Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 9: Regretful Reminiscence
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September 4, 1992
The Defense Against The Dark Arts Classroom
As all of the students filed out of the classroom, Gilderoy let out a long, heaving sigh. To say that he was drastically disappointed in the performance of the second year Gryffindors was an understatement. Sure, he didn’t expect them to know the water conjuration charm like the Slytherin Potter, but he had expected a certain degree of competence. Especially when one of the members of said class was Charlus Potter.
Granted, the incompetence hadn’t really been on the side of Charlus, even though he had shown himself to be lesser than his brother in the area. He, like his brother, had been rather efficient in taking down the pixies one by one. Unfortunately, it was rather obvious that Charlus did not have the same range of spells that his older brother possessed. He pretty much attacked exclusively with full-body-bind hexes as well as both the knockback and the impediment jinxes. Gilderoy supposed that his arsenal may not be as limited as it seemed. After all, most of one’s arsenal wasn’t exactly useful against pixies.
But he had a feeling that was not the case.
Hermione Granger too had been competent, but no more so than Daphne Greengrass of Slytherin. Both of them had applied the freezing charm, as had Susan Bones of Hufflepuff. Again, Lockhart had a student strung up by the chandelier, Neville Longbottom, this time. And again, most of the class fled before its conclusion.
But at least in the case of the Slytherins, they had actually managed to corner the beasts. When Gilderoy himself had entered the fray in that class, it was simply to finish the job. When he intervened on the behalf of the second year Gryffindors, it was an act of mercy. That, and he really didn’t want to know what would happen if he let the pixies terrorize the lions for much longer.
All of this was fairly disturbing for Gilderoy for two reasons. First of all was that, at least as of this moment, Charlus Potter had been disappointing. That could not be allowed to continue for too long. Charlus Potter needed to be better than that for any of Gilderoy’s plans to succeed. Well, need may have been a strong word, but it certainly had the potential to make Gilderoy’s future plans much, much easier.
And Harry Potter… for all of Gilderoy’s preaching about not falling prey to misconceptions, Harry Potter reminded him rather painfully of a tall, dark-haired girl who he had only met in person once before. In spite of that fact, he knew far, far more about the girl in question than he should rightfully know.
It was far too easy to be suspicious, but the mere fact that his brain had drawn that mental connection put Gilderoy instantly on edge. To say that would be detrimental to his plans would be something far beyond a simple understatement.
September 4, 1992
A Room In The Dungeons
Harry felt a torrent of emotions crashing against his mind as he neared the room in which he was set to meet Grace in a matter of moments. The last time he had entered this room, it had been for a meeting with the first adult figure whom Harry had ever truly trusted. Then, days later, that same adult figure had turned out to be the furthest thing from trustworthy. To Harry, this room symbolized hours of hard work and steady progression under a marvellous teacher who had taken him forward by leaps and bounds. Regrettably, it also served as a symbol for what had happened the last time he trusted someone new so fully.
What if Grace was just another Amelia Hurst? Could he truly trust the seventh year Slytherin whom he practically knew nothing about?
On one hand, the Weitts family had provided him a home and treated him with the utmost kindness. On the other, that family too was secretive beyond belief. Grace wouldn’t even tell him what the Weitts family crest meant, for Merlin’s sake. Imagine hiding something that was quite literally supposed to symbolize your family. Harry had, of course, tried to translate it. He was far too curious a person not to have at least tried. Unfortunately, he had found out the hard way that it was not written in traditional Ancient Greek as he had initially suspected. It was certainly Greek of some sort, but Harry had absolutely no inkling beyond that. Some sort of abstract dialect, he suspected.
Did Harry trust Grace? Certainly not fully, but certainly more so than he did most people.
He shook his head forcefully as he approached the door to the room. These thoughts were provoked by memories that were apparently far more haunting than Harry had initially realized. There would be time to internalize all of this later. For now, he needed to enter this room with the same mindset he had perpetually frequented when stepping into his private lessons the year previous. The mindset that had allowed him to learn how to deflect spells non-verbally, and to cast other magic that should have been far, far above his current level.
To his mild surprise, when he opened the door, Grace was already present. Harry was taken aback, as he had sort of imagined her as the “fashionably late type”. Certainly, he had not expected her to arrive before him, seeing as, though he didn’t go out of his way to be early by any means, he could always be counted on to be punctual.
Equally surprising to him was that the room’s decor, set up by Hurst the previous Christmas had been left untouched. He supposed the house elves must not have thought it harmful. In any case, Harry was hardly complaining, but he had also been quite sure that his favourite room in the Hogwarts dungeons would have awaited him bare and stripped upon his return to the castle.
“Good evening.” Grace greeted, nodding approvingly at his punctuality. To Harry’s surprise, she did not immediately start locking or warding the door. When he removed his own wand to cast the very limited number of useful spells he knew in the area, she cut across him. “There’s no need; the room’s warded already.”
Harry blinked; he had never even known that. “It is?”
“Yes, very well actually. Whoever set them up clearly had a talent for warding. It was a nightmare for me to even find this place. There are powerful notice-me-not charms in the area that I had to work my way around. That’s not even counting the intent wards cast on the place.” Grace fixed Harry with a piercing stare as he tried to digest all that he had just learned. “No offense, but I very highly doubt that you would have found this place on your own.” Harry didn’t react, but he assumed Grace was probably right. “So, I’m curious, who cued you into the wards? And, for that matter, who set them up in the first place?”
Harry hesitated. “I… never actually knew that there were wards up at all. Honestly, I have no idea how to even cue somebody into wards. I thought I’d have known if I were cued in, no?” The “not knowing” thing wasn’t true, but he had no idea how one would do it without telling him.
Grace seemed to ponder that question. “You would know, one would think. You don’t have to be aware of the fact, but it’s much more convenient and a whole lot less complicated to do so with the help of the person you’re trying to cue in.” she paused. “I can honestly say I’m not positive on how whoever cast the ward scheme managed it. It’s… very impressive.”
That fact did not surprise Harry at all. Not when they were speaking about Lady Voldemort. Say what you will about her, but nobody had ever called into question her status among some of the greatest witches and wizards to ever live in terms of their abilities with magic.
“What are we working on tonight?” Harry asked, smoothly diverting the topic of conversation. He was not foolish enough to believe that Grace was not well aware of the tactic, but she let him have his wish.
“I think we’ll finally get to combat magic.” she told him. “You’ll be ready to start the next stage of Occlumency within the next week or two. I just need to do some final tests for stage one to make sure that you’re set. We’ve spent a lot of time getting you there though, so we’ve neglected this area of practice.”
Harry nodded, knowing all too well that it was true. He’d even thought so when Charlotte had made her rather bold gestures at the welcoming feast just days earlier. “So, what will we be working on tonight then? Specifically, I mean?”
“Probably not much of anything, tonight. I need to evaluate you, I suppose you could say. See which spells you know, what you’re actually capable of in a duel, so on, so forth.”
Harry felt butterflies come to life in his stomach. He could see where this was going and unbidden, memories of Grace’s duel against Flint from over a year ago floated to the forefront of his imagination. He’d duelled Calypso several times and she had been incredible. For however good she was, Harry was quite positive that Grace was much better, at least for now.
He was equally positive that she had nothing on Lady Voldemort, but she had always held back considerably in their duels. She would often let him get his offense off simply so he could go through the motions, even though she never let any of it be remotely effective.
“I think a mock duel or two would be a good way to start.” Grace proposed. “It will be the most draining part of the night, so best to get it over with out of the gate. Plus, it will probably narrow down the spells I’ll have to ask you about, since I would imagine you’ll try to use some of them against me.”
Harry nodded stiffly, summoning his wand from his holster and squaring off with Grace. Of course, both of them knew this was only going to end one way. “I probably won’t be too offensive.” Grace informed him. “This is for me to gauge you, so I’d prefer if you took a more offensive style. I’ll play defense for the most part, but I’ll test your defenses when you leave an opening. Anything I use that could actually do real damage, I’ll incant out loud.” Harry nodded again, setting his jaw. “Are you ready?”
Another nod. “What’s legal?”
Grace actually took the time to roll her eyes. “Harry, just try and curse me. I’m not overly worried by anything you might try.” He regretfully had to admit that she had a point. “On your move.”
As fast as he could, Harry snapped his wand up towards Grace.
She easily slid out of the way, not even bothering to block or defend the stunner in any way. Fortunately, that was what Harry had hoped for. His wand moved in fluid motions as he chained his next two spells together — a cutting curse and a disarming spell. Grace’s eyebrows rose at the former, though she defended both easily. She leaned out of the way of the cutting curse, allowing it to quite literally miss her by inches. Harry almost paused at that feat. It was as if she had seen the spell in slow motion, such was the precision of her movements. Of course, it was not the first time he had thought this during a duel. Voldemort had given him a similar feeling on several occasions, and it was that fact that allowed him not to pause as Grace batted away his stunner with what seemed to be no effort at all on her part.
Before Harry could go on the offensive once more, Grace’s wand moved like quicksilver. Three spells raced towards Harry at top speed. He shielded using Protego and allowed the spells to spark harmlessly off of his shield. For the first time, Grace actually looked impressed, but she didn’t pause.
If not for his memory, Harry would have lost right there and then. Fortunately, he could recall Hestia using that spell against Calypso on several occasions. Granted, it had never been successful, so he didn’t know exactly what it did. But seeing as Calypso had never relied on a shield to stop it, he figured it was probably in his best interests to follow her example. It was with this in mind that he rolled to the side, just avoiding what appeared to be a stunner from Grace before he was on his feet once more.
Harry had planned to send the jet of water towards Grace and freeze it, hopefully causing a loss of balance or freezing of a limb. Grace never let him get that far. As the water streaked towards her, she twisted her wand in a tight motion and just like that, Harry could practically feel his control over the water torn away from him as suddenly, twice as much water as he had conjured came crashing towards him.
This fire conjuration was the only thing Harry could think of to stop the water. It was similar to Incendio in the fact that it conjured a similar amount of fire. However, unlike Incendio, it gave the caster a more direct ability to manipulate the conjured fire. The downside was that this made it much more difficult to cast, let alone control. By example, Harry had done it once at the end of last year, only days before his confrontation with Voldemort while the aforementioned Dark Lady supervised him. But that had been a rather poor, if admittedly successful attempt.
To his credit, Harry did cause a great amount of fire to surge from his wand. It collided hard with the wall of water, and suddenly, steam billowed from the point of contact and began to fill the room as the two opposing elements effectively neutralized one another. Harry recast the spell as soon as the steam had billowed and did his best to send flaming ropes towards Grace. Unfortunately, he did not quite have that level of control over the spell. The flames did indeed morph into ropes, but they also quickly lost all distinguishable form about halfway towards Grace, making Harry’s attack a fair bit less effective.
Not that it would have mattered.
Before the fire could reach her, Grace had neutralized the flames and then, with a swish of her wand, conjured four serpents, which all advanced on Harry.
For a heartbeat, Harry was about to simply call them off with Parseltongue as his instincts very nearly kicked in. Then, the logical part of his brain that remembered all of the monstrous implications that would follow such an act reared its ugly head and fortunately, the potential crisis was averted. On the downside, his hesitation had given the snakes time to edge nearer to him.
He could burn them with fire, but they were close enough to him that he might very well burn himself in the process. And that was discounting the possibility of the snakes striking him before he could conjure up the requisite fire. For that latter reason, something like cutting curses was also out. He would never get four of them off in time. Right about now, Harry really wished he knew how to vanish matter, but he hadn’t the foggiest idea. As a result, he quickly signaled defeat, prompting Grace to vanish all four snakes with a long sweep of her wand.
“Impressive,” Grace complimented, “your arsenal is a bit limited compared to an upper year, but it’s outstanding for a second year. You still need more weapons though. You were completely at my mercy at the end since you had no way of countering the attack.”
“How would I have beaten that, anyway?”
“You could have done a number of things. The most effective would have been to vanish the snakes. That’s a sixth year spell that is probably beyond you right now, but you’ll be working on it, since conjuration will be a problem against older opponents. I purposefully avoided it for most of the duel to draw it out, but as soon as I introduced it, you had no chance.” She had a point, loathe as he was to admit it.
“You also could have conjured your own animals to fight the snakes but again, that’s pretty advanced. Definitely more difficult than vanishing and probably still not feasible at the moment. You could’ve shielded, but it would have only delayed the end. The Protego shield, which, by the way, I am very impressed that you know, only covers your front. At least one of the snakes would have slithered around the shield, and then you’d be in even more trouble.”
“Are there any shields that protect a wider area?”
“There are, but they’re probably beyond you, for now. That’s N.E.W.T level defense, and not the easy kind, either.” Grace appraised him. “Before I test your spell range itself, is there anything you didn’t get to show off in that duel that you think I should know about?”
Harry shrugged. “I can deflect some less powerful spells. I haven’t worked my way up to curses yet, but I can do pretty much any jinx and most hexes.”
Grace’s eyebrows rose. “That is… very advanced magic for your age.”
Harry smirked. “I know; it’s how I got my O+ in Defense.”
Grace nodded thoughtfully. “That would definitely do it, yes.” Then, she turned to the dummies on the far wall. “Well, are you ready to continue?”
Some time later, in the Slytherin common room…
Harry was fairly satisfied with his session by the time he returned to the Slytherin common room, making sure to enter several minutes ahead of Grace as to not indicate that they had been together. True, he hadn’t got to learn anything new that night, but Grace had been pleased with what she had to work with and seemed confident that she could greatly improve his combat abilities by the end of the school year.
When Harry did eventually enter the common room, he could not help but notice a rather grim mood. Quickly, his eyes darted to the lounge, remembering last year’s disaster. This time, nobody was foolish enough to take Grace’s seat, so Harry could only assume that the atmosphere had nothing to do with a challenger to her position. In fact, after briefly investigating the room, Harry couldn’t come to any obvious conclusion as to what had caused the sort of stupor.
Swiftly, he made his way over to his three friends, who were joined at a table by Charlotte and the tall, blonde first year girl who Harry didn’t know. It appeared that all of them were doing homework, but judging by the way Charlotte’s eyes rose just in time to meet his before he took a seat with the group, at least one of them had been mildly distracted.
“Harry Potter, Laine Slater.” Charlotte said, quickly and efficiently introducing the two of them.
Laine bowed her head before offering her hand as they went through the customary greeting. Laine’s eyes did not leave Harry as he turned to the rest of the group. “I don’t suppose anybody wants to fill me in on what I missed?”
“The possible destruction of the Slytherin Quidditch team.” Blaise said nonchalantly.
Harry’s eyes narrowed. “How so?”
“Well, it was already without a seeker,” Daphne reminded him, “and now it’s without a Captain.”
Harry had to resist the urge to gape. “What? But Flint’s still at Hogwarts, isn’t he? Did something happen to him?”
“Not that we know of.” Daphne answered in a hushed whisper. “He just… got up in front of the common room and said he had an announcement to make.”
“At first,” Tracey added, sounding anxious, “we thought he was going to be thick enough to challenge Grace again. But he wasn’t. He just stood up and told everybody that he was resigning as Quidditch Captain.”
Something about that seemed… off, to Harry. If Cassius was to be believed, Flint was a borderline fanatic. It seemed a stretch that he would leave the team so willingly and seemingly in spontaneous fashion. But the evidence was right there, staring him in the face.
“I don’t suppose anybody knows why he decided to resign?”
“He said it was to pursue academics.” Laine quoted, her voice making it very clear that she didn’t believe it. When Harry raised his eyebrows, she sighed. “I know a bit about Flint. Our families are fairly close. Not personally, but as business partners. I never exactly got the feeling that he was too bothered by school.”
“He’s a good duelist.” Harry commented.
“But Grace destroyed him!” Tracey whispered.
Harry shrugged. “Trust me, Tracey. I’ve seen quite a few students duel, and Flint is good. Grace is just a prodigy, or something. Either way, she’s just on another level altogether. It had everything to do with her and nothing to do with Flint.”
Laine shrugged. “Maybe he’s changed, I don’t know. Honestly, I try not to get tangled up with him and his mother.”
“His father’s dead, right?” Harry asked quietly.
“Yes,” Charlotte answered, her eyes finding Harry again as if to watch for a reaction, “he died a few months before the fall of the Dark Lady. There were rumours, of course. There actually were with most families around the time, but nothing was ever proven.”
Harry just nodded and withdrew into his own thoughts, allowing the conversation to continue on around him. His thoughts were a bit jumbled, but they could be effectively summarized in a fairly succinct manner.
Harry had a bad feeling about Marcus Flint.
Meanwhile, in an abandoned classroom…
“So?” a hushed voice asked, sounding a little bit more than exasperated.
“So, now that Flint’s out of the picture, it’s our perfect chance!”
“Why do you think I care, Cassius?” the first voice asked again. “Since when have I ever cared about anything relating to Quidditch, ever?”
“You haven’t, but it’s about more than Quidditch!”
“Oh, please, we both know it’s entirely motivated by Quidditch on your end.”
“Even if that’s true, we both know that I’m not wrong. It would boost his position in the house and keep him out of the crosshairs of the upper years. It helps him and it might just help us if we play our cards right.”
“He’s our friend, Cassius.”
“Of course he is, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all benefit from the friendship.”
“From what you told me, he seems to think pretty similarly to how I think about it. I doubt staying out of crosshairs will be enough for him to give up his time. He’s barely ever in the common room, so he clearly keeps busy enough.”
“True, but I’m sure we can convince him.”
“You’re missing the point! I have no reason to convince him!”
A pause, and then… “Really? I’m sure your dad would love to know more about him.”
“My father’s never even spoken to me about him-“
“Funny, because he spoke to my parents. It’s just a matter of time, Calypso. If I were you, I’d make sure we were all in the best positions when that happened.”
At that same moment, in the Headmaster’s Office.
Dumbledore looked up from his stack of papers just as a bluish light blinked into existence in the center of his office. A second later, the blue light solidified into the form of a man. After spinning at break-neck speeds for a fraction of a second, the man’s feet touched down on the floor. After a brief stagger, he righted himself, ran a hand through his dark, windswept looking hair and adjusted his glasses.
“Good evening, James.” Dumbledore greeted his friend with a warm smile. “I do hope you haven’t been working too hard?”
“Less now compared to last year.” James answered, taking the seat across from his old Headmaster. “This year, there’s no Gringotts break-in to investigate. Thank Merlin it’s the HIT wizards who dealt with the raids over the summers and not the actual
Dumbledore nodded. “That certainly would have taken up valuable time on your schedule. Speaking of which, I am curious, James. Why did you wish to take time off of your schedule to meet with me on this rather chilly evening?”
There was a brief pause in which it was very evident that Dumbledore was waiting for James to speak. For his part, the aforementioned Senior Auror looked intensely uncomfortable. It appeared as if he were battling with his own internal thoughts, as if he were trying to untangle them and bring them back under his control. After a moment, James finally spoke. “I think it’s time we talk about my son.”
Dumbledore frowned. “It was very troubling, Charlus’s behaviour on the first of September. I am sure he will learn from his mistakes, however-“
“My other son, Albus.”
Immediately, the atmosphere in the room changed as Dumbledore realized exactly what kind of conversation he had unknowingly entered himself into. Given the timing of James’s request for a meeting, he had justifiably assumed that it had something to do with Charlus’s rather dramatic arrival at the castle on the first of the month.
Internally, Dumbledore sighed but externally, he maintained a perfectly calm visage as he steepled his fingers and leaned back in his chair, inspecting the man in front of him critically. “I’m afraid you are going to have to be more specific, James. There are a number of things we could doubtlessly speak on at length in regards to Harry.”
“Damnit, Albus!” James cursed. “Stop stalling! You’re just making this harder for both of us! You know why I’m here!”
“I would not go as far as to say that I know of anything. I can assume, however, that it has something to do with the… drama concerning Harry over the summer holidays?”
James snorted. “You and your damn gift for understatement.” There was a pause in which James realized Dumbledore really wasn’t going to make this easy on him. “You promised me in June that you were going to make sure it didn’t happen again.” There was an obvious note of accusation in James’s voice, and though Dumbledore did not immediately answer it, he made no move to defend himself either. “You said that you wouldn’t let them mistreat him again.”
Dumbledore closed his eyes and leaned back. “I have made severe mistakes, James.” he began.
“No shit.” James deadpanned. “That’s exactly why we’re here.”
“True, true.” Dumbledore agreed. “I am assuming that you wish to hear my reasoning before you pass your judgement?” When James nodded, Dumbledore sighed, this time out loud. “I was a fool, James. I fell into the same trap that I fell into almost eleven years ago now.”
“What do you mean?”
“On that night in Godric’s Hollow, you mentioned your… concerns with sending Harry to live with his aunt and uncle. At the time, I believe I preached to you my belief that with the death of her sister, Petunia would surely wish to turn over a new leaf. That surely, she would want the best for Lily’s son in honour of her memory.” Dumbledore looked pained as he paused, as if to collect his thoughts.
“I really did believe that, James.” he said quietly. “I really believed that Harry would be treated, at the very least, decent. I never wished to see a boy raised in such a way. Last year, after Harry arrived at Hogwarts and after you spoke with him in Hogsmeade, it was clear to the both of us that he had not been raised with as much decency as I suspect either of us had hoped for. But even then, I made the same mistake. I thought that perhaps, Harry was overdramatizing things. Or, at least, that his treatment was simply mean spirited and not outright malicious.”
The Headmaster slowly shook his head as James sat stone still, letting Dumbledore speak as he did his best to take in every word. “I was wrong, James.” the old man admitted. “After Harry went missing this summer, I… paid a visit to the home in which he was raised and did some… investigating.”
“And?” James asked, suddenly noticing a rather rapid increase in his pulse. This was news to him. He’d done his own investigations over the past number of weeks. He had interviewed some of Harry’s old teachers and spoken with characters like Arabella Figg. But even he had not gone straight to the source. He thought that he had gained a picture of just how badly the two of them had failed Harry, but he was suddenly worried that perhaps he had yet to discover the depths of the sins they would one day need to atone for.
“It was much, much worse than I’d imagined. They did not just neglect Harry, they went out of their way to mistreat him.” James’s heart sank as he suddenly had all of his worst fears confirmed. “If I am being fair, a more accurate summary may be that Vernon Dursley went out of his way to mistreat Harry while Petunia stood by and watched. She was certainly neglectful, but I do not think she was outright abusive.”
“Is that supposed to be a defense of her?”
“Of course not.” Dumbledore said in a rather clipped voice. “I was disgusted, James. Disgusted with the both of them for what they had done to Harry, but disgusted with myself above all others. For years, those in the Neutral and Conservative factions, which, as you well know, house many of my most vocal detractors have said that I am too forgiving. They have said that my ability to see the best in everybody is not a strength as much as it is a weakness. Why, I believe the two of us once had a point of contention on the matter.” James nodded, remembering exactly how strongly he had argued against Dumbledore’s favourable treatment of Snape.
“The worst part, James, is that a part of me always knew they were right. Not unconditionally, of course. But there was a time, many years ago, when that very weakness had been my undoing. And now, all these years later, that weakness rears its head in the ugliest of fashions. I thought too highly of Vernon and Petunia Dursley. My belief in the goodness of people whom I did not know condemned a child to ten years of misery, and it led me to unwillingly throw him into an environment the likes of which I hated above all others.”
“What do you mean by that?” James asked pensively, though by now, his voice was quite cracked.
Dumbledore paused and seemed to ponder something. To James, it looked very much as if the Hogwarts Headmaster was deciding whether or not to reveal a piece of information. For a terrifying moment, the Potter Lord thought he was about to find out that Dumbledore had yet again withheld information about the prophecy. But when Dumbledore visibly deflated and seemed to age decades under James’s stare, he spoke not of the future, but of the past.
“You know, of course, that my sister met her end many years ago in Godric’s Hollow?” James nodded, suddenly worried. The Potters had once been neighbours of old Bathilda Bagshot. She had told them frankly outrageous stories about Dumbledore. Honestly, James had been too afraid to ask the man himself about them. In particular, whether any of the tidbits about him and Gellert Grindelwald being close as teens was true.
“Bathilda told me.” he said quietly.
Dumbledore shook his head slowly. “Oh, I do wonder of the things that Bathilda may have told you. Nevertheless, this was one secret that I do not believe she was ever made privy to. When my sister was young — seven, to be precise, she was… attacked by a group of muggle boys that had seen her performing magic.” Dumbledore’s voice was hollow and in all the years of knowing the man, James had never heard him sound so defeated.
“Was-was that how she died?” James asked, shocked. “Was it that bad?”
“Oh, no, Ariana lived for several years after the encounter. As for how bad it was… my poor father went to Azkaban in search of retribution.” James actually flinched at that revelation. “My sister was never the same after that in many ways. Among them, she was afraid of her magic. She repressed it with every fibre of her being, but a force so free and powerful as magic does not allow itself to be suppressed so easily. This took a great toll on my sister, and I believe it was the catalyst for the myriad of issues that plagued her in her final years.”
Now, for the first time in several minutes, Dumbledore looked up and met James’s eyes. The old man wasn’t crying, but there was an obvious wetness at the corner of his eyes. “They tried to do that to Harry, James. Vernon feared magic, just like those muggles who hurt Ariana. Petunia did not, but she was too spiteful of its very existence to intervene. My fatal flaw led me to not only overlook behaviour like that which essentially sentenced my sister to death, but it forced another child into a similarly pitiful existence.”
A long, painful silence stretched between the two men as Dumbledore cast his stare downwards towards the desk, unwilling to meet his one time protege’s eyes. To say that James was horrified by all of these revelations would have been an understatement. But still, it pained him to see a man who had been something of a grandfather type figure to him feel this much pain at memories both known and unknown to him.
Tentatively, James reached across the desk and rested a hand on Dumbledore’s forearm. “But it’s worked out, hasn’t it? Harry’s escaped the fate of your sister. I… doubt he’s right pleased with us, but even if he’ll never look at us the same way again, he’s at least alright, isn’t he? We can at least help him, right? We can do right by him?”
Dumbledore sighed. “I wish it was that easy, James, I really do. For now, of course I will do everything in my power to assure that Harry experiences every positive aspect of life that my sister missed out on. But… we must assure that the prophecy does not come to pass.” James bit his tongue. If truth be told, he really didn’t know how to respond to that. “Fortunately,” Dumbledore continued, finally allowing a trace of hope to enter his voice, “the methods with which I believe said prophecy can be averted seem as if they will steer Harry onto a favourable path.”
“So no more sending him back there?” James practically implored.
“Never again.” Dumbledore agreed. “I would never condemn him to that place again, prophecy or no. Besides, the blood wards have now fallen, as of a number of weeks ago.”
“But you have a plan?” James asked with no small amount of suspicion.
“My plan, James, is to fix the bond between the twins. They have had time to cool off, so it is my hope that cooler heads shall prevail. I am in no rush to force the two of them together, but I would like very much to integrate Harry once and for all back into the family in which he should have grown up in.”
In spite of himself, James smiled. Maybe, just maybe, there was some hope after all.
September 5, 1992
The Great Hall
All in all, Harry had enjoyed his first week at Hogwarts this year. Much of that enjoyment had actually come from the relative normality that had made up pretty much the entirety of the week. The most eventful things that had happened had been Ron Weasley’s howler, his early morning flying session with Cassius, his first lesson under the not-so-fake after all Gilderoy Lockhart, and of course, his lesson with Grace last night. There was also that bit where Grace had maybe found out about the Speaker’s Den? Harry still wasn’t entirely sure what to make of that.
There was certainly a part of him that thought he was overthinking things, but there was also a much larger, much more insistent part of him that was telling him he was most certainly not overthinking anything at all. In the end, he’d decided that as of now, there was very little he could do about it one way or the other, so he would leave well enough alone. He would, of course, keep an eye on Grace, but anything more than that wasn’t exactly feasible.
This morning, Harry was planning to maintain his normal routine. He had just finished breakfast with Daphne, Blaise, Tracey, Laine and Charlotte. Now, he was off to the library to look for more introductory volumes for Ancient Runes. The rest of his group were going to join him, some for homework purposes, some simply to stick with the group at large.
As the six Slytherins exited the Great Hall, Harry’s streak of normality was unfortunately about to come to a rather screeching halt.
The sextet noticed a commotion at the bottom of the marble staircase. In typical fashion, that was the exact direction in which they needed to travel in order to reach their destination.
As they drew nearer, they all spotted the exact cause of the uproar.
A small, red-headed girl wearing Slytherin robes was standing a few steps from the bottom floor, very obviously wanting to get through. Standing in front of her, with the Git-Who-Lived at his side, was Ron Weasley, who was very clearly not letting his younger sister past. The approaching group of Slytherins could hear Weasley giving his sister a rant for the ages about how she was in some way or another a disgrace to the Weasley family because she had been sorted into the house of junior Death Eaters. Charlus said nothing beside him, but he didn’t exactly do anything to stop the tirade either.
“Oi, Weasley!” Harry said as the group suddenly closed in on the commotion. Ron whirled, red-faced and blotchy to spot the group of students who were now directly in front of him. If the narrowing of his eyes was anything to go by, he wasn’t overly thrilled to find a group of Slytherins standing nearby, least of all in his current state of mind.
To Harry’s mild annoyance, he found his twin brother to be glaring at him, but he ignored the git altogether. Honestly, if Charlus wanted to be petty, that was his own decision. Harry had better things to do than return his brother’s ire.
“What do you want, Potter?” It was very clear by Weasley’s snarling voice that his patience, which seemed essentially non-existent at the best of times, was running particularly thin today.
“Well, Weasley, since you asked so nicely, I’d really appreciate it if you’d get out of the way. And while you’re at it, maybe don’t harass your sister for the colour of her robes. For somebody who goes on and on about how bigoted our house is, you seem to spend an awful lot of time judging other people.”
There was a very brief pause when the tension in the air was palpable and Harry realized a fraction of a second too late that he had pushed Weasley just a little bit too far. Before he could do so much as move, the other boy brought his hand up, hard, curling it into a fist as he did so and smashing it forcefully into Harry’s nose.
Harry did not fall, or cry out, or give any other major reaction beyond stumbling back, as much in surprise as pain. Honestly, Ron Weasley’s punch paled in comparison to that of Dudley, who was twice his size. Even that said nothing for Vernon on the rare occasions when that had been a reality. In saying that, Harry did immediately notice a thin stream of blood was now flowing from his nose.
Harry had two, conflicting instincts. The first was to draw his wand and curse Ronald Weasley into oblivion. The second, unfortunately, was a direct contradiction to the first. It was to either run or cower. Not because he feared Ron Weasley, or even because the punch had done a whole lot. But because for the majority of his life, those had been his only two options when somebody lashed violently out at him.
Fortunately for Harry, before he could make a decision, Ron Weasley had five wands aimed directly at his face. Luckily for the red-head, Charlus dove towards his best friend, knocking them both to the floor and causing the spells of Daphne, Blaise and Tracey, who had all cast at once and without hesitation, to sail over the two boys’ heads.
Before the duel could truly break out, a loud voice permeated the air and in seconds, yet another red-head had joined the fray. This one was, however, the eldest Hogwarts attending son of the Weasley family, and his Prefect’s badge gleamed importantly on his chest. Seconds later, a blonde Ravenclaw Prefect whom Harry did not know followed Percy into the commotion. It was her who forcefully commanded all of the younger students to put their wands away as Percy began to verbally take his brother to task.
“And what, exactly, is going on here?” asked a silky smooth voice just as the commotion was quieting down, with the exception, of course, of the crowd that had gathered around them, obviously trying to instigate something. It was, as Harry had known immediately from the man’s voice, Snape. Before anybody could get a word in, Charlotte was speaking, and Harry had to resist the urge to widen his eyes. As opposed to her normally smooth, confident voice, Charlotte put on a frightened, rambling tone that perfectly portrayed the wide eyed, innocent first year girl who could win over any teacher who she set eyes upon.
“Harry’s been attacked, Professor! That boy just punched him in the face! We were just trying to get by, Professor, I promise!”
“Rubbish!” Weasley spat back. “They were harassing us, they were-“
“Show him your face, Harry!” Charlotte commanded in a more normal tone of voice, cutting forcefully across the sputtering red-head. Indeed, Harry had been squeezing his nose in an effort to stem the flow of blood a moment before. He’d actually planned to heal the malady with the Episkey spell that Calypso had taught him last year, but the Ravenclaw Prefect had been rather insistent about no wands, and her and the eldest Weasley had been rather busy preventing all of the students from killing one another.
“Your face, Potter.” Snape seconded, levelling Harry with his dark, intense eyes. Hesitantly, Harry removed his hand, which immediately allowed the blood to flow more freely. Snape scowled and made to draw his wand and aim it at Harry, but the Slytherin youth flinched back. Something changed in Snape’s eyes in that exact moment, and he seemed to change tact.
“Weasley!” he snapped, obviously in reference to Ron. “You will come with me, now! We will be seeing your Head of House.” Ron made to protest, but his older brother shoved him forward and before he could resist any further, Snape had taken a vice like grip on his arm and had begun to lead him up the marble staircase and towards Professor McGonagall’s office.
“Move along, everybody, move along!” Percy Weasley ordered, gesturing for the crowd to to return to whatever they deemed to be normality. Charlus glared at Harry one last time before trotting off in the direction of the Great Hall. Ginny Weasley made to follow, but Harry watched as she was stopped by her older brother before she could get there, right before he and the rest of his group returned on their path to the library.
“Harry, you should find somebody to fix your nose.” Daphne said immediately.
Harry rolled his eyes, batting her hand away as she reached out towards him. “Get off, Daphne, I can do it myself.” With a well-practiced motion, Harry’s wand was in his hand and a second later, he had stopped the flow of blood.
Blaise whistled. “Where’d you learn that one?”
“Calypso.” Harry answered honestly, seeing no reason to lie.
“Wish the elder Weasley would have let us curse the idiot!” Daphne said, rubbing the handle of her wand suggestively.
“He’s not worth detention.” Harry said reasonably.
“That’s your opinion, Harry.”
“Yes, it is. Personally, I’ll be perfectly happy with a normal year at Hogwarts. I’d rather stay out of all of this drama. If Weasley’s going to be a git, he may as well get it out of his system now. Next time, I’ll make sure to be ready and won’t let him get off a lucky punch.”
“You took it well, though.” Blaise complimented with a smirk, drawing a glare from Daphne.
If it wasn’t for the two tagalong first years, Harry might have chanced a rather morbid joke about his childhood. Instead, he settled for a more normal reply. “Why thank you, Blaise. But honestly, the prat hits like an eight year old. It was more his doing than mine.”
Meanwhile, in an abandoned classroom…
Ginny crossed her arms and stared up at her oldest brother residing within the castle. She couldn’t say that she appreciated being dragged off in front of about a hundred onlookers by a Prefect, let alone her brother. For one thing, it was rather embarrassing. For another, she could only imagine what people would be saying in a few hours if her brother had indeed not exaggerated the Hogwarts rumour mill.
“What is it that’s so important that you literally had to drag me off in front of half of the school, Percy?”
Percy raised his hands in a placating manner. “Is it a crime for a brother to worry about his little sister, Ginny?”
“I’m fine, Percy.”
“Like hell you are! I saw your reaction the night of the sorting. And honestly, I might not be cunning like all of you lot in green and silver, but I am observant, Ginny, especially when I want to be. You’ve sat alone at most of the meals, and I can’t remember seeing you talking with anyone. Either this means you’re being forcefully cast out of the group by the others, or it means you’re doing so voluntarily, which implies that you’re not having an easy time integrating into the house.”
Ginny blinked rapidly. “You… figured all of that out just from watching me?” Percy just stared back at her, as if implying that should have been obvious. “I think the hat made a mistake.” Ginny said bitterly. “Maybe it should’ve been you in Slytherin.”
Percy’s eyes darkened as he made a weak attempt at humour. “Hey! All outstandings on my O.W.L’s, remember?” When the joke fell flat, Percy sighed. “Okay, fine, you’re not in the mood and I’m not as funny as the twins.” He looked as if that revelation physically pained him. “But can you at least be honest with me, Ginny? What’s gone on this week? Are you okay? Can I help in any way?”
Now, it was Ginny’s turn to sigh. “Okay, okay, I can tell you’re not going to drop this. It’s been… hard, I guess. I… never expected to end up in Slytherin. I always thought I’d be like you guys and be in Gryffindor, you know? Even if I didn’t, I thought maybe Hufflepuff, but never Slytherin. It was… it is… a bit…” she trailed off, not knowing how to finish the thought.
“Shocking?” Percy offered gently. “Jarring? Off-putting?”
“Yeah, all of those things, honestly. It’s-it’s been hard.” Ginny admitted in a small voice. “I always looked forward to Hogwarts, you know? Mum was always super overprotective-“
“It’s because she loves you, Ginny-“
“Yeah, yeah, I get that, but it’s still true, isn’t it?” Reluctantly, Percy nodded. “She’s never really let me go out and make friends aside from Luna, who’s sweet, but a bit…” again, she let her thought trail off. “There’s been you guys, but your family; that’s different. Lee’s been over a bunch with the twins, but they’ve always been too old to be interested in spending much time with me. Then there’s Charlus.” Ginny wrinkled her nose. “I liked him, once, but then I realized that there’s nothing there for me. He just saw me as another stupid little fan girl and never as a person.
I thought that Hogwarts would be my chance to make friends, but now…” Ginny wasn’t crying. She refused to cry about something like this, but she would be lying if she didn’t dab at the corners of her eyes.
Percy awkwardly stepped forward, resting a hand on her shoulder. “Hey, you can still make friends, you know?”
“Nobody in Slytherin wants to be friends with a poor blood traitor, Percy.”
“We’re more than that, Ginny.”
“I know that, but you don’t get how it is in Slytherin.”
“Is it really that bad?”
Ginny had to actually think about that before answering. “Yes… no — I don’t know.”
In spite of himself, Percy smiled. “Use your words, Ginny.” he joked.
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Mister perfect O.W.L scores. Not everyone is the next coming of Merlin and a perfect scholar and all the rest.”
“I’m being serious, Ginny.”
She sighed. “I know, sorry, it’s just… I really don’t know. A lot of my yearmates are being complete prats! I can’t go two minutes without getting sneered at, or having them look down their noses at me like I’m dirt. Most of them don’t actually say or do anything, but they don’t really need to. They make it pretty clear what they think of me.”
“Most of them?”
Ginny hesitated. “There was… a bit of a mess in the dorms the first night. One of the girls kind of went off on me and the family and we kind of got into a row.”
“What happened?” Percy asked, eyes narrowing.
“A couple of the other girls broke it up.”
“Who were they?”
“Weitts and Slater, I think their names are.”
At the mention of “Weitts” Ginny caught the widening of Percy’s eyes, brief as it was. “Do you want a bit of advice, Ginny?”
“Sure, can’t really get much worse, can it?”
“Make friends with those two.”
Ginny actually laughed. “Percy, they’re the daughters of two rich, powerful, pureblood families. They’re going to want nothing to do with a filthy little blood traitor.”
“Ginny, if that hat put you in stinking Slytherin, can you at least try and act like one and use a bit of cunning?” Ginny gaped back at her older brother, completely incredulous. “Come on, Ginny. If the two of them stepped in, they obviously don’t think you’re a ‘filthy blood traitor.’”
“Oh, give it a rest, Percy. They obviously just wanted to sleep; said so themselves.”
“Of course they’d say that, but they could have slept just as easily if they’d let it go on for another minute. It probably would’ve burnt itself out in the same amount of time it took them to resolve it, and probably would have been a lot easier and less risky on their end.” With no small amount of surprise, Ginny realized that Percy was actually right. “If they stepped in, they’re at least curious about you. If you want friends, Ginny, that’s a good place to start.”
Ginny felt her heart quicken as she imagined approaching Charlotte Weitts. The girl was honestly intimidating. The feeling she had given off when in Travers’s face… that was not an enemy Ginny wanted to create. “I’ll… try, Percy.”
“That’s the most a brother can ask for, right?”
Tentatively, Ginny smiled weakly back at him. “Speaking of brothers,” she said in a rather small voice, “how are the others taking this? I… haven’t heard from any of them. Except for Ron, obviously”
Percy sighed. “I don’t think the twins know how to take it, to be honest.”
Ginny scowled. “Probably think I’m a disgrace. A blite on the family name.”
“No!” Percy said defiantly. “That’s not it at all.”
“What else is it then, Percy?”
Percy hesitated. ”Well… you know the twins, don’t you? They’re natural defense is humour, and pranking, and the like. Obviously, they don’t want to prank their little sister, so that one’s out. And humour… well, say what you want about them, but they’re not THAT insensitive.” Percy paused, scratching his head in thought. “I don’t think they are, anyways. They don’t know how to approach you, Ginny. They don’t know what to say. They’re with you, I promise. Just… give them time.”
Ginny had no idea whether or not she believed Percy but for now, she would take his word. After all, he had proven to be remarkably insightful thus far in their conversation and suddenly, Ginny was not so regretful that she had been dragged off here, after all. “What about Ron?” she asked a bit bitterly. “He made it pretty clear back there what he thinks of Slytherin, and me being in it.”
Percy hesitated. “Ron’s just… confused and immature. It’s sort of like the twins; he doesn’t know what to do or how to deal with it.” Percy winced. “Problem is… well, he always idolized Charlie, didn’t he? The big Quidditch hero and all that. And in the last few years, it’s been the twins. I don’t think any of them actually hate Slytherins, but they all trash you guys non stop because of Quidditch. Ron grew up with that, and his best friend is kind of hated by about half of your house.”
“So he hates Slytherins because of all that?”
“He doesn’t hate them.” Percy said, but he didn’t sound overly convinced. “He just… when a person doesn’t know what to do or how to process something, they fall back on instincts. Ron’s been conditioned to lash out at Slytherins for years. It’s pathetic behaviour and I hope he gets detention for a week, but it’s human nature. He’ll come around, eventually. He’ll realize soon enough that you’re not going to become evil just because you’re in Slytherin.”
“If you say so, Percy.”
“I’ll work on him, Ginny, I promise.”
There was a long, comfortable silence before Ginny stepped forward and surprised her older brother by wrapping her arms tightly around him. With a smile, Percy returned the gesture. “We make fun of you a lot, but I really do love you, Percy.”
Percy laughed. “I know that, Ginny. I’m an easy target, I get it. There’s no need to apologize.”
“I do have one question though.” Ginny mused as the two Weasleys split apart.
“Since when have you been so good at reading people. Like… you’re scary good at it. I joked about you taking my place earlier, but honestly, you probably could.”
Percy seemed to have some kind of internal war that lasted about ten seconds. Then, his shoulders slumped as he let out a long, heavy sigh. “You’re not the first Weasley to be told they’d do well in Slytherin, Ginny.”
Ginny actually gaped at Percy. “You… you were told you’d do well in Slytherin?”
Percy smiled sadly back at his little sister. “Worse than that, Ginny. The hat wanted to put me in Slytherin. It said I was more ambitious than I was brave, and more cunning than I was chivalrous even though I’d work well in either house.” he frowned. “I’m… not proud to say that I was ashamed of that for a long time, until I grew up. When the hat offered me Slytherin, I told it there was no way. A Weasley could never be sorted into Slytherin. It would send me to Gryffindor, and that was the end of it.” Percy looked down. “I feel like a bit of a prat now. Talking all that crap about Slytherins. Hell, if I’d have broken the tradition, you probably wouldn’t be getting given all this hell now. And I’d be there, to watch out for you, and-“
“Shut up, Percy! Don’t be thick! Now you’re going to blame yourself for my problems? Honestly, that’s exactly why you’re a Gryffindor.”
Percy smiled abashedly back at Ginny. “Sorry,” he said a bit sheepishly, “it’s just… I worry, you know? I’ll try not to be overbearing or anything, Merlin knows how much you hate it when Mum does that, but I do worry.”
“And I love you for that, Percy.” Ginny said, stepping forward and hugging him one final time. “Both the worrying part, and the fact that you’re not going to harass me like our dear old Mum.” In spite of themselves, both Weasleys left the abandoned classroom a minute or so later in a fit of laughter and with a sudden rise in their overall mood.
A bit of a setup/transitional chapter, but it’s sort of inevitable that you’re going to get some of those at this point of each year, to be honest. There will be more action in the next chapter, and some rather important setup for events that will soon be taking place.
Oh, and magical theory. A lot of magical theory.
Please read and review.
PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, August 15th, 2020 at approximately 3:00 PM EST.
Thank you to NerdDragonVoid from my Discord server for the additional edits on this chapter.
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