Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 2: Morbid Thoughts
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June 24, 1992
No. 4 Privet Drive
Three days into his forced self-isolation, Harry reflected that maybe, just maybe, he would go completely and truly mental. Luckily for him, the room contained a frankly absurd number of old books that Dudley had discarded over the years. Unfortunately, he had already read a startling number of them in three days, and was becoming starkly aware of the fact that they would not last him terribly long. Sticking with the same train of thought, Harry had absolutely no idea if the Dursleys had plans of ever letting him out of this room. He thought it was probably safe to assume that at the very least, they had absolutely no plans of doing so during the summer holidays. He wondered, not for the first time, trying to ignore the complete and utter terror that was suddenly closing around his heart as he did so, whether or not the Dursleys would let him out of the room to go back to Hogwarts.
Privately, he thought it unlikely, as it would be rather counterproductive if they wanted to avoid his wrath. With that in mind, Harry supposed his best, and perhaps his only hope, was that Daphne, Blaise, Tracey, or somebody else who cared enough to do something about it realized that he did not show up on September 1st and put two and two together. Harry thought Daphne would probably do so. After all, she knew more about his childhood than any of the others, so she certainly had the inside track in terms of mentally connecting the dots.
Not for the first time, Harry was grateful that he allowed his owl, Nemesis, to go hunting before he went to bed that first night. If the bird was as clever as she appeared to be, she would not return to Privet Drive. Harry would survive this, even if he may very well be clinically insane by the end of it. The meager amounts of food and water that Aunt Petunia’s bony hands shoved through the installed cat flap once or twice a day were enough to survive. Granted, any progress he had made during this last year in regards to repairing his stunted malnutrition would probably be counteracted by the months he would have to spend in this prison. His owl though, Harry had no doubts the Dursleys would have simply gotten rid of her in a likely less than pleasant way. They were the living embodiment of the absolute peak of human laziness, and Harry had no doubt that they would not put up with having to care for an owl. That had been the one argument Dudley had never won as a child. His parents had always turned down the idea of pets, no matter how big a tantrum he staged or how many alligator tears he cried.
Harry wondered if his friends would get suspicious before September 1st. Even if they did, Harry didn’t really see what good it would do. Daphne knew the surnames of his relatives since he had told her after revealing the password of the Speaker’s Den, but she did not know the address. If no witch or wizard had ever been able to find this place in ten years, and Daphne had been pretty sure some had tried, he failed to see why that fact would suddenly change. Now that he thought of it, the downside of his owl leaving him was that he wouldn’t be able to send messages. Then again, seeing as there were now literal bars on his window, he didn’t think any owls would have much success reaching him anyway.
As Harry’s eyes fell on the bars, a bubble of righteous hatred welled up within him. Hatred for his father, who had betrayed him and his own word by allowing this to happen, and hatred for Dumbledore, who thought he had the right to meddle in Harry’s life because of some titles he had been given nearly fifty years prior. Along with coming up with creative ways to spite and even avenge himself on James and Dumbledore, Harry had spent a large amount of time trying to figure out what he could have done differently. His initial thought had been simply refusing to return here, but his hands had been tied. As Lord of House Potter, James had the full legal right to dictate his living situation. If Harry disobeyed a direct order of his Head of House, James could not immediately remove him as the heir, but it would certainly strengthen his case. Harry needed that heirship. Without it, he was vulnerable to things like being disinherited. Before this summer, Harry would not have thought that a serious possibility, but now… let’s just say that he had no trust left in regards to James Potter.
Luckily for him, it was devilishly difficult to remove an heir, as it took a very strong legal case to do so. If that was true, then disinheriting an heir was next to impossible under most circumstances. The heir in question either had to be convicted for a crime worthy of at least five years in Azkaban, commit any of a very small number of specific, universal offences, or directly violate a major component of his or her’s family charter. Seeing as Harry had no plans of doing any of those things, he was protected as long as he was the heir. If somebody was disinherited… well, it was not a favourable situation to be thrust into.
For one thing, another family could not simply “adopt you”, even if they wanted to. Being disinherited was perhaps the highest dishonour in the magical world. No family wanted to be associated with that, so the chances of anyone offering you a place in their family were practically nonexistent. And even if they did, once disinherited, you could not easily be taken into a new family. There were rather spiteful laws in place to prevent that from happening. For one thing, you needed to be a close blood relative with the family who wanted to adopt you.
Another issue with being a “no-name”, was that same dishonour. It applied universally, not just in the Wizengamot. If muggleborns thought the discrimination they experienced at the hands of the pureblood elite was bad, it was playground insults in comparison to what one would experience after being disinherited. Finding a job would be next to impossible, as would be finding or keeping friends. In fact, it would be likely that to some degree, they would be a target for many of the pureblood elite.
So in short, refusing to return to Privet Drive had not been an option.
He supposed he could have gone with Daphne or Tracey, but James could have issued a search warrant for the Greengrass’s or Davis’s home under the pretense of a kidnapping or any other such nonsense. At that point, it would be less than beneficial to be in the crosshairs of both House Potter, as well as the Chief Warlock, who just so happened to be the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards and the most powerful wizard alive. Why wizards had thought giving one man so much power was a good idea in the first place, Harry would never know. He understood that most wizards and witches were blissfully ignorant to muggle history, but seriously? The historical precedents pointing to how bad of an idea that always was were littered through wizarding history as well.
The mere thought of Dumbledore caused Harry’s blood to boil with anger once more. Then, Harry forcefully cleared his mind of those thoughts. It would not do to dwell on thoughts like that. If anything would indeed make him go insane, that would probably be it, as much as he wanted to plan devious ways in which he could get back at the both of them.
Sighing in boredom, Harry allowed his emerald eyes to roam over the expansive bookshelves once more, trying to scope out something that sounded even a little bit intriguing. When he found nothing, his eyes betrayed him and subconsciously drifted towards the small, black journal still resting on the small, worn desk in the corner of the room. He had not written to Emily Riddle since that first night back at Privet Drive. It wasn’t that he did not want to. As a matter of fact, Harry was positively intrigued by the enigma and had a feeling she was a metaphorical wealth of knowledge. In saying so, Harry did not trust her. Sure, he knew, or was at least as sure as he could be, that she was indeed Emily Riddle. Even knowing that, he did not see any reason why that fact should make him trust her. On the contrary, he was rather suspicious of a person who had seemingly been on track to surpass even Albus Dumbledore, but had then disappeared off the face of the earth for nearly fifty years. Internally, Harry thought the fact that she had suddenly reappeared to correspond with him ominous, but at the same time, oddly typical. Fate seemed to love interfering in his life, so what was one more small interference in the grand scheme of things?
He hesitated as his eyes rested on the book once more. If Privet Drive was so thoroughly hidden from the magical world, likely through the use of these “wards” that Dumbledore, the bastard, had mentioned, then Harry could not see how on earth Emily Riddle could hurt him. What was the worst thing that could happen if he decided to write back to the mysterious enigma?
He was not completely sure he was making the right decision as he gently scooped up the journal and spare pen that had been discarded on the floor Merlin only knew how long ago by Dudley. This time, at least, he took justification in the fact that he had at least pondered and could honestly see no obvious flaws. Of course, he was not naive enough to think that no flaws existed that he could not see, but that was another conversation altogether.
Sorry for my lack of correspondence, if it has at all bothered you.
To be frank, I don’t entirely trust a mysterious person who I know nothing about, least of all a Slytherin. If the house has taught me one thing, it is that nobody in that house is completely trustworthy, and I say that even including myself in that statement.
Harry set down the book and pen and waited. He had no idea how long it would take for Emily Riddle to reply to him. He had no idea where she was, let alone what she was doing, so how could he possibly have any understanding of her schedule? To his surprise, the book glowed a faint, bluish colour less than a minute later. With a furrowed brow, Harry read the pristine handwriting that had replaced his. He couldn’t help but note that his handwriting looked sloppy at best next to hers. That would have to be improved at some point.
I completely understand your lack of trust in a mysterious stranger. Seeing as you did seem to know of me, I imagine my little disappearing act did not do me any favours in terms of trust.
I see no immediate way to win that sort of trust with you, but I think foundations are important in all walks of life. So, in order to establish some foundations in this relationship, how about we start with small things? Nothing personal, just some small, inane questions back and forth?
Harry crooked a brow as he ran a hand absently through his hair in thought. As long as she did not ask anything personal, he did not see the harm in the exchange.
That seems agreeable on my end, and it seems that you have graciously given me the chance to start.
Well, I’ll start with a magic related question since you seemed to be, at least at one point, quite the expert. Do you know of any interesting magic that one can learn on their own without instruction or a wand?
Oh, and preferably magic that won’t pop up on the Ministry’s radar, either?
Harry did not dare to get his hopes up that such an abstract question would be answered with any degree of proficiency, but a minute later, his brows rose even higher when an answer was indeed given.
Why of course, there are branches of magic that are solely internal, and these, I feel, would be an adequate answer to your most interesting question.
Could I recommend Occlumency, perhaps? And on that note, do you happen to know what Occlumency is, Harry?
I do. he wrote back. I’ve actually studied it quite a bit on my own time, but I’m not too far into the practice. I’ve advanced through the preliminary exercises of Occlumency and I’m now in the phase of actively clearing my mind.
A minute or so delay and then…
Hmm… how interesting. I must confess, I am rather gifted with the practice.
It would be my absolute pleasure to help you along the road, if you would like? I imagine, if you have progressed so far in so little a time, that you have rather sound resources, but I promise you, I know of perfectly safe means that will greatly expedite the process of improving one’s Occlumency.
Harry hesitated. The mind was not something to be trifled with and if he did not trust Emily Riddle, this would be a rather bold first step.
Then again, he could always at least hear her out and make his own judgements.
I admit, Emily, you have piqued my interest.
I would love to hear of any unique exercises or techniques you might have that would speed me along in the process of learning Occlumency.
June 26, 1992.
At precisely 1:30 PM, the exact time that Charlus had agreed upon, the main Floo of Potter Manor flared and out of the fireplace swept Peter Pettigrew, who quickly brushed off his robes before stepping out to meet and embrace his godson. “Enjoyed the first week of summer?” Peter asked Charlus, smiling at the boy’s overeager expression, an expression that had spread across his face the very second that Peter had stepped out of the fireplace.
“It’s been nice.” Charlus answered honestly. “I spent the day and night before yesterday at the Burrow with Ron and that was a blast.” He fixed Peter with a meaningful stare. “I’ve also been reading a ton, too. Books on Defense, mainly, but some on Charms and Transfiguration too.” A pause. “You promised you’d take me to meet my tutor today. Will they tutor me in duelling?”
Peter did not answer at once. “They will tutor you in combat, yes.” he responded, choosing his words carefully. Before Charlus could become too excited, Peter held up a hand to forestall any interruptions. “But,” he put in, “there are some very strict conditions that you’ll have to follow for this to work.” Peter winced. “I know I said I wouldn’t make you swear any oaths or sign any paperwork, but I didn’t pull any punches. I got you the best of the best, but they were… hesitant to work with such a prominent figure. In exchange, as well as the cost that I’ll be covering as an early birthday present, they want sureties that you won’t go blabbing about your lessons to anyone.” Charlus nodded. If he had to sign some paperwork, that wouldn’t be a snag. He would happily do whatever it took to improve. As long as the end result was that he would be able to one day stand against the likes of Voldemort, Charlus was willing to fill out all the paperwork in the world.
“Also,” Peter continued, feeling as if he were representing James in yet another legal case, “you will not learn their identity. This is non-negotiable, as they are not willing to be known by anybody who they teach.” Charlus frowned at that. Normally, he wouldn’t trust anybody who wouldn’t even show him their identity. With that being said, he trusted his godfather implicitly, so he would go along with Peter’s plan. After all, he had never failed him before, and Charlus had no cause to believe that this time would be any different.
“Ok,” he agreed, “so do I have to sign any paperwork, or what?”
“You’ll take an oath.” Peter told him.
Charlus frowned. “Didn’t you say oaths can be fooled? You said they’re not even viable in court once, didn’t you?”
Peter smiled. “Good memory, sport. Yes, I did tell you that, but I was talking about oaths that center around anything open to interpretation. For example, getting somebody to swear they’ll tell the truth isn’t overly useful. Magic can’t force somebody to tell the truth. It can only make them tell you what they think to be the truth.” he shrugged. “If they have strong enough mental control, they can even make themselves believe a lie is the truth and tell you that instead.” he smiled. “The same would go for something like making a person swear to help you. If they could justify harming you was helpful to you in some way, they could still do it.” he shrugged for a second time. “The oath you’ll be swearing isn’t overly open to interpretation.”
Charlus nodded, brow furrowed. He was reasonably sure that he had just kept up with all of that, but it had been a lot of information dumped on him all at once. “So what is the oath I have to swear?”
Peter reached into a pocket of his robes and withdrew a slip of parchment before clearing his throat and reading aloud. “I, Charlus Ignotus Potter, do hereby swear on my life and magic to never speak of, hint at, or imply in any way, shape or form that I have received instruction in duelling, nor of the occurences within said lessons. Furthermore, I swear on the same conditions that I will never speak of, hint at, or imply in any other way the given code name of my instructor, nor anything I glean about the location of my lessons or the instructor themselves. As magic is my witness.”
Charlus furrowed his brows once more. “What if I were to like… let it slip or something?”
Peter shook his head. “Magic works in funny ways, Charlus. Any oath sworn on your magic is tricky that way. It won’t technically stop you from revealing the secret, but you’ll feel a sort of… pull, anytime you come close to doing so. You can’t just accidentally say it while somebody’s eavesdropping, you might not know that somebody is watching you, but magic will.” he smiled sheepishly. “Don’t ask me how that works; I honestly have no idea.”
Charlus nodded, holding out his hand for the piece of parchment and swearing the oath in question. Instantly, he felt a sort of pulse within him and then, it was over.
“Splendid!” Peter told him, quickly lighting the slip of parchment on fire with an almost lazy wave of his wand. “Now, the two of us are going to Portkey to a location that you will learn nothing about.”
Charlus frowned. “Didn’t I just swear I wouldn’t reveal it?”
“You did, but your tutor is quite… secretive.”
“Do you know who they are?”
Peter smiled a mischievous smile. “Come on, sport, I’m not that irresponsible. I’d never let my godson work with somebody who I didn’t know.” He winked before reaching into another pocket of his robes and revealing a rather fancy golden key. Charlus blinked; he had honestly never seen an actual key serve as a Portkey before and he found the thought oddly amusing, for reasons that he could not articulate. “Ready?” Peter asked and with a nod, Charlus reached out, taking a firm grip on the key before Peter spoke one last word that sent the two of them into what appeared to be the center of a blurry tornado. “Initiate.”
One very rough Portkey ride later, Charlus had managed to land in the center of a very large, very spacious, well lit room. He could honestly say he didn’t even have a guess as to what kind of building they could be in. There were no windows. Peter too had landed on his feet, and his godfather’s eyes quickly roamed around the room just as Charlus’s instincts told him that he and his godfather were not alone. Sure enough, when he let his own eyes travel around the expansive room in which they stood, he did indeed see a figure waiting for them.
“Figure” was the term Charlus used because honestly, he could not tell so much as the gender of the person standing before them. They wore a long, grey, hooded cloak that obscured the entirety of their body. The hood of the cloak cast their face into seemingly impenetrable shadows and they wore black gloves over their hands. A moment later, Charlus may or may not have found out the gender of his instructor. On the one hand, it was given freely, but on the other, he wouldn’t be at all surprised if somebody this paranoid used the opposite gender pronouns simply to further insure their anonymity.
“Ah, Mr. Bellona.” Peter greeted the figure cheerfully, stepping up towards it and offering his hand, shaking one of the figure’s gloved ones in return. “A pleasure, as always. This is my godson, Charlus.” Peter gestured for Charlus to step forward and after a moment of hesitation, he did so. The figure seemed to appraise Charlus from under its hood, and Charlus could practically picture them analoging everything about him one could possibly observe for future consideration.
“Good afternoon, Mister Potter.” his new instructor said in a smooth voice that certainly sounded male. Again, Charlus was far from convinced that such a thing was not merely another ploy.
“Good afternoon… uh…” he trailed off, not quite knowing how to address the person stood here before him.
The figure let out a smooth, measured chuckle. “Ah yes, I suppose formalities may be difficult in your current situation. You may address me as sir, or as your godfather has done so already. To you, I am Mister Bellona, no more, no less.”
Charlus blinked; he had definitely heard the name “Bellona” before, but for the life of him, he could not remember where. “Nice to meet you, sir.” Charlus answered, deciding to go with a male pronoun, as this person insisted on it.
“Oh, Mister Potter, I assure you that the pleasure is all mine.” The statement was made in a completely level tone of voice, but even in spite of that, Charlus could practically picture a predatory smile spreading wickedly across Mister Bellona’s face underneath the hood.
“Well, I would love to stay and watch, but I don’t think that would be a super productive use of my time.” Peter said briskly. “I’ll come and get you in two hours, Charlus. Good luck.”
Then, as his godfather exited the room, Charlus was left alone with his mysterious tutor for the first time. For a time, neither of them said anything and then, at last, Mister Bellona spoke. “So, Mister Potter, I am told you wish to learn how to fight?”
Charlus frowned. “Fight or duel; I don’t completely understand the difference, sir.”
“Duelling is a confined art, Mister Potter. The best duelists are often completely inept in a real world confrontation against a dangerous witch or wizard once the rules are removed from the equation.” His instructor seemed to inspect him before uttering his or her next words. “With the enemies that I am sure you have, I would strongly recommend you learn to fight.”
Charlus nodded. “Then yes, I’d like to learn to fight.”
“Do you truly?” his instructor retorted. “Do not speak the word yes in vain, Mr. Potter. If you wish to learn to fight, you have to actually want to win said fight.”
Charlus looked confused. “I don’t-“ faster than Charlus could move, a wand slid effortlessly into his instructor’s hand and before he could so much as think about drawing his own, Charlus felt a wave of agony wash over him as every single one of his muscles felt as if they would collapse in on themselves. He did not scream, but he let out a loud, painstaking groan before the spell was lifted. When he looked up, it was with a look of shock and horror.
“You will not interrupt me.” his instructor said in the same, level voice. “Now, as I was saying,” they continued as if nothing had just happened, “another difference between fighting and duelling is that in a duel, wishing to outdo your opponent is often enough. In a fight, you need to truly desire victory. You need to be willing to do anything and everything necessary in order to defeat your opponent.”
Charlus stood shakily to his feet and waited for his companion to finish before speaking. Part of him was furious and indignant, if not downright terrified that he had just been subjected to such a spell. He could quit right now, walk out, maybe even file charges if he knew who the hell this person was. But, he needed to learn, and he trusted his godfather unconditionally. Peter had told him that this person was the best. If he had to put up with their archaic teaching philosophies, so be it. Granted, it took every bit of resolve Charlus had not to explode with righteous fury, but somehow, he managed.
“But… you can’t use anything illegal, surely? Nothing is worth using dark magic for.”
Charlus could practically see his tutor’s sneer. “There is no such thing as light and dark or good and evil,” they said patronizingly, “only power, and the intent with which it is wielded.”
Again, Charlus was sure he had heard that somewhere before and for some reason, the quote left a bitter aftertaste in his mouth. “But that doesn’t make any sense!” Charlus argued. “Of course there is light and dark and good and evil. You can’t tell me that Voldemort-“ again, Charlus sank to his knees as he was hit with the same spell from earlier, though it was more intense this time. On this instance, when the spell was released, the figure in front of him waited for him to stand before speaking, ignoring the way that Charlus’s legs shook and the hateful glare on the young man’s face.
“You will accept the philosophy and learn what I have to teach you without complaint or you shall not learn at all.” the figure proposed sternly. “Also,” the figure noted, as if it was an afterthought, “do not speak She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s name aloud. There is a good reason the rest of the Magical World does not dare to speak it.”
Charlus had to bite his tongue hard. He couldn’t possibly learn dark magic; he would never use it. But then again, his godfather had called this person “the best of the best”, and that was the kind of preparation it would take for him to ever even have the slimmest of chances at standing toe to toe with anyone remotely close to Voldemort’s level. He would never use the dark magic, but he supposed he could learn it if he had to, even if the fact made him sick to his stomach. After all, if nothing else, would it not prepare him for what he would one day have to inevitably face?
Hesitantly, very hesitantly, Charlus nodded. “I… understand, Mister Bellona.” he answered in the most polite voice he could manage. “So, can we get started?”
July 6, 1992
Daphne watched alongside Tracey, who had spent the previous night at the manor, as Blaise Zabini stepped languidly and effortlessly out of the fireplace, efficiently dusting off his robes in the same, fluid motion. When he had finished, he looked up, meeting eyes with both Daphne and Tracey before they fell on Daphne’s mother and he swept forward gracefully, inclining his head to her as he did so, pressing his lips softly against her hand.
“Lady Greengrass,” he greeted, “it is a distinct pleasure to have been granted access to your marvellous home. Thank you very much for your most generous hospitality.”
Celia smiled at Blaise. “Oh, it is my pleasure to welcome such a well-mannered young man into our home, Mister Zabini. I hope you enjoy your time here.” With the introductions and formalities out of the way, Celia swept out of the room to do her own work and check on Astoria, who was currently brewing a potion under her mother’s tutelage.
Blaise whistled appreciatively as his dark eyes swept the entrance hall of the manor. “Very impressive,” he conceded, inclining his head to Daphne with a rare smile, “very impressive indeed.”
Daphne rolled her eyes. “I don’t know what it says about you, Zabini, that the most genuine compliment you’ve ever paid me centers around how much money my family has.”
Blaise actually allowed a soft laugh to ring through the room, a rarity for him, before he stepped forward and attempted to drape an arm across Daphne’s shoulders. When her eyes virtually shot sparks, he changed course, realizing that this might not be in his best interest. “Why, Daphne, a compliment is a compliment at the end of the day. You must learn to accept them graciously, as any true and noble lady would do.”
“If you’re not careful, Zabini, I’ll show you all kinds of fun things that any true and noble lady would never dare think of.” she warned and Blaise chuckled once more.
“And that, Greengrass, is precisely why I like you.” Then, he turned to Tracey. “And then there’s you,” he told her as a way of greeting, “the girl who is so bubbly that it seems impossible not to like her.” Tracey blushed right down to the roots as the three of them made their way outside, deciding on a stroll around the large lake that dominated much of the property, who’s surface was currently sparkling invitingly in the bright, welcoming sunlight that streamed down from above.
“So, how have you lovely ladies enjoyed your summer?” Blaise asked conversationally as they paused for a quick break. As he spoke, he deftly snatched a smooth, elegant stone off the ground and casually sent it skipping across the surface of the lake with well-practiced precision.
“It’s been nice, for the most part.” Daphne told him, an account mimicked much more emphatically by Tracey a few moments later.
Blaise smiled at the two of them. “I’m glad to hear it.” he told them genuinely before a small frown adorned his features. “Did Harry not accept the invitation?”
Daphne’s eyes narrowed. She would not claim to know a whole lot about the Zabini Heir, but in saying so, she knew he was entirely too observant not to have gleaned at least a bit of Harry’s living situation. She was pretty sure the only reason he had broached the topic at all was to try and get any information on that front.
“Why, Zabini, asking questions like that might make me doubt your intelligence, you know?”
Blaise dipped his head, a small, amused smirk playing on his lips. “Ah yes, I should have known word games with you would not have been so easy, Daphne.” he admitted. “Let me reword that and ask exactly what all three of us probably know what I really meant to ask. How is Harry doing, and have either of you two heard anything that I may not have?”
Tracey frowned, fidgeting uncomfortably. True to her word, Daphne had told Tracey absolutely nothing of what Harry had told her months earlier. In saying that, she knew that Tracey had put the general puzzle together months ago. If not before, she had most certainly figured it out by observing Harry’s reaction to her attempted hug upon their return from the Yule break. Daphne did not fidget uncomfortably. Instead, she allowed a long, worried sigh to escape from her.
“Nothing!” Tracey spoke for her. “I haven’t got a single letter from him since the end of term!”
“Nor have I.” Daphne added in a voice that she had to try very, very hard to keep calm and modulated. To her relief, she managed it flawlessly, but it had not been easy.
Blaise nodded. “I had suspected as much.” he admitted, eying Daphne curiously. “Is it safe to say you know more about Harry’s… arrangements than either myself or Tracey?”
Daphne quirked a perfect brow. “What makes you think that, Zabini?”
Blaise rolled his eyes. “I don’t know, Daphne. Maybe the fact that you held onto him like a lifeline the entire way back to London? Or, maybe the fact that you’re the only person he’ll let touch him at all?”
There was a long, awkward silence succeeding Blaise’s statement, but finally, Daphne broke it with a fair bit of exasperation. “You are entirely too observant, Zabini.” she huffed. “Yes, I do, as you seem to have worked out already. Under no circumstances will I be telling anyone of what I know. Harry asked me to keep it private and that is the end of that discussion.”
Blaise put up his hands in a show of surrender. “Fair enough.” he agreed easily. “I was just wondering if your additional information could lead to a plan of action?”
Daphne blinked. “A plan of action?”
Blaise sighed. “Come on, Greengrass. If he hasn’t written a single letter from the environment he’s in; one where he’s probably dying for something to do, do you really think that’s by choice? Do you really think that there’s nothing going on?”
Daphne bit her lip. The truth was a resounding no. She had been worried sick over that exact fact for more than a week now. She also didn’t want to act hastily, but if she was being completely honest with herself, it had been one of the reasons for inviting the other two available members of their little quartet over to her family home.
But then, Tracey spoke and for so many unsaid reasons that only the two girls knew, it were her words that did it. They were the proverbial nail in the coffin.
“I’m with Blaise on this one, Daphne.”
Daphne closed her eyes and centered herself, making sure her thoughts and consequent words would not be clouded by any emotion before she spoke at all. “I don’t want to rush.” she told the two of them. “I have an idea, but it will take some work and some explaining that I’d rather not do.” she sighed. “One week,” she told the two of them, “in one week, if things haven’t changed, I’ll act.” She glared at Blaise. “And I will act. I don’t want you doing anything reckless or… morally questionable in the meantime.”
Blaise merely quirked an eyebrow. He did not smirk or grin, but the corners of his mouth had certainly twitched suggestively. “Why, Daphne, I am insulted. Morally questionable? I will have you know that I am the absolute pinnacle of human morality, thank you very much.”
July 12, 1992.
Charlus returned from the Burrow in high spirits, as was the norm for him. His father had finally had a day off and he, Charlus and Peter had gone to the Weasley home for what was a dinner as wonderfully delicious as anything and everything that Molly Weasley had ever prepared. Currently, his plan was to take a warm, soothing shower, and then to read one of the books he had ordered on duelling.
When he entered his room, however, Charlus froze upon seeing an unfamiliar, yet unmistakable creature. “Uh… hello.” he greeted, not really sure how to react to a foreign house elf waiting for him on his bed. When he spoke, the creature’s large, green, tennis ball like eyes widened, and he bounced with positive joviality as he quickly got off Charlus’s bed and looked up at him with wide, adoring eyes.
“Charlus Potter.” it breathed, almost as if it could not believe the fact.
Charlus blinked. “Uh… yeah, that’s me.” a pause. “I… uh, don’t mean to be rude or anything, but who are you? I mean, I know you’re a house elf, but who’s?”
The creature’s ears, which had been flapping excitedly mere moments before, suddenly dropped as Charlus finished asking his question. “I am Dobby, sir! Dobby the house elf, as you pointed out, sir.” it frowned. “Dobby is sorry, sir, but he can not be telling Charlus Potter which family he serves.” He truly did sound sorry, and in retrospect, Charlus really wasn’t surprised by that fact. The answer still did make him frown curiously though.
“Uh… ok. Again, I don’t mean to be rude, but why are you here, Dobby?”
Dobby was bouncing with energy once more and it appeared to Charlus as though just saying Dobby’s name had been a sort of dream come true for the house elf. That thought gave him pause. He had met kids like that before at charity events and such, but was it possible for a house elf to be a fanboy? Or, would they be called a fan elf? He shook his head; that train of thought was just far too confusing and he could not be asked to go down that random and useless rabbit hole.
“Dobby is here to warn Charlus Potter, sir.” the elf said urgently. “Charlus Potter must not return to Hogwarts!”
Charlus’s mind blanked. “Why would I not be able to go back to Hogwarts?” he asked, confused. “The school’s not closed or anything; letters would have been sent out.”
Dobby was shaking his head. “The school is still being open, sir, but it is not safe for the great Charlus Potter to attend Hogwarts this year.”
That statement prompted a deafening silence to ring throughout the room as the young Gryffindor processed said statement. “Er… Dobby, why would it not be safe for me to go back to Hogwarts?”
“There is a plot, Charlus Potter. There is a very dangerous plot at Hogwarts this year to make most terrible things happen, sir.”
Charlus’s ears perked. If it was something like last year, he would catch it early. He would let Professor Dumbledore know and they’d put a stop to it right away. “What kind of plot, Dobby?”
Dobby frowned and closed his eyes, as if deep in thought. Then, his ears drooped once more as he shook his head slowly. “Dobby be sorry, Charlus Potter, but Dobby is not being able to say.”
Charlus frowned. “Why not, Dobby? If it’s dangerous, surely people should know?” Then, he had a second thought. “Hang on. You wouldn’t be able to tell me if your masters were the ones behind it?” Charlus frowned deeper still. “Are your masters behind it?”
Dobby hesitated, then, very slowly, he shook his head. “Not-not my masters, sir.” he answered, clearly choosing his words very carefully.
Charlus paled as yet another, far less pleasant thought crossed his mind. “Voldemort.” he breathed.
Dobby clasped his little hands over his ears and shook his head furiously. “Speak not the name, sir! Speak not the name!”
Charlus scowled. “Professor Dumbledore says the name and he told me I should too.” he countered as if that settled all of it. “Is it Voldemort, Dobby? Is she trying to get me killed again?”
Dobby hesitated once more. Then, in the same, measured way he had spoken when asked about his masters, he answered. “Not-not, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, sir.”
Charlus sighed in relief. “Well then, I don’t see how anybody could muck about at Hogwarts. Sorry Dobby, but I’m going. You can go now.” By this point, Charlus was divided. Either this elf was barmy, or he had been sent by one of the pureblood prats in his year in an attempt to prank him.
Dobby frowned deeply. “Dobby supposes he can’t do anything right now to change Charlus Potter’s mind.” he admitted sadly. “But Charlus Potter won’t be getting his mail back, and Dobby will see Charlus Potter again.” Then, just as Charlus realized Dobby’s pillowcase was considerably full of letters, the elf vanished with a loud crack before Charlus could do so much as move.
July 17, 1992
No. 4 Privet Drive
Resounding silence rang through the smallest upstairs bedroom of the Dursley household on a terribly hot Saturday evening not unlike any other. The only sound that permeated the silence of Harry’s room were the sounds of cutlery from downstairs. According to Vernon, who had barged into Harry’s room less than an hour ago and threatened him to remain quieter than death upon the threat of death itself, the Dursleys were hosting very important dinner guests tonight. Harry welcomed the sounds from downstairs. At this point, more than three weeks into his isolation, Harry could honestly say he was going a bit mental.
He was bored out of his mind, having read quite literally every single book in the small bedroom and quite literally being out of things to do. As a matter of fact, if it had not been for Emily, he was sure he’d have gone completely off his rocker weeks ago. True, he could not have super stimulating conversations with her because those required a deep trust he did not yet have for her, but with that being said, their conversations had been very refreshing and her tips on Occlumency had been mind bogglingly effective.
At the start of the summer, Harry could completely clear his mind after a minute and a half or so of intense concentration, but in that state, he could do little more than think. Now, Harry could clear his mind consistently in under twenty seconds and could even multi-task within that state. True, he had not yet tried to cast magic with a clear mind for obvious reasons but still — that progression should have taken three months or so. Instead, it had been achieved in three weeks and Emily promised that by the end of the summer, Harry would be clearing his mind in mere seconds and would be able to effortlessly multi-task while doing so.
But as boring as his life had been as a whole over the past number of weeks, that was not why Harry’s room was so quiet. No, as a matter of fact, his room had been more loud than any time this summer only seconds earlier, even though that statement really didn’t say much. No, the reason for the heavy, oppressive silence that coated the air within Harry’s room was the statement that the random house elf who apparently was named Dobby had just uttered.
“So,” Harry began cautiously, eyes narrowing. His voice was rather hoarse from neglect, but he pushed on valiantly, “you mean to tell me that there is a plot going on at Hogwarts that is going to be extremely dangerous this year?” Dobby nodded urgently. “And, I’m assuming, you can’t tell me about the plot since I’m guessing you’d have already done that if you could have?” Dobby nodded again. “Are you allowed to tell me if your masters are behind the plot?” he knew that he couldn’t, but if they weren’t, he could probably say no.
Dobby hesitated, choosing his words carefully in much the same way he had done in the presence of Charlus nearly a week earlier. Of course, that was a fact that was unknown to the forsaken Potter. “Not-not my masters, sir.”
Harry frowned deeply. Not his masters… so, that meant somebody close to them. Or the elf was lying, but Harry was sure he wasn’t. He could sniff out lies with shocking proficiency. Assuming that this was not some elaborate prank from Malfoy, Nott, Selwyn, McNair or any of the other rich purebloods who disliked Harry, and he was quite sure it was not, the only way that Dobby could know of said plot was if he had either been asked to help or overheard it being discussed. This, in and of itself, indicated his masters were close with the would-be perpetrators, but there was another, more troubling component too.
If the perpetrators were not close to Dobby’s masters, if his masters would not have wanted the secret kept, Dobby could have revealed it freely.
“And as a result,” Harry continued without missing a beat, giving away nothing as to his inner thoughts, “you want me not to return to Hogwarts because…”
“Because Harry Potter is too valuable to lose, sir.” Dobby squeaked insistently.
Harry scowled bitterly. “I think you’re getting me mixed up with my git of a brother, Dobby. Please don’t do that in the future; it’s frankly insulting at this point.”
Dobby shook his head. “No, sir, Dobby means that for both Potters, sir. You are both great, both important, and will both play a role in what is to come.”
Harry’s eyes narrowed even more. Those words were eerily reminiscent of the ones that Firenze had spoken mere months ago. “And what is to come, Dobby?”
“Terrible things, Harry Potter, terrible things that Dobby cannot say.”
Harry sighed. “I think we both know that I’ll never agree not to go back to Hogwarts. So, Dobby, I’m curious what you’ll use as leverage to try and make me agree?”
Dobby’s ears drooped. “Dobby was hoping when Harry Potter did not get letters from his friends that he would think nobody cared about him, sir.”
Harry almost facepalmed. So this elf had been intercepting his mail. What an utter waste of time. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Dobby,” Harry said dryly, not even having the energy to explode at the creature for sticking his round nose where it didn’t belong, “but no mail can exactly get to me anyway at the moment.” As he said this, he gestured vaguely to the bars on his windows. “So, I’m afraid you’ve wasted your time.”
Dobby shot Harry one last, tragic look that immediately told Harry something terrible was about to happen. “Then Harry Potter leaves Dobby no choice, sir.” And with that, Dobby bolted for the bedroom door, which magically swung open to admit the elf exit. As Dobby began to bound down the stairs before Harry had done so much as stand, utter terror closing around his heart for so many obvious reasons, only one cognitive thought broke through the haze of depression that had been the vast majority of his mind for the better part of the last month.
Harry was on his feet in an instant. Instinctively, his wand snapped into his hand but as he bolted from the room after his most unusual home invader, he knew he could not use it. Harry had already figured out exactly what Dobby was trying to do. If he used magic at Privet Drive, according to what Charlotte’s mother had said about the Trace, Harry would be completely and utterly screwed. Unless, of course, elf magic worked and showed up differently, but with Harry’s typical luck, he doubted it.
When he heard Dobby’s footsteps cause the bottom step to creak loudly just as the little devil disappeared out of sight and into the kitchen, Harry didn’t think his heart could beat any faster as all sound from the dining room paused. Then, he himself skidded into the kitchen and his heart nearly froze.
There, hovering six or so feet off the ground was the masterpiece of a pudding that Petunia had doubtlessly spent hours working on.
With a look of genuine regret, Dobby let the pudding fall and in a moment of indecision, trying to figure out if acting or not acting would be in his best interests, Harry allowed the pudding to explode on the floor and for Dobby to vanish loudly. Harry barely noticed as all conversation froze once more in the dining room nearby. His attention was solely focused on the mess in front of him. That was, until he felt his airways constrict as large, purple hands closed painfully around his throat. Then, as he was pressed against the wall by Vernon and he spotted the murderous glint in his uncle’s eye, Harry had a thought far too morbid for any eleven, almost twelve-year-old boy, to have.
‘This would be a terrible way to die.’
Luckily for him, the biggest surprise of the night had not yet come.
With a shriek of pain, Vernon released Harry, who staggered, gasping for air. A moment later, he looked up to see Vernon round on the four figures gathered in the kitchen entrance.
Only for his uncle to freeze in shock and terror.
Of the four figures, three had their wands drawn and Harry recognized all of them. The one he recognized the most, however, was tall, slim, and had blonde hair, sapphire blue eyes and at present, a positively murderous expression as she glared at Vernon with unshed tears of fury in her eyes.
“Touch him again, and I swear to Merlin and Morgana, I will boil your wife and child over a cauldron and force you to watch!”
‘Fuck,’ Harry managed to think through his haze of absolute shock as he stared, gaping openly at Daphne Greengrass and her mother, father and sister, ‘and I thought I was having morbid thoughts.’
Well, that was an eventful chapter. That line of Daphne’s at the end was written almost six months before I posted the first chapter, so it’s nice to have that out in the open at long last.
I also thought I’d go back to this chapter before posting it and add some details about inheritance laws to debunk a number of false assumptions some of you have not unreasonably made.
In short, you can’t just declare a new heir, and disinheriting a current heir is essentially impossible unless said heir screws up royally.
Oh, and since I’m sure it was your guys’ first thought, Mister Bellona did not use the Cruciatus Curse on Charlus. Instead, he used the Tormensia curse, which had appeared a couple of times in year 1.
Please read and review.
PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, June 27th, 2020 at approximately 3:00 PM EST.
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