AoC 21

Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos

Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin

Chapter 4: Proposals and Changes of Plan

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. 

Acknowledgement: Thank you as always to my betas Umar, Luq707, Yoshi89 and Fezzik for their incredible work on this story. 

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July 18, 1992

Privet Drive

11:34 AM

With the smallest of pops, a tall man in flowing blue robes appeared on the corner of Privet Drive, standing out like a sore thumb against the uniform normality that had been the norm for this neighbourhood for as long as any could remember. Indeed, it was lucky that nobody was on the streets at that moment in time to see the man’s appearance, for beyond the small issue of seeing a man pop into existence from nowhere, many of the inhabitants of this place would have phoned up a mental institution had they seen any dressed so luridly as the venerable Hogwarts Headmaster.

Suffice to say, Albus Dumbledore had gone through a rather stressful few weeks. After his conversation with his Potions Master and a few more days to linger in his ivory tower, Dumbledore had quickly departed for the annual summer ICW convention, something that had taken several weeks of his time. Indeed, Dumbledore had only arrived back on British soil and re-entered the comforts of his office less than an hour ago, thanks to the time zone difference. But then, his stress levels had gone up even more.

Albus Dumbledore kept many intricate trinkets within his office. Some of them had indeed been of his own creation, but many had been collected from his numerous trips over the years. The one that was flaring upon his entrance, however, was not only extremely concerning, but one of a kind. It had been one of the few things that Albus had salvaged after the Battle of Nurmengard and the fall of Grindelwald, and he had to admit, it was a rather ingenious creation. It was a trinket that could manually keep very specific tabs on a set of blood wards even from very far away. The best Albus could deduce, Gellert had used it to view the status of the wards of Nurmengard and Katalysator. As Dumbledore could honestly say blood magic was something he viewed as distasteful, he never thought he would ever have use for the artifact. That was, until 1981, when he had hidden the Potter Heir behind a set of blood wards himself.

He had frowned at the device before checking it urgently. Fortunately, the wards had not completely collapsed, but he could tell that they were just days away, possibly weeks, if he was lucky, and hours, if he was particularly unlucky, from collapsing if something drastic did not change. Harry Potter had slipped away from Privet Drive, and Albus could only sigh at that information. He had thought that his warning about knowing whether or not Harry was occupying the property would have been enough. That was, after all, one of the few advantages to Harry being in Slytherin House. It was a House that prided itself on self-preservation and Albus could admit that he thought that instinct would have been enough for the young man to heed his warning. 

The fall of the wards would be concerning, but not directly detrimental. The problem would be that with their collapse, Dumbledore would lose his most plausible reason for sending Harry back to Privet Drive if need be. With how strained the relationship was between Harry and Charlus, he was not sure that he could have dared to allow them to live together. If the twins’ bond was broken by an act of betrayal on either of their parts, that would mean rather ominous things for the world if Sybil Trelawney’s Great Prophecy had anything to say about it.

It was with all of this in mind that Albus Dumbledore strode purposefully down Privet Drive and up the path through the well kept lawn of the house that he knew belonged to the Dursley family. Fearing what he may find inside, Albus Dumbledore raised his hand and knocked softly on the door several times. There was a slight pause before the door opened and he was greeted with the image of a very large boy with short blonde hair who positively gaped at the appearance of the man in front of him.

In spite of himself and the situation at hand, Albus felt his lips twitch. “Good morning. Mister Dursley, I presume?” The boy nodded dumbly, still seeming to be in disbelief at what he was seeing. “A pleasure, young man. It is my hope that your parents may indulge me in a bit of business I would like to take care of today, if you would be so kind as to fetch them or lead me to them directly?”

There was a long pause in which Dudley Dursley very clearly composed himself before he turned and, in a rather horrible screech, called, “Mum! Dad! Someone’s at the door for you!” Then, he left, evidently trying to get away from the odd man in the door as fast as his legs would carry him. If the look of surprise on the youngest Dursley’s face had been amusing, Dumbledore could have chuckled aloud at the looks of aghast shock and horror that adorned the faces of Petunia and Vernon. He suspected that Vernon simply abhorred what he considered a most splendid outfit, but Petunia very clearly recognized him and she very clearly was not happy about it.

“You?” she breathed in an accusatory hiss of a voice as Vernon grunted in agreement.

“Me.” Dumbledore responded easily, his eyes resting on Petunia. “I was under the impression, Petunia, that the two of us had come to a mutual understanding in regards to Harry Potter. You were to keep him safe here until I told you otherwise. You had agreed upon this. So now, on this most pleasant morning, I find myself in your presence to question you on what exactly has changed?” He did not bother informing them how he knew that their wizarding charge was no longer present within the home. Judging by the horror struck look on the large man’s face, it was the first question he wanted to ask, but his wife beat him to the metaphorical punch.

“Changed? Nothing changed! The boy left last night! He wanted out and we didn’t stop him! How could we have stopped him? What could we have done to make him stay?”

Dumbledore’s brows furrowed. “I suspect you could perhaps have done a great number of things, though they likely would have required far more effort than the two of you were clearly willing to exercise.” 

The man swelled. “Now wait one moment!” he protested. “You dare to stand on the threshold of my home and accuse us-“

“I do not yet dare to accuse you of anything, Mister Dursley.” Dumbledore said calmly. “That, however, is subject to change.” Then, Dumbledore slipped a long, dark wand from his sleeve and immediately, both of the elder Dursleys stepped back enough to inadvertently admit him into their home. When he had crossed the threshold and closed the door behind him, Dumbledore sighed. “I do apologize in advance for what will more than likely be a less than pleasant experience, but I do ensure you it leaves no lasting pain or damage of any kind.” Then, he took aim at Petunia. 


Dumbledore could have searched through her mind without a wand, that much was true. Doing it that way had its disadvantages though. For one thing, very few witches or wizards could do much more than glean surface thoughts with the use of wandless, wordless Legilimency. While Dumbledore himself was admittedly one of the few that could, it was, for one, more taxing and for two, it could not be done with the same degree of thoroughness. In this instance, when Dumbledore suspected foul play, he did need to be thorough. After all, without a wand, he may never have been able to detect the small traces of memory alterations on both of the elder Dursleys. They had been performed very well, to Albus’s annoyance. He could break them with some rather advanced Legilimency, but it would need to be quite forceful, and he had no intention of putting either Dursley through that. Though the images he saw in their minds that related to Harry Potter very sorely tempted him. 

Now, Albus found himself more worried than ever. He had expected that Harry would be neglected and was quite sure of it when the young boy had arrived at Hogwarts and was sorted into Slytherin. He had to admit though, standing in the Dursley household on that warm, yet breezy summer morning, that he would have never expected the Dursleys to be as cruel as they had been. People had accused Albus for years of always seeing the best in people. Now, for perhaps only the second time, Albus had to grudgingly admit that his naysayers may well have a point. He had misjudged the Dursleys terribly. Unbidden, thoughts of another magical prodigy who had been sorted into Slytherin and grown up in a place of abuse and neglect filtered into Dumbledore’s mind and took lodge right beside the part of it that was reciting the words of the third stanza of the Great Prophecy. 

He would not allow Harry Potter to go down the route that Emily Riddle had walked down before him. There was still hope for Harry and now, after seeing this connection, Dumbledore thought he may have been going about it all wrong. Well, not all wrong, he supposed. The enchanted pieces of parchment had been a good start to his new plan, even if he did admittedly have a third linked to both of them. Now, Dumbledore realized that it may not be the best of ideas to force the Potter twins apart. Perhaps instead, he should try and fix their relationship and maybe Harry would be better off far, far away from this place. It was risky, but he didn’t see why it couldn’t work. After all, Emily Riddle never had a family; she had never known love and if Dumbledore did not want to repeat the sins of the past, perhaps he needed to remedy matters in order to avert the events of the Great Prophecy.

July 18, 1992

Weitts Manor

1:30 PM

With his final thanks and goodbyes to the Greengrasses out of the way, Harry stepped into the fire and loudly called out the name of the Weitts family home, ready to join his trunk, which had been taken over by one of the Greengrass house elves already, in arriving. Again, Harry was reminded of how nauseatingly unpleasant he considered Floo travel to be, as fireplace after fireplace spun past his field of view at positively ludicrous speeds. Within about thirty seconds, Harry found himself being thrown out of a fireplace and though he stumbled a bit on the landing, he did manage to, for the most part, turn it into a graceful arrival.

When he arrived this time, the entire family was not waiting for him. There was one figure waiting for him though, and her calculating bluish-silver eyes fixed upon him at once. “Heiress Weitts.” Harry greeted, and Grace sighed.

“If we’re going to be sharing a property for the rest of the summer, we might as well drop the formalities in private.” she told him. “I imagine a first name basis will be less awkward, in any case.”

Harry nodded. “Fair enough.” he conceded, casting his eyes around the large entrance hall and again finding them resting on the large family crest and cryptic inscription. “I don’t suppose you’ll tell me what that means, will you?” Harry asked, gesturing vaguely to the inscription upon the crest.

Grace studied him for nearly a full minute before answering his question. “Not now,” she decided, “there will be time for that eventually, I’m sure.” She gestured for Harry to follow her and he did so. He quickly recognized the path as the one to the room he had frequented during his last visit and as a result, he wasn’t too surprised when they arrived at the same, luxurious room. “I have a feeling you remember the layout of the manor?” Grace asked him. Vaguely, Harry wondered if Daphne had told Charlotte about his memory, who had then passed the information onto Grace, but he didn’t think that option to be anything more than unlikely.

“I remember, yes.”

Grace nodded. “Dinner tonight will likely be served some time around 6:00, but I imagine you’ll run into my sister before then.”

Harry allowed a small smile to creep onto his face. “That’s probably a safe bet.” 

He expected Grace to immediately leave, but she didn’t. Instead, she continued to lean leisurely against the wall and examine him critically. Only after a minute or so of this did she speak again. “You and I need to talk at some point soon. I have a… proposal of sorts to make, but I don’t think now is the time in light of… recent events.” Harry tensed. “Get yourself situated here first and come find me in the next few days when you’re ready.” Harry thought that was probably the most sentimental thing he had ever heard the now seventh year Slytherin girl say.

“Sure thing.” Harry answered before getting one last word in before she left. “Grace,” wow, Harry thought, it felt weird saying her first name, “how much did the Greengrasses tell you?”

If Harry expected the question to catch Grace off guard, which he probably shouldn’t have, in retrospect, he’d have been disappointed. “More than you would have liked them to, I would assume.” Harry’s jaw tightened, but he showed no other visible reaction as he nodded curtly. He hoped they had at least left out the bit about bars on the window, but he supposed it mattered very little now, loathe as he was to admit it, at least in the grand scheme of things.

A few hours later, Harry was snapped out of his daily Occlumency exercises by a soft knock on the bedroom door. Standing to his feet, he quickly strode across the room and pulled the door open to reveal the smiling form of Charlotte. “Good afternoon.” he greeted with a raised eyebrow, a bit taken aback by her jubilant smile.

“It’s good to see you again.” she told him, her smile still unwavering. “It’s been a long time.”

Harry’s eyebrow rose a bit further. “I didn’t think I’d made quite that kind of impression.”

Charlotte sighed dramatically. “I’ve told you already, you interest me and you’re not at all unpleasant to be around.”

Harry couldn’t help but laugh softly at that. It was so typical of Charlotte, from what he knew about her, at least, to throw out a backhanded compliment like that. “Thanks, I guess.” he said with a grin.

Charlotte rolled her eyes. “I’ve told you all of this already and I’d have thought Yule made it pretty obvious.” There was a tense sort of pause as both of them reminisced on the book Charlotte had sent him.

“I do feel guilty about that.” Harry admitted after a time.

Charlotte tilted her head to the side, looking confusedly back at him. “Whatever for?”

“Well, I thought the necklace was decent, but it didn’t really compare to the book.”

Charlotte just smiled sweetly. “I’m sure you’ll come up with a way to make it up to me this year.”

“I should be able to manage.” he said. “I’ve been told I’m quite brilliant.” he added, allowing a blatantly hyperbolized smirk of arrogance to dawn on his face.

Charlotte kept her brows raised. “Oh, and who told you this?”


Charlotte actually laughed this time; she couldn’t help it. “That is a conversation I would love to see.” 

“It sort of turned into an inside joke.” Harry admitted, stepping out of his room to lean against the wall opposite Charlotte. “His room” was an odd thought. He supposed it wasn’t “technically” his, but for all intents and purposes, it was his for the summer. He also supposed that he’d technically had his own room for the past year at Privet Drive, but that never felt like his, for that was never truly his home.

Charlotte’s lips twitched. “For some reason, that does not surprise me. If I had to guess, you intentionally took it out of context and it’s now your trump card in any argument against Daphne.”

“Got it in one.” Harry said mischievously, causing Charlotte to laugh again, something that only continued when he added, “Just don’t tell Daphne, will you? She’s rather scary when she’s angry.” That part was actually very true, now that he thought about it, but Charlotte did not need to know the hidden depths of that comment. She must have sensed at least a bit of what Harry was thinking because when she stopped laughing, she jerked her head towards the window. 

“Would you fancy a walk, if I’m not interrupting anything?” she asked. “I’ve been inside all day doing lessons and I could use some fresh air.” 

Harry nodded. “I don’t see why not, I wasn’t really doing much and it’s a nice day out, if a bit breezy.” The two of them made their way outside using the secret passage Charlotte had used all those months ago. Harry rolled his eyes, knowing all too well it was done to annoy him as much as speed up the route. “You do love lording your knowledge over me, don’t you?”

“Shush, you,” Charlotte retorted, “I did basically hand feed you the knowledge that you wanted to know most back at Samhain.”


“I thought so.”

Harry laughed again. It was odd. He really didn’t laugh around people very often, but there was something about Charlotte he just enjoyed. It was different from Daphne. Their relationship almost seemed similar to Daphne’s and Blaise’s, if a bit on the lesser end of the sniping spectrum. It was enjoyable though. If nothing else, the youngest member of the Weitts family certainly managed to keep Harry on his toes, which was more than he could say about most people his age.

When they exited onto the grounds, Harry’s breath caught in his throat. It was, in many ways, the opposite of the Greengrass property, though there were some definite similarities. For example, both properties had lakes, though the one on Weitts Manor appeared to be man, or more likely, magic made, and was much larger. Whereas Greengrass Manor was surrounded by hills far in the distance, Weitts Manor seemed to rest atop a hill, with its splendid grounds spreading out in every direction a bit below. 

Charlotte grinned knowingly. “It’s nice, isn’t it?” she asked rhetorically, and there was a certain, soft kind of fondness in her voice.

“It is.” Harry admitted. “I’ve only seen two of these,” he said, referencing manor homes, “but both of them are beautiful.” 

Charlotte nodded. “I suppose your relationship has gone in the wrong direction with your father judging by… recent events.” 

Harry’s posture stiffened as they began to walk once more. “You could say that, yes.” he answered darkly.

“Do me a favour, will you?” Charlotte asked him as they began to walk down the hill and into the valley below.

“Depends on what it is, I suppose.”

“Fair enough.” she conceded with some amusement. “When your father comes running back for forgiveness, don’t turn your back right away.” When Harry looked incredulous, Charlotte raised a hand to silence him. “Let me finish, Harry.” she chided, as if she were a Kindergarten teacher speaking to her five-year-old student. “When he comes begging for forgiveness, because trust me, he will, take everything he offers you and more. Use the prat for everything he’s worth and then, only when he isn’t useful to you anymore, throw everything he’s done in his face right before you ruin him.”

There was a long silence between the two of them as they walked. It was nearly three minutes before Harry responded. “You really do not talk like a ten-year-old, or is it eleven now?”

“It’s eleven.” Charlotte said, clearly amused.

Harry nodded. “Before we rehash our Samhain discussion on that point, can I admit something to you, Charlotte?”

She looked at him, obviously curious and a bit taken aback. “Be my guest.”

“I can see why you and Daphne are such good friends. You’re also rather scary when you’re angry.” As they continued to walk, Charlotte’s giggles permeated the air for several minutes until the two of them moved onto more mundane topics of conversation.

Several hours later…

Harry took his seat beside Charlotte at the table, just as a house elf laid the food upon the table and Regent Weitts entered the room, marking this as the first time today that Harry had seen him. “Good evening, everybody.” he greeted a bit tiredly, taking his seat at the head of the table and thanking the house elf before the creature exited the room. “It’s good to see you again, Heir Potter.”

“Likewise, sir.”

“Surely, we can dispense with such formalities.” Lady Weitts said from her spot beside Grace, who sat across from Harry. “If we’re spending a summer together, I see no reason why we should not simply be on first name bases with one another?”

After both Harry and Sigmund, that would also take some getting used to, had agreed, the meal began in earnest and silence fell over the group of them. It was not until about five or so minutes into the meal that Adriana turned to her husband. “You look tired. Was it a particularly difficult day of work?”

“Not particularly, no.” he admitted. “I just don’t think I’ll get a whole lot done tomorrow with the Wizengamot meeting. So, I wanted to make sure everything could run smoothly for a day without me if need be.” 

“Isn’t tomorrow the meeting where the Malfoys, Notts, Selwyns and Macnairs are on trial?” Charlotte asked and Harry’s ears perked up at once. He had no love for his father at the moment. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact, but it would still be satisfying to see Malfoy knocked down yet another peg.

“It is,” Sigmund answered neutrally, “but I don’t expect it to be overly eventful.”

Charlotte frowned. “Why not?”

Instead of answering, Sigmund looked to his eldest daughter, clearly issuing a challenge of sorts. Grace swallowed her food measuredly before answering her younger sister’s question. “They have no way of disputing the eyewitness account of two aurors, even if James Potter’s account is a bit of a grey area since he is the persecuting party.” she frowned. “The smear campaign against the Malfoys, Notts, Macnairs and Selwyns hasn’t helped either.”

“Smear campaign?” Harry asked curiously.

“In the Prophet.” Grace explained. “That Skeeter woman has been all over this story. If there’s a popular bit of drama in the wizarding world, she pounces on it.” she shrugged. “The first story she ran on the Malfoys and the rest back in May did well, so she decided to stick with it and milk it for all it’s worth. They haven’t exactly done Lucius Malfoy any favours.”

Harry had to try very hard not to smirk in a sort of self-satisfied way, since he wasn’t sure that would be such a good idea in the presence of Sigmund and Adriana.

“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to share that story?” Sigmund asked interestedly. “I won’t use it at the meeting or anything, just out of personal curiosity?”

Harry shrugged as nonchalantly as he could manage. “There’s not a whole lot to it, really.” he tried. “He accused me of smuggling a dragon out of Hogwarts; even dragged me into Snape’s office over it with a fake crate and everything. Frankly, I’d rather not be anywhere near a dragon.” No one’s expression changed, but Harry had the sneaking suspicion that he had fooled nobody at the table. He would have to tread carefully with the giving of information in this household. Suddenly, it became no wonder to Harry why Grace was at the top of the ladder in Slytherin. This environment, friendly, caring, but always challenging, would practically breed top tier Slytherins.

“Before you go, Harry, do you have any questions?” Adriana asked. “Just about general rules and such of the house?”

Harry returned her gaze pensively. “Am I allowed to use magic?” he asked hopefully and to his relief, Adriana dawned a small but soft smile in return.

“I would encourage it.” she replied. “I have always told both Grace and Charlotte to use as much magic as possible without going out of their way to do so.” She peered curiously at Harry. “I have heard… good things about you, Harry, and am curious to know if you might understand why that is?”

Suddenly aware that he had the attention of all at the table fixated upon him, Harry made sure to choose his words very carefully. “Magic is similar to a muscle in a lot of ways.” he answered. “The more you use a spell, the easier it becomes to cast said spell, because your mind and whatever connection we have to magic gains a sort of deeper understanding of that spell.” he shrugged. “I’ve had it explained to me in broad terms, but I’m not a magical theorist by any means.”

Adriana looked mildly impressed. “That’s the gist of it.” she affirmed. “After a time, you will also negate the need for things like wand movements and incantations.”

Harry furrowed his brow. “Like… how we were first taught to cast Lumos with a looping wand movement and now I can do it with a much shorter one?”

Adriana crooked an eyebrow. “I imagine that you can very easily cast Lumos without a wand movement at all, I just don’t think you’ve tried. As a matter of fact, take out your wand and cast Lumos, but do so with your wand pointing straight at the floor and do not move it at all. You may need to focus more than you’re accustomed to, but I’m sure you’ll have no issues.” Harry nodded and did as he was told. His eyes widened by a fraction when the wand lit perfectly fine and without pause. 

“That’s… interesting.” he understated, and Adriana nodded. 

“Magic as a whole is rather interesting.” she said with a near conspiratorial smile. 

July 20th 1992

Weitts Manor

8:34 AM

Houses Malfoy, Nott, Selwyn and Macnair Plead Guilty to Disgusting Offenses Committed by their Heirs!

By Rita Skeeter

“That’s a bit dramatic.” were Harry’s first words as he took his seat at the table with Charlotte, Adriana and Grace two days after he had arrived at the manor. Of course, he already knew what the article would say, as Sigmund had pretty much told them the entire story last night at dinner. In spite of that, it was still interesting to see Skeeter’s most recent attack on the reputations of four people whom Harry disliked with vitriol. 

Seeming to realize exactly where Harry’s mind was going, Adriana waved her wand absentmindedly, creating a duplicate of the paper, which quickly floated over to Harry since she was still reading hers. “It is very valuable to hear all perspectives of any given situation.” Adriana muttered absently, and whether that was directed at Harry, her daughters, or both, he was not sure. Either way, he gratefully peered down at the Daily Prophet and read what “the harpy”, as Blaise referred to Skeeter as, had to say on the matter.

Yesterday, the Wizengamot convened for their weekly meeting. However, this meeting was not quite as mundane as the others. Before the conclusion of this meeting, we had a definitive end to the ongoing drama between House Potter on one side, and Houses Malfoy, Nott, Selwyn and Macnair on the other.

Unfortunately, the trial did not live up to the delicious, soap opera levels of drama that many of us had expected. Lord Lucius Malfoy, Lord Tiberius Nott and Lord Walden Macnair all pleaded guilty to false accusations levelled at the Heir of an Ancient and Most Noble House, or, in the case of House Macnair, an Ancient House, on behalf of their own Heirs and Houses. Lady Abigail Selwyn, standing Regent for House Selwyn, did the same. Houses Malfoy, Nott and Selwyn must pay House Potter 50,000 galleons in compensation by July 31st, while House Macnair must pay 25,000.

The fact that none of these families had even one defense is very concerning and it brings into question if there is more ongoing than meets the eye. Were these four families perhaps worried about things hidden away coming to light if this trial went on any longer than it absolutely had to? Is it possible that there are even more dark and hidden depths to some of the most questionable pasts in Magical Britain?

Upon the completion of Skeeter’s article, Harry hummed in a self-satisfied sort of manner before putting it down. “Well, that was scandalous.” he said, not sounding overly bothered by the fact.

Grace sniffed. “Everything Rita Skeeter has ever done has been scandalous.”

Harry nodded. “I think Blaise put it best. That woman is a harpy, but dead useful if she’s on your side.”

“That is a fairly accurate summary, yes.” Adriana mused, putting down her own copy of the Daily Prophet just as another owl flew through the window. To Harry’s surprise, it was flying towards him and to his even greater surprise, he recognized it as the Potter family owl. He tensed, if barely, but it was enough to alert all three members of the Weitts family currently at the table that something was serious. Tentatively, Harry reached out and untied the letter from the bird’s leg, absentmindedly allowing it to nibble on a piece of bacon as he did so. It wasn’t the owl’s fault that his family were gits; it could eat if it wanted. 

When he removed the envelope, he was tempted to check for curses, but seeing as there were laws in place to prevent James from physically harming him, at least if he were to get caught, he figured it was safe to assume that the envelope was not cursed.

Dear Harry,

First, I want to say how disappointed I am that you left your relatives. I know they were prats and I honestly don’t like the fact you were sent there much more than you do, but Professor Dumbledore had very good reasons for wanting you there and I am very disappointed that you would not consider those reasons before leaving.

This opening paragraph caused Harry’s eyes to flash with fury and he nearly burned the letter to a crisp right there with his wand, but with an admirable amount of restraint, he continued. 

That aside, I really do hope those muggles weren’t too terrible to you. Professor Dumbledore did promise he’d make sure they weren’t, so I’m sure it was at least one of your more pleasant summers with them.

At this point, Harry just skimmed the letter until James shut up about the Dursleys because quite frankly, he could not be asked to put up with his father’s shit right now, and if he read one more Merlin forsaken line about that blasted family, he would be lighting a lot more than the letter on fire. Finally, he found the end of his father’s useless ramblings and his eyes narrowed upon what was very obviously the true contents of the letter.

All that aside, I’m not sure if you know, but the Potters host an annual celebration for Charlus’s birthday. It’s a sort of charity event, but this year, since you’re back and integrated into the magical world, we thought it would be a good idea to invite you and celebrate yours alongside him. It’s a… pretty big social event, but I know you were at the Weitts’s Samhain Gala so I’m sure you can handle yourself just fine, and we only invite the right sort anyways.

Please owl back as soon as possible. I… understand if you’re upset with me and don’t want to come, but it would mean a lot for the Potter family if you’re there. I would also formally present you with your Heir’s ring at the Gala. I’m really sorry I didn’t do that in Hogsmeade last year, but I was… advised, that it would be a good move in terms of publicity to do it publically.

Hope you’re safe and enjoying your summer wherever you are, even if you really shouldn’t be there.

Your father

Only through the use of Occlumency did Harry manage to keep his facial expression under control, but it did nothing to stop his eyes from flaming like the pits of hell. “What is it?” Charlotte asked him, sounding more curious than nervous.

“I am invited to celebrate my birthday alongside my brother at the annual gala hosted by my family.” Harry did an admirable job of keeping his voice neutral, but there was still a drop of coolness in his undertones.

“You should go.” Adriana said, almost offhandedly, drawing a rather surprised look from Harry. She merely raised an eyebrow. “Can you give me a legitimate reason why it is not advantageous to you in any way, shape or form to attend the gala aside from the fact that you do not wish to be near your father?” Harry had to mentally admit that she had a point. 

“They could potentially try and take him back to his relatives.” Grace answered clinically with no emotion attached to her voice. Harry thankfully did not spit out the milk that was in his mouth at the time, but it was a near miss, and he did have a rather dramatic coughing fit. 

Adriana nodded thoughtfully. “That’s true. Perhaps write back and say you would like a contract drawn up to guarantee you will not be returned to your relatives or have any changes made to your arrangements this summer if you attend the gala.”

Harry frowned. “They have no reason to sign that though, do they?”

Adriana took a moment to ponder his question. “May I read the letter?“ Harry hesitated for only a moment before he acquiesced. There really wasn’t anything personal written within the letter anyways. After a long pause, Adriana answered him. “They have no reason not to. If you don’t attend, they won’t be able to find you, hence they lose nothing by promising not to do something they are currently incapable of doing. Furthermore, if you attend, James Potter earns the publicity of presenting you with your ring and gets to introduce his Heir. I know you do not wish to publicly endorse your father right now, but it is more to your benefit to play nice for the cameras and if you truly wish to work against him, wait until the correct opportunity presents itself. Forcing conflict for conflict’s sake almost always ends in disaster.”

Privately, Harry marvelled at Adriana’s political acumen. He had just been positively schooled during what he realized to be his first real lesson in politics. The irony was not lost on him that instead of his father teaching him those lessons as it should have been, it was somebody who his father at the very least distrusted. And the political advice imparted onto James’s son was how best to outmaneuver the man himself. 

“How would I check over any contract he proposes to make sure there’s nothing sneaky hidden in it?”

“That’s easy,” Adriana dismissed, “I could very easily put you in touch with a number of people who could do that. Actually, amongst their many businesses, the Greengrasses own a law firm that may suit your purposes.” Harry nodded; it all made sense to him. 

Once the meal had concluded, Charlotte and Adriana made their way out of the kitchen and off to somewhere Harry didn’t know. Charlotte had morning lessons with her mother of some kind. Harry assumed it was some sort of tutoring, but he had not yet asked. As he and Grace left the kitchen, Harry decided now was as good a time as ever. 

“You wanted to talk to me?”

Grace didn’t even break stride as she nodded, seeming to be satisfied by his question. “I did. I’m assuming you want to do it now?” when Harry nodded, Grace gestured for him to follow her, and she led him up to the same floor that he and Charlotte stayed on. This time, she led him further down the hall and to a door he had never opened. When Grace placed a hand on the doorknob, the lock clicked and admitted the two of them. 

If Harry expected to learn a lot about Grace from her room, he was sadly disappointed. The walls were done in a soft, greyish colour and a very large bookshelf took up a fair bit of space as well. If not for the fact that the rooms in the manor were massive, it would have dominated the room. Grace took a seat at the head of her bed, leaning casually against the wall and gestured for Harry to take a seat on the bed facing her. When he did so, she began.

“You’ve been learning Occlumency, haven’t you?” When Harry’s eyes widened, Grace’s lips twitched. “Don’t be so surprised, Harry.” It was odd to hear her call him anything other than Potter. “I’m quite a high-level Occlumens myself and I can recognize the signs of one. Your composure at the beginning of the year was respectable, but I saw your little fit when you found out what Malfoy did to Tracey. If I hadn’t suspected it before, you not reacting to your father’s letter pretty much proved it.” Harry had to mentally applaud her because what else could he do? She personified what it meant to be a Slytherin, if nothing else, and Harry could at least appreciate that.

“I have been, yes.” he admitted, not exactly able to convince her otherwise at this point.

Grace nodded. “How long have you been practicing?”

“Since just after Yule.”

If Grace had put together that Harry must have gotten a gift which enabled him to learn, which he thought she probably had, she didn’t show it. “Have you progressed to the stage of clearing your mind, or are you still in the meditative preparation stage?”

“I can clear my mind.” Harry responded measuredly, not quite knowing where this conversation was heading. 

Grace nodded. “I had thought so, but I needed to be sure. How consistently can you do so?”

Harry blinked, confused. “What do you mean?”

“If you try and clear your mind ten times, how often do you think you would succeed?”

Harry paused, trying to see if there was something he was missing before he shrugged and decided to be honest. “Ten.”

Resounding silence followed his statement as Grace looked at him in a way that might suggest she was sizing him up. “That is… very impressive. You’re sure you’re not exaggerating?” he nodded and Grace adopted a pensive look. “How quickly can you clear your mind, Harry?”

Harry’s brow furrowed as he thought. “Like… fifteen seconds — maybe closer to ten on a good day.”

Grace just shook her head. “I’m not saying that I don’t believe you,” she said in a very pensive sort of voice, “but that… shouldn’t be possible. As in, that should not be remotely close to possible by using any conventional methods. If you were a prodigy, I would say that maybe you could reach that level by September, and frankly, that is a stretch.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “Why are you asking this?”

Grace did not react to the question. “You’ll find out in a minute.” she paused. “Would you… mind if I tried to confirm that claim of yours?”

“How would you go about doing that?” Harry asked in a rather cautious tone.

“I would use an extremely light Legilimency probe. Not even enough to glean your surface thoughts, just enough to gauge the overall state of your mind.” she shrugged. “Legilimency honestly isn’t my forte. I am a much better Occlumens than I am a Legilimens, but I’m more than competent enough for this.”

Now, it was Harry’s turn to adopt a pensive look. “I… really don’t like the idea of people poking around inside my head, so I would like to know why you want to do this and why you’re so interested in my ability with Occlumency?”

Grace sighed. “You are the most paranoid child I have ever met in my life, but I suppose I can’t really blame you given… the circumstances.” She gave him a pensive look. “Are you aware of the difference between Passive and Active Occlumency?”

“Passive Occlumency refers to the manipulation of one’s own mind. Active Occlumency refers to the active blocking of psychic breaches and attacks.”

Grace blinked. “That was… well said. Yes, that is the gist of it. Are you aware of the main roadblock to learning Active Occlumency?”

“You need a partner.” Harry said a bit bitterly. Emily had told him this about a week and a half ago, but he had read it long before that in his book on Occlumency from Charlotte. Grace was giving him an odd, expectant look, as if she was waiting for him to put something together. Then, with widened eyes, it clicked. “You want… to teach me Active Occlumency?”

Grace’s expression didn’t change. “That depends on whether or not you accept my proposal, but I’m certainly willing to teach you.”

Harry had to try very hard not to gape at Grace but he managed, if barely. He had no idea how good she was at Occlumency but judging by her general demeanour, implied skill and evident knowledge, Harry would wager that she was quite good. Still, he could not help but be wary. Grace was at the top of Slytherin’s ruthless hierarchy for a reason. “And what do you want in return?” Harry asked, knowing full well that was what this would boil down to.

Grace’s face showed emotion for the first time in minutes and it was… annoyance. “I’ll be frank with you,” she told him, “I’m a bit of a control freak, and I absolutely abhor things that I cannot control.” she paused. “It’s a sort of unwritten rule that the upper years don’t interfere in first year drama.” Harry was so tempted to bite out that she should have told Daniel Selwyn about that rule, but he held his tongue. Then, finally, Grace came out with it. 

“Charlotte is starting Hogwarts this year, and even though she can take care of herself just fine, I worry for her.” It was perhaps the most open thing Grace had ever said in Harry’s presence. “I’m not sure if there is anything in this world that I care for more than Charlotte, and I know that she will be a target because of me, and that I can’t do anything about it without turning every single upper year Slytherin against me in an instant. Which, frankly, wouldn’t take a whole lot given the circumstances.” She fixed Harry with a hard, determined look. “I want you to promise me that you will do anything you can to protect Charlotte this year and for the next few when I’m gone. If you do that, I will do my best to teach you Occlumency.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Assuming I accept,” he said carefully, “what makes you think that I’ll actually be able to protect her even if I try?”

Grace sighed. “Let’s void the mind games, shall we? You are the most gifted student to come through Slytherin since long before me. You somehow managed to set up Malfoy at Samhain and I still don’t know how you did it. You then managed to flip some sort of plan devised by not only Malfoy and Nott, but Andrew Macnair and Daniel Selwyn in a way that backfired horribly on all four of them. Granted, Macnair is incompetent, but Selwyn is very far from it. Your track record speaks for itself, so cut the modesty, will you? If you’re trying to get something else out of me, then make your point.” 

For the first time, Harry realized exactly how Grace and Charlotte were sisters. They were far more alike than Harry had first thought. Grace just buried those similarities under Occlumency and years of well-practiced mental moderation. Now, with her guard down around him for the first time, she switched effortlessly from cold and aloof to blunt and to the point. This was the first time Harry realized how alike the sisters actually were, and he thought himself likely to be one of the few to ever learn of the fact.

“Since you decided to be so honest,” Harry began, “allow me to return the favour. I did manage to flip their plan around, as you and your family have figured out.” Harry bit his cheek, about to say something intensely unpleasant. “I did it through cunning and deception, but if it came to a point where Daniel Selwyn attacked Charlotte directly, I would be no help. I frankly got my arse handed to me when he used a more direct approach and I would have no hope of beating him, or someone of his skill in open combat. Calypso might, but I’d rather not drag my other friends into this little arrangement if I can avoid it.”

There was a long, tense pause that filled the room before Grace spoke very slowly. “For what I’m about to propose, you better be the most dedicated student in all of Hogwarts, since I will not waste my time and I honestly cannot believe I am doing this at all. We will meet two days a week. The days will depend on each of our schedules but on one of those days, I will do my best to teach you Occlumency. On the other, I’ll teach you combat magic.” Harry could not stop the feral grin from spreading across his face and Grace sighed. “And yes, I am well aware that you essentially just played me to get more out of this arrangement. Don’t think you’ve got one over on me for any other reason than the fact that I let you. But honestly, you have a point. If I want you to protect my sister, I can’t help you directly, at least, not unless things get far more serious than I think likely, but I can at least make sure that you do the best job possible.” With a sigh, she extended a hand. “We have a deal then?” she asked, wanting to make sure of the fact.

Harry’s grin switched to a more businesslike demeanour that spoke of resoluteness and promise. “We do. I will do my best to protect your sister, I promise.” He took her hand and they shook firmly. “A pleasure doing business with you, Miss Weitts.”

Author’s Endnote:

That final line of Harry’s is one I have been waiting to write since long before I wrote the prologue, so it’s nice to finally have it out there. 

Two things here before I sign off. Firstly, please have patience with the whole Harry/James dynamic. I can already invision the furious reviews that Harry is even attending the gala, but as I’ve said already, the time for vengeance has not yet arrived. And secondly, for the two of you who reviewed the last chapter saying that it was wholly unnecessary, we can agree to disagree. For one thing, I actually enjoy showing the backstories of characters in order to give them some depth, shoot me, I know. And for two, it will be quite important later in the year, so just have some patience. 

Finally, a shoutout to Discord member Haphne Cult Member Paddi for pointing out a slight timing inconsistency in the original draft of this chapter. 

Please read and review.

PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, July 11th, 2020 at approximately 3:00 PM EST.

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