AoC 13

Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos

Year 1: The Forsaken’s Ascension

Chapter 13: The Speaker’s Den

By ACI100

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 nor do I make any profit.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to my beta Umar for his 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.

December 25, 1991

The Slytherin Dormitories

11:24 PM

Harry had rather enjoyed what he considered to be his first real Christmas. It did feel intensely odd to have a true Christmas at all. And not just the presents. He spent the day with Cassius and the Carrow twins, and for once, everything had been set aside and the four of them had simply enjoyed a day as children.

The feast had been a bit odd. The house tables had all been combined to form one table containing both staff and students. Harry caught Charlus’s eye several times and there did not seem to be any of the vitriol that his brother had held for him at the beginning of the year. Instead, every time their eyes met, it just seemed… awkward.

Harry thought that Dumbledore’s display with wizarding crackers was a bit odd, though it paled in comparison to a rather tipsy looking Hagrid kissing Professor McGonagall on the cheek in an attempt to win himself some more alcohol. Harry could only imagine the scenes this would cause if it had taken place at a muggle primary school, but in the crazy world of magic that he now occupied, nobody so much as batted an eye.

By the end of the meal, his eyes had narrowed upon Dumbledore once more. He was possibly extremely eccentric, whether naturally or due to old age, or Dumbledore had been missorted and it was all an elaborate mask to throw off his foes. Personally, Harry thought the truth lay somewhere in the middle, but without more information, he could not be certain one way or the other.

After dinner, Harry looked over the proximity ward one final time. He really needed to start looking into Ancient Runes, as they seemed an essential component to nearly all of the wards in this book. In the end, he had asked to borrow a Runic dictionary from Hestia to copy the runes he would need for the ward, and returned it a few minutes later with a genuinely grateful, “thank you.”

It took him more than a few tries to get the runes right. They had to be drawn in the air with one’s wand, and only then could the incantation be intoned with any effect. The ward took longer to put up than he would have liked but, miraculously, it held. The next step would be for Harry to tie other wards into the scheme, but for that, he was quite certain he would need a deeper understanding of Ancient Runes.

By this point, everybody seemed to be asleep. Not trusting his own judgement on that front, Harry decided it was time to put on the ring for the first time. He had asked his three older acquaintances to cast every detection spell they knew on the thing for curses, but it had come up empty. Surprisingly, none of them had inquired as to the ring’s function, though Harry could practically see the gears turning in the minds of both of the Carrow twins.

When he slipped it on his finger, he felt… something creeping into his mind. It was not an unpleasant feeling, per se, just an odd one. It was as if his brain had just got a breath of fresh air. More accurately, it felt as if he had a sixth sense. He just — knew that there was no one in the room, nor the hallway connecting all of the boys’ dormitories.

Slowly, very slowly, Harry drew in a deep, measured breath and had to suppress a shout of surprise when, suddenly, his entire body seemed to fade from existence.

Absentmindedly, he remembered the bit about a deep, calming breath leading to him being impossible to notice. Critically, making sure to keep his breath held, he raised one shaking hand to his face and realized, with a large degree of unadulterated awe that he could see no hand at all. Without conscious thought, Harry allowed his breath to come normally again as a large, open grin spread across his face. This was, perhaps, the most incredible magic he had seen thus far.

Taking a minute to catch his breath again, Harry drew it in once more, slowly creeping out of the dormitory as he did. This was something he had meant to do for months, but with the older Slytherins like Grace being as watchful as they were, he never had the time nor the means to manage such a thing. In saying that, he had made sure over the past three months to keep a very close eye on all of the serpentine decors within the Slytherin common room and dorms. That was surprisingly more difficult than it sounded as there was a lot of it, but now, as Harry’s heart raced in his chest with anticipation, he thought it may have just been worth it.

The low ceilinged Slytherin common room did not possess a set of stairs or any such addition. Instead, two long hallways that looked much more like dark, vast tunnels led off of the main common room. One hallway leading to the girls’ dormitories was on the left side of the room. The other leading to the boys’ dormitories led off to the right, on the opposite side of the common room from its sister hallway. Likewise, there was a much shorter hallway off of the common room set into the wall directly opposite the entrance that led to the head boy’s and girl’s quarters. They were only ever occupied when a Slytherin filled the role. This year, the Head Girl was a Slytherin, Jemma Fawley, though the Head Boy was a Ravenclaw whom Harry did not know.

In the boys’ and girls’ dorms, respectively, there were four fairly spacious rooms on either side of the hallway. On one side were the dorm rooms for the first, third, fifth and seventh years. On the other were three dorm rooms, one for each the second, fourth and sixth years, and a fourth, larger room — the bathroom.

Each hallway ended in a dead-end. There was no portrait hanging on the wall, but the wall itself, at least on the boys’ side, was carved skillfully with the image of an absolutely titanic serpent coiled tightly around what appeared to be an oversized wizard’s staff. When Harry said the hallway was long, he meant, long. It took him several minutes, in which he alternated between holding and releasing his breath, still acutely aware that no living soul was near him to creep to the far end of the hall. There was quite a large amount of space between the dead-end and the closest rooms, the seventh year boys’ dorm on one side and the bathroom opposite— a rather disproportionately large amount of space. Trusting the ring on his finger to detect if somebody was spying on him, something he was certain was not happening, Harry let out the breath he was holding and allowed his next word to escape as a hiss.


Instantly, the snake’s head lifted. Harry did not see how the magic that allowed portraits to move extended to carvings, but he merely shrugged. That was a puzzle that was miles above his current level.

“It has been so long.” the snake hissed, eyeing Harry curiously. “You desire entry, I presume?”

Harry nodded. “How would I go about acquiring it?”

The snake made an odd sound that Harry dimly thought may have been laughter. If not for the ring on his finger and the certainty it gave him in regards to his surroundings, he would be a lot more twitchy using Parseltongue so freely. “You merely needed to ask.” And in the same manner that the Slytherin common room opened for its charges, the wall slid aside.

Meanwhile, several floors above.

Charlus snapped the book closed with a surprised shout that was completely drowned out by the terrible wailing sound coming from the book in question. Without thinking, he shoved the book back onto the shelf and sprinted out of the library at top speed. The only thing he cared about at that moment was putting as much space between himself and the library as possible.

He had been so certain that the solution to their Flamel issue was buried somewhere within the Restricted Section. He had heard the name before, if in vague terms. His dad had mentioned meeting the man once — “an old friend of Professor Dumbledore’s”. Beyond that, and the fact that Charlus had rarely heard his father speak about anybody with as much respect as he had Flamel, he knew nothing. Even accounting for the fiasco involving the shrieking book, Charlus was still fairly sure that the Restricted Section likely held his answer but he had, like the impulsive fool he knew he sometimes was, grabbed the first book to catch his attention without thinking.

As he took the halls of Hogwarts at a blind sprint, Charlus had a rare moment of gratitude for the gruelling workout regimes his father had insisted he partake in for several years now. It took him an admirably long time to become winded. Unfortunately, by the time that moment came, he was so breathless from the distance he had run that he could do little more than stand there and catch that breath. A minute or so later, Charlus’s heart stopped as he heard shuffling footsteps approaching. Panicking irrationally, forgetting altogether about the fact that he was invisible, Charlus quickly slipped into the room nearest him. He closed the door behind him as quietly as he could manage, body was fraught with tension for a few long, painful moments. The feet he thought belonged to Filch shuffle their way past the room. He sighed, letting the tension drain from his shoulders as he turned to the… Not so mundane empty classroom, after all.

The room was, on the surface, much like many of the abandoned classrooms that littered the ancient castle. The desks were all pushed against a far wall, and the room had a distinct sense of being unoccupied for a long time. What caught Charlus’s attention was not the typical attributes of the abandoned room. What caught his attention, instead, was the not so typical, rather ornate looking mirror that stood in the centre of the room.

It seemed to emanate magic. Charlus was not so in tune with his magic that he could interpret anything from the mirror, as he had been told was possible with practice, but he was at least aware that there certainly was magic radiating from the mirror’s surface in waves. The mirror itself was taller than Charlus and looked extremely old and ornate. Upon the mirror was an inscription, one that seemed to be written in a language that Charlus did not understand, even though the letters, at least, seemed to be English.

Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi

Charlus edged closer to the mirror, having had his curiosity piqued. As he came close enough to clearly view the image within its surface though, he froze. He whirled around, wand outstretched and a spell on his lips but faltered.

There was nobody else in the room with him — at least, there did not appear to be.

As Charlus squinted into the mirror once more with narrowed eyes, there was a brief moment where he wondered if the magic that was impacting the mirror allowed it to show invisible people. When the figures’ features came into view, however, he had to hurriedly stifle a gasp of surprise.

The mirror did not show invisible people. He was certain of that, at least, because there were three people alongside him in the mirror. Of those three, Charlus was certain that one was incapable of invisibility and one… having died more than ten years ago, was incapable of anything at all.

Charlus stood shoulder to shoulder with another boy, their arms around each other as they both smiled proudly out of the mirror. The two boys stood between two taller figures. One of them, James Potter, had his arm around Charlus’s shoulders and was smiling proudly down at his son. The other figure had both arms wrapped around the other boy, who leaned into her easily. The other boy was an inch or two shorter than Charlus, definitely on the thin side, had the same black hair as Charlus, if a lot more controlled, and the same shining, emerald green eyes as the woman beside him.

December 26th, 1991.

The Speaker’s Den.

5:48 AM.

Harry had decided the night previous that as much as he was loathed to admit it, sleep really was an essential bodily function. As soon as he rose that next morning though, he took two books and quickly made his way out of his dorm, down the hall and into what Custos had called ‘The Speaker’s Den.’

When he entered the room, his eyes roamed hungrily over it once more. To call it a room was actually a bit of a snub. He would not call it a flat by any means, but it was certainly reminiscent of one.

The main room was large and rectangular. The stone walls had been all coloured emerald green, something that gave the room a slightly brighter appearance than the rest of the dungeons. One of the walls was lined with several bookshelves that were all full. As best as Harry could work out, it seemed a sort of tradition for those who had found the room to leave at least one book behind, as some of the material was more personal than others. Some of the books were more generic, or ancient, or, in many cases, way too advanced for him to really understand at the moment. One book that did catch his eye was one of the FIRST edition of Hogwarts, A History. He smirked; that Granger girl would kill for that book. Harry too thought it would be quite interesting to read an unedited, unfiltered history of Hogwarts, but currently, it was not at the top of his list of priorities.

Much of this main room was taken up by a long, rectangular table which dominated the room’s centre. It was done in rich, dark wood, as were the chairs, but it was covered in a long, deep green table cloth with the house crest emblazoned upon the centre of the cloth in a lighter green colour. Chairs lined each length of the table and at its head sat a slightly different chair. It was more a throne than a chair. It was done in a soft material, with comfortable armrests. It’s defining feature, however, was the stone head of a serpent that extended from the top of the backrest, seeming to glare down at the table. Harry did not think the chair held any true meaning, at least not that he had figured out as of yet, but he was damned if he did not think it added greatly to the appeal of the room.

There were a few other, smaller rooms off of this one as well. A smaller, more low key study. A smaller, more comfortable, less formal looking sitting room. A larger room lined with bookshelves that were all currently empty, and a bathroom, smaller but just as luxurious as the ones off of the Slytherin dorms.

Quite simply, in Harry’s estimation, this place was perfect.

Cautiously, Harry took his seat in the throne-like chair and half expected it to kill him, or something. He did, as a matter of fact, feel… something run over his body, like cold water, but it seemed to have no effect on him. He reached into his bag and debated between his two preferred texts before, with a determined expression, he took out the book on mind magics from Charlotte. It had been something he had searched for after his encounter with Charlotte on Samhain, and he had never forgotten how badly he wanted to know more about that particular branch of magic.

The book seemed ancient, but, to his relief, it was miraculously written in modern-day English. Absentmindedly, Harry wondered whether all magical books had some sort of spell to make sure the language used within kept up to date. Personally, he was not sure such a thing was possible, but he struggled for any better explanation.

When he opened the absolutely hulking tome and peered critically at the table of contents, he realized he was starting from square one. Turning to the first page of the book, he began to read.

The Basics of Mind Magic.

Your mind, just like your body, can be intimately affected by the magic that lives and breathes in our world. The potential impacts and importance of mind magic on one’s life can not be overlooked by any who seek to achieve their goals. In order to do so, however, they must understand mind magic at its most basic forms.

In short, simple terms, Occlumency is the art of self-mastery over one’s mind. Occlumency involves knowing your mind on such an intimate level that it can be controlled, protected, and even self manipulated. There are many stages to the mastery of Occlumency, but it is a skill that is undeniably useful in both its passive and active forms, and it can do far more than negate what many weak-minded would call it’s opposite.

To speak of what many call Occlumency’s opposite, you must understand the art itself, that being Legilimency. Legilimency is the art of mental manipulation of others. Its applications are only as limited as the creativity of the user and, of course, the skill of the victim with the aforementioned intricacies of Occlumency.

Though this text may be defined as an open book, I implore any who choose to read and follow through on this information to gain proficiency in the prior art before advancing onto the latter. It is my opinion that the manipulation of another’s mind will only lead to disastrous self-destruction if one has not mastered their own mind first.

By the end of that introduction to Occlumency and Legilimency, Harry was well and completely hooked. He obviously did not have the knowledge to make an informed opinion on the author’s thesis regarding the learning of Legilimency, but it made sense to Harry.

As he would soon find out, it would be a long time before he gained a true mastery over his mind, but for the benefits it offered, Harry was certainly willing to exercise a degree of patience.

December 28th, 1991

The Slytherin Dormitories

12:46 AM

Harry groaned in resignation as he slowly sat up and rubbed at his eyes. He had spent much of the last two days wrapped up in the book about Occlumency and had begun performing some of the preliminary exercises it suggested. He had been annoyed by how long the process as a whole would take, but overall, he was looking forward to the benefits that the art would grant him in due time.

Unfortunately, the use of Occlumency to aid in sleep, which he had read was possible, was still a long way beyond him and would be for quite some time. The nightmares had woken him tonight and he knew that at least for now, he would not be able to get back to sleep. He sighed, sliding out of bed and pulling on a plain black robe. There was no need for him to reach for his ring, as he had decided a day earlier that he had no plans of taking it off if he did not absolutely have to.

He debated going back to the book on the Mind Arts, or perhaps starting the introduction to the Dark Arts but decided against both options. If he partook in anything so intellectual, he would only have an even more difficult time falling asleep. Instead, he decided that a true test of the ring and its usefulness was in order. There was, after all, so much of Hogwarts that he had not yet explored.

Meanwhile, on the seventh-floor.

Charlus practically hurled the cloak across the room upon entering it, so lost he was to the excitement. Ron had elected not to return with him to view the mirror tonight, saying that he had experienced plenty enough of it on his first and only visit. Charlus had merely frowned, unable to understand how his friend could just walk away from the wonders of the mirror.

If truth be told, the mirror was all Charlus had really considered in the past forty-eight or so hours. Gone was the stress that accompanied the mystery of Nicholas Flamel and the magical stone so valuable that Professor Dumbledore needed to hide it away. Gone was the inner turmoil regarding whether to approach his twin brother. The only thing left was a deep-rooted desire to peer into the depths of the mirror that always awaited him in this room.

He did not know what the mirror showed him. Evidently, it was not the future, for as much as he wished it was otherwise, there was no power strong enough to raise the dead, and his mother was always front and centre in the vision of euphoria that presented itself to him every time he gazed into the mirror. Perhaps it was some sort of an alternate reality? A reality in which Voldemort had not come for the Potters ten and a bit years ago. Or, perhaps, a reality where she had never existed at all, or at least, never devolved into the monster that she had become in the real world.

Charlus did not care as he positively beamed into the mirror. He stood there, staring into it unflinching, unthinking for… he was not even sure how long. So distracted was he by his vision of perfection that he did not notice the door slide slowly and silently open. As a matter of fact, he did not notice a thing until a cool, quiet voice spoke from the doorway.

“What are you doing, Charlus?”

Harry had wandered aimlessly for a while, more testing the ring than anything else. Filch had walked right by him as he held his breath, a fact that nearly gave him what he was sure would have been a fatal heart attack, but he did not notice a thing. Neither, it seemed, did any of the ghosts that passed him by. Sure, the ring was limited by his breath, but it was not exactly difficult to run behind statues to catch it if necessary, and in reality, he spent the majority of his time perfectly visible as he could be one hundred per cent certain that no soul, living or dead was near him. He was unsure if this ability stretched to Mrs. Norris, but he was not overly concerned even if it did not.

Granted, this meant that it took him a bit longer to navigate the castle than if he had possessed true, unlimited invisibility, but Harry was rather adept at sneaking around, and honestly, he thought it was more fun this way.

He was so lost in the feeling of freedom that the ring presented him that he hardly noticed where he was going until he saw a familiar tapestry that indicated he was on the seventh-floor. He had not really explored up here at length, seeing as the last time he had tried, the Gryffindors had jumped him, so he shrugged, making his way down the hall.

He only took a few steps before he froze. The ring was brushing at his conscience. There was somebody nearby… a bit up ahead and to the left. How he knew the details he had no idea, but he was grateful nonetheless. Drawing in a deep breath, Harry made his way towards the presence but when he rounded the corner, nothing was there. Upon a closer look, he noticed that though nobody was obviously there, a door on the left wall stood slightly ajar. Harry crept slowly to the door and peered inside. He caught a flash of painfully familiar black hair and paused.

Logically, he should leave. He was by no means close, nor was he even on good terms with his brother. Logically, he should leave, because it was now more than three hours past curfew and he was not sure how his brother would react to seeing him. If he was spotted and his brother chose to go to a teacher, he was not sure that his glowing reputation would save him against the word of The-Boy-Who-Lived, especially not after the blatant favouritism that had been shown to him through his entry to the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Worse still, there were definitely a handful of teachers that seemed to have a problem looking past the green tie on his robes.

Logically, Harry knew all of this, but there was still a small part of him that was as Potter as his brother and if the Potters were known for anything, it was that their family had been Gryffindors for centuries.

With a sigh to indicate exactly how bad of an idea Harry knew this was, he slowly and quietly pushed open the door and stepped inside.

He blinked; what he saw was not at all what he had expected.

Charlus was standing there, completely exposed with his back to Harry, peering intently at… a mirror?

“What are you doing, Charlus?” Harry asked softly, closing the door as quietly as he could manage. He winced as Charlus whirled around, a slightly glazed look in his eye as he fumbled for his wand. When his eyes met Harry’s, who had not yet moved but was more than prepared to draw his wand from its holster on a moment’s notice, Charlus relaxed almost at once.

“Oh,” he said with a sigh of clear relief, “it’s you.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Who did you expect it to be?”

Charlus frowned. “I… don’t know, I guess. I just sort of thought the worst, you know? It’s… actually, I don’t know what time it is, but it’s way past curfew.”

Harry’s lips twitched. “There is a spell for that, you know?”

Charlus rolled his eyes, but there was no bite in his expression. “Yes, yes, I’m well aware. I’ve known that for-” he paused whatever he was going to say, shooting a rather sheepish look towards Harry.

“Longer than I’ve known about magic.” Harry finished for him.

Charlus winced. “That’s not what I was going to say.”

“Probably not; whatever I may think about you, you’re not Weasley. You have a bit more tact than that, at least until you get riled up.”

Charlus flushed. “That was… uh… a really backhanded compliment?”

Harry sniffed. “Merely an observation.” he corrected.

Charlus rolled his eyes again. “You really are a damn snake, aren’t you?” Harry tensed, but Charlus’s voice was neutral if a bit… bitter, maybe? “You’re even speaking in riddles now.”

“Does your hero not speak in riddles too?” Harry asked him. “He was a Gryffindor, was he not?”

“You mean Professor Dumbledore?” Charlus asked, and Harry nodded. “Yeah, he was a Gryffindor.”

Harry could not help it; he smirked. “Rhetorical question, Charlus,” he told his twin, causing him to blush.

“Damn snakes,” he muttered, but again, there was none of the bite that Harry expected to hear in his voice.

“This is touching and all,” Harry told him with a certain degree of sincerity, “but if you haven’t noticed, which I would actually bet you haven’t, you never answered my question.”

Charlus blinked. “What?”

“What are you doing?”

“Oh,” Charlus seemed to hesitate, “you-you’ll promise not to tell anybody if I tell you?”

Harry milled it over for only a second before he nodded. He doubted it was of any real importance and if it was somehow a life or death situation, he had not promised in any binding manner, per se, and Charlus had not mentioned anything about hinting or leading somebody else to figure it out on their own.

“It’s this mirror,” Charlus admitted, sounding a bit nervous, “I… uh… found it a couple of nights ago and have been coming back since.”

Harry tilted his head. “You’ve… been coming here every night to look into a mirror?”

Charlus blushed again. He was such an open book. “It’s not an ordinary mirror!” he defended himself resolutely. “Go look for yourself and tell me you’re not interested!” he challenged.

Harry nodded curtly and stepped past his brother to stand in front of the mirror. When he stood in front of the mirror and looked into it, there was a moment when he wondered what the hell his brother was on about. There was Harry staring back out at him but there was… something off.

The Harry in the mirror was smirking in a smug sort of way. Harry currently was not doing that. He looked different, too. Taller than Harry, still maybe an inch or so below average, but taller than Harry and well-muscled. It was more than his physique that was different. The glow in Harry’s eyes that he normally restrained was let loose in his reflection and, upon closer examination, Harry realized it had been turned up to eleven. There seemed to be an odd aura around him. Confidence, importance, fulfilment — power. More than anything, the Harry in the mirror, a Harry who was draped in an odd, silvery cloak and held a dark wand in his hand positively glowed with power. Harry wanted this. More than anything, Harry wanted this.

Quickly, he snapped his attention away from the mirror with a considerable effort. No image should be that tantalising, least of all to Harry, who never let himself do such things as pointless as daydreaming.

“Well?” Charlus asked him.

“To be honest,” Harry answered carefully, “I’m more terrified by the thing than interested by it.”

Charlus looked perplexed. “You really are confusing.” his brother told him.

Harry shrugged. “There’s something… off about that mirror. I can’t explain it but… when I looked into it — well, I never daydream. Let’s just say I didn’t exactly have time to do it as a child, and old habits die hard. But when I looked at that mirror-” but Harry cut off. His ring, or precisely, it’s magic was pressing on his consciousness again and he whirled around, wand snapping from his holster as he took aim at the door.

“Why, Harry, I do apologize for scaring you, dear boy. I found myself most enraptured with your most clever deduction.”

‘Shit! The ring didn’t even notice him.’

“P-P-Professor Dumbledore, sir?” Charlus asked nervously.

Dumbledore just smiled gently at both of them as he closed the door. “Rest easy, Charlus,” Dumbledore told him. “It was not my intention to scare you nor your twin, nor is it my intention to see either one of you in any degree of trouble on this rather fine evening.”

Charlus looked a bit relieved but Harry’s mind focused. He found it more than a little bit odd how the Headmaster of a school did not want to see two students in trouble after the both of them had been caught red-handed while blatantly breaking curfew by more than three hours.

“Thank you, sir,” Charlus said sincerely. “I-I didn’t see you, sir.”

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled madly as they flashed from Charlus to something odd and silvery in the corner of the room. “If you will excuse my lack of modesty, Charlus, I do not need a cloak to become invisible.”

Harry, who had not even known that a cloak could make you invisible, allowed his eyes to flick towards the corner in question, but they stayed there for only a heartbeat.

“So then, Harry,” Dumbledore addressed him, surprising him out of his contemplations, “you have figured out the puzzle that is the Mirror of Erised, then?”

‘Well, I know what it’s called now.’

“Not exactly, sir,” Harry admitted. “I just know that it has some kind of effect on people — their minds, probably.”

Dumbledore hummed in agreement. “You have indeed correctly deduced a component of the mirror. Could you, by any chance, tell me what exactly it shows you?”

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “That’s a very personal question, Headmaster.”

Dumbledore smiled softly. “Ah, Slytherin house,” he said with fondness. Whether it was sincere or not, Harry could not tell. “There are many great values Salazar’s house instils upon its charges,” he ignored the sour look that flashed across Charlus’s face, “though it, like the other three, has its downfalls.” his eyes twinkled at Harry. “Whether paranoia is the former or the latter, I do not know. I was not asking about you personally, Harry. Merely what the mirror generally reflects at those who seek it out?”

Harry examined the mirror closely, noticing an inscription upon it. It was in large lettering which was probably the only reason he realized it was not some long-forgotten language, but what appeared to be a butchered attempt at English.

Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi

‘Erised — The Mirror of Erised.’

And just like that, he put it together, just as Charlus looked between Harry and Dumbledore with apparent confusion.

“I show not your face but your heart’s desire,” he answered carefully.

Dumbledore beamed at him.

Charlus frowned. “I don’t get it, sir?”

“Don’t you? Let me explain. The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is. Does that help?”

Charlus nodded slightly. “It shows you exactly what you want to see.”

Harry winced slightly, but Dumbledore caught it. “Care to enlighten him as to his lack of true understanding, Harry?”

He did not, not really, but he did not dare say that. “There’s a difference between what you want to see and what your heart desires,” Harry answered measuredly. “You might want to see yourself as the Minister of Magic, but the mirror might show you something a bit different; probably related to power some way in that example.”

Dumbledore’s twinkle went up a notch. “Precisely! The word want, my boy, is a reference to the consciousness, and by extension, the mind. The word desire is often a reflection of your subconscious. Oftentimes, a person’s mind does not know what it is that they desire above all else. At least, in most cases, not to the same degree as their heart.”

Charlus nodded. “I-I get it now. Is… is that why I couldn’t look away?”

Dumbledore sighed heavily. “It is but a mere piece of the puzzle that has driven far older and far wiser men than you to madness. You see, the mirror is a remarkable thing, but that does not necessarily mean it is a good thing. It shows you, on principle, the most alluring image that could possibly be presented to you in this world. That is simply the lure.” Dumbledore told the twins darkly. “The hook is far more sinister, and I implore the both of you not to return in search of this mirror, as it will be moved tomorrow night. It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Both twins nodded as Harry mentally deduced the mirror was likely some sort of dark artefact if Dumbledore was so gun shy about it. It raised the question of why it was in the school at all, but then again, it did not seem to be worse than a Cerberus.

“Now,” Dumbledore told them both, suppressing a yawn, “I shall not punish either one of you, for curiosity is not among the sins of our world, at least not in its most innocent form. I do, however, think it high time that both of you return to the comfort and safety of your beds.”

“Of course, Headmaster,” Harry answered easily, bowing his head respectfully as he made to turn towards the door. As he did so, Charlus’s final question to Dumbledore caught him off guard for oh so many reasons.

“Professor, what do you see when you look in the mirror?”

It was so bold, so blunt, and so pigheaded, yet Harry could not help but pause to listen. He doubted very highly that Dumbledore would honestly answer that question even to Charlus, even if they were in private. With Harry too in the room, he was certain that Dumbledore would not answer the question.

Therefore, he found himself more than mildly surprised when Dumbledore adopted a rather tragic smile and told them what Harry at least suspected to be a half-truth.

“I see myself, Charlus, just as I am sure you yourself do. Like you, I see myself in a world that has been cleansed of a number of the sins that have polluted the past.” his smile turned almost bitter for an infinitesimal amount of time. “Unlike you, however, the sins that have been reversed were all indirectly caused by my own youthful foolishness.”

Charlus did not seem to know what to say to that. Dumbledore just smiled as he waved his wand and summoned the silvery cloak that lay in the corner before he handed it to Charlus. Without another word, Harry and Charlus exited the room, and not until they were two halls down and Harry’s ring told him Charlus was the only one nearby did he speak again.

“He’s… a bit eccentric.” Harry started diplomatically.

Charlus snorted. “He’s absolutely bonkers,” he said fondly. “Brilliant though; greatest wizard alive!”

Harry did not really have an opinion on that front one way or another, so he decided it was probably best not to respond at all.

Their footsteps echoed quietly in the halls as they walked for a few minutes before Charlus took the metaphorical plunge, his voice quiet and uncertain. “What-what did you see in the mirror?”

Harry did not break stride, but it was a near miss. He was so not used to questions so blunt and personal. It was, he supposed, one of the differences between Gryffindor and Slytherin, for better or for worse.

“That is a rather personal question,” he said for the second time that night.

Charlus sighed and stopped dead in the hallway, turning to face Harry with fiery determination in his hazel eyes. “Look,” he said, suddenly looking about double his age as he ran his hand through his hair, “I don’t know you whatsoever, but both of us know that you’re not going to say anything like this unless I do, so, here it goes.

“I was a git, okay? I know I was. When you were sorted… It was just such a surprise, you know? We haven’t had a Potter in Slytherin in more than six hundred years, and none who weren’t Gryffindor in more than two hundred. I just… I thought you’d be a Gryffindor. I thought…” his voice cracked, “I thought we would just be brothers.”

Harry did not answer right away and Charlus was suddenly sure that he would have his words thrown back at him. Instead, Harry spoke in a soft voice that carried little emotion.

“I saw myself in control.”

Charlus blinked. “What?”

Harry stared at his twin with those intense green eyes. “I am not telling you about my childhood,” he said pointedly, and Charlus nearly blanched at the way he spat the last word. “But without going into details, I never had any control over my life whatsoever. I had no say in what I did when I woke up. I was told what to do and I either did it, or they made my life hell.” he winced. “Well, more hellish than it already was, I guess. Even when I did what they asked, sometimes…” his voice trailed off, but Charlus did not need him to finish.

“Did they… ever hurt you?” he asked.

Harry met his brother’s eyes without faltering. “Hurt is a very broad definition, little brother.”

“You know what I meant.”

“Yes, I did.”

He did not answer the question.

Charlus’s jaw tightened. “Is that why you were so mad at Dad?”

Harry’s eyes darkened immediately. “Charlus, there are so many reasons I have for being upset with our Father right now and to be honest, I’d rather not ruin such a sentimental moment by going into them.”

Charlus nodded. There was a pause and then…

“I saw our family,” Charlus said quietly. “How it should have been. You were there with me; we looked so happy together. Mum was there too.”

Harry did not respond right away. “We’re messed up, aren’t we?” he asked after a few moments.

Charlus rolled his eyes. “I’ve been told I’m messed up in a lot of ways, so you’ll have to be more specific.”

Harry’s lips twitched and Charlus grinned. “Both of our hearts desire things that were taken away from us at the age of one.” Harry specified.

Charlus winced. “That’s… a bit dark, isn’t it?”

Harry smirked. “Maybe, but if all of you idiots are to be believed, my House and I thrive in darkness, so I think I’ll be all right.”

Charlus laughed, managing to muffle it with his robes before choking out a response. “Yeah, and I apparently vanquish all of it, so I think I’ll be all right too.”

This time, even Harry laughed, though he did so a lot more quietly and less openly than Charlus. He did not really like to laugh in front of people, but this moment called for it. For the sake of both himself and his brother, it was the least he could do.

December 30th, 1991

A Room in the Dungeons

7:03 AM

Seeing as there was nobody around, Harry could not help but gape at the room he had frequented to practice magic. Not only had Professor Hurst added a table not unlike the one in the Speaker’s Den, if admittedly quite a bit smaller, but she had also added several sofas, a fireplace, and she seemed to have increased the size of the room itself as well.

Harry’s jaw slowly closed and a satisfied, open smile spread across his face.

‘I suppose I met her standards and then some.’

January 5th, 1992

The Slytherin Common Room

7:14 PM

Harry was reading through the second year section of his Transfiguration textbook when the returning students all began to filter into the common room. He had decided it was probably best not to read one of his more useful tomes in public, and he really did want to get as far ahead as possible in his schoolwork. By this point, he had begun Occlumency exercises daily. Clearing one’s mind was not the easiest thing to do, but after years of necessary self-restraint, Harry figured he would manage when he reached that point.

Right now, the exercises were primarily meditative, but Harry had tried, once, to clear his mind and had experienced a certain modicum of success. He had still yet to dive headfirst into his intro to the Dark Arts, but it too was still something that had not escaped his focus.

His attention was finally caught when the common room entrance admitted his two best friends — Daphne and Tracey. Immediately, the two girls spotted him in his corner and made their way over. Harry graced the two of them with a rare unguarded smile.

“Harry!” Tracey exclaimed, bending down to wrap her arms around his neck. Harry froze. He stiffened as his heart pumped furiously, sending blood rushing into his ears but Tracey did not seem to notice. Mercifully, Daphne had always been perceptive.

“Let him breathe, Tracey,” she said, managing to sound completely and utterly casual despite the slight tension that was showing in her expression. Tracey obliged and Harry relaxed. “How was your holiday?” Daphne asked him.

“Productive,” he answered, regaining his composure as best he could. “Yours?”

“Quite enjoyable,” Daphne said with a smile shockingly as unguarded as Harry’s had been the moment previous. Harry could tell that, whatever Daphne said, she held a certain fondness for her home and her family.

“How about you, Tracey?”

“Oh, fantastic!” Tracey said with a broad grin. “I spent a bit of it with Daphne, but it was great to see my family again and-“

“Was it now, Davis?”

All three of them froze at the familiar drawling voice that cut into their conversation. Harry had not heard that voice in over two months, but he recognized it at once. Tracey looked confused, but when she turned to see the passive visage of Draco Malfoy, she broke off quickly.

He smirked. “Surprised, are you?”

“Not particularly,” Harry answered honestly. “The political tidal wave has blown over. It’s no real surprise you would choose to come back now.”

A flicker of annoyance crossed Malfoy’s face, but it was gone as quickly as it had appeared.

“It’s almost as if you’ve put thought into the matter, Potter.” His grey eyes met Harry’s and he did not need Legilimency to know that Draco was all too aware of who had set him up on Samhain.

Harry shrugged. “I always try to assess any situation around me. It’s useful to plan ahead and the practice will come in handy even if it doesn’t turn out to be relevant right away. Proper planning prevents piss poor performance.”

Malfoy’s expression did not waver. “I’m sure you do, Potter, but between the two of us, I think you need more practice.”

Harry noticed that some of the people nearby were doing an oddly good job of not seeming to be paying attention to their conversation. “Your opinion is noted, if not expressly agreed with, Heir Malfoy.”

Draco sneered. “I wouldn’t expect us to agree on much, Potter. One of us makes sure the right crowd is always at his side.” he paused, allowing his eyes to fall on Tracey. “And the other associates with rule-breaking mudbloods.”

There was a tense silence around them. Harry had decided long ago that blood purity was utter nonsense. It was true that he was not overly fond of muggles on principle, even though he knew it was foolish to extrapolate his family’s behaviour onto an entire population, but blood purity meant nothing. There were plenty of halfbloods or muggleborns who were positively brilliant in comparison to the best purebloods of their generation. Dumbledore, for instance, and he would bet that Voldemort’s blood wasn’t pure either. If it was, she would have had no reason to hide behind an alias. His mother too had been brilliant by all accounts, and as irrational as he knew it was, he thought it was that fact in particular that caused his blood to boil at the slur. That and the fact that Tracey reared back as if she had been struck. Daphne’s eyes flashed with danger but Harry caught her eye and subtly shook his head.

“Blood matters,” Harry said measuredly, impressed at how level his voice came out, “but ability matters more.” If Draco knew the origins of that quote, he did not show it. Harry was not completely sure whether he wanted or did not want Malfoy to know of them. It would be hilarious to see the look on his face if he realized Harry was quoting Gellert Grindelwald, but it may also raise questions he did not really feel like answering.

Draco just smiled pleasantly back at him. “Of course it does.” he said, his voice dripping with false sincerity as he and his lackeys trudged off. None of them noticed the slightly hateful stare that followed them into the dormitories.

January 6th, 1992

The Potions Classroom

9:12 AM

Snape did not take the liberty of making a scene before the beginning of their first Potions lesson after the break. “Your marks for both the practical and theoretical mid-term tests,” he said curtly, waving his wand and causing papers to gracefully float to each student. Harry, who was sitting next to Zabini today took his and quickly glanced at the perfect O before shoving it away with a smile. “Where is Master Malfoy?” Snape asked, directing his gaze to Parkinson, Crabbe and Goyle. “I was under the impression he would be returning to class today?”

“He’s in the Hospital Wing, Professor,” Parkinson said neutrally. “He woke up with terrible pain and boils; it looked awful.”

Harry had to try very hard to suppress a smirk. Malfoy really needed that book on wards Harry had received from Grace. It was so easy to open his curtains and pour the contents of a vial he had filled with Longbottom’s botched potion all the way back on their first day of lessons all over his bedsheets as he was asleep. Harry did not consider himself a sadist by any means, but he would be lying if he did not admit to taking at least a certain degree of pleasure from the screams of pain that came from Malfoy a few minutes later that woke up any in the dorm who had not managed to cast some sort of silencing or privacy spells around their beds. It turned out that only applied to Crabbe and Goyle.

Harry had been tempted to pour some in Malfoy’s mouth, as he thought that would get the point about not spouting off the word ‘mudblood’ across pretty nicely, but he had no idea what would happen if Malfoy swallowed the potion, and he was not nearly angry enough to risk starting a body count.

Clearly, Harry was not the only one who took note of that description as from beside him, Zabini shot him a brief, sideways glance. He had seen Harry bottle that potion all those months ago, and Harry thought it safe to say the quiet boy had put two and two together.

Snape’s jaw tightened as he nodded stiffly, but he gave no reaction aside from that. They were set to brewing a fairly standard burn cure potion. Harry and Zabini were second to finish by a mile, absolutely blowing Parkinson and Nott, who were third, out of the water. They were still second to Daphne and Tracey, but that was to be expected and Zabini quirked an eyebrow inquisitively at Harry upon their completion.

“You’ve improved a lot at this,” he noted.

Harry smiled thinly. “My best friend is a potions prodigy, Zabini.”


Harry started. “What?”

Zabini rolled his eyes before smiling a conspiratorial sort of smile at Harry. “We’ve been partnering every second Potions lesson since September, Potter. I think being on a first name basis isn’t unreasonable.”

Harry could not help but smile back at him. “Harry, then.”

January 11th, 1992

The Great Hall

8:38 AM

Harry enjoyed the atmosphere that accompanied the morning of a Quidditch match, even in spite of the noise and the fact that Slytherin would be watching as a neutral party. Ravenclaw was set to play Hufflepuff. Harry was surprised to hear a voice clearing nearby, prompting him to look up from his conversation with Daphne on something he had read in the second year section of the Potions textbook.


Zabini — Blaise, he still had to get used to that, smiled warmly. “Do you three mind if I join you?”

Harry and Blaise had spoken amiably a few times in the common room since the Potions lesson five days earlier and had made a point of greeting one another politely in the corridors and such. In saying that, they had not really spoken in-depth since, and never around Daphne nor Tracey.

Harry quickly glanced towards his two friends. Tracey looked apprehensive and Daphne blank. “As long as you have more sense than… others, I don’t see why not.”

Blaise smirked, clearly not missing the jab aimed at Malfoy. “More sense, more self-restraint, more brains — what else could you want?”

“More modesty, perhaps,” suggested Daphne with a raised eyebrow.

Blaise’s lips twitched as he took his seat beside Harry and across from Tracey. “Modesty doesn’t get you nearly as far as confidence,” he said smoothly, causing Tracey to giggle, and Daphne and Harry to grin.

“I think we can get along, Zabini.”

“Why, Greengrass, it would be a shame to call one as beautiful as yourself by your last name. Please, call me Blaise.”

“I can’t quite return the sentiment about appreciating your beauty, but if you insist, call me Daphne.”

Harry had to bite down on his laughter. Daphne had the sharpest tongue of anyone he knew and was a master at wordplay. Blaise seemed more than up to the task of matching her, and if Blaise hung around more often, Harry thought it would be intriguing to bear witness to the inevitable verbal sparring that would take place.

Blaise turned to Tracey. “There are so many better names to call you than what some people come up with, Miss Davis, and it would be quite awkward if the two of us didn’t follow the example I have set with your lovely friend.”

Tracey beamed at him. Harry’s eyes narrowed. There was more to Blaise Zabini than what met the eye. The outwardly quiet, admittedly well-spoken boy seemed to be able to charm a rock.

‘One to keep an eye on, for certain.

February 8th, 1992

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

1:09 PM

Harry and Blaise walked from the Great Hall side by side in companionable silence after lunch. In the past number of weeks, Blaise had become a fixture in Harry’s group of friends and had hung around him just as much as Tracey or Daphne. Currently, the latter two were in the library working their prep: writing a Defence essay that both Harry and Blaise had already finished. As they were exiting the hall, however, Harry heard a number of voices that caught his attention. More accurately, he caught a brief snippet, but it was more than enough to intrigue him.

“Third-floor — corridor — trap — hiding — over here!”

Quickly, Harry took a firm grip on Blaise’s arm, something that surprised the taller boy quite a lot if his widened eyes were any indicator. That was about as much surprise as Blaise ever showed in private, let alone in public. Harry dragged him into the alcove underneath the marble staircase but quickly realized that whoever was coming their way was planning to use it. As discreetly as he could manage, he pulled the hidden door open, something that actually caused Blaise’s face to become marred with surprise before Harry dragged him inside and closed the door behind them. Unfortunately, the completely soundproof wall ruined any chance of overhearing the conversation going on outside.


Harry had been experimenting a bit with the whole “eavesdropping thing” that his ring was supposed to be able to do. By now, he thought he had the gist of it. Harry focused as hard as he could on the people standing just on the other side of the wall, making sure they were the only people he paid any thought to before slowly, he began to turn the ring on his finger as if it were a volume dial. Immediately, the conversation from outside came into sharp focus, and Harry held up his hand to forestall any interruptions from Blaise.

It was incredible. There was no background noise at all, only the speech of the three people outside the wall as he could just… tell it was three people. This was perfect.

“All right, so what’d you’d drag me in here for? A cool little place though, by the way.”

“Thanks,” answered a voice that Harry vaguely recognized as belonging to one of Ron Weasley’s brothers. One of the twins, though which he did not know. “We… uh… wanted to tell you something from a few months ago.”

“We were thinking about telling somebody, or maybe even investigating but, we wanted a second opinion.”

“Go on then.”

“You know the third-floor corridor?”

“The one we’re not supposed to go into under any circumstances?”

“Under warning of a ‘very painful death’?”

The other boy sighed. “You went in there, didn’t you?”

Harry did not hear an immediate response, but he could practically picture the Weasley twins nodding in unison.


“Well,” the other boy, who Harry thought was Lee Jordan but wasn’t quite sure, asked, “what was in there?”

“You can’t tell anyone this.” One of the twins said sternly.

“Of course not.”

A pause, and then…

“A dog.”

“A huge dog.”

“With three heads.”

“Standing on a trap door.”

“The staff are hiding something at Hogwarts, and they’re using a three-headed dog to do it.”

Harry’s jaw actually fell agape for a second before he regained control. He had known about the dog from Parkinson but the trap door, the notion the dog may be a guard for something… Those were two angles he had never considered before.

As the conversation on the other side of the wall devolved into speculation, Harry gestured for Blaise to follow, mentally tuned out the conversation, which in turn enabled the ring to do the same and began to make his way down the passage with Blaise behind him.

“May I ask what just happened?” Blaise said carefully.

“I just eavesdropped into a conversation between the Weasley terrors and Lee Jordan. At least, I’m reasonably sure it was Jordan.”

Harry did not need to look back to know that Blaise had rolled his eyes. “I never took you for a gossiper with your ear to the lions’ drama.”

Harry snorted. “I never took you for a big enough idiot to believe that.” Now it was Blaise’s turn to snort and Harry finally answered. “They were discussing the third-floor corridor. Turns out the terrors were dumb enough to actually go inside the corridor.”

“Well,” prompted Blaise, “is Dumbledore as mad as we thought he was at the start of term feast?”

“Above and beyond, if they’re being honest,” Harry said. “Not in the way we thought though.”

“So there actually is something behind that locked door? At least, according to the Weasleys?”

Harry debated the pros and cons of lying to Blaise for all of three seconds before he decided that it did not really matter. He had the impression that Blaise was a lot of things, but a blabber was not one of them and he certainly was not foolish enough to go investigate for himself.

“A Cerberus,” he answered. This time he did glance back. He wanted to catch Blaise on one of the rare moments where his mask cracked and sure enough, his dark eyes nearly bulged out of his head before he took control of the impulse.

“A Cerberus?” he asked, sounding sceptical. “We are thinking of the same thing, right?”

“A massive three-headed dog,” Harry told him casually before his eyes narrowed a bit as he continued to look over his shoulder. He wanted to see Blaise’s reaction to this next part. “Sitting on a trapdoor.”

One… two… three…

“Dumbledore’s hiding something.”

Harry nodded with satisfaction. “That’s the same conclusion the terrors came to. Personally, I agree with them.”

Which would actually make a lot more sense in the context of Higgs. He figured if Higgs had gone for the trapdoor, the dog would have reacted. Perhaps the Weasley twins never tried to breach it, so the dog had ignored them or maybe a warning snap at them? It would at least explain how they were still alive.

Harry noted with some surprise that Blaise had not asked him about the ring. Blaise seemed to be a man of many secrets, so Harry supposed it was perfectly reasonable that he would not be one to pry for those of others.

“See,” Blaise said with a conspiratorial wink, “I knew I wanted to be friends with you.”

February 22nd, 1992

The Quidditch Pitch

9:36 AM

Blaise was as sharp-tongued as Daphne and as it turned out, not that quiet at all once you got to know him. At times, he was sharp and cutting, but when he needed to, or more often, wanted to turn on the eloquent charm he had shown during the morning of the Hufflepuff versus Ravenclaw match, he could flip that switch without a second thought. Much like Harry and Daphne, he too was very hard to read, though Harry thought him even more difficult than Daphne by a wide margin at times.

That match between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw had ended with a quick Hufflepuff victory. The badgers had been trailing 60-10, but Cedric Diggory made the catch ten minutes into the match and ended the game 160-60. It was, according to many of the upper year Slytherins, many of whom were grudgingly impressed with Diggory’s talents, the fastest catch since Charlie Weasley in a match against Slytherin a few years back.

Slytherin played a match in the month of January as well. They were, unfortunately, defeated by Ravenclaw. They had led the game 150-120, but the Ravenclaw seeker, a second year by the name of Cho Chang, snagged the snitch from under Montague’s nose and had given Ravenclaw the 270-150 victory.

February passed as mostly a blur. Harry continued with his Occlumency exercises and thought that soon, he may be ready to try actually clearing his mind for real as opposed to simply meditating. The workload in their classes increased dramatically, but Harry was not bothered. He was well into the second year curriculum by this point and thought it very likely that he would finish it by the end of the year, at least in Charms, Transfiguration, Defence, and maybe Potions. He did still need to look into Ancient Runes and possibly Arithmancy, but that was a project to undertake at a different time.

Currently, Harry was groaning along with the rest of his house as he watched Snape slam his broomstick to the ground with obvious fury moments after Charlus had caught the snitch in under 5 minutes, winning the Quidditch match against Hufflepuff. As Harry made to follow Daphne, Blaise and Tracey out of the stands, his eyes sharpened upon something in the distance. Snape was making his way off in the opposite direction to the castle. He was, as a matter of fact, heading straight towards the forbidden forest. Harry remembered the incident with Snape and Sinestra all too well and could not help but be curious.

He pondered for about ten seconds before coming to a decision. “I’ll be back,” he told his three friends and before any of them could object, he slipped into the crowd of people, taking a long, deep breath and following after Snape at a flat sprint.

The pursuit was rather difficult, as Harry had to find hiding places every time his breath ran out. It was made even more difficult by the fact that Snape, in true Slytherin fashion, seemed completely paranoid, as he kept throwing glances over his shoulder. Eventually, however, Harry managed to follow Snape into a large open clearing not far into the forest. He thought his hiding spot was quite well concealed, as he doubted anybody on ground level would notice him in the thick leaves and branches if they did not know where to look. He would just hold his breath every time Snape’s eyes loomed in his direction and he would be fine.

Before he could truly wonder what Snape was here for, something above him caught his attention and caused his heart to quicken. Ready for a fight of some kind, Harry glanced up, only for his jaw to fall briefly open as he spotted Charlus hovering out of Snape’s line of sight in the canopy of leaves above. Before he could ponder too long on this, there was a shimmer from near where Snape stood, and the sallow-skinned Potions Master was suddenly not alone in the clearing anymore.

“I thank you for your presence, Severus,” Dumbledore said pleasantly as he cast his eyes around the clearing and traced his wand intricately through the air. For a terrifying moment, Dumbledore’s eyes paused on the spot that Harry was hiding as he felt… something wash over him, but his disillusionment, which he had quickly kickstarted once more upon the Headmaster’s arrival, had not been dispelled. Evidently, Dumbledore did not notice Harry, as his eyes quickly landed back on Snape.

“I do not care for your niceties,” Snape said bluntly. “I care whether or not whatever purpose you had in mind was worth coming out into the middle of the bleeding forest for.”

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “We can not be overheard,” he told him. “After all, students are not to know of the Philosopher’s Stone.” Harry actually heard Charlus draw a sharp breath, but was near certain the two men in the middle of the clearing could not have.

‘Whatever that is, it must be what the dog is hiding.’

Snape quirked an eyebrow. “You have sworn the staff to an oath of secrecy. I fail to see why you feel the need to reinsert the point.”

“Ah yes, how dim-witted of me. I apologize, Severus. In my old age, I am afraid my memory is not what it once was.” Judging by the look on Snape’s face, he was about as fooled by that lie as Harry was. “Now, have you managed to glean any information on the… fiasco, shall we call it, that was the Gryffindor versus Slytherin Quidditch match?”

“No,” Snape answered flatly, “if Sinistra is under the influence of the Imperius Curse, then no effects are evident.”

“Which would mean only that it has been cast by a true master?”

Snape nodded curtly. “Indeed.” He looked at Dumbledore for a long, tense moment. “Surely we have come to the same conclusion, Dumbledore?”

“I think so,” Dumbledore answered tiredly. “But if Halloween proves anything, it is that my assumptions can be as far fetched as the next man’s.”

“You do not believe a ritual or similar such magic granted her wand immunity from Priori Incantatem?”

“It is certainly possible. You would know far better than I, Severus. I do, however, think I have, if you will forgive my lack of modesty, gifts that would render such rituals useless.”

Snape stared hard at Dumbledore for what felt like ages. “I shall take your word for it,” he told Dumbledore curtly. “When do you think the move will be made?”

“Oh, I think we have some time before that. The perpetrator will wait for the right moment, if I am not mistaken. Barring the materialization of such a moment, they will react only when they are so pressed for time that actions are necessary.”

“By the right moment,” Snape asked dryly, “you mean a time when you are not so close at hand to go rushing off after them to play the hero?”

From his vantage point, a very confused Harry Potter could not see Dumbledore’s eyes clearly enough to be sure, but he was rather certain, even without seeing them that they were twinkling like mad. “Precisely!”

Snape snorted. “Your modesty is touching.”

“Modesty is simply one of my niceties you dislike so much when it is not applied to enable productivity.”

Harry could picture the sneer on Snape’s face, even though he could not make it out from his vantage point. “I shall take your word for it,” he said again after a moment’s pause. “Would you like me to keep investigating?”

“No, I do not think that shall be necessary.” Dumbledore decided after a pause. “If you have found nothing as of yet, I find it unlikely that will change. We shall simply have to wait until the time comes.”

“And when that time comes?”

Harry could have sworn he saw Dumbledore’s eyes flicker towards Charlus’s hovering form before he answered Snape’s last question. “We do what is right, as opposed to what is easy.”

Author’s Endnote:

Speaking of which; though it may be hard to believe, there are only four more chapters left in year 1, and I can not wait for the twist that will end the opening year of this story!

A few things I’d like to clear up that I know will come up in the reviews:

Yes, “The Speaker’s Den” is an illusion to “The Prince’s Lair” from the story “Harry Potter and The Prince of Slytherin”. I shall not be copying the “Prince of Slytherin” concept, nor does the “throne-like seat” share many characteristics with The Sinister Man’s “Hydra Throne”.

That story has influenced this one for certain, probably even in more ways than I realize, but this is NOT a PoS fanfic and I have no intention of blatantly copying from The Sinister Man’s plots.

Nextly, some logistical things that I have changed via the power of AU, not botched:

I took some creative liberty with The Mirror of Erised in regards to Harry’s vision. I just want to clear up that no, it does not show the future, but exactly what it shows him is open to your own interpretation.

Not everybody will be able to fool Harry’s ring as easily as Dumbledore. As a matter of fact, he will be the only one to be able to do so using the method that he chose.

Finally, yes, in canon, you cannot summon the cloak, as displayed near the end of DH when a death eater tries and fails in Hogsmeade. Dumbledore has a rather unique advantage on that front, and for now, I shall leave it at that.

Please read and review.

PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, May 16th at approximately 3:00 PM EST.

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