Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 5: Double Down on Defence
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.
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July 20, 1992
Harry and Grace had not practiced any Occlumency that day, as Grace had a rather absurd amount of homework that would prepare her for her N.E.W.T year at Hogwarts, and she wanted to tackle as much of it as possible that day. She did, however, run a weak Legilimency probe through Harry’s mind to validate his claim. To say that she had been surprised by her findings would have been words uttered by somebody with a profound talent for understatement. Amusedly, Harry replayed that moment of revelation in his mind, internallyy commending himself for likely being the only person outside of the Weitts family who had seen Grace more surprised than any other.
Truthfully, Harry hadn’t done a whole lot for the rest of the day. He had Flooed over to Greengrass Manor and spent some time with Daphne, Tracey and Blaise. The latter and his mother would be away vacationing in August, so none of the other three would have an opportunity to spend time with Blaise after that point. As a result, they were trying to make a point of spending time together when possible. After Harry had returned to Weitts Manor and eaten dinner, he simply retreated to the library, in which he read a rather advanced book on Transfiguration. It was true that some of the theory did go over his head, but he honestly felt like he had made some major breakthroughs while reading the tome in question. It was not like his textbooks, which often hinted at the point and allowed the student to figure it out on their own. This one laid it out as it was, if admittedly in rather complex terms.
Now, after spending several hours holed up in the library, Harry slumped back onto his bed and pulled the blank journal towards him before picking up a quill and beginning to write. He did not trust Emily Riddle unconditionally. Very far from it, as a matter of fact, but he did trust her judgement and knowledge in regards to Occlumency.
So, I have somebody who is willing to teach me Active Occlumency now.
The pause before Emily’s response came wasn’t long. Come to think of it, it was never overly long.
How interesting. I do hope you trust the person whom you have chosen?
Harry rubbed his temples thoughtfully. Did he trust Grace? Certainly not unconditionally, but when put into the specific context of their agreement…
The two of us made a somewhat mutual agreement that will hopefully benefit the both of us. I’m confident that there will be no deceptions.
Harry almost cursed the perfection of Emily’s handwriting when it appeared. It didn’t even look real. It was as if it had been done by a printer in a sleek, elegant font, and not a person at all.
That’s good to hear. Did she tell you what level of Occlumency or Legilimency she is operating at?
Harry paused, not quite grasping the question.
Level? She did say she was a high level Occlumens but that she was more gifted in Occlumency than she is in Legilimency. I’m not entirely sure if that’s what you mean by “level” though?
It is not. was the initial response before Emily chose to elaborate. You likely would not have read this, as if your book is as well written as it would appear from an outside perspective, it would likely wait to bring up the finer details. This topic in particular could encourage those foolhardy enough to attempt to rush the process and skip valuable steps, which would in turn be detrimental to their progression and potentially damaging in terms of their livelihood.
Harry frowned. Aren’t you technically rushing me though? Or “expediting the process”, as you called it?
Ah yes, I do like that about you, you know that? You are observant and don’t follow blindly. Keep that mentality and it will take you very far in life. The answer to your question is rather complex, so I will simplify it for both of our sakes. Yes, I am “technically” rushing you through the stages of Occlumency; though this process will not be able to speed you through the other stages quite like it has done the first. In reality, the main, fundamental difference is that I am not skipping steps. I am simply substituting in alternative methods that I have devised and have proven to be far more efficient than those that have been tried and tested by time.
That… makes sense, I suppose. So what was this about levels?
I suppose that in reality, tiers may have been a better word choice, but they are referred to as levels, so that is how I chose to call them. Both Occlumency and Legilimency are seven-tiered systems. There are seven levels to both Occlumency and Legilimency. Each level centers around one or two major components that must be mastered before you can safely advance any further. Within all of these levels, there are subskills of a sort. For example, you will eventually be able to open thought streams within your mind, allowing you to devote your entire focus to multiple trains of thought simultaneously. That is just one of several examples I could give. These skills do not need to be learned to advance, but if you would like my help and value my opinion, you will be learning all of them.
Harry shrugged. It made sense to him and honestly, he would have wanted to learn all of them anyway, so this arrangement was perfectly fine by him. I’m assuming that I would be a level one Occlumens, then?
You would be, though you are very near to advancing to the second level. Do not celebrate this too proudly, for the levels get exponentially more difficult and monotonous to advance through as you continue to progress. Level one is about understanding your mind. It is why much of it is meditative. By the end of level one, an Occlumens will know their mind well enough that they will be able to sense any irregularities. The exception to this would be a particularly skilled practitioner of Legilimency. Now, it does not mean that they will be able to rid themselves of said irregularity, but they will almost always be able to recognize it. Admittedly, it will often take the mental examination of one’s mind to do so for quite some time before the instinct becomes subconscious.
Harry’s brow furrowed. What are the focuses of all of the other levels?
All in good time, Harry — all in good time.
Harry sighed. So is developing a defense against Legilimency not a level one skill?
That depends on the context of the word “defense”. You will learn to sense a Legilimency probe. It should give you enough time to at least break eye contact, but level one is more about understanding. I personally believe that you could potentially advance to level two of Occlumency by the end of September. Possibly even the end of the summer, depending on how adept your tutor is.
Should I ask what level of Occlumens she is?
It is a… grey area, shall we say? There is no board of examiners that examine and grade a person’s level of proficiency. Most people will at least have a rough idea, but unless they are being taught by someone of fairly exceptional prowess who can run tests for them, they cannot be completely sure.
Harry frowned. How will I know when to advance to the next level then?
Well, my hope would be that your tutor would know, but you will answer all of my questions with one-hundred percent honesty and allow me to be the judge of that.
Harry could not help but allow a small, thin smile to tease the corners of his lips. It was so odd having an adult genuinely helping him so freely. And the fact that she was a seemingly incessant fountain of magical knowledge wasn’t exactly a downside either.
July 24, 1992
An Undisclosed Location
Charlus would have groaned if he had not just had all of the air forcefully ripped from his body by whatever purple spell had struck him hard in the midsection. He sunk to his knees as his wand was torn from his hands by yet another spell. He was far too dignified, or simply too stubborn to curl into a fetal position, but how his body wanted to do just that. This was now Charlus’s fourth lesson with Mister Bellona, and according to the man, or woman, or whomever or whatever lurked under that creepily perfect disguise, Charlus had been utterly useless when they had started. Personally, Charlus found that evaluation to be rather harsh, but he did not dare argue with Mister Bellona on that point. He learned very early on that arguing only ended poorly, and though he thought his methods mildly inhumane at times and positively arcane otherwise, Charlus could not deny that his instructor had been nothing short of brilliant!
Admittedly, much of the practices had been rather boring thus far. He had absolutely no base with which his instructor could work with, so naturally, Mister Bellona had been left no choice but to teach Charlus from the ground up, basic fundamentals and all. The format of Mister Bellona’s lessons were pretty similar. The first half an hour would be spent duelling. More precisely, it would be Charlus trying to last as long as he could while Mister Bellona beat him easily every single time without putting in any real effort. After this, they would spend an hour doing what Mister Bellona referred to as the “core work”. This meant that whatever the primary focus of the lesson was, be it spells or techniques, they would dedicate that full hour to that practice.
Once that hour had dwindled, they would spend the remaining half an hour of their lesson going over tactics and strategies. Oftentimes, it seemed that his instructor would break down Charlus’s mistakes during their mock duels and give in-depth analysis on how he could have better prepared and reacted for each situation. Other times, he would present Charlus with a real-world situation and ask him how he would deal with said situation. At least half of the time, this would end with Charlus feeling rather foolish, as Mister Bellona often presented very simple ways in which the conflict could either be outright avoided or ended with as little fuss as possible. Charlus, on the contrary, often proposed the most direct and flamboyant method possible and when he did so, he was sure that if he could see his tutor’s face, there would be a disapproving sneer plastered across it that would be worthy of either Snape or Malfoy.
“That will suffice.” Mister Bellona’s smooth, sophisticated drawl informed Charlus, prompting him to unsteadily rise from the floor. That was yet another thing he had learned quite early on during this student/mentor relationship. Showing weakness was not an option — ever. As Mister Bellona put it, his enemies would not give him the option, so why should he? Internally, Charlus actually agreed with this philosophy, harsh as it was. He had already learned that the hard way down in the catacombs of Hogwarts just weeks earlier. “I will be teaching you a spell today.” Mister Bellona told him. “Your fundamentals are shaky, but they are firmly enough in place that you can and will hone them on your own time.” Charlus nodded hurriedly; he would actually put time into it on his own. “For the remainder of our weekly sessions, which I think will increase to two per week in August, if you are able, I will be teaching you actual magic.”
Charlus had to try hard not to gape. “You’ll be teaching me twice a week-“ but he paused when Mister Bellona’s wand flicked towards him and a hot whip seemed to lash across his face, causing him to stagger. It was nothing compared to the curse he had endured during their first lesson, but it was still distinctly unpleasant.
“Do not ask questions you already know the answer to.” the instructor told him. “It is counterproductive and wastes both of our time. In battle, the only time such questions are appropriate are when you are stalling for time. Now,” he continued, turning to the line of dummies Charlus had used for target practice, “we will practice something… impactful, shall we? Let us call it an early birthday gift, of sorts.” The man’s wand snapped up and he deliberately drew the slash out in the air. The wand movement was unnecessary for him and it had been so for many years, but it was an apt way of teaching, he thought.
A dark purple blur, nearly imperceptible to the human eye, seemed to escape from the figure’s wand when he drawled the word, rolling the L in an unnecessarily dramatic fashion. The dummy that the advanced cutting curse slammed into promptly lost the leg that the curse had impacted.
It did not repair itself.
“You will find that these targets react in the way a human being may do so. That curse’s damage will not be healed naturally by the human body, though it is of course possible to heal the damage through the use of magic.”
“But s-sir? Isn’t that d-dar-“ but he did not finish. The same curse from his first lesson promptly washed over him and Charlus wanted to rip this man’s or woman’s throat out as the pain took him over. The fact that he knew he could do absolutely nothing made it all the worse. He had no hope of hurting the figure and as a result of the strict oaths he had willingly and knowingly entered into, he could tell nobody with the ability to do a thing about it.
“I will not tell you again!” the figure told him sharply. “There is no such thing as light and dark or good and evil, only power, and the intent with which it is wielded. The fact that the target did not reconstruct leads you to believe the spell is dark but in actuality, it simply means it is practical. If you are not willing to use spells that are actually useful in combat, we will cease these lessons at once and I will discard you as yet another lost cause. Is that your final choice?”
“N-n-no, sir.” Charlus said as vehemently as he could manage in his current state, hastily scrambling up to his feet as he did so.
And on they went for the next nearly hour and a half. Charlus had quite a bit of trouble with this curse. Apparently, he needed to conjure up a certain amount of negative emotion for this spell to be successful, and he was struggling to do that while still focusing on the spell. Mister Bellona had been surprisingly complimentary of his attempt and had even assured him that he had rarely taught anyone who mastered the spell on their first day. As a result of this, by the time Charlus left, his mood had been mildly lifted.
When he left, the man, for it was indeed a man under the grey cloak, waited several minutes in the room for what he knew was to come next. Then, less than five minutes later, the same portkey that Charlus Potter used to arrive for each and every lesson deposited the man who always brought the boy back to and from each and every lesson in front of him. “Wormtail,” Mister Bellona greeted before slowly, he reached up and lowered his hood, revealing well-kept golden blonde hair, soft yet sharp aristocratic features with an obvious undertone of danger and deep, blue eyes. “It has been so long. I must admit, I found it rather insulting when you did not have the time for such a chat after the last number of sessions I most graciously conducted for my old friend’s godson.”
Peter just smiled easily back at the man. “Oh, you know I’d have made time for you if I could have. It’s been quite difficult getting this exact time off each week, let alone making sure James doesn’t get this exact time off.”
The man known as Mister Bellona nodded his understanding. “Quite understandable, Pettigrew. It would be most unfortunate if James Potter strolled into my home now, wouldn’t it?”
“Quite,” Peter agreed, focusing a more interested stare on the man who still wore the grey cloak, “so tell me, old friend, how is my godson progressing in relation to the plan?”
A soft, cruel smile made itself present on Mister Bellona’s lips, “Ah, he is doing quite well. He is a stubborn child filled with idiocy, false morality, and overall foolish beliefs but I believe that by the end of the summer, all shall be in place for your rather ingenious little plan to begin to unfold.”
The smile that was now resting on Peter Pettigrew’s face was far more reminiscent of an expression typical of a starved rodent who had found food at long last as oppose to a person. “Splendid!”
July 25, 1992
Harry finished reading the draft of James Potter’s proposed contract and swiftly realized that the attention of the entire table was fixated on him. This morning, Sigmund was actually joining them, and the extra set of eyes only served to amplify the intensity of the gazes fixed upon him.
He looked at each member of the Weitts family in turn and shrugged. “I don’t really know what you’re expecting,” he admitted, “but honestly, a lot of this went way over my head. I’m not a lawyer.” he frowned. “Actually, come to think of it, is that even what they’re called in the magical world?”
“Solicitor would be more apt.” Sigmund told him, eyeing the offending contract with poorly hidden curiosity. “May I?” Harry handed it over without much thought. It wasn’t really like Sigmund could actually do damage of any kind and it was true that he would have a far higher probability of piecing together the intricacies of said contract than Harry.
There was about five minutes in which nobody spoke. Then, as he handed the contract back to Harry, Sigmund broke the rather tense silence. “This looks perfectly in order to me. I’m not a solicitor, but I’d like to think that I’d have picked out any blatant issues. I can have it sent to our family solicitor, if you’d like.” he paused. “Actually, I would strongly recommend it.”
Harry frowned. “How much will that cost?” he asked a bit nervously. “I… don’t exactly have free access to my family’s vault.” He didn’t really have any access at all, but if the Weitts family had not deduced this yet, he had no intention of enlightening them in regards to the fact.
Adriana waved her hand. “Don’t worry about the cost,” she told Harry, “we’ll cover it.” His eyes widened in surprise but by now, he knew better than to second guess Adriana Weitts. She was an extremely deliberate woman who only spoke when she was very sure of what she was saying.
“Thank you.” Harry said, trying to convey his genuine gratitude through his expression and words alone. He hoped that the soft smile that Adriana sent back his way was confirmation that he had succeeded, but he couldn’t be sure.
July 26, 1992
Harry had asked that morning about broomsticks. More specifically, how hard they were to get a hold of. When he had asked that question, he had certainly not expected Adriana to mention offhandedly that they had an array of broomsticks in storage. Even then, he was still taken aback to find Cleansweap 10s, probably the best broom in the world aside from Nimbus’s most recent models. Better still, Adriana had told him to use the broomsticks whenever he wanted, just to make sure he wasn’t doing anything beyond what he was comfortable with.
So that’s how Harry found himself on the front lawn of the manor with a state-of-the-art racing broom in his hand and a gleam in his eye. Finally, he would be able to fly freely, without the imposed restraints of Madam Hooch to hold him back.
As he kicked off and shot straight up into the air faster than he had ever done so before, Harry exalted in the feeling more than he had thought possible. Even on what he had then thought may very well have been the brink of death under the school in June, Harry had taken intense pleasure in chasing down the key on the broken, battered Hogwarts broom. Now, as he streaked through the air and did a lap of the manor at a frankly preposterous speed, Harry felt as though he may have just found the greatest feeling in the world. Feeling bold, he inverted and dove straight towards the ground as if chasing a snitch. He did not come super close to brushing his toes up against the grass as a professional seeker in a desperate, death-defying dive may attempt, but he dove far more boldly than any relative beginner should dare to dive.
As he pulled up, Harry privately wished he had a mirror to gaze into. He doubted that the grin that currently adorned his features had ever been matched in his eleven plus years of life, and it was an element of the moment that he wished to truly see for himself.
July 30, 1992
After his morning Occlumency exercises and a quick chat with Emily on a potion in the late second year portion of his textbook, Harry quickly dressed and made his way down into the Weitts family’s immaculate dining room. Upon entering, he froze with absolute shock as a wave of sound accosted him. Only through the use of Occlumency did he not flinch back from it, but as soon as he realized the source and context, his face split into a rare, unguarded smile.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY HARRY!”
There, in the dining room were not only Sigmund, Adriana, Grace and Charlotte, but also Blaise, Tracey, Daphne and the Greengrass parents, as well as Daphne’s younger sister, Astoria.
Occlumency be damned, Harry positively gaped at the lot of them. Never in all of his life had he even had anybody celebrate his birthday. If not for the Potter Gala he would be attending tomorrow, he likely would not have even remembered the fact that his birthday was tomorrow. As it was, he honestly expected an obligatory gift or two at the gala, but he never thought he would truly have people to celebrate his birthday with.
“This is the most surprised that I have ever seen you.” Daphne said when Harry worked his way to the table, thanking all of them as graciously as he could manage in his current state as he went. “With all that happened this last year,” she whispered so nobody else could hear, “that’s saying a lot.”
Harry shot her an almost sheepish smile. “It’s the little things that count, Daphne.”
That day was one of the more enjoyable days that Harry had partaken in over the past year of his life. He didn’t even bother to internalize the rest, because he knew full well with no thought on the matter that nothing before his trip to Diagon Alley last summer would have a chance at comparing to, let alone topping this.
The friends didn’t do a whole lot, not really, anyway. They played chess, talked, and lazed around the grounds. By the time dinner had come, the mood in the house was high and by the time it was over and Harry was presented with more presents than he’d have ever guessed he would receive in his life, jubilant may have been a more apt description for the mood.
He received sweets and customary tokens from most of his fellow Slytherin yearmates. To his amusement, even Malfoy had sent him something, though Harry suspected that may have only happened due to some… nudging from his parents. As a matter of fact, the dress shoes sent by the Malfoys were rather nice, and probably extremely expensive to boot.
Blaise had gotten Harry a stylish pair of shoes too, but when Harry read the note, conveniently not aloud, it was only then that he recognized the true value of the gift. The shoes would mask any and all noise Harry’s feet made while moving. With his ring hiding him from sight and the shoes making him auditorily undetectable, Harry thought exploring the castle at night may very well be a go this year.
The Carrow twins had each bought him a gift, which Harry honestly had not expected. He thought they would have simply split on one gift. Hestia had sent him a book on Ancient Runes. She must have remembered Harry borrowing her Runic Dictionary all those months ago. Coincidentally, a Runic Dictionary was exactly what Flora had sent him. Cassius, who seemed to be a bit of a history nut if his other present and constant talks about history were anything to go off of, had sent him a very old book called The Unfiltered Evolution of Magical Britain. Calypso, as expected, had also opted for a book. Hers was more practical. It was a book filled with some rather… questionable curses.
Next, Harry opened the Greengrasses’ gift and his eyes widened. At a glance, it wouldn’t seem like much, just a bunch of parchment. Upon a further inspection, however, one may have realized that it was in fact a contract already signed by the Greengrass family and another woman named Veronica Tate. According to Cyrus, it was a five year contract that would see Tate locked in as Harry’s solicitor and the costs would be covered by the Greengrasses. Harry actually didn’t know how to respond to that and had to hold back his emotions as he signed his own name with a blood quill to bind the contract. Clearly, they had no intentions of letting him return to Privet Drive, and that alone meant the world to him.
Tracey’s gift too did not appear much more than a book on the surface. Then, when one examined it, they might realize that it was a book on wizarding families of the southwest UK. According to Tracey, this region didn’t contain many families, so the author went into considerable detail on each. His family was one of the main features of the book. If they were not in public, Harry might have actually considered hugging Tracey.
Finally, he got to the Weitts’s gift and was yet again taken aback. In the package was another contract. This one, however, with his signature, would make him the holder of his own personal Gringotts vault. This vault would see a rather large sum of money transferred into it from the Weitts family vault upon his signature. By no means would it set him up for life or anything, but with that being said, it may be enough to purchase himself a small property and it would certainly get him through his Hogwarts years comfortably. Attached too, was an ankle band that would serve as a portkey directly to Weitts Manor.
“In case… certain individuals decide to meddle.” was the justification Adriana had given him. Privately, Harry was baffled as to how his relationship with the Weitts family had developed so quickly, but all in all, this was very easily the best birthday of his life — even if his birthday was not technically until the next day.
July 31, 1992
Harry arrived at Potter Manor via his portkey at the exact time the festivities were set to begin. As the Heir of House Potter, he didn’t think he could get away with being fashionably late to a charity event such hosted by his own family. With that being said, he had absolutely no desire to arrive any earlier than was strictly necessary. He did not want to be in the same room as his father at the moment. That was not even accounting for the possibility of Dumbledore turning up. If that happened, he would have to maintain a firm and constant grip on his Occlumency to prevent the temptation to curse him in the back.
Harry’s family home seemed to be set in a vast clearing in the middle of what appeared to be endless forestry on all sides. The home itself was four stories tall and made mostly out of rich, dark woods with bright accents. The wood had a reddish tinge and the accents were gold in many places. The fact that even Harry’s home was done in Gryffindor colours was something that Harry was not sure how to feel about, but he simply dismissed the fact as he made his way towards the manor. The festivities would start with lunch, and would then open up for some socializing. Politicking was probably more accurate, but socializing was the official order of business. After an hour or so of this, they would get to the presentation of gifts for Charlus, all of which would be donated to the Charlus Potter Charitable Fund. Harry figured he’d have a few in there as well, but he wasn’t overly bothered. After that, James would formally present Harry with his Heir’s ring to end the day on a positive note in regards to publicity.
All of this ran through Harry’s mind as he made his way towards the large front doors of Potter Manor, which were left wide open to admit all of the guests. Harry made sure to straighten his posture just a little bit more and stand just a little bit taller as he made his appearance.
About ten steps into the rather splendid entryway, Harry’s resolve was tested for the first time. There was James Potter, greeting guests and shaking hands and beside him, Charlus, smiling charmingly up at all of the adults who looked upon him with awestruck adoration. Harry had to try very hard not to sneer. It was foolish enough that the wizarding world had made a messiah out of a child. It was another level of foolishness when you considered the fact that Charlus had simply existed to earn that title. When considering the vital bit of context that Harry knew in regards to how it happened, the levels of idiocy raised still further. Granted, the rest of the wizarding world did not know that in reality, it had essentially been Lily Potter who had defeated Voldemort. Still, Harry found it pathetic how they all flocked to Charlus like sheep. If anyone should have been celebrated as a result of that night, it was their mother.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on one’s viewpoint, James chose that moment to spot Harry and his face broke out into a look of relief. Harry could have rolled his eyes. Surely his father had not been foolish enough to think he wouldn’t show up just to spite him? As deliciously savage as that image was, it was also the exact opposite of beneficial to Harry. If James had thought that to be a serious possibility, he really did not know the first thing about Slytherin House.
On one hand, James spotting Harry was fortunate because it did break him out of his rather dark contemplations. On another, this now meant that he would have to play nice with his father and brother in public, which was something he was distinctly not looking forward to.
“Harry!” James greeted with a rather shocking amount of enthusiasm. It was only years of practicing the art of smiling charmingly back at people who Harry had actively despised that allowed him to plaster a warm, content smile on his face as he made his way towards his father, ignoring how cameras flashed as he did so. Doubtlessly, the Daily Prophet would be covering Charlus Potter’s birthday and doubtlessly, they would want the scoop on the forsaken Potter Heir.
“Father.” Harry greeted in a polite voice that could easily pass as cheerful. Granted, he did not put anywhere near the same amount of jubilance into his voice as James had done moments earlier. For one, it was just not an image he was looking to portray and for two, forcing the smile was straining enough. If he tried to overdo this, he might truly go mental.
There was a very awkward moment when James very obviously was meant to hug Harry for the camera but very obviously thought better of it. Harry wondered whether James himself had been observant enough to come to that conclusion, or whether Pettigrew or someone else had gone and whispered secrets in his ear. In the end, the Lord and Heir of House Potter settled for a firm handshake and for James to pat Harry on the back, a motion that Harry tried very hard not to react to. It was bad enough that anyone was touching him. It was far worse still that it was the father who had allowed the old codger to ship him back to Privet Drive.
Harry had hoped he would pass largely unnoticed at the gala by allowing James and Charlus to cast him in their shadow. It became very evident very early that was not going to happen at all when James politely insisted Harry stay to greet the guests. It was not for more than an hour later that everybody make their way outside into the vast courtyard and pick seats at the many tables. Harry found himself sitting beside his brother, who had yet to say a word to him outside of the obligatory greeting. In fact, Charlus was sneaking covert, angry glares at Harry whenever he had the chance, and Harry’s raised eyebrow each time clearly was not doing his brother’s temper any favours. Aside from themselves, at the ten person table, there was James, Pettigrew, and according to James’s introductions, Susan and Amelia Bones, as well as Neville and Augusta Longbottom. Of course, Harry knew the Longbottom Heir on sight, but he had been ignorant as to the rest of the guests. The two final chairs did not remain empty for long, as about a minute later, two figures began to make their way towards them. When the two of them came close enough to become distinguishable, Harry could have sworn allowed at the man on the left.
‘Of fucking course it’s Dumbledore.’
“Good afternoon,” Dumbledore greeted the table enthusiastically, “I am sorry for my tardiness, but I did have most urgent business to attend to with our dear Minister here before arriving.”
Then, with a jolt, Harry realized who the man standing beside Dumbledore was. He was thin and of average height but had sharp, intelligent features, dark eyes, greying hair and a moustache of the same colour.
It was Barty Crouch Senior, the Minister of Magic.
“Minister!” James said with what was a decent attempt at surprise, drawing the attention of the entire courtyard as he quickly got to his feet to shake the man’s hand. When Charlus stood too, Harry was suddenly not at all sure if he was supposed to join them. To his great surprise, it was Dumbledore who caught his eye and gave the most subtle of nods. Harry would never be grateful for the man in any sense. He was a bastard who Harry despised with all of his being at the moment, but an infinitesimally small part of him was grateful for his existence in that exact, precise moment in time. Taking his queue and internally cursing James for leaving him to hang and dry, Harry swept to his feet, mentally adding lessons in politics as something that needed to happen at some point. There was only so much one could learn of such an art from books.
When Crouch had finished shaking hands with James and Charlus, his dark eyes turned towards Harry and there was… something in his eyes. Coldness? Dislike? “Ah yes,” he said and when he spoke, his voice was perhaps a bit clipped, but still certainly polite, “Heir Potter, at long last.”
Harry smiled disarmingly at Crouch in a way that unknowingly put the man instantly even more on edge. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Minister.” Harry said in the closest thing he could conjure to awe. Harry wondered if Dumbledore had told Crouch tales about him or if he was one of those who held a notorious dislike for anything and everything Slytherin. That would be something to research at a later date.
“Likewise, Heir Potter.” Crouch’s lie was convincing and effortless, but Harry knew it was nothing more than that — a lie. After all, Crouch had not reached the pinnacle of wizarding politics without becoming a proficient liar over the years. In Harry’s estimation, such a thing would have been impossible.
There was companionable conversation made at the Potter’s table throughout the entirety of the meal. Harry stayed quiet for most of it, but was occasionally dragged into the conversation. He would have just talked with Neville, but they were at opposite ends of the table. As a result, Harry had managed to do little more than return the boy’s glances with a nod and a smile.
Finally, when the meal had ended, Harry obediently trailed behind James and Charlus for what was about two hours, but what actually felt like two days. Harry met dozens of important people in the process, but very few of them stuck out to him. They were all faces in the crowd, for the most part. It was very clear that James had been extremely selective in regards to who could and who could not attend this event. In translation, if you were not an explicitly “light” family, you were out. Finally, they met Madam Marchbanks, the Head of the Ministry’s Board of Education, and before they could break off that conversation to turn to the throng of people gathered around them, she directed a question at Harry that took him a bit off guard.
“May I ask you a question that may confirm a rumour I have been hearing, Heir Potter?” For a second, Harry feared she was referring to him and Charlus’s confrontation with Voldemort. Then, the logical part of his brain realized there was no way she could have known about that.
Once he had come to that realization, he smiled charmingly back at her. “Of course, Lady Marchbanks.”
“I have not yet checked the public records to validate the rumour, but I had heard your end of year grades were rather remarkable?” She had clearly set Harry up to boast, but he didn’t. He would not be a braggart today. If she asked him explicitly what his grades were, he would answer her, but he did not want to be the one to flaunt it in front of the media. He was no politician, but he had enough common sense to know that was not a good idea. “I had heard, even, that you had received several O+’s?”
At this, the throng of people gathered around their little group hushed, suddenly nearly as interested in the Potter Heir as they were The-Boy-Who-Lived. Harry saw Charlus’s eye twitch and suddenly knew that his brother was intensely annoyed that the center of attention had shifted away from him. “That’s correct, Lady Marchbanks.” Harry said politely, doing his best to draw this exchange out for the sole purpose of annoying his brother. Perhaps it was vindictive, but Harry needed something interesting to happen today.
Lady Marchbanks’s greying brow raised. “Is it in fact true that you managed THREE O+’s, Mister Potter?”
Muttering followed her statement and Harry waited for it to finish, revelling in the look of surprise that showed on Charlus’s face an instant before his jaw tightened in irritation. Only when the muttering ceased completely did Harry answer. “Yes, Lady Marchbanks.”
“In which subjects?” she asked before the muttering could interrupt them once more.
“Charms, Transfiguration and Defense Against The Dark Arts.” Harry answered casually, as if this was no big deal at all. The crowd around them clearly knew exactly how big of a deal this was, as the muttering suddenly was turned up to eleven.
Of course, if one was being realistic, first year grades really weren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. But still, for a student to receive three of a mark that many people could not fathom was certainly worthy of some attention.
“What were your performances?” somebody called out and Harry realized only after glancing in their general direction that the question had been asked by a reporter.
“I’m sorry,” he answered in an excellent imitation of an apologetic tone of voice, “but that’s information I would rather keep private.”
“Can you show us some magic?” somebody else asked. “Some of the things you might have done?”
Suddenly, Harry realized he had been backed into a corner. Unless his father outright told the crowd that he would not allow it, something Harry thought was unlikely, Harry was trapped. He could either back down and look like he was a liar, something he absolutely would not want associated with his name. Or, he could risk showing how advanced he really was. He would have to shoot for somewhere in the middle, though that balance would be difficult to find.
“I’m not sure-“ James started, but he was cut off by another voice just as he started speaking and once again, Harry had to curse the name of the Hogwarts Headmaster.
“Come now, James.” Dumbledore said in a grandfatherly manner, stepping into the circle of onlookers with his legendary twinkle turned up to eleven. “We are in a controlled environment where we can all assure your son’s displays do not get out of hand. It would not be proper to dismiss the frenzy of the media, would it?”
The worst part about the situation was that Harry sort of just had to tip his metaphorical hat to Dumbledore. It was clever. Dumbledore knew very little of Harry and clearly did not trust him in some regard. If he wanted to put out feelers or potentially get a read on where Harry may be at, this was an excellent way to do it. Now even more than before, Harry would have to be very careful in striking a comfortable middle ground.
“I… suppose if my father’s ok with it.” he answered diplomatically, realizing that the stares of the entire crowd were upon him.
In front of the entire crowd, Harry performed the end of year exams flawlessly. He did not do too much extra, just enough to pop the crowd. He made his tea cup’s dancing routine particularly elaborate. He transfigured the mouse into a snuff box embroidered with the Potter family crest. And for defense, he performed several low level jinxes and hexes perfectly that were called out by the crowd. The entire time, it was blatantly obvious that Charlus was becoming more and more annoyed. Only when somebody asked him to transfigure a matchstick into a needle did Charlus lose his temper.
“Yeah, because that’s really impressive.” he muttered under his breath. Unfortunately for him, those nearest him in the crowd had heard him and promptly insisted he join. Now, Harry suddenly had a competition on his hand and all plans went out the window. Dumbledore and the press be damned, here was a chance to outdo his brother in public. He was not going to pass this up, even if he had to go a bit above and beyond what he had planned to do.
Charlus went first, transforming the matchstick into a needle with very little effort. Then, Harry went next. Instead of a simple silver needle, he added subtle but noticeable green accents, something which clearly annoyed Charlus. Before anybody could call out anything else, Charlus untransfigured the needle back into a matchstick and made his next needle bright red, glaring at Harry as he did so. The crowd were muttering as Harry smirked back at his brother and transfigured his now untransfigured matchstick into a green needle with silver trim and intricate snake carvings. Charlus set his jaw and transfigured a needle twice the size of what it should have been in Gryffindor colours with the Potter family crest displayed prominently on the needle.
The crowd actually applauded Charlus at this, who smirked victoriously back at Harry just as Harry caught James beaming at his son with unmasked pride. Now, just when people thought Charlus had won, Harry would stop holding back and end this once and for all. He waited for the crowd to be completely quiet before, making sure to keep eye contact with his brother the entire time and keeping a shit-eating grin plastered on his face, Harry tapped his wand against the matchstick.
Instead of simply transfiguring the matchstick into a needle, Harry pulled out a second year spell — sort of. The second year expectation would be for him to use a large plate and conjure one or two birds. The reason for this was that it would allow the student to work at transfiguring a set amount of matter into less matter than what was originally there. In the simplest terms, transfiguring something large into something smaller or of less matter was easy. Transfiguring something small, like a matchstick, into something that contained far more matter, like a flock of birds, was far more difficult. It was at least third year material, but that didn’t stop Harry from doing it seemingly without effort, actually drawing gasps and loud, ringing applause from the crowd. Honestly, Harry didn’t much care about any of that.
The only thing he cared about was the furious, yet horrorstruck expression on his brother’s face. Harry had outdone him and it could not be disputed. Not only that, but he had done it in front of Charlus’s “adoring public” and that had made it all the more sweet.
Luckily for Charlus’s dignity, his father chose that precise moment to step in, which, to Harry, only signified blatant favouritism. He told the crowd loudly and excitedly that they should move onto the opening of the twins’ gifts.
This ordeal took quite a long period of time, especially because Charlus was expected to thank each person grandiosely in front of everybody. Harry hadn’t been briefed on that part, shockingly, but he went with the flow and essentially copied his brother. The presentation of his Heir’s Ring was much simpler. All he had to do was step forward, let his father put the ring on his finger and smile for the cameras. That actually wasn’t hard, because there was an odd feeling of magic that had washed over him and if there was one thing Harry loved in this world, it was magic.
He thought it went alright, and by the time it had all ended and he, James, Pettigrew and Charlus were seeing people off, Harry actually thought the day as a whole had gone well. As soon as everybody had left, Harry told his father politely but curtly he would be leaving and though James looked rather pained and sour, he acquiesced. Harry figured he’d had a speech of some sort planned, but Harry was in no mood to hear it at the moment.
Before he left the house and portkeyed out, he was stopped one final time.
When he turned, he made sure he looked upon Pettigrew with the most innocent look of curiosity. He had no idea what it was about Pettigrew that unsettled him and put him on edge, but he didn’t trust him — not even a little bit. “What is it, Peter?”
Pettigrew smiled at him and winked before pulling a package from his robes and handing it to Harry. “I know I gave you a gift for show that will be donated and all that, but I thought I’d get you something a bit more… personal. It’s something I do each year for Charlus”
Harry smiled back at Pettigrew. “Thanks, Peter. I appreciate it.” he paused. “Do you want me to open it now?”
Peter waved his hand. “Nah, open it back at wherever you’re staying.” he smiled. “Well, it’s been great catching up with you and I’m sorry I can’t talk more. I’ve got to go help your dad out with some things, but don’t be a stranger, alright? If you ever need anything, anything at all,” he paused, “even help with your dad, just let me know. I’m always here for you.” he winked once more. “Happy birthday, Harry.” And with that, the man left, allowing Harry to portkey back to Weitts Manor with a number of thoughts in his mind.
Only when he had returned to the comfort of his room and called a house elf to check the package for curses and the like did he open it. He could have asked Grace, Adriana or Sigmund to do it, but he felt as if whatever was in this box should be kept to himself.
He was right.
There were two large books within the fairly heavy package and a note. First, Harry scanned the title of both books and his eyebrows rose. One was Descent Into Darkness: A Beginner’s Guide To The Dark Arts. The other was Light or Dark: The Truth. Harry furrowed his brow. Why on earth was Peter Pettigrew giving him a book on dark magic? Moreover, another book that seemed to discuss the whole “light and dark” magic debate? The only motive he could think of was to somehow set Harry up to get caught with them. Unfortunately for Pettigrew, Harry would be keeping these in a trunk protected with a chosen password — one that he had elected to speak in Parseltongue, and he would not be showing them to anyone anytime soon.
Still, there was a part of Harry who thought that was too obvious and that Pettigrew had a deeper, more sinister motive. Again, he didn’t even know why he distrusted Pettigrew, he just… did. Unfortunately for Harry, as interesting as the attached note was, it did not help any with his internal dilemma.
I know this summer’s been a bit rubbish for you and frankly, I wish James would have talked to me before just caving to Dumbledore. James grew up a spoiled little boy and I don’t think he really understands what it’s like to grow up in a household like yours. One of these days, maybe I’ll break his habit of following Dumbledore blindly. That’s why I plan on telling you to contact me anytime you need help — even if it involves your dad. He’s a good man, but he doesn’t see things clearly sometimes.
Oh, and speaking of that, I’m sorry about Charlus. He’ll come around, but what happened at the end of last year left some marks. For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re going dark, which is exactly why I’m giving you these books. They’re both dead useful if they’re not abused, but I trust you’ll only use them in the appropriate way.
Good catching up with you again and a final happy birthday from your favourite uncle!
I tried to learn from my mistake with Harry’s initial meeting with James in the chapter “Samhain Part I” from first year. I hyped up that meeting far too much considering its contents. I knew going in that the gala would be significant, but not massively so. As such, I tried not to raise your guys’ expectations to unrealistically high levels.
I do hope I succeeded and that you all enjoyed the chapter.
Bonus points to anyone who can piece together Peter’s plan.
In regards to the system of mind magic in this story. I will be using a system similar to the one in The Sinister Man’s “Harry Potter and The Prince of Slytherin”.
The problem with mind magic is that literally every idea under the sun has been done. With that in mind, I figured I may as well use the system that I think is the best. I would seriously recommend reading “Prince of Slytherin”, as I honestly think it’s the best HP fanfic out there at present and if you enjoy this one, I am sure you will enjoy that one.
I will be making quite a few additions and changes to his mind arts system, particularly in the actual theory behind it, but it is my foundation and much will be the same.
Please read and review.
PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, July 18th, 2020 at approximately 3:00 PM EST.
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