjuring a dog from nowhere, “you will test the spell on the dog, as a stationary dummy will not grant you the desired effect.”
Harry practised with the impediment jinx for a while. He got the spell quickly, but the dog only paused for a couple of seconds. By the end of his practice, he had managed to consistently freeze it for ten seconds, and the spell was already becoming near automatic.
“Now,” Hurst told him with an odd gleam in her eye, “let us try something a little bit more… offensive.” She whipped her wand towards the dummy, which was charmed to react to spell-fire as a human would.
A jet of purple light streaked from her wand and smashed hard into the target’s chest. The dummy collapsed to its knees and promptly curled in on itself.
Harry’s eyes gleamed. Now this would be useful magic in combat.
“The Bludgeoning Curse.” Hurst enlightened him. “It is an impact based spell that will drive a considerable amount of force into your opponent. Know that the range of impact is about the size of a football, so aim with that in mind. You’ve heard the incantation already, and the wand movement is a sharp jab towards your target.”
The Bludgeoning Curse was indeed much more difficult than the impediment jinx. His professor told him not to be discouraged, as it was a fourth year spell in the Defence Against the Dark Arts curriculum. Yet by the end of the lesson, Harry had no reason to be discouraged, as he could consistently cast the spell. Unfortunately, it still required a great deal of focus and concentration.
“This has been excellent!” Hurst told him with a genuine smile. It was rare she complimented him so freely and openly. “Impressive, extremely impressive indeed. For obvious reasons, I do not want you practising the Bludgeoning Curse on other students, but keep the visualisation in mind over the next week. We shall begin our next session with a quick run-through of the spells you have learned tonight.”
Harry nodded, unable to keep the wide smile off of his own face. “Yes ma’am. Thank you, Professor.”
December 9, 1991
Charlus, Ron and Hermione all sat back in their chairs, deciding as one to take a break from their still fruitless search for Nicholas Flamel.
Over the past number of weeks, much of Gryffindor house had noticed how suddenly, the inseparable duo of Charlus Potter and Ron Weasley had added a third, rather unlikely member in Hermione Granger. At first, many had been curious. After countless deflections from the three new friends, the house had uniformly decided it was best to leave them alone.
That was something that relieved the three of them greatly, even Charlus, who rather enjoyed being the centre of attention. After all, some things just didn’t lend themselves well to being explained. In Charlus’s opinion, chief among them was the fact that, after having your life saved by somebody and then spending hours on end with them going over research and conspiracy theories, you just naturally became rather close with them rather fast.
“If you’re not going home for the holiday,” Hermione was saying to Charlus, knowing full well he wasn’t, since he had signed his name on the list of those staying behind for Yule when Professor McGonagall had brought it to the Gryffindor table that morning at breakfast, “then I still say you should owl your Dad. He doesn’t really seem like the type to keep information from you.”
“We’ve been over this, Hermione,” Charlus said tiredly, rubbing at his temples. “Dad’s usually not that kind of person, but he’s been right uptight about this whole thing. When I mailed him about the dog ages ago, I got the most to the point, the most formal letter I’ve ever seen him send. He just told me to stay out of it, and that Dumbledore knew what he was doing.”
“Course he does,” said Ron through a yawn, “he’s Dumbledore, isn’t he?”
“It does seem very irresponsible to put something like that in a school,” Hermione said sourly. “Whatever he’s hiding must be really valuable if he would risk that. Are you sure you couldn’t just ask your Dad about Nicholas Flamel? I mean — be subtle, of course.”
Charlus shook his head. “He’d know what I was getting at; he’s not stupid. He got into all sorts of mischief at Hogwarts. For him, it wouldn’t be that far of a stretch to imagine that I’d figured that bit out. No, Hermione, sorry, but I can’t ask him.”
She deflated a bit, but nodded her head in understanding.
“I could maybe ask Percy or something.” Ron didn’t sound overly fond of the idea.
“You think he would be suspicious?”
“Definitely,” Ron answered darkly. “Percy always thinks he’s smarter than everyone. If I suddenly just started asking stuff like that, he’d get suspicious. He’d make me tell him why I wanted to know.”
They all fell silent.
Charlus would have had no problem finding the information in the Potter library. Unfortunately, he had chosen to stay over the break for Yule. Ron’s mum, dad and younger sister were going to visit his older brother Charlie in Romania. Charlus didn’t want to leave his best mate alone at the castle. Plus, he thought it would be interesting to be here when the castle was so empty. They could explore, enjoy the grounds and revel in the overall magic of the place.
“Well, I’ll have a look in my Flourish and Blotts catalogue over the break.” Hermione decided. “Maybe I’ll find something in there that mentions Flamel.”
“Might as well,” Charlus answered as his eyes once more flickered over towards the restricted section. The more he looked at it, the more he just had a gut feeling that the out of bounds section of the library contained the exact information that they were looking for.
“Charlus?” Hermione asked a few minutes later, breaking a long but comfortable silence.
“Do… do you know if your Brother is going home for Yule?”
“He’s not,” Charlus answered neutrally. “When Dad mailed me back saying he was fine with me staying, he said that Harry had decided to stay for the break too and told me that I wasn’t to antagonize him for it or anything.”
“He’s been… uh… all right since the duel.”
Charlus sighed. “I’ve told you, Ron, I think the only reason he came to the duel at all was to watch Malfoy get his arse handed to him.”
Ron shrugged. “If you say so.”
“Honestly Ron, just because he’s in Slytherin doesn’t make him evil!” Hermione huffed.
Ron shrugged again. “They don’t have a great track record though, do they?” he asked darkly. “I’m not saying he’s gonna go dark or anything, but he does hang out with them.”
“Only Greengrass and some other girl, really.” Despite the statement, Charlus sounded rather unsure of himself. He had, for weeks now, been debating whether or not to approach Harry, but after how much of a knobhead he had been after his brother’s sorting, he was not sure if Harry would just forgive and forget. By telling himself this, that Harry didn’t seem to be outright hanging around with Death Eaters in the making, he figured he was subconsciously trying to justify everything.
“Tracey Davis,” Hermione supplied.
“Yeah, I’ve never heard that name, which means her family were never convicted Death Eaters, and Greengrass’s were neutral.”
“Weren’t they part of the Conservatives at one point?” Ron asked warily.
“Yeah,” Charlus admitted hesitantly, “but that was almost fifty years ago now. They haven’t been Conservatives since 1945, I think.”
“What’s all this about Conservatives and Neutrals?” Hermione asked.
Charlus winced. “It’s… uh, a bunch of political stuff,” he said. “No offence, Hermione, but it probably won’t be that important for you to know being muggleborn.”
“What is that supposed to mean, exactly?”
“Nothing,” Charlus defended, “just that you won’t have a Wizengamot seat, so you won’t really need to know much of it except for voting in ministers.”
“That seems rather important.”
Charlus sighed. “The gist of it is that the Liberals are the light side — the good guys. Their leader is Professor Dumbledore and mine and Ron’s families are both in that faction. The Neutrals are sort of complicated. They’re all right, I guess, but they sometimes vote with the Conservatives, which are led by Lucius Malfoy and are full of dark witches and wizards.”
“Is that Draco’s dad?” As Hermione asked the question, she couldn’t help but notice how biased that account seemed.
“Yup,” Ron said darkly. “Even my Dad rants about Lucius Malfoy, and he likes everybody.”
There was a long, oppressive silence before Hermione spoke up. “If you want to talk to him,” Hermione said with more than a pinch of exasperation, “you could always just do it, you know.”
Charlus blinked. “How did you-“
“Oh, honestly,” Hermione huffed, “it’s obvious! The way you keep sneaking looks at him in Potions and at mealtimes. I’m sorry, Charlus, but you’re as subtle as a hammer hitting a gong.”
Charlus flushed. “I’m not that bad, am I?” he asked Ron.
Ron fidgeted uncomfortably. “I’ve… uh… seen you looking at him a few times.”
Charlus sighed and looked at Ron. “If I were to… uh… make up with him and invite him to hang out or something, would you be… you know — decent?” He held up his hands to forgo an objection. “Not trying to be a prat, mate, but you were pretty against him when… you know?”
Ron didn’t speak for some time, and Charlus felt his heart sink but eventually, he answered. “I’d rather not, but I’ll be decent if he’s decent.”
Charlus sighed, feeling the tension drain from his body at his friend’s grudging acceptance. It really was the best he could have hoped for.
December 22, 1991
The Entrance Hall
The last week of the first term had been the coldest that Harry had yet experienced at Hogwarts. Just over a week ago, the castle had woken up to find itself and its grounds coated in a layer of snow that did not melt in the coming days. As a matter of fact, more snow had been fast approaching, and with it came the chilling Scottish winters that the first years had been warned about countless times since their arrival at the school.
Now, as Harry watched Daphne and Tracey make their way onto the grounds to begin their journey to the train station and eventually back home, he could say that he truly felt the cold and dreariness of winter for the first time.
If you would have asked him four months ago if Harry thought he would ever have friends, people who he even, to an extent, trusted, he would have laughed openly and dismissed the very idea. Now, he had not only one friend, but two. Granted, his relationship with Daphne did somehow feel more personal, likely as a result of him opening up all those months ago. He still didn’t know what to make of that exchange, that weakness. He hadn’t managed to siphon up the courage to repeat that metaphorical plunge, nor did he think he would any time soon.
Now, with Tracey and Daphne gone, Harry found himself oddly empty. That was, at least, until he realized that now, the castle, its secrets, and its knowledge were more at his disposal than ever before. He could not help but smile widely at the thought.
So lost he was in the thought that he did not notice the approach of another until her soft, cool hand closed around his wrist. He flinched violently and looked over his shoulder, almost cursing aloud at the calculating look in Parkinson’s eyes. “Parkinson?”
“No need to be so jumpy, Potter.” She tilted her head to the nearest abandoned classroom without another word. Not until the two of them entered the room did she turn to him with a gleam in her eyes. “Terence Higgs,” she said without preamble, “met his end at the jaws of a three-headed-dog behind the door blocking the third-floor corridor. Apparently, he was trying to find out what was in there.” She smiled sweetly at his dumbstruck expression. “Have a good holiday.”
December 22, 1991
For all of his practice over the years, and he had indeed had quite a lot of it, Blaise Zabini never did quite get used to the feeling of international travel via portkey. The floo was nauseating, but in his experience, little could compare to portkeying from London to the coast of Italy. He managed to land as gracefully as ever, but he felt as if his brain had just been put through a blender, and he blinked several times before the glorious entrance hall of his five-century-old family home came into proper focus.
He allowed a rare smile to play on his lips as he took in the scene after so many months away. Blaise wasn’t one for shows of emotion in public. He had been taught the subtleties of politics, manipulation and betrayal from a very early age, and one message had stuck above all else, one message that his mother practised as much as she preached.
“Emotions are dangerous things, mio caro. They can be a most wonderful weapon or a most brutal way of meeting your end. It is all about control. Proper control means they are yours to use and not the property of others to use against you.”
It was as paranoid a statement as was typical for his mother, but Blaise still couldn’t help but let his soft smile grow at the memory. He thought idly that if his mother knew how well he had stuck to the plan this term at Hogwarts, she would be rather proud. Or, at least, as proud as one who suppressed nearly all of her emotions could be.
That was the difference between Blaise and his mother, a difference that he’d realized at the age of nine. Where he used Occlumency and overall emotional control to mask his true thoughts and emotions, his mother used it to suppress them in general. It was methodical and obsessive, bordering on sociopathic how callous his mother was when it came to human emotion.
“It is only a distraction. It is our destiny that matters, mio caro. It is the Zabini destiny that matters, not what the Zabinis think along the way.”
Blaise disagreed wholeheartedly with that statement. He had always thought fulfilling a destiny was pointless without emotion. Sure, he understood the significance of said destiny, and why he, like his mother and grandparents and those before them was expected to pursue it, but without emotion, there was no reward. Without reward, life was pointless. For all of his mother’s talks about destiny, Blaise liked his emotions, liked the journey as much, more actually, than he liked the legacy.
He was snapped out of his deep, philosophical thoughts when one of the many house elves popped into the room. “Master Blaise is home!” it said cheerfully, and Blaise offered the creature his warmest, softest, most trademarked smile.
“It is good to be home, Cecile.”
“Cecile be taking master Blaise’s things up to his room if master has no objections.” Blaise shook his head to indicate he had none. “Countess Antonia wishes to see master Blaise in the first-floor living room nearest the entrance hall, sir.”
Blaise nodded. “Thank you, Cecile. I’ll see her right away.”
True to his word, Blaise found the room in question and allowed his eyes to find his mother, who slowly paused the turning of a page in whatever book she was reading to look up and meet Blaise’s eyes with a warm smile.
“Ah, mio caro. I hope you have not forgotten how to speak in the language in which you were raised?” She spoke to Blaise not in English, but in Italian, which he swiftly reciprocated.
“Don’t be foolish, Mother. I would never do something so careless.”
His mother’s eyes shone. “No, I would hope not, just as I hope you carried that attitude into your first term at Hogwarts.”
“I did, Mother.”
“Well then, I shall let you add your observations about the potential piece of the puzzle that we left off on during the summer.”
December 25, 1991
The Slytherin Common Room
Harry was awake early on Christmas morning, or was it the morning of Yule? That still confused him, a bit. Despite the day in question, he was up no earlier than normal for him. He’d been told that all of the Slytherin’s presents would be found in the common room.
Harry honestly didn’t expect much. Presents from Tracey, Daphne, and maybe his father, but nothing more than that. With that in mind, it wasn’t overly difficult for him to restrain himself, waiting in his dorm while reading the book on wards he had received from Grace. He really wanted to try the Proximity Ward, and now that the rest of his dorm mates were all gone, it would be the perfect opportunity. To do so, however, he would need a knowledge of Runes, or, at least, something to go off of.
At 7:00 am, he made his way down into the common room and despite his restraint, he couldn’t help but be excited. Few presents as he expected, it would be more than he had ever received before. To his great shock, the pile that was laid out for him wasn’t small at all. Sure, it was the smallest of the lot gathered, but there were still… many more presents than Harry had expected, and he let his jaw fall open for a moment at the foreign concept since nobody was in the common room as of yet.
He only had to wait a few minutes before Cassius, (who had also asked him to call him by his first name two days earlier( entered the common room. All of Harry’s yearmates had gone home, as had Calypso, along with most of the house, so in the rare moments when Harry was with others, it had been Cassius and the Carrows. They were, after all, the only Slytherin he knew that had stayed behind.
“Morning, Harry. Happy Christmas.”
“Happy Christmas, Cassius. Are we waiting on the Carrows?”
“Yup.” Cassius sat lazily back in the armchair with his arms behind his head. “They shouldn’t take long. They’re not ones to spend an hour on make-up, and clothes and whatever else girls spend hours doing.”
True to that statement, Hestia and Flora entered the room not ten minutes later, taking seats near Harry and Cassius. Nobody so much as moved and Hestia rolled her eyes.
“Oh, by Merlin, it’s Christmas; we don’t have to act like the perfect little purebloods right now.” With matching grins, Harry and Cassius bore down on their pile. Flora’s smirk was more restrained, but she and her sister did the same.
Harry had received more than he had even initially noticed, even though much of it was small. Crabbe and Goyle had both gotten him large boxes of Honeydukes chocolate, which was mollifying to Harry, since he had sent them sweets as well.
He’d sat down with Calypso and gone over the whole “art of gift-giving” as she called it. It was a sort of tradition in old pureblood families, and a choice of gift, or lack thereof, spoke volumes to how one viewed you.
Most of his other yearmates, with the exception of his friends, had gotten him smaller, tokenry items. Parkinson had surprised him though. She’d sent him a black cloak with emerald green trim. It appeared to be made from the richest of materials, and Harry was actually sure he’d be using it a great deal. Suddenly, the simple bracelet he’d sent her seemed rather inadequate.
When he quietly voiced his concern to the three older students sat with him, Hestia had reassured him almost dismissively. “That’s not your problem. She technically overstepped her boundaries, you didn’t understep. It might be that she wants to strengthen your relationship, it might just be a show of generosity, either way, no-fault from you.”
Blaise Zabini had sent Harry a book, though not one he had ever heard of before. “Do any of you know what this book is?” Harry asked hesitantly. He really did not like asking questions, even if it was much easier when he wasn’t asking an adult.
Cassius’s eyes sharpened for a moment but he didn’t say anything for a few seconds. “Yeah,” he answered eventually, “it’s actually extremely popular. It’s a book of fairytales.”
Harry blinked. ‘Fairytales?’
He wasn’t sure what Zabini was playing at but decided to push the thought off to the side. Cassius had got Harry a more in-depth book on the history of dark lords in Europe. He had seen Harry reading The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and had snorted. “That’s ministry censored trash,” was what he had told Harry when he’d inquired.
“Not explicitly legal, I’m taking it?” Harry asked him with curiosity, turning the ancient-looking tome over in his hands.
“Does it matter?”
Harry thought absentmindedly that this may have been a test of sorts, similar to the one Grace had presented him with the day after Samhain. Harry just smirked back at Cassius. “Not at all, I just wouldn’t want to get caught reading it.”
Something flashed across the boy’s face that Harry thought was a look of triumph. “Not legal to read, no.” Harry nodded, thanking him as he delicately put the book aside.
The Carrows too had gone for a book, though theirs was one on curses. Harry didn’t think it was illegal, but thought it was probably pretty close. Then he opened up his gift from Calypso, and his mask fully slipped, at least for a second.
The Forsaken Magic: An Introduction to the Dark Arts.
That one definitely wasn’t legal, yet it drew the widest smile yet from Harry. he didn’t care that Cassius and the Carrows were watching him. He didn’t care that it was a test, either, for he knew that his reaction had already earned him a passing grade.
Tracey had purchased Harry a model serpent that could be used as a display. Daphne had bought him two books. The first was on Transfiguration theory, and it was clearly advanced. The second was one on Magical Theory, one that, like the books from Cassius and Calypso, looked absolutely ancient. To their credit, James and Charlus had both sent Harry presents, and he suddenly felt relieved he had ordained to do the same in return. James sent Harry a golden watch that looked extremely expensive.
“It’s traditional,” Cassius told him. “It’s a Lord-to-Heir sort of gift. My Father got me one when I turned twelve.”
“As did mine my first Christmas at Hogwarts,” Hestia added quietly.
Though Harry appreciated the sentiment, the gift did not make his breath hitch the way that Charlus’s did. It was an unmarked photo album. Inside were countless pictures of himself, James and a load of others. Some he suspected were Potter ancestors, some clearly were not. In many of the photographs, there was also a rather beautiful looking redhead who, after a moment, Harry realized had his eyes.
He shoved the album away before anyone could see it and ignored Cassius’s inquisitive glance and the Carrow’s raised eyebrows. This was for his eyes and his eyes alone.
To his slight surprise, Pettigrew had also come through with a gift, and more surprising still, it was one of his favourites.
Since I missed so many of these, I decided to go big or go home!
It isn’t technically against the rules to own a knife at Hogwarts, but don’t get caught with this one, will you? Slide the blade into the groove of any door and it will unlock unless it’s protected by some seriously powerful, seriously illegal wards. At that point, call me and your Dad, because we get bonuses for arrests!
Three left now.
One was clearly a book and it was the one he opened next. If he had been surprised by the book from Calypso, he was flabbergasted by this.
A Mental Mastery: Intricacies of the Mind.
There was, to Harry’s mild surprise, a small note in the box.
Do not under any circumstances be seen with this book. I should never have sent it to you, but since you seemed so interested…
Please treat the book and information very carefully,
Suddenly, the rather splendid necklace Harry had decided on for Charlotte seemed woefully insignificant. Then again, there was nothing he could have given her that could have held a candle to this. Cassius almost flinched back as Harry’s eyes flashed with something he couldn’t place. He couldn’t see the book he held, but clearly, it had drawn an emotional reaction of sorts.
“You have two more,” Hestia pointed out after a solid minute of Harry staring at the cover of the book with unmasked hunger.
Harry blinked; seeming to come out of a great trance as he slowly slid the book into his magically expanded school bag as discreetly as possible. “Right, sorry; I got a bit… distracted.”
The next present certainly caught him by surprise, and he had to try very hard not to gape both at the gift and the signature.
A most pleasant morning to you,
It would pain me very much to see a family like yours torn so needlessly asunder, and I can think of no gift stronger than the bond of brotherhood.
Enclosed is a piece of parchment that is linked to one other. That other parchment will be in the possession of your brother, and anything either of you writes on the parchment will appear on its twin.
I do not seek repayment for the gift. But if you feel so inclined, repay an old man by tightening the bond between brothers.
Have a very happy Christmas!
Harry quickly hid this one away too and by this point, he was certain that nothing could surprise him as he reached for the final box.
How woefully wrong he was.
He opened the final, much smaller box with no real emotion. After all, how was it possible to top something like that? To his utmost amazement, whoever had chosen to send the beautiful ring inside had managed to do just that. It was as dark as obsidian with an emerald in the shape of a serpent set into its centre.
It wasn’t its appearance that struck Harry dumb, however, but the note attached to it.
The enclosed ring is not a simple trinket, but a one of a kind magical artefact enchanted with the ability to detect the presence of humans and magic around you. In addition, it will allow the wearer to eavesdrop into conversations around them with unmatched precision, an ability which is tied to and activated by the user’s thought. If one is to simply take a deep, calming breath, they will find that those around them will mysteriously fail to notice them at all.
Use it well.
A very Merry Christmas from your secret admirer
I apologize for the number of questions left unanswered by this chapter. Some will be answered sooner than others. One in particular is a long-term plot that you guys will be waiting a long time to see the conclusion of but hey, they have all need to start somewhere.
Please read and review.
This chapter was revised on October 13th, 2020 with the help of Discord Editors Asmodeus Stahl and rawmeat898.
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.