Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 7: Schemes and Sortings Part I
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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August 21, 1992
The Cuffe Household
Rita Skeeter frowned distastefully as the surprisingly strong summer wind blew her hair out of its immaculate position as she stepped out of old Barney’s home. In truth, Barnabus Cuffe, the editor of the Daily Prophet wasn’t terribly old. Still, Rita had known the man for so long now that it felt that way to her. He certainly seemed older than he was at times. Times like tonight, where he had easily and casually brushed her concerns about an up and coming reporter aside. Because of course, why would James Potter’s inherent dislike of her be counted against her in future opportunities when she had been the best selling writer the Prophet had seen in decades? That was, at least, if one did not count the wartime additions during the Purity War prior to She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s defeat in 1981.
All in all, Rita was feeling rather high on herself for a number of reasons. That feeling was punctured, however, when she stepped through the boundary of the Cuffe family wards and back out onto public property, intent on apparating back to her flat in London. As soon as she stepped through the wards, Skeeter saw a shadow shift in a most unnatural manner. Immediately, the reporter’s wand was in her hand but as she cast her eyes around the dimly lit clearing, even going as far as to activate the night vision enchantment on her charmed glasses, Rita could see nothing at all. Frowning, she glanced around one final time before deciding that it must have been a trick of the light and disapparating. She did, however, still take three trips to apparate home in case she was being followed by something that somehow evaded her enchanted spectacles. After all, one could never be too careful, least of all when they had as many enemies as Rita Skeeter.
Meanwhile, at Weitts Manor…
Harry stopped reading his book on Ancient Runes at last when the journal sitting on the desk beside him glowed blue with Emily’s response. This had been the longest she had ever taken to respond to him. Granted, it had still been less than twenty minutes, but it had been enough time for him to become entranced in his text. His memory was greatly expediting the process of learning the necessary foundational languages for Ancient Runes, and he could already tell that it would become one of his favourite subjects once the base work had been done.
As interested in the subject as he was, he was far more interested in Emily’s reply to his question, which he did not need to see to remember each and every word of.
I had a question about Legilimency. I think it’s more complicated than most of the questions I’ve asked before, but I figured I’d ask anyways. I have an… acquaintance who is learning Legilimency. By all accounts, she is very good at it. I’m not sure exactly how good she is. The other day, she told me and some others that she could hear others’ thoughts and gauge their general mood just by being near them. On top of that, she said that it was becoming hard to suppress while she worked on Legilimency, since she was at a specific point where her control was lessened.
Can you explain anything about that?
Harry had debated throwing in the old classic “I wasn’t even aware that was possible” line, but seeing as he had experienced similar feelings, if admittedly on a lesser and seemingly much more vague level than Charlotte, it would be an outright lie. Harry was not opposed to lying every now and then, but in his experiences of deceiving those around him, mostly his teachers pre-Hogwarts, half-truths usually worked much better than lies.
In any case, Harry opened the book eagerly and with a great deal of curiosity. As usual, Emily did not disappoint.
That is a rather complicated question, and it is one that is quite abstract as well, but I suppose that I can sate your curiosity. It is possible for some people to subconsciously glean the thoughts of others, though it takes a Natural Legilimens to do it, and usually quite an exceptional one at that. Usually, it is just an overall mood. For example, in my youth, I could tell whether or not someone was lying to me through use of the ability. Some, however, and I am lucky to count myself among them, experience this at a higher level, one could say. For those very, very rare individuals, they can glean exactly what a person is thinking, though it is fundamentally different from Legilimency as you know it.
Harry frowned. What makes it different?
I take it that you’re familiar with the spell ‘Legilimens’ by this point?
Still not knowing where Emily was going with this, Harry wrote his affirmation and waited for the next reply.
That wanded spell is the most basic form of Legilimency. You are channeling your magic through your wand in order to create a link between your mind and the mind of another. By channeling your magic through a wand, you are making the process far more simple. Most people think that the spell forms stronger links, but this is not the case. The spell makes it easier to form said links, so naturally, they will usually be stronger and more difficult to break for the defending Occlumens, but it is not a fundamental component of the spell.
For those who are particularly advanced within the field of Legilimency, a wand is completely and wholly unnecessary. For those who have truly mastered the art, forming the link between your mind and the mind of another is simply something that your magic is accustomed to doing. As such, you do not need your wand as a conductor. For the latter technique, eye contact is required, because it presents you with a point of focus to project your magic onto. The eyes are the suggested field of focus due to the neurological connection between the eyes and the brain. Beyond that, little is understood on the matter.
The thing that these two forms of Legilimency have in common is that you are actively conducting your magic onto a specific focus point in order to form a powerful connection.
For the vast majority of the population, these are the only two options. However, a select few among us are Natural Legilimentes.
Harry blinked. Legilimentes?
A second later, he sighed; he should have known what it meant based on the context.
It is the plural for Legilimens. The word is derived from the Latin words legere and mens. In Latin, the correct plural for mens is mentes, hence the seemingly odd plural.
Harry privately cursed wizards for using Latin. It was a bit of a pain to always have to flow back and forth between Latin and English. He knew that the language of casting really wasn’t that important, since magic was cast in all kinds of languages. He wished wizards had just modernized the spells and translated them all over to English.
Why do Natural Legilimentes have this third option? What separates them from the rest? Surely them naturally having the ability just means they have the same abilities as the rest without needing to develop them, right?
And there lies the truth, Harry. Legilimency is not an ability at all. As I have said, when deconstructed, Legilimency is simply forming a connection between two minds. A Natural Legilimens does not have to form those connections from nothing, for their magic naturally creates links to those around them; albeit far weaker ones than those typically used for Legilimency. Most of them can do little more than gauge a person’s overall mood and emotions. Those of us who are particularly prodigious can read exact thoughts with some practice, but even then, the extracting of actual memories is impossible.
Harry rubbed at his temples. Legilimency as a whole seemed rather confusing. Then again, this was not the first, nor was he sure that it would be the last time he was left reeling after a theoretical discussion with the enigmatic Emily Riddle.
August 22, 1992
Harry was awake early that next morning and after reading up on Ancient Runes for about an hour, he thought some breakfast may not be a bad idea. To his astonishment, he did not seem to be the only person to have the idea.
“Grace?” he asked quietly.
Grace’s posture stiffened and she turned around rather quickly. When she saw Harry, her blank expression did not waver. “Good morning, Harry.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you awake this early.” Harry observed, hoping that she would tell him what the purpose of this early morning was.
Grace shrugged. “You probably haven’t; I don’t exactly make a habit of it.” She pursed her lips. “Honestly, I wish I was still in bed right now.”
“Why aren’t you then?” Harry asked cautiously. It was quite a blunt question, but at 6:00 in the morning, he thought he could get away with it. Plus, he had developed a fairly open relationship with Grace, at least in regards to small, innocuous things.
“I have my apparition test scheduled this morning.”
Harry’s eyebrow rose. “At six or seven in the morning?” He was more than a little bit skeptical of the fact. “What time exactly do you have to be there for? Surely you don’t need to be that early?”
Grace sighed. “You are entirely too observant for your age.” she told him darkly. Harry tensed almost unnoticeably. The last person to say something similar to that statement had been Dumbledore, and that had been moments before the man made a fairly efficient attempt at ruining Harry’s summer. When Harry continued to peer speculatively at her, Grace just rolled her eyes. “I have… an appointment beforehand.” Harry nodded slowly. He knew that now, he would get nothing more out of her, but he did wonder what this appointment was. Grace peered around before meeting Harry’s eyes. “I would… appreciate it, if you didn’t tell my mother and father that I left at this time. They know about the apparition test, but not my other business.”
Harry’s attention was now caught more than ever, but he kept his face completely blank and polite. “If you’d like.” he agreed, earning himself a brief smile in return as Grace reached for a grey travelling cloak and wrapped it around herself before she walked off towards the Entrance Hall and in it, the floo.
“Sure,” Harry muttered, eyes following her all the way out of the room, “don’t mention it.”
August 31, 1992
Draco knocked lightly on the heavy oak door that led into his father’s personal study. It was one of only a few rooms within the expansive confines of Malfoy Manor that he was not allowed to enter without permission under any circumstances. Not that he could have entered even if he’d wanted to. The room was rather heavily warded and it would have taken a rather talented curse breaker or a small squad of aurors to enter the room without permission in any decent amount of time. On rare occasions such as tonight, however, Draco was summoned to the room by one of the family’s house elves. It had only happened a handful of times in his life, which was how he knew that whatever this was about would be serious.
“Enter.” drawled his father’s smooth, aristocratic voice. Cautiously, Draco reached out, wrapping his fingers around the cool, immaculate doorknob before turning it and admitting himself into the ornate room. It was a very large room, dominated primarily by bookcases and portraits of Malfoy family ancestors. On the right most wall was a large fireplace. It allowed for exit only floo access. Technically, locations could be connected to the floo to allow them entrance to the manor, but to Draco’s knowledge, no other home or any other location had ever been connected.
On the far wall facing the door, Draco’s father sat behind his large, wooden desk, reclining on his black leather chair that very much resembled a throne. Behind the large, polished oak desk on the wall was the most prominent portrait of all. It was of a man who looked quite a lot like Lucius and Draco, but his eyes were darker and his features sharper. Draco knew the face. It was his grandfather, Abraxas Malfoy, the previous Lord of House Malfoy prior to his death more than a decade earlier. “Sit.” Lucius commanded his heir, his attention dedicated primarily to the piece of parchment which he was reading intently. When Draco sat, he had to wait nearly five minutes before his father nodded in a self-satisfied sort of way before sliding open one of the desk drawers and neatly storing the letter within it. Only when he finished, did he look up, fixing Draco with his grey-eyed stare.
“I have told you this summer that this year, you will act as a true Malfoy and not as a foolish schoolboy, correct?”
Draco nodded respectfully. “Yes, Father.”
“Well, Draco, I have a more… specific opportunity for you to prove your competence this year.” Draco felt apprehension crawl into the pit of his stomach at his father’s words, but he tried his utmost best not to show it. Draco was not foolish enough to miss the true message his father was projecting. There was family business that needed to be conducted this year at Hogwarts, and it would fall to him, the Malfoy Heir, to assure that said business ran smoothly. As for the nature of this business… Draco was honestly nervous to speculate.
“What would you require of me, Father?”
Lucius leaned slightly forward in his chair, peering more critically at his son. “There is a student starting at Hogwarts this year by the name of Benedict Cuffe.” Draco quickly searched his memory bank for the name. He did not know of a Benedict Cuffe, but Cuffe was an Ancient House. “I would like you to approach him on the train, if the opportunity presents itself.”
Draco’s brows furrowed. He failed to see why on earth his father was so interested in a child from an Ancient House who he did not even believe to be the heir. “Of course, Father.” he responded carefully. “Can I… can I know why you’d like me to approach him? It might make me better suited for the job?”
Lucius smiled thinly. “Certainly. I would like for you to assure that he ends up in Slytherin House.” Draco blinked, clearly confused. Lucius answered his unasked question before he could speak. “After all, it will be much easier to observe him and report back anything you find about him back to me if you can befriend him. Which, in turn, will be much easier if he’s a member of Slytherin House.”
Five minutes later…
As Draco made for the door once his father had concluded their meeting, Lucius’s voice stopped him.
Draco turned, eyebrows raising before his father said his final piece and dismissed him for real. “If… mysterious events come to pass this year at Hogwarts, it would be in your… best interests to not look into said events too closely and simply allow them to play out as they do.”
Draco’s brow furrowed but he did not dare question his father’s cryptic statement as he dipped his head in acknowledgement and made his exit from the room.
Once Draco had left the study, Lucius slid open the desk drawer once more and once again removed the letter he had been reading prior to Draco’s arrival. After reading it over one final time, Lucius stuffed it back in the drawer and climbed to his feet, quickly making his way over to the portrait of his ancestor, Septimus Malfoy.
“Sanctimonia Vincet Semper.” he said clearly, and the portrait swung forward to reveal a number of ornate mirrors. Lucius took a moment to examine each in turn before finally, he retrieved one with a name clearly inscribed upon its back.
“Walpurgis.” Lucius intoned and immediately, the mirror glowed blue. Within a minute or two, the glowing faded and a man’s face appeared in the mirror. He had sharp features, dark eyes and medium length brown hair. There were several scars on his face and he looked older than he truly was.
“Lucius?” Tiberius Nott asked, surprised.
“Hello again, old friend.” Lucius said with a small smile. “I have a proposition for you.”
September 1, 1992
King’s Cross Station
As usual, the Weasley contingent arrived just in the nick of time, only minutes before the Hogwarts Express was set to depart from Platform 9¾. Among the Weasley brood this year was another boy who stood out like a splash of paint against a white canvas. His messy black hair served as a vivid contrast to the sea of redheads that surrounded him. Ordinarily, James would have accompanied Charlus to the platform but this morning, he was off on a raid of some kind and Peter was off… somewhere. Charlus didn’t really mind. James had managed to have an entire week off after his birthday and a few days around their trip to the alley, so he wasn’t super bothered. Besides, Charlus had no objections to spending time with the Weasleys, Ron in particular.
Mrs. Weasley went through first, clutching Ginny’s hand as she did so. Charlus could not help but notice how annoyed the youngest Weasley looked but before he could ponder on it for long, the pair of them had disappeared through the seemingly solid barrier. Next, Percy marched through the barrier alongside Mister Weasley. Then went the twins and finally, it was time for Ron and Charlus to do the same.
“Together then.” Ron asked leisurely, strolling towards the barrier at a brisk pace right alongside Charlus. As the two boys neared the barrier, Charlus smiled, ready to continue on the magical journey that had captivated him so much the year prior.
Except for the fact that last year, he had not slammed hard into a barrier and been thrown rather painfully to the ground. Last year, he simply passed straight through the barrier alongside his best mate, walking in much the same way they had been doing now.
As the two boys fell, a resounding crash echoed through the station and to both boys’ dismay, they found themselves being openly gawked at. Luckily, Charlus managed to play it off as if the two of them had simply lost control of the trolley, but it was still a rather disastrous crash nonetheless. When the duo had regained their bearings, they leaned up against the barrier, doing their best to look conspicuous while simultaneously trying their utmost to force their way through. To their conjoined dismay, it did not work.
“I’ve never even heard of this happening.” Ron muttered. “This has been up and running for ages. It can’t just have malfunctioned?”
Charlus shook his head thoughtfully. It was far too much of a coincidence to assume that the barrier, which, to either of their knowledge, had never been faulty before had simply failed mere moments before the most famous student ever to attend Hogwarts strolled right on up to it. “I doubt it,” he answered, “if it failed, I think it would’ve failed for everybody, not just for us. I mean, your family literally just went through. It makes no sense.”
As he said this, Charlus looked up at the clock and his heart nearly stopped. There was only one minute left until the express was set to depart. Furiously, Charlus slammed his shoulder hard against the barrier, but it stood as solid as ever.
“What are we gonna do?” Ron asked in a panic. “Wait for my parents?”
Charlus hesitated. There was a chance that whatever magic prevented Ron and Charlus from passing through the barrier would make it impossible for Ron’s parents to return. There was also that small part of him that had vowed to do better after the confrontation with Voldemort. He’d needed his brother and Dumbledore to save him, in spite of his best efforts. Charlus had vowed to himself to be better, to solve his own problems.
Now, he had a choice.
Charlus chose to solve the problem himself.
“Nah, let’s figure something out.” Charlus said. “We have no idea if your parents can even get back through the barrier and besides, even if we did wait, where would we wait that they could find us? It’s a zoo in here.”
Ron shrugged. “We could wait by the car.” Then, at the exact same moment in time, Ron’s jaw slowly fell open and Charlus’s eyes widened. The two of them shared a brief, intense stare before Ron whispered his thought aloud. “The car…”
“Ron, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
Ron hesitated. “I-I think so.” he paused. “But isn’t it… you know, illegal? The Statute of Secrecy and all that?”
Charlus frowned. “Yeah, but they make exceptions in special situations. Personally, I definitely think this qualifies. And honestly, I’m kind of done letting other people solve my problems.” Ron did not know what his best friend meant by the last comment, but the thought of flying a car to Hogwarts was tempting enough to forestall any protests he may have voiced otherwise.
Meanwhile, on the Hogwarts Express…
Harry, Daphne, Tracey and Charlotte had all boarded the train together. Once onboard, the four of them had searched for an empty compartment. Instead, they found something that Harry considered to be even better.
“Blaise!” Tracey exclaimed when they opened a compartment door and revealed the tall, dark skinned boy with dark hair and eyes lounging back in his seat and reading a book whose title Harry could not distinguish.
Blaise looked up slowly, allowing his lips to curve upwards into a small smile. “Morning everyone.” he greeted cheerfully, sweeping to his feet as he stowed his book away in his bag. After reacquainting with his three friends, Blaise turned to Charlotte, who did not immediately offer her hand for the customary greeting. Instead, Blaise, looking mildly taken aback for only a second, offered her his hand and a smile that could melt ice. To Charlotte’s credit, her expression didn’t waver. That fact actually seemed to catch Blaise off guard, for he paused for a second longer than normal before going on with his introduction. Harry too was impressed. Not even Daphne could consistently resist a blush around Blaise. “It’s a pleasure to meet such a beautiful maiden.” Blaise said, laying it on thick as always. “Blaise Zabini, at your service.”
Charlotte appraised him for a number of seconds before slowly, finally, she offered her hand, which Blaise brushed with his lips before clasping briefly. “A pleasure, Heir Zabini.” Charlotte said carefully. “Charlotte Weitts, youngest daughter of the House of Weitts.” For a second, surprise flashed in Blaise’s eyes and Harry could tell that he would be thoroughly annoyed with the three of them for not even informing him Grace had a younger sister. In typical fashion, Blaise’s surprise was gone as quickly as it had appeared.
“Ah, I see.” he said, smiling once more. “Well, I hope to see you in Slytherin, Miss Weitts.” Then, Blaise turned to Harry. “How’s the second half of summer treated you, my friend?” Blaise’s voice gave nothing away but in that moment, Harry’s suspicions that Blaise at least had ideas about his home life were confirmed. Unbidden, feelings of dread, anger and bitterness welled deep within the pit of Harry’s stomach, but he suppressed them, making sure to allow no emotion to cross his face until he smiled easily back at Blaise. Only after doing this did Harry realize that if anybody in his year had a more trademarked smile than he did, it was Blaise. Harry could almost always tell when the latter’s smile was disingenuous, and he imagined after the fact that the same would apply in reverse.
“I enjoyed it.” Harry answered easily.
“You made the paper, I noticed.” Blaise said conversationally.
Harry rolled his eyes. “You’ll have to be more specific, Blaise. I’m pretty sure I made the paper more than once.”
Blaise chuckled. “So you did. Let me rephrase that. You, your brother, and our lovely new Defense Against The Dark Arts Professor made the paper.” Harry made a face and Blaise laughed openly this time. “What’s the matter, Harry? Don’t like him as much as you did Hurst?”
Harry wasn’t sure if that was Blaise’s attempt at teasing or whether it was a probe in hopes that he would mention something about Hurst. If it was the latter, Blaise really should’ve known better than to get his hopes up. “He’s incompetent.” Harry dismissed easily.
Tracey actually gasped at his statement. “Incompetent?! Harry! Have you not read his books? He’s done all sorts of amazing things!”
“He’s written about doing all sorts of amazing things.” Harry corrected. “That and doing them aren’t necessarily the same thing.”
Blaise looked between the two of them as if vaguely interested in a particularly even tennis match. “Harry’s judgement is usually pretty sound.” Blaise admitted. “But, if he’s incompetent, he must be really incompetent. You would have to be a special kind of fool to lie about all of that. It could backfire in your face terribly. Half-truths work much better than lies. I definitely don’t think he’s useless. I think there’s probably more to him, though.”
Harry scoffed at Blaise’s naivety in regards to Lockhart, but it was Daphne who spoke up first. “Spoken like a seasoned veteran, Zabini.”
Blaise merely raised an eyebrow in challenge. “And you’re not a seasoned veteran?”
As Daphne made to respond, Harry turned to Charlotte, who was sitting beside him while Daphne and Blaise began to squabble and Tracey watched intently. Charlotte had a rather pensive expression and she met his stare quickly, raising an eyebrow in question. “Ask me then?” she said quietly enough for the others to miss.
Harry frowned. “I’ll take it you didn’t mean to Legilimize me.”
“I didn’t have to.” Charlotte said exasperatedly. “When you want to ask a question, you have obvious tells. You’re good at hiding most things, but you always look uncomfortable when you want to ask a question.”
Harry paused. He supposed that would make sense based on his life at Privet Drive and the conditioning he had involuntarily received at the hands of his relatives. Still, that was a habit that would need to be broken. “You know something, don’t you?” he asked in barely more than a whisper.
Charlotte’s lips curved up in a sweet smile. “I know plenty of things, Harry. You’ll have to do better than that.”
“About Lockhart. You don’t believe me that he’s a fraud?”
“I don’t exactly know anything, but I definitely don’t think he’s a fraud. I’m pretty sure of it, actually.”
Charlotte scowled, genuinely looking annoyed. “It’s rude to assume I just Legilimize everybody I come across, you know?.” she pointed out, and Harry looked a bit abashed. She sighed. “Sorry, it’s just stressful, since I’m still working on the control bit. No, it has nothing to do with Legilimency. Seeing as we’re talking about it though, he does at least know Occlumency.”
Harry sighed; and here he had felt guilty for making assumptions about Charlotte.
Meanwhile, in a separate compartment…
Ares Black looked out the window for as long as she could, watching the figures of her Mother, Father, Aunt and Uncle vanish as the Hogwarts Express pulled steadily away from Platform 9¾. It would be odd to be away from her parents.
Her father spent quite a lot of time at the Ministry since he had risen historically through the ranks on his way to becoming head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation. Still, her mother had almost always been at the manor in her youth. Often she was working, managing both the Black and Lestrange family affairs, but she was almost always there. It was true that her mother, Bellatrix, had never exactly babied her and had rather forcefully directed her towards independence at a young age, but she had still always been there. It felt so odd rushing away from virtually all she had ever known at this speed. Even when she hadn’t been at home, she had been at Malfoy Manor in the presence of Aunt Narcissa and Uncle Lucius.
“It’s not that bad, you know?” Draco said from beside her. He too was looking out the window, and he too, like Ares herself, wore a guarded expression.
“What makes you think that I don’t like it?” Ares asked curiously. She had a strong, clear voice that was somewhat soft in its tone. She had a sort of detached way of speaking much of the time, which was exactly what she was doing right now.
Draco shrugged. “I thought about it last year.” he admitted quietly. Draco wasn’t the most open person when it came to his true feelings, but Ares was like a sister to him. If there was anybody he could trust, it was her. “It was… hard at first. I missed home, I missed my parents, I missed our lifestyle. But after a while, it gets easier. It becomes a routine, like Father always said.” Lucius had always preached the power of a routine. True, it was usually in reference to business, but Draco thought the statement still likely applied here.
Ares didn’t answer for about a minute. Then, she spoke in little more than a whisper. “Thank you, Draco.”
Draco smiled genuinely. “Always.” Then, he sighed. “I have family business I need to attend to. Care to join me?” Ares nodded. After all, what else was she supposed to do? She had no friends except for Draco, not that she had ever tried to make them. Acquaintances, sure, but her mother had always advised her against true friends. Draco was family, so he was an exception.
As they walked, Draco slid a folder out of his robes and eyed it discreetly. Ares quickly glanced at the folder from over his shoulder and recognized it. She had to bite down the urge to frown. Those folders were not overly uncommon among the wealthiest, most morally ambiguous pureblood families. Usually, they were concerned with a person. Their likes, their dislikes, how to approach them, how best to acquaint with them, their appearance, and so on and so forth. Ordinarily, rich pureblood families paid for these folders to be made up by those who would examine known information about the person. The picture that Draco was looking at was one Ares had never seen before. As they continued down the hall, Draco peered in each compartment before finally, he spotted one that was very obviously the compartment that held the boy he was looking for.
The compartment had three occupants. One was the boy whose face matched the photo Ares had seen a minute or so earlier. One was a platinum blonde girl with silvery eyes and a slim figure, and the other had flaming red hair and was very obviously a Weasley. Whatever this family business of Draco’s was, it must have been important. Though he was very clearly annoyed at seeing the youngest Weasley and doing a poor job of hiding it, he did not immediately make any slight towards her, nor did he leave. Instead, he set his jaw, looking anywhere but at Weasley as he stepped towards the only other male in the compartment and held out his hand.
“You’re Benedict Cuffe, right?” The boy, Benedict Cuffe, Ares supposed, looked intensely surprised but nodded slowly, almost cautiously. Draco smiled a wide, winning smile, seeming to do the best he could to turn that famous Malfoy charm up to eleven. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Scion Cuffe. I am Draco Malfoy, Heir of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Malfoy. My lovely friend here is Ares Black, Heiress of the Founding House of Black.” Ares spotted Weasley’s eyes widen, though they were mostly hidden behind a book that she was very clearly hiding behind. Before she could think much on that, Draco was speaking again. “Say, do you mind if we sit here, Benedict?” Then, Draco paused, frowning in a clearly deliberate fashion. “If I may call you Benedict, of course.”
“Uh… sure,” the boy said, seeming a bit taken aback, “you can stay and… uh, you can both call me Ben or Benedict, if you’d like, Heir Malfoy, Heiress Black.”
Draco smiled. “Splendid! Do me a favour, Benedict. Please, call me Draco.”
A few hours later…
Calypso, Cassius and the Carrow twins had popped in for a bit right around the time that the trolley full of sweets and the like had arrived at their door. Harry, Daphne, Tracey, Blaise, Charlotte and the four older students talked amiably while they all ate their fair share of sweets. Harry thought this year’s discussion while eating sweets was far more pleasant than last year’s. Vividly, he remembered how Charlus had essentially dragged him into a compartment with himself and Ron and tried, in his own, self-deluded way, to fix the relationship between them. It was so odd how quickly Charlus’s opinion could shift. In the span of a school year, Harry had gone from his long lost brother, to that Slytherin prat, to his reunited brother, to a dark wizard on the rise. Harry had no idea if Magical Britain knew of bipolar disorder, or whether magic somehow even prevented it, since he had yet to see any disabled magicals, but if it existed, Harry seriously thought that Charlus needed to be tested.
After a while, their older acquaintances returned to their own compartment, leaving Harry and his friends alone. Before Harry could join in the conversation between the three girls, he noticed something from the overhead compartment. A faint, bluish glow seemed to be emanating from his school bag, which he had kept separate from the shrunken trunk in the pocket of his robes. Carefully, Harry stood, pulling the enchanted piece of parchment from his bag in a manner that allowed nobody to see him with it.
When he took his seat once more, he was grateful that Charlotte, who still sat beside him, was engrossed in her conversation with Daphne and Tracey. Granted, her eyes did flick towards Harry, but when she saw he was simply holding a piece of parchment, she lost interest quickly enough. Blaise, on the other hand, seemed to know that Harry rarely did anything innocuous. He raised an eyebrow at Harry, who just shook his head in return. As he unfolded the bit of parchment, Harry reflected that it was almost as if his thoughts had summoned his brother. Then again, perhaps the trolley had found Charlus’s compartment and his brother had simply shared the same thought.
Or, apparently not, seeing as it wasn’t even Charlus who was writing to him.
Harry, it’s James.
I realized during a break from work today that Charlus left this at home. I wanted to check if you were alright and on the train, since your brother seems to have decided to go off the rails a bit.
Harry frowned. Truthfully, he had no interest in speaking to James in any capacity. Any trust that had existed between the two of them had shattered, and Harry was fairly certain it would never be repaired. Still, he could at least pretend he cared and reap the benefits, at least for now. Until he found a way to gain a position in which James would have no control over him anymore. And honestly, James’s message had actually been rather Slytherin. Harry was too naturally curious. He couldn’t not ask what his idiotic brother had done this time. He figured there was a good chance that James was simply seizing an opportunity to talk to him, but he ignored the fact that he was practically feeding into his plan.
I’m perfectly fine, thank you. What has Charlus done this time?
Then, Harry’s eyes widened in astonishment as he realized that his father may have just been genuinely concerned. Harry also felt rather insulted that his father would ever think such idiocy a possibility for him, but he crushed that emotion ruthlessly. He was feeling too much shock to deal with much else, after all.
Apparently, he decided to take the Weasley’s flying car from the parking at King’s Cross and fly it to Hogwarts whilst Arthur and Molly saw their kids off to school. Ron went with him. I have half a mind to send a team of HIT wizards after them, but I promised Arthur I’d keep his car low-key, and that would almost definitely lead to a formal investigation by the DMLE.
I just wanted to check that one of my sons turned out a bit more like their mother.
Harry would have frowned, even scowled at James’s casual reference to his mother. Was he seriously trying that technique again in an effort to get Harry to open up? But at the moment, he was more concerned with folding the parchment, stuffing it into his robes and burying his head in his hands before furiously rubbing at his temples.
“What’s got you in such a twist?” Blaise asked, and Harry suspected the boy’s eyes had never left him. Suddenly, the attention of the others in the compartment were all on Harry and he sighed, leaning back against his seat and looking skyward, as if the heavens may present him with a feasible explanation for how some people were just born with absolutely no common sense.
“Stupid people give me a headache.” he muttered, drawing raised eyebrows from the other four. “Apparently, the dimwitted duo of my brother and Ron Weasley decided it was a great idea to steal a flying car and fly it to Hogwarts instead of taking the train like the rest of us mere mortals.”
Ringing silence permeated the compartment following Harry’s proclamation. “Differing circumstances or not,” Daphne muttered darkly, “I do not understand how the two of you are related.”
Charlotte just looked between all four of them. “Please tell me not every Gryffindor is that much of an idiot.”
“No,” Blaise responded dryly, “certainly not. Just most of them.” In spite of himself, Harry joined his four friends in a fit of laughter.
Hours later, at Hogwarts…
As Harry and his friends, except Charlotte, who had joined the other first years in riding across the Black Lake, stepped out of the seemingly self-propelled carriage they occupied, Tracey shot an odd, tragic look towards the carriages. Harry peered speculatively towards her, but she shot him an “I’ll tell you later” sort of look, and Harry just shrugged. As the four of them neared the Entrance Hall. Harry spotted Malfoy, Parkinson, Nott, Crabbe and Goyle just ahead of them. They appeared to be talking about Charlus Potter. Or, to be more precise, his mysterious absence from the Hogwarts Express.
Remembering exactly how all of Gryffindor House had leered and hissed at him at the end of last year, Harry suddenly saw a rather perfect path to retribution. Of course, he would never rat out his darling brother to his father’s least favourite professor, but he certainly knew someone who just might. Quickening his pace to end up just behind the Slytherin quintette, Harry spoke in a voice loud enough to carry to the group in front of them.
“I still can’t believe the nerve of my brother.” he told Blaise beside him in an exasperated voice. He could have smirked when he saw Malfoy’s step hitch for just a moment. Fortunately, Blaise seemed to know exactly where Harry was going with this as, with a sideways wink the Slytherins ahead of them couldn’t see, he responded.
“It is honestly impressive the lengths your brother will go to in order to stand out. I mean, flying a car to Hogwarts for a bit of publicity…” Draco’s posture went ramrod stiff at Blaise’s proclamation and Harry shot Blaise a quick grin as they all entered the Great Hall. Sure enough, Malfoy’s first action upon entering the hall was to beeline straight towards the staff table and more specifically, their Head of House, Professor Snape.
As Harry and his friends took seats at the Slytherin table, far further from the end than last year, in fact, Harry watched as Malfoy conversed with Snape. A minute or so later, Snape nodded curtly, swept to his feet and exited the hall, black robes billowing typically behind him.
“That was delightfully cunning of you, Harry.” Blaise said approvingly, toasting Harry with one of the empty glasses that sat in front of each student, waiting to be filled when the feast began in full force.
Harry tilted his head, a perfect look of innocence imprinted upon his visage. “Cunning, Blaise? I’ve no idea what you’re on about.”
Blaise smiled knowingly back at him before, all of a sudden, the door off the hall swung open and Professor McGonagall entered, leading the newest crop of Hogwarts first years up towards the center of the hall.
Charlotte was standing at the very back of the line, clearly destined to be the final student sorted. Seeing as her name started with a “W” this wasn’t overly surprising. Standing right in front of her was another student that Harry recognized. Of course, that flaming red hair was hard to miss, and Harry was reasonably sure that even if he had never seen the girl before today, he’d still have managed to make the correct assumption that she was a Weasley. The other figure that Harry recognized was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum to Charlotte in this case. In other words, she was the very first student in line. Ares Black stood out quite easily as a result of her heavily lidded eyes, long, straight black hair and sharp, aristocratic features.
When the new first year students had all congregated in front of the staff table, Professor McGonagall placed the spindle legged stool in front of them and rested the ancient Sorting Hat atop the equally old piece of furniture. Then, a moment later, a brim on the hat opened and it began to sing.
“There was a time long years ago when I did not exist.
Instead, four great sorcerers sorted students, for they could not resist
The urge to differentiate and set themselves apart.
This however, laid the basis for them to depart.
‘Twas Gryffindor who made me, and that time I still remember
And still now, many years later, I sing at the dawn of each September.
‘Tis my job to sort the first years each and every year
But I try and speak some wisdom that I hope all students hear.
First, I shall enlighten those all who may be new
And then, I shall tell you all the traps unknowingly laid out for you.
First there is Gryffindor, where dwell those most pure of heart
‘Tis their daring, nerve and chivalry which sets Gryffindors apart.
Students of this house must be more than simply brave
lest they find themselves wrecked, a foolhardy knave
Next there is Ravenclaw, where intellect rules the roost
If knowledge is your end goal, then I offer you a boost.
Yes indeed, if it is knowledge you desire
The house of wise old Ravenclaw will help you so acquire
Thirdly there is Hufflepuff, the den of Badgers true
Calling out those of honor through and through
Following their founder’s ways of hard work and toil,
Those Puffs are always loyal.
Finally, the house of cunning and ambition
It baffles me how the house has suffered such division
For wise old Slytherin was great, noble and insightful
It would cause him great pain the way some look upon his disciples.
At Hogwarts, one’s house is like their family
Within this school, there should be no greater force than unity.
I must sort you by your values, and that I must adhere to
But in my eyes, it is not one’s values, but one’s choices which define you.
Open your eyes, look around, and please do heed my song
Judging by one’s values is far, far worse than wrong.
At one time, the four houses were as one, as all values came together
But alas, centuries later, the four were torn asunder.
Conflict, hate and enmity are truly heinous things
It is my belief, in fact that they shall be our great undoing.
So enjoy the world, for it is great, but not so everlasting.
But alas, I shall not ramble on, it is high time that I get sorting!”
When the hat concluded its song, the hall burst into its customary applause. Personally, Harry thought it was a rather deep song for the opening of the term, but he was no poet by any means. When the applause died down, McGonagall called the first student‘a name, and Harry leaned forward in his chair, eager to gauge the overall reaction to the Black Heiress’s arrival.
Immediately, a hush fell over the hall. The silence was nowhere near as absolute as it had been last year when Charlus had stepped forward, but it was similar to the reaction Harry himself had received. The difference now, however, was in the atmosphere. When Harry had stepped forward exactly one year earlier, the hall had been permeated by an air of curiosity. Now, an almost oppressive tension settled over the gathered students as the regal looking first year strode confidently forward with a completely blank expression and took her seat on the stool. There was a delay of about twenty seconds, which was honestly longer than Harry had expected before the hat declared the Black Heiress a Slytherin.
As a matter of fact, the next student was also sorted into Slytherin. Benedict Cuffe, his name had been. Then, a mousy-haired boy called Colin Creevey went to Gryffindor and the sorting continued from there.
Brandon Harper was the next student sorted into Slytherin, though he was quickly followed by another, one that caused a hush to fall over the Slytherin table.
Martin Higgs was sorted into Slytherin very quickly, and the house of cunning took a minute to ponder the implications of such a thing. As he stepped towards the table, Harry noticed that several members of Gryffindor House were booing and hissing. The Weasley twins seemed to be the ring leaders, though Tobias Prichard and his group of friends, the same group that had tried to attack Harry last year, were prevalent as well. Harry could understand house rivalries, but their insensitivity was a bit over the top, in his opinion.
Several others joined Slytherin as the sorting progressed. Alex Jugson, the younger brother of Marcus, who was a Slytherin upperclassman, was the first. Then, Derrick Mulciber was sorted almost as soon as the hat had touched his head. This too caused some tension in the hall, and Harry figured he must have been a member of one of the families within Voldemort’s ranks judging by the reaction to Ares and the similarities between the two reactions. He supposed that the Blacks technically never had been, but her mother had been rumoured to be a follower of Voldemort for years, and her mother’s brother-in-law and ex-husband had both been convicted of the most heinous of crimes.
The sorting continued for some time before there were only two girls remaining, and they juxtaposed one another quite spectacularly. The first was Ginny Weasley, and the second was Charlotte Weitts.
One was from a family that had lived in Magical Britain for generations but was poor and open about the fact. The other was from a second or third generation British family that was extremely wealthy and even more secretive. Even their mannerisms and appearance were in contrast with one another. Ginny was slumped, head low, eyes cast to the floor as her hands shook at her side. Charlotte had her chin up, looking around the hall curiously and showing no signs at all of worry, holding her hands folded in front of her. Ginny was rather short, with flaming red hair and secondhand robes. Charlotte was tall for a first year girl, had perfect platinum hair that shone in the candle light and wore immaculate robes of the highest quality.
Finally, McGonagall cleared her throat once more and called the second to last name on the long roll of parchment.
Ginny made her way up towards the stool on shaky legs. Internally, she marvelled at the oxymoron that was her mind. For so many years, she had dreamed of this moment, of attending Hogwarts. But now that she had arrived, she was utterly terrified by the prospect of resting the Sorting Hat upon her head. In spite of that, Ginny found herself on the stool faster than she’d have liked and within seconds, her vision was obscured by the ancient hat and a moment later, a voice spoke from inside the depths of her mind.
‘Hmm… interesting, very interesting indeed. You are rather more difficult than I had expected, Miss Weasley.’
Ginny did her best to express the equivalent of a sigh mentally. ‘I’m a Weasley, we all know where I’m off to.’
The hat chuckled. ‘Your brothers have been quite tight-lipped about their own sortings, I see.’
Ginny stiffened. ‘What do you mean?’
‘I am forbidden from speaking of the sorting of others, Miss Weasley. For now, it is suffice to say that your brothers were not quite as clear sorts as you may have thought.’ the hat paused. ‘Except for the youngest. There was only one place for him, but I offered the others all choices at the very least.’
‘I had hoped you would listen closely to my song, Miss Weasley.’ the hat chided. ‘I am to sort you by your values, but that is a… loose bit of terminology, we shall say. As I have said, it is my belief that our choices are what truly define us. So, with that in mind, for cases like yourself where the sorting process is more… complex than average, I usually leave the choice up to you. I will, of course, give you the options and arm you with what you need to know to choose correctly before I do so. So, let us begin, if you have no objections.’
Ginny had none.
‘Well, let us get the obvious one out of the way, shall we? You, Ginny, are much like the rest of your family. You are brave to a fault and would fit effortlessly into the mould of a true Gryffindor. I will admit, you are closer in persona to your related set of twins than most may realize. You are a bit more… flexible, in terms of your morals, but they are still strong and sound and your heart is in the right place. You would simply go a bit further than some of your other brothers to achieve your goals. Still, I would say you have enough chivalry to meet that requirement as well.’
Ginny had absolutely no idea how to take any of that. On one hand, she was qualified for Gryffindor, which meant she could join the rest of her family and fit in as normal. On the other, she was less morally sound than her brothers?
The sorting hat chuckled once more. ‘Tis not a bad thing, Miss Weasley. Most of the greatest sorcerers the world has ever seen were willing to push the moral boundaries more than most others.’ the hat chuckled again. ‘I, of course, would know, as I have sorted many of them. But alas, back to your dilemma.
‘The only house that I would dare eliminate is Ravenclaw. Do not take this the wrong way, Miss Weasley. You are intelligent, very much so, as a matter of fact. But it does not drive you. You will do the best you can, but knowledge is not the most important thing to you. You just wish to be happy… to be free.’ Ginny nodded subconsciously. It was true, though she would have thought everybody wanted to be happy. The bit about being free, however… that cut a little bit too deep.
‘What do you mean free?’ Then, another thought crossed her mind. ‘Wait! The only house you would eliminate is Ravenclaw? Than that means-‘
‘All in good time, Miss Weasley. All in good time. Now, Hufflepuff is actually a very suitable destination for you. You are fiercely loyal, more so than any I have thus far sorted this year, as a matter of fact. Keeping with that train of thought, your work ethic is outstanding. You have worked quite hard to develop those admirable skills of yours on a broom over the years, haven’t you?’
Ginny flushed. Her mother had never let her anywhere near a broom ever since she was young. She had always thought the fact would change when she grew older, but thus far, that had not been the case. So, Ginny had learned many years ago how to unlock the shed. It had been accidental at first, but after many hours of experimentation in the dead of the night, Ginny could effectively and consistently unlock the shed door without a wand or any other instrument of aid.
‘Ah, yes,’ the sorting had admired, ‘that wandless magic of yours is very impressive. True, it is limited to one spell, but my word, what a practical spell to have in your arsenal. Even then, it is far more than most witches and wizards ever master without their wand.’ Ginny was internally panicking. If the hat told anybody about her breaking into the shed, or about her wandless magic…
‘Don’t fret, Miss Weasley. As I have told you, I cannot reveal the secrets of those I have sorted. Now, allow your mind to be at ease while we explore your final potential avenue.’
‘Slytherin.’ Ginny thought in the mental equivalent of a whisper.
‘Indeed.’ the hat agreed. ‘You could be successful in any of the three houses I’ve recommended, Miss Weasley, but I truly believe you could shine in the house of cunning. You have certainly shown enough of it over your life with that deceptive wandless magic of yours.’ the hat paused. ‘And there is ambition there, oh yes there is. And out of the three houses, Slytherin is the only one that would help you achieve your true goal.’
‘My… true goal?’
‘You wish to escape the shadow of your family, Ginevra. You do not wish to be another Weasley. You wish for the Weasleys to be Ginny Weasley’s family.’
‘No! I would never-‘
‘It is not a bad thing, Miss Weasley. As a matter of fact, it is a very powerful motivator. But in order for it to fuel you to do great things, you must first accept the fact as it is.’ Neither Ginny nor the hat communicated anything for more than a minute. Then, finally, Ginny asked what she would later look at as the question that changed her life.
‘Why is Slytherin the only house that would help me achieve my goal?’
Harry’s brow was furrowed as he watched the youngest member of the Weasley family sitting upon the stool. Neville Longbottom’s sorting the previous year had taken quite some time, as had Hermione Granger’s and, ironically, his own. Still, he had never seen the hat take this long with anybody. He’d read in Hogwarts, A History that it was possible. The hat could take long periods of time with a student. If the student in question took more than five minutes, they were referred to as a “Hat Stall”. Still, it was going on seven minutes now, and Harry wondered how much longer it would take.
The answer, as it turned out, was approximately three seconds.
Finally, the brim of the hat opened wide for all to see, and it shouted to the entire hall the last word that anybody would have expected the ancient hat to shout.
So at long last, we have arrived back at Hogwarts!
Originally, this chapter stretched on for another 3k (ish) words. I decided to push them into the next chapter instead of this one here, mainly for the sake of trying to balance the length of the chapters. I know this is a bit of an odd place to end a chapter, but the next one will pick up pretty much right where this one left off.
A special thank you to my beta Fezzik for being a great help with the original sorting song. Poetry is definitely my weakest literary skill, but I decided to give it a go since Rowling never made one for year 2.
Please read and review.
PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, August 1st, 2020 at approximately 3:00 PM EST.
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