Ashes of Chaos Chapter 29
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter universe. All recognizable characters, plots and settings are the exclusive property of J.K Rowling. I make no claim to ownership nor do I make any profit.
Acknowledgement: Thank you as always to my betas Umar, Yoshi89, Fezzik and Luq707 for their incredible work on this story.
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 12: Plots, Ploys and Pain
September 19, 1992
The Grounds of Hogwarts
As the golden trio exited Hagrid’s hut and began to make their way back up towards the imposing form of Hogwarts castle, Charlus hoped rather intensely that Ron was not going to vomit more slugs. That entire fiasco with the Slytherins out on the Quidditch pitch had resulted in Ron ranting about the house of snakes at large. He was still rather pale and shaky, however, which worried Charlus a great deal. With the rate at which his friend was speaking in conjunction with his recent, rather disgusting fits of vomiting, Charlus was not going to be at all surprised if his best mate emptied the contents of his stomach all over him.
“Honestly,” Ron was saying, still clearly irate over the whole thing, “they think they’re so much better than us just because they have a bit of money! ‘Hey, look at me, I’m Draco Malfoy and my daddy is rich and famous! Oh, did I mention my blood’s been pure for a thousand years?’” Ron spat violently on the ground and Charlus nodded along.
“Bunch of gits,” he muttered, “the lot of them.”
“I’m sure they’re not all bad.” Hermione put in a bit weakly. “They can’t all be like Malfoy.”
Ron just gaped at her. “Hermione, he called you a mudblood!”
“Yes,” Hermione huffed, “and notice how I wasn’t defending him, Ronald. Honestly, Draco is immature, arrogant, rude and all of the rest, I’m just saying they’re surely not all like that.” She looked pointedly at both boys. “You both have family in Slytherin, after all.”
“Don’t remind me.” Ron muttered. For his part, Charlus figured that staying silent was probably his best course of action. In truth, he still wasn’t exactly sure what to think in regards to his brother. On one hand, he had undeniably been a bit of a git for the last number of months. On the other, Harry had just done a rather solid impression of an absolute twat out on the Quidditch pitch. Charlus knew he needed to approach his twin, but if that was going to be the reception he received each time he tried, he could be counted as wholly uninterested in the endeavour.
“Honestly,” Hermione persisted, “you’re being really immature and unfair.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “Drop it, Hermione.”
“No! I will not drop it! Why do you have to go out of your way to try and make your sister’s life miserable just because she’s in Slytherin? Do you honestly think she’s just going to turn into some budding dark lady just because her tie is green instead of red?”
“They don’t exactly have a shining track record, do they?” Ron bit back, clearly irritable.
“You’re telling me there’s never been a Gryffindor who went bad?” Hermione challenged.
Ron just glared back at her. “Can you give me one?”
Hermione glanced between Ron and Charlus and the latter felt his stomach contract as he realized where her mind had gone.
“Sirius Black.” Charlus answered, his voice void of any real emotion.
Ron sputtered, clearly not having been prepared for that last revelation. “Wasn’t he her right hand during the war?” Hermione asked shyly.
“Yeah,” Charlus muttered darkly, “he was. Right wanker, that one. He was good friends with dad at school, apparently. Something must’ve changed, or maybe he just led dad on. He reckons he knows what started it, but he won’t tell me. But at the end of the war, he admitted to a whole list of crimes. Bragged about it in the courtroom, apparently.”
“He was sentenced to life in Azkaban, right?” Hermione asked nervously.
Charlus nodded curtly. “He was, yeah. Still there to this day.”
Hermione turned back to Ron. “See?” she asked rhetorically. “Gryffindors can go bad too. It’s not just Slytherins.”
Ron shrugged noncommittally as the three of them entered through the castle’s large front doors. They made it no further than halfway across the Entrance Hall when they were stopped by a stern voice behind them.
Professor McGonagall strode up to the trio, her mouth as thin as ever. That did not bode well for the three of them. “Potter, Weasley,” she said, “the detentions you were set to serve for your… arrival at Hogwarts are scheduled for tonight. Mister Weasley, you will meet Mr. Filch in the trophy room at 8:00 this evening. Mister Potter, you’ll meet Professor Lockhart at that same time in his office.”
Charlus pitied Ron. At the beginning of the school year, he’d have dreaded a detention with the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor. Now, nearly three weeks into the new school year, Lockhart had proven himself to be far more than a charming smile. Charlus silently reflected that there were far, far worse ways that he could have been spending his detention.
That night, at the home of Rita Skeeter…
The lone entrance to the small apartment owned by the Daily Prophet’s most well-known reporter creaked open as a crack of light illuminated the otherwise pitch black apartment for several seconds until the door closed. Of course, this was no problem for the person entering the room and the owner of the apartment itself, Rita Skeeter. She could see just fine in any level of light thanks to the rather handy and slightly illegal night vision modifications that had been applied to her glasses. Still, it was pointless to keep the enchantment active when doing so was unnecessary so as she deactivated them, Skeeter waved her wand, causing several lamps around the room to light up and illuminate the place anew.
The apartment was situated right on the edge of Diagon and Knockturn Alley. It was still on the favourable side, but barely.
Rita had chosen this exact location for a very specific reason.
Many of the people who knew things that a reporter may find interesting often frequented the shadier side of the alleys. With that in mind, it was much easier for Rita to sneak into the darker alley and eavesdrop on conversations when her apartment was situated so close.
Especially when one considered that she could simply buzz out of the apartment window as a beetle, fly over a few walls and huzzah!
Beyond that, she had managed a fairly comfortable home as a result of its location. Due to its close proximity to Knockturn, there were certainly witches and wizards out there who would avoid the property outright. To Skeeter, this was ridiculous, but she was hardly complaining about the fact. After all, it meant that the price of the apartment was less than it realistically should have been. Which, in turn, had allowed her a rather large apartment with a fair amount of niceties. Rita would never go as far as to call it luxurious, but it was certainly comfortable.
Sighing in pleasure as she removed her shoes, Rita stepped further into the apartment and scanned the kitchen. There was a letter waiting for her on the countertop. Evidently, her owl must have dropped it off while she was at work.
Rita eagerly swooped down upon the letter like a praying vulture and snatched it up at once. Her hopes were high that this would be an anonymous tip-off, or something of the sort. That was hardly out of the ordinary for her. Least of all when unscheduled letters showed up. In spite of her eagerness, she was still sure to cast a number of detection charms on the letter before she tore it open eagerly, eyes widening at the contents.
I am a bit out of the loop when it comes to the who’s who of Magical Britain nowadays. After so many years away, such a thing is only natural, I suppose. After making some… inquiries, I’ve been told that you’re the person to come to in order to find out anything I need to know about the important people in the country.
I’m planning to dip my toes back into English waters at some point in the not-so-distant future, so I imagine you could be quite a useful person for me to know.
I was wondering if you would do me the pleasure of meeting at Summer Isles next Sunday evening? It would be nice to acquaint in person and discuss any business the two of us may be able to come to.
Please write back swiftly. Summer Isles is quite the trip for me, so I do need to assure it’s planned in advance.
The best of wishes,
An hour later, in Gilderoy Lockhart’s office…
Charlus had made a drastic miscalculation.
Well, he’d made many in his life, but the most recent one had been when he had actually vaguely anticipated his detention with Gilderoy Lockhart.
Despite the frankly disgusting facade Lockhart had put up prior to the first Defense class of the year, he had proven himself as Charlus’s favourite professor ever since. His classes were well structured and informative and he was an engaging teacher who seemed to know his subject in an entrancingly exquisite amount of detail.
With all of that in mind, Charlus thought maybe he would be fortunate enough to learn something during his first ever detention at Hogwarts. Well, first detention barring Snape, but that was a different matter altogether.
To his dismay, however, Charlus had vastly miscalculated.
When he’d entered Lockhart’s office, the man had barely looked up from the heaping stack of essays resting atop his desk. He had only paid Charlus enough attention to look up, gesture to a smaller desk set out against the far wall and instruct him to begin replying to Lockhart’s own fan mail. To say that Charlus had been incredulous would be the furthest thing from a hyperbole one could come up with.
Even worse, it didn’t get better as he went.
On the contrary, Charlus found himself cringing at a frankly ludicrous frequency. Every second letter seemed to gush on and on about Lockhart and his achievements.
And those were the easy ones.
Every sixth or seventh letter gushed on and on about Lockhart’s perfect blonde hair and stunning white smile. That wasn’t even mentionioning the witch who’d described his eyes as a “magnetic pool of perfection that she wanted nothing more than to fall into”. Honestly, Charlus had come quite close to pulling a Ron from earlier that day and emptying the contents of his stomach.
But it just went on, and on, and on.
It was nearly midnight when Lockhart finally looked up from whatever he was working on now and glanced up at the clock. “That should do.” he decided, eliciting a groan of relief from Charlus, who immediately let the quill fall from his cramping hand. “Have you learned anything tonight, Mister Potter?”
Charlus blinked. The first response that came to mind was to mug off the sods writing Lockhart. Something like how magnetic his eyes were. Logically, Charlus realized that probably wasn’t his best course of action. It was with this in mind that he went for a slightly more diplomatic answer. “Uh… learned anything, sir?”
Lockhart sighed theatrically. “Charlus, Charlus, Charlus, life lessons can be learned from any number of things. I didn’t just have you draft fan mail responses to punish you. Nor did I do it because I’m too vain to answer the cries of my adoring public. What you were supposed to learn, Charlus, is that fame isn’t everything.”
Charlus frowned. “What exactly do you mean by that, sir?”
“Flying a car to Hogwarts? I know this is blunt, but you might as well have just written your desire for attention all over your robes. Fame is a fickle thing, Charlus. It can change people, especially at your age. You have a good heart, but I’m worried you’re too lost in your fame, or that you might find yourself in that position. You have potential. Don’t squander it over something as petty as publicity. Tonight’s exercise was supposed to show you exactly what fame gets you. If you didn’t notice, I’ll fill in the blanks. It’s really not all it’s chalked up to be.” When Lockhart could tell that Charlus was mulling his words over, he dismissed the second year Gryffindor with a grand gesture.
When Charlus had left the room, Lockhart heaved a deep, heavy sigh. He didn’t quite have a read on Charlus Potter, as of yet. He was beginning to see the picture though, and it was not one as grand nor as beautiful as he may have hoped for. If things did not change soon, it may be in his best interests to intervene. Perhaps he would wait it out another month. By Samhain, he should have an accurate assessment of the Boy-Who-Lived. By then, he should be able to plan his next set of moves accordingly.
After all, suspecting what he suspected about the curse on the Defense Against the Dark Arts position, Gilderoy Lockhart was not foolish enough to believe that he had any longer than one year to work with. He had one year to see his goals succeed. It was time he began to make the best of it.
September 21, 1992
Draco flopped down heavily in the seat across from Ares, drawing a scathing look from the librarian, Madam Pince. Ares looked up distractedly from her work, glancing across the table at her cousin. He wasn’t exactly looking his best. His hair was perfectly in place, like always, as were his robes. That was about the end of his ideally perfect persona, however, at least in regards to his outward appearance. His eyes were red and he looked as if he had barely slept. His skin seemed a bit paler than usual, too. It was hard for Ares to tell, as Draco was a rather pale boy at the best of times, but she was pretty sure her observation was on the mark.
“Draco, are you alright?” Pansy asked from beside him, turning her head to peer more closely at the blond boy beside her.
Draco just shrugged her off, which clearly did not sit well with the raven haired heiress. “Fine.” he said curtly, turning his attention to Benedict, who sat with Ares and the now three second year Slytherins. Pansy and Theodore had been doing their homework before Draco had arrived. Crabbe and Goyle were off Merlin only knew where, but it was hardly a surprise they hadn’t accompanied them to the library. The only thing that Ares found marginally surprising was the fact they weren’t with Draco. Usually, Draco didn’t seem to go anywhere alone without them.
It was certainly odd, but she shrugged it aside.
He appeared irritable today, so perhaps he had wanted some time alone.
As she thought this, something nudged at Ares’s mind. It was a revelation of sorts. When she focused on it, she realized that Draco hadn’t been looking right for a number of days. Granted, today was by far the worst in terms of his appearance. But he’d been right stuck up since Saturday. At first, Ares had suspected that perhaps his first practice with the Slytherin Quidditch team had not gone as smoothly as he might have hoped. The more Draco avoided questions on the subject, the more Ares began to doubt that initial observation.
“What are you working on, Ben?” Draco asked tiredly. Despite his obvious mood, he still made sure to ask as to the progress of the lone first year boy in the group.
Draco had taken Benedict Cuffe under his wing ever since the sorting. Benedict was a very quiet boy. He was undoubtedly sharp but, after spending much of her time in the boy’s presence for the better part of three weeks, Ares still could not say with any degree of truthfulness that she knew a whole lot about him. He was the youngest son of four. His father was Barnabus Cuffe, editor of the Daily Prophet, as well as a stakeholder in the company. His father called the shots in regards to the paper, from what Ares could tell. He was also born much later than the rest of his brothers. His youngest brother had graduated Hogwarts in 1984. Aside from that, there didn’t seem to be much to him, really.
Ares wondered what Uncle Lucius’s game was with him.
“I’m trying to work on Potions.” he said with a sigh. “Not having much luck though.”
“I can help with it, if you’d like.” Draco offered. “It’s probably my best subject.”
“You sure?” Ben asked, eyeing Draco speculatively. Obviously, Ares was not the only person at the table to have noticed Draco’s current mood.
“Positive.” Draco answered in spite of it. “I’m just a bit tired, is all. You can always come to me for help, Ben.”
Pansy and Benedict switched seats, placing Benedict beside Draco so they could more easily work together without interrupting the others. Theodore still had his head bent low over a book that Ares was fairly certain did not belong to the Hogwarts library. She suspected that it was also probably illegal, in some capacity, but she hardly cared. Theodore wasn’t the only one who had brought a collection of illegal tomes to Hogwarts, after all.
Before Ares could return to her own reading, Pansy was leaning towards her and whispering in a low voice. “He’s been a bit off lately, hasn’t he?”
Ares did not look at the other girl. She had known Pansy for a number of years, though they had never been particularly close. Of course, she had not been particularly close with anybody save Draco. She liked Pansy more than most, but she didn’t trust the older girl as far as she could throw her. Even now, as Pansy asked a seemingly innocuous question, there was a part of Ares that insistently whispered that it was a probe. It was simply Parkinson doing her best to assess the situation in order to further whatever she might be plotting.
“I’m sure he’s just tired.” Ares answered quietly. “It’s been an adjustment for me going from home life to Hogwarts. I’m sure Draco is just feeling the same way.”
“I wasn’t just talking about lately.” Pansy answered in the same, low tone of voice. “He’s been different for months now. It’s just been really obvious lately.” she paused. “Ever since the dragon incident, really.”
Ares tensed imperceptibly at that comment. She wasn’t exactly sure what had happened that night. She knew that Harry Potter had more of an involvement in it than the papers had indicated, but that was only through inferencing, really. Draco had been uncharacteristically tight-lipped about the whole situation. She was not at all surprised if he really had been acting differently since then.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine.” Ares responded, the words sliding easily and effortlessly off of her tongue. “You can always ask him yourself if you’re worried.”
“Between the two of us, Black,” Pansy muttered in an even quieter whisper, “I wouldn’t be asking you if I hadn’t tried talking to him first. I’m just trying to get a grasp on the whole situation, that’s all.”
Instantly, Ares knew that Pansy Parkinson was not to be trusted, as her instincts had already indicated. She had the distinct impression that Pansy had just had some theory of hers confirmed. Ares was equally sure that this internal confirmation would lead to the loss of Pansy’s loyalty.
She marvelled at her mother’s teachings, sometimes. She found it remarkable how putting all of that together was second nature to her. It was as if it just slid into place with minimal effort put in on her part.
Ares did not respond to Parkinson any further. Anything else she said would be absorbed and internalized, and she would give Parkinson no more information.
What she did do, however, was scribble down a note quickly and efficiently, sliding it quickly into Draco’s bag when she was sure that nobody was watching her.
September 22, 1992
Charlotte had been perturbed at how early Ginny Weasley had risen the Tuesday morning of their third week at Hogwarts. Normally, Charlotte would be less than bothered by the sleeping patterns of her dorm mates. Normally, she would be completely indifferent to most things done by her dorm mates, even. What made this morning different was that finally, after persistent pestering on the part of the youngest daughter of House Weitts, Charlotte finally had the book of etiquette on her person and was prepared to give it to Ginny.
Laine had asked Charlotte several times by now exactly what she saw in the youngest Weasley. Truthfully, Charlotte couldn’t quantify it, exactly. She was certain that there was something there. Whether Ginny Weasley was wearing a well-crafted mask or was simply an unexplored heap of potential, or some other solution Charlotte had not yet pondered.
She doubted that Ginny’s entire persona was a facade, but she did think there was a certain degree of truth to the assumption. After all, Charlotte hadn’t been exaggerating her ability to read people, not even when she had bragged to Laine quite openly about it. In saying that, she was completely confident in saying that at least in part, Ginny Weasley was hiding something. More specifically, Charlotte was convinced that Ginny was hiding a part of herself. Whether it was done consciously or not, that was another topic of discussion altogether.
Charlotte was convinced that the shy, drawn in girl she had seen thus far was not an accurate representation of Ginny Weasley and her inevitable hidden depths.
Perhaps it was simply her natural reaction to being overwhelmed. If that was the case, Charlotte could understand why she had defaulted to that idea. It must have been truly jarring to be so certain your whole life you were going to be in Gryffindor, only to have the exact opposite happen on the fateful day you had waited for as long as you could remember.
In all honesty, Charlotte felt a certain degree of sympathy for Ginny.
That sympathy did not blind her to the fact that she was certainly a heap of unexplored potential. She had fire, even if she was rarely showing it. If that fire could be moderated and used only in the right moments, if that drive could be focused towards specific objectives instead of being allowed to roam chaotically, then she was sure Ginny Weasley could be something indeed.
The first step of discovering that untapped potential would be for Ginny to not get eaten alive in the pit of vipers that was Slytherin House. Frankly, if she didn’t know the necessary customs, that unfortunate event was not a possibility, but an inevitability.
Ginny would never reach her potential if she was ruined too early.
This was Charlotte’s way of trying to assure that this exact thing did not happen.
That was what had Charlotte cursing the name of Ginny Weasley early that Tuesday morning. She was not a morning person, to put it lightly. Waking up earlier than normal to chase down the red-headed Slytherin first year was not an activity that would have been high on Charlotte’s to-do list… ever.
In spite of that, it was exactly what she was doing now as she followed Ginny out of the common room, lengthening her stride to catch up with the shorter girl. Ginny seemed to hear footsteps, for she glanced quickly over her shoulder to check who it was that was tailing her.
When she saw Charlotte, the indecision was clearly imprinted upon her visage. It looked as if she was conflicted. Should she slow her pace and wait up for a girl who had treated her with a large amount of kindness? Or, should she quicken her stride and evade somebody who obviously intimidated her, at least marginally.
Luckily, that moment of indecision was long enough for Charlotte to capitalize on. As Ginny froze, Charlotte lengthened her stride further, coming up beside Ginny and slowing her pace to match that of her new companion. Now, she was only about a stride behind Ginny. “Relax, Weasley.” Charlotte said. “I’m not going to attack you. Merlin, what is it going to take for you to realize that? I’ve done nothing but help you so far.”
Ginny blushed and tried to hide it by looking down. Charlotte was not fooled, but she was at least polite enough to not draw attention to the fact. “Sorry,” Ginny muttered, “it’s just…”
“Just what?” Charlotte asked, legitimately intrigued.
Ginny squirmed, clearly hesitant to answer the question. She looked from Charlotte, to the floor, back over her shoulder at Charlotte, who still trailed one pace behind her.
Then, her eyes widened almost comically, causing Charlotte to tense. Before she could do more than that, the smaller girl had thrown herself at her, knocking them both to the floor. Ordinarily, Charlotte would be livid. In fact, on any other occasion, Ginny Weasley would have just instantly risen to the top of her shit list. The thing that made this rare occasion an exception was the jet of angry red light that streaked past where Charlotte had been a moment earlier and slammed hard into Ginny’s face.
At once, Ginny let out an agonized scream as boils began to furiously spread across her face. Quick as a shot, Charlotte was on her feet, sidestepping another curse as she swiftly drew her own wand. With a swish, a flick and a muttered incantation, a torch bracket flew from the wall. With a gesture, the flaming bracket hurled itself at the two boys who had been stalking her from behind. It missed, but it did make them sidestep into the path of Charlotte’s next volley of spells. The more impactful of them missed, but several jinxes did connect. Before she could do more, the two boys were fleeing, evidently not willing to stand against her in a fair fight after being caught off guard by her immediate reaction.
By then, it didn’t matter.
Charlotte knew exactly who the two of them were.
Brandon Harper and Derrick Mulciber. Two of the first year Slytherin boys. For a split second of indecision, Charlotte contemplated giving chase. She promptly decided against that course of action, swiftly noting the myriad of issues that could have arisen had that been her chosen course.
Instead, she leaned over Ginny, trying to convince the other girl to remove her hands from her face. When she refused vehemently, Charlotte took hold of her thin wrists, prying her hands away from her face without too much effort. The sight made her wince. Weasley’s face was practically unrecognizable. Ginny shrank back, tried to scramble away from her, even.
“For Merlin’s sake, Weasley. Hold still for three seconds or I’ll bind you and give you an actual reason to be afraid of me!” To her surprise, Ginny actually complied. With a careful hand, Charlotte reversed the spells cast upon Ginny before hauling the other girl back to her feet. “One last charm.” Charlotte told her, applying a fairly mundane cosmetic charm that would remove the obvious signs that Ginny had been crying. Minutely, the red-head nodded in thanks. “Sorry for that, Weasley.”
Ginny blinked. “Sorry for what?”
“It was me they were after, not you. You just got in the way.” she paused. “Come to think of it, why did you take that curse for me, anyway?”
Ginny looked back at her as if the question she had been asked was wholly and completely irrational. “You were being attacked from behind! I couldn’t let you take the curse!”
Charlotte had to clamp down hard on her emotions to stop a visible reaction. That was quite possibly the most idiotically Gryffindorish thing she had ever heard in all of her life. “Weasley, don’t take this the wrong way, but that might be the single most foolish thing anybody has ever said to me.”
“Not that I’m not grateful, mind you. I… appreciate it, and all, but you’re going to need to curb some of that if you want to make it in Slytherin. Speaking of which,” Charlotte added, glancing quickly around them to ensure that the two of them were alone, “I did have a reason for chasing you down this early in the morning.”
Discretely, Charlotte slid the rather ancient looking book on etiquette from her bag and held it out to Ginny, who took it with a stunning degree of caution. It looked as though she were handling something either more valuable than anything she’d ever touched, or something that had the potential to destroy half of Diagon Alley if mishandled. The unfortunate thing was that judging by the age of the book and what Charlotte knew of the Weasley family, the former may well have been true.
“You-you’re sure about this?” Ginny asked, still seemingly skeptical about Charlotte’s generosity. “You’re just… letting me borrow this?”
Charlotte rolled her eyes. “Lesson two for the day about being in Slytherin. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. If you’re still too noble to take it, let’s just say you taking the curse for me was payment, alright? The only thing I ask is that you take very good care of it. I don’t even want to know what would happen to me if a page of that book was so much as crumpled.”
If possible, Ginny’s grip on the book became even more gentle. “I’ll take perfect care of it.” Ginny vowed. “I promise.”
That night, in an abandoned classroom…
Ares nearly jolted when the door to the room opened and Draco stepped inside, right on time. She had been there for the better part of ten minutes already and she’d spent most of that time completely spaced out, lost in thoughts she couldn’t even remember. When Draco entered, however, her focus returned with shockingly sufficient swiftness.
“You wanted to talk?” he asked, skipping all niceties as he took a seat heavily at one of the desks that had been pushed to the edge of the room Merlin only knew how long ago. Ares nodded minutely as she took a seat across from Draco and placed her hands on the table in front of her, fixing her dark, intense eyes on the blond boy sat across from her.
“What happened to you?” Ares asked, matching Draco’s promptness by cutting right to the point.
Draco’s eyes narrowed. “Excuse me?”
“Don’t avoid the question, Draco. Both of us know I’m smarter than that.”
“I have no idea-“
“Don’t lie.” Draco tensed, but he didn’t outright deny his cousin’s accusation. “You haven’t been yourself since you went for your first Quidditch practice. You’ve been a mess. You look like you’ve gotten about three hours of sleep a night and you’ve been in a terrible mood ever since. You can’t tell me that nothing’s happened. You’re moody, but not that moody.”
Draco seemed a bit flustered, clearly uncertain as to how he was to answer the question at hand. “I… it’s… he…”
“So something did happen then.” Ares said in a rather low voice, leaning forward and making direct eye contact with Draco, almost daring him to deny it. Ares might not have been a Legilimens, but she had been told before she had a rather piercing gaze.
Draco hesitated, opened his mouth, closed it and then opened it again. “Ok, ok!” He admitted, sounding anything but pleased to be admitting the fact. “I’m fed up with Potter, alright? Are you happy now?”
Ares felt an odd mix of curiosity, surprise and exasperation at Draco’s words. Where the curiosity came from, she wasn’t sure. She supposed it was only natural to be curious about the mysterious Potter Heir. “You are talking about the Slytherin one, right?” she asked for clarification.
Sneering disdainfully, Malfoy nodded. “Yes, the Slytherin one. I couldn’t care any less about incompetent Potter. He’s an arrogant toe rag and a pest, but nothing more than that. Slytherin Potter has actually been the one making my life complicated for months now.”
Ares tilted her head to the side, examining Draco critically. “So he did have more to do with the dragon issue than the Prophet reported?”
Draco scowled; it was an ugly expression that did not fit well with his features. “Had more to do with it? The half blood masterminded the damn dragon issue!”
Ares felt the curiosity rise and now, she had no issue in realizing where it was coming from. Loathe as she or anyone else may have been to admit it, setting up something like that was wholly and undeniably impressive.
“How’d he manage that?” Draco suddenly flushed again and was looking anywhere but at the girl in front of him. “Draco?” Ares asked, eyes narrowing as she leaned further forward.
“Why are you so interested?” Draco snapped irritably. Clearly, they had reached a point in this conversation that he was neither comfortable with, nor prepared to discuss.
Ares rolled her eyes. “Hmm… I’m not sure. Why would your cousin want to know? Why would I want to know about the only friend I’ve ever had?” Draco winced at that, actually looking pained for a fraction of a second but Ares did not relent. “Why would I want to know what is making that person miserable? Why would I want to know why they haven’t looked right since doing something they’ve been waiting to do for years? Has it ever crossed your mind that I’m just worried, Draco? Or, are you so obsessed with yourself now that you can’t even tell me the truth? So worried about everything that you’re afraid I’m going to be the one who betrays you?” Draco sat still and silent and Ares rose a delicate eyebrow. “I’m waiting, Draco.”
To Ares, it looked as if Draco was having a rather painful struggle with himself. She could only imagine the war of thoughts and emotions going on inside his mind at the moment.
“You’ll tell nobody about this.” Draco said in a voice more serious and stern than Ares had ever heard. She nodded, but not before shooting him a look that rather explicitly implied that such a fact should have been obvious.
“Potter and I had… issues last year. I have no idea what I did to upset the prat in the first place. I must’ve done something, because the tosser decided to set me up! When he set me up to get in a load of trouble, I spun it on him and stuck it on Davis. We… went back and forth for a while after that, which kind of led to the dragon. I couldn’t let the halfblood have the last laugh.”
“But it backfired.” Ares deadpanned.
Draco sneered. “Obviously.” Ares thought that if his voice was a bit deeper, he could have pulled off an excellent impersonation of Professor Snape.
“So, when Parkinson said you haven’t been right since May, there may have been some truth to it?”
Draco’s eyes widened. “Pansy said this to you?” Ares nodded. “Pansy?” Again, a nod. Draco frowned, clearly having hoped for Ares to answer in the negative. “I… maybe? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. I’m… not supposed to start trouble with Potter this year. But the wanker’s making it difficult! He attacked me like a common thug in the changing rooms after the first practice just because I called that know-it-all Granger a mudblood!”
Ares frowned as her brain began to work on overdrive. “I know almost nothing about Potter.” she admitted. “But for some reason, he doesn’t strike me as a blood traitor, if that’s where your mind is going. Use your head, Draco. Is it not obvious what he’s doing?”
Draco snarled. “Being a complete tosser?”
“Well, a bit of that, I guess. But I mean why he’s doing it. You don’t think he realizes you’re not supposed to start trouble with him? It would be pretty obvious if you went from trying to ruin him to ignoring him altogether. Maybe he’s not satisfied with your father having to pay a bit of gold. Maybe he was hoping for something more personal.” she shrugged. “I could be wrong. You would have to investigate more to figure out for sure, obviously.”
Draco suddenly looked pensive. “You… think he still has it out for me? That he’s trying to provoke me to get me in even more trouble?”
Ares shrugged. “It’s possible.”
Draco looked annoyed. “But I can’t do anything about it! As in, I’ve been told not to do anything about it! So, what the hell am I supposed to do about it?”
Ares shrugged. “Let it go, at least for now. That would be a good start. If it’s bothering you this much, you need to learn to ignore it. For one, if you don’t, Potter’s plan is actually going to work. Even if it doesn’t, this is going to drive you insane. Look at what it’s doing to you already, Draco. If you stop reacting, he’ll give it up.
“But… if it bothers you that much, you could always try and learn more about Potter. Last year, you just lashed out with something. If you find out what it is that would actually bother him, you might have better luck. Even if you don’t, you might figure out why he came after you in the first place.”
For the first time during their conversation, Draco took a very long pause in which he looked completely calm and measured. It was as if Ares’s statement had given him an entirely new outlook on the situation. “Don’t take this personally,” Draco said, “but you are the most terrifying eleven year old I have ever met.”
Ares stuck her chin up in the air as a defiant look flashed in her eyes. “That should’ve been obvious, Draco. I’m a Black, after all.”
September 23, 1992
The Slytherin Changing Rooms
By now, the Slytherin team had finished their third practice of the Hogwarts season. Harry was more than happy to say that those three practices, along with the initial tryout, had been the most eventful things that had happened to him thus far in the year. It was a nice change of pace from last year and even in spite of the time he was grudgingly dedicating to Quidditch, he found himself enjoying the practices quite a bit. Mind you, the thing about being a seeker was that, for the most part, Harry was isolated from his teammates during games. As the rest of them were doing structured and controlled chaser, beater and keeper drills, Harry could often be found flying high above all of them, weaving through complex courses or searching out the ever-elusive golden snitch.
Slowly but surely, Harry felt as if he was getting a handle on the game. He had been reading Quidditch Through the Ages as of late, which was a book that, until recently, he’d never actually planned to touch. He’d never explicitly had anything against the sport, per se, but it had never been his cup of tea, either.
He just loved to fly and grudgingly had to admit the genius in the plan concocted by Cassius and Calypso.
Speaking of Cassius, it was he who Harry walked beside as they made their way back into the changing room before going their separate ways towards each of their lockers. Thankfully, each locker also had a dedicated shower, which was something Harry was in desperate need of at the moment. And he wasn’t the only one, either. The rest of the team seemed to have the same idea in mind.
The lone exception was Montague.
Ever since he had lost his spot to Malfoy, the boy had been in a rather bad-tempered mood. Harry couldn’t exactly blame him for the fact, but he still thought it was about time the would-be chaser grew up. It wasn’t as if his life would be defined by not making a Hogwarts Quidditch team. Likely as a result of his bad mood, Montague had seemed to make it his mission to not only outfly Malfoy every chance he got, but to also spend as little time with the team off the pitch as possible.
Harry suspected that this silent protest was actually rather counterproductive. Team chemistry was a major component of Quidditch, as Bletchley endlessly droned on and on about. By separating himself from the environment and being a general prat about the whole situation, Montague wasn’t exactly integrating himself effectively into the scheme in a way that would be likely to promote positive team chemistry.
But of course, Harry was sure he was overanalyzing things. He knew that he had been developing that habit, as of late. Such things were not surprising. Not after he had vowed to be more thoughtful in regards to his actions after the fiasco that had been the conclusion to his first year at Hogwarts. Perhaps Harry’s mind was now taking that moniker too far, but Harry would rather be paranoid than perpetually made a fool of.
After all, as one of the more personal tomes in the Speaker’s Den had said, Persistent, proper preparation perpetually prevents poor performance.
Of course, manifesto may have been a more accurate summary of the book, but that was beside the point.
All of this was to say that Harry had to actively force himself to pay Montague no mind as he removed his robes and stepped into the shower. He sighed contentedly as the water hit his skin.
One of his favourite things about the magical world, bar none, had to be the fact that the water always moderated itself to the user’s preferred temperature. Harry had been confused about that after initially diving into Occlumency. After all, it couldn’t possibly be Legilimency that the taps were using. But it wasn’t. The taps took note of the immediate physical response to a generically warm sprinkle of water. From there, the temperature would adjust accordingly after immediately analyzing said reaction.
All in all, rather ingenious, in Harry’s opinion.
Most unusually, the feeling of comfort and contentment lasted only a few, blissful seconds. In its place, Harry felt a rather persistent itchiness take hold of his entire body. He tried to move but suddenly felt his body stiff, rigid almost. From the other showers, Harry could hear his teammates cursing, evidently experiencing something similar. He wondered whether or not there had been a malfunction in the showers, of sorts.
He heard it before he felt it.
One of the other members of the Slytherin team let out a scream from their shower. Whether it was one driven by pain or panic, Harry wasn’t sure. A moment later, he realized that either option was equally possible.
He did not scream, but it was a near miss. Every bone in his body felt as if it was cracking and bending. His legs actually gave out and he found himself lying helplessly on his shower floor as the feeling grew worse and worse. After about a minute of this, the feeling only intensified. When he’d experienced the ritual more than a year ago now in Knockturn Alley, he’d likened the feeling to hundreds of small needles pricking all over his body. If that was true, this was hundreds of razor-sharp blades being dug into every orifice.
Harry could not think, he was too overwhelmed by pain. It was worse than his scar had been the year before, far worse in fact. At least that agony had been focused entirely on one part of his body. This was emanating from every fibre of him. The main similarity to his agony in the catacombs was the fact that as he lost consciousness, one of the last things he could hear was the catcophony of his teammate’s agonized screams.
What stood out as different, however, were the two voices Harry could also hear, muffled and faint as if they were standing outside. It sounded as if they were laughing, but as Harry’s final thought accurately summarized, by now, he had lost the ability to discern reality from fantasy.
September 25, 1992
The Hospital Wing
Harry awoke with a small groan as he reached up to rub at his eyes. He felt incredibly stiff. Stiffer than he had ever felt in his life, even. Coming from somebody who had occupied a small broom cupboard for ten years, that was saying a lot. His arm felt as if it did not want to so much as move. He did manage to force it into compliance, but it was a struggle. He tried to sit up but again, it felt like a task.
“Careful.” said a familiar voice from beside him. For a split second, Harry tensed. The last person to say that to him in this room had been his brother. Minutes after that comment, he’d been sent back to Durzkaban and any relationship he’d formed with Charlus had been torn apart. The more rational part of his brain recognized that it was not Charlus who was speaking.
“Morning, Harry.” Cassius greeted in a whisper, glancing around the room. “Or night, I guess.”
“What time is it? What happened? What’s going on?”
“Slow down, Harry.” another voice said. It was considerably softer than Cassius’s and he glanced to that side of his bed, almost groaning aloud with the effort of such a small movement.
She just nodded, offering a weak smile. “I’ve been here for quite awhile, actually. Hestia and Flora were here earlier. Your other friends were, too. They’re obviously off sleeping now.”
“Hold on,” Calypso told him, raising a hand to forestall his questions, “let me put up privacy wards.”
“My wand?” Harry asked, both wanting to add his own spells and feel the security of it in his hand again. Calypso summoned it to her and gently handed it to Harry. He tried to sit up, but couldn’t.
“Want help?” Calypso asked, clearly concerned.
Harry hesitated. His desire to sit up in a more comfortable position was warring with his desire not to be touched. In the end, he decided he would go mental if he had to lay in this position for any longer, so he nodded. Gently, Calypso helped ease Harry up into a sitting position against his now propped up pillows. At least now, his tension could be passed off as whatever the hell had happened to him.
“Whatever happened, is it gonna stop me from casting magic?” Calypso shook her head, so Harry flicked his wand. “Muffliato.”
The familiar, oddly comforting magic spread from Harry’s wand. He marvelled at the ironic oxymoron which was his most recent thought. The magic omitted by the Muffliato charm felt naturally oppressive, yet it was still one of the spells that comforted Harry the most.
“How do you know that spell?” There was an edge to Calypso’s voice, one that Harry had never heard there before. Harry’s eyes narrowed; one of these days, he was really going to need to work out the origins of that damn spell.
“Better question, why does it matter? You’re not the first person to act surprised that I know the spell.”
Calypso hesitated. “Harry, that’s a… very obscure privacy spell.”
Harry just peered challengingly back at her. “How do you know of it, then?”
“I’m not at liberty to say, sorry.”
Harry looked annoyed, but moved on quickly. “Fair enough, I guess. Anyway, what the hell happened? I realize I’m in the Hospital Wing now, but why? I just remember something happening in the shower.” he cringed. “It was painful — extremely painful.”
Cassius too was wincing. “Don’t remind me.” he muttered. “We were pranked, or something. Some bastards replaced the water with a potion.”
“The Terrors,” Calypso muttered, “I’ll bet you anything it was the Terrors. Only Gryffindors could be idiotic enough to overlook everything that could’ve gone wrong with that ‘prank.’”
“And for those of us who don’t know what happened?” Harry said carefully. “What exactly was the potion meant to do? Did it go wrong, or something?”
“Oh, no.” Cassius muttered darkly. “It went perfectly to plan, I’m sure. The fucking idiots just didn’t think of the logistics. Like… oh, I don’t know, the fact that growing scales could’ve fucking killed us?”
Harry’s jaw fell agape. “G-growing scales?”
“That’s how they found you.” Calypso informed him. Her voice was perhaps a bit softer than normal. “Montague forgot his bag in the changing room. When he went to go get it, he found all of you, passed out in your showers. Apparently, you were each in a pool of your own blood.”
“You remember the feeling in your bones?” Cassius asked and Harry tentatively nodded. “That was the scales being formed. And the feeling that every part of you was being stabbed by a knife? That was our scales pushing up through our skin.”
Harry was not a squeamish person, but he found it remarkably challenging not to cringe at the images that had flowed to the forefront of his mind. “So, I’m assuming that’s why I can barely move right now?”
“Yup. Pomfrey had to vanish the scales, but she couldn’t do it without taking a hell of a lot of bones with them. We were all put under while our bones regrew themselves. You lot are all waking up right about now. Bletchley and I have each been up for a few hours. We realized something was up right away and tried to get out of the shower. We got about halfway, so the damage was mostly to our lower bodies. You lot had it worse because you didn’t react fast enough.”
“Do I even want to know how long I’ve been out?”
“It’s Friday morning.” Calypso told him gently. “The twenty-fifth of September.”
“Bastards!” Cassius snarled. “All those dumbass lions think they’re so brilliant, so clever. They don’t realize that for all the jokes they make about Junior Death Eaters and all this other bullshit, those two dickheads have done worse than most of Slytherin. We could’ve died! Literally fucking died!”
“Have they been caught?”
“Of course not! They’re smart enough not to leave evidence. Since we all passed out, it’s not like we can give a testimony, is it?”
“I heard laughing.” Harry offered weakly.
“Yeah, Bletchley said he did too. That’s hardly proof though, is it?”
“I guess not.” Harry said with a sigh. He was going to have to look into the Weasley Twins. Thus far, he had paid them no mind, but if they were setting up pranks that could potentially be lethal and targeting Slytherins, extremely ill intent or not, they might have to slide quite near the top of Harry’s ever growing list of priorities.
Meanwhile, at Malfoy Manor…
Lucius set down his last paper for the night with a sigh. He stretched back in his throne-like chair, intent on heading out of his study and up to bed.
Before he left his study, however, Lucius slid the drawer of his desk open and removed his most recent correspondence that he considered to be of note.
I will be meeting with her this weekend at Summer Isles.
I thank you for the mutually beneficial agreement. I hope it will work out well for both of us in the end.
Pleasure doing business with you,
For the first time, I actually missed my Saturday upload date. Lightning struck a power line at about 8:00 AM on Saturday morning, and nobody in my area got power back until about midnight. So yeah, I’m really sorry about the inconvenience, but not a whole lot I could have done.
For those who do not remember, Daniel Shafiq ran unsuccessfully against Barty Crouch Sr. for the position of Minister for Magic in the 1982 Ministerial Elecction. He was the Conservatives’ representative, though he lost in resounding fashion. As for what he has been doing since, you will find out next chapter. It should be known by now that I don’t exactly forget about characters.
Also, Fred and George are not murderous psychopaths, for those who have not pieced that together yet. They are simply morally colour blind and rather impulsive. They are far too clever for their own good and don’t often think through the full repercussions of their actions. That will be a running theme as the story moves forward.
And slight spoiler here, but for those who are worried about it, there will not be a prank war or anything like it any time soon.
Finally, I know Harry appeared very little this chapter. The next two chapters focus quite a bit on subplots, and then Harry is brought more into the fold once more after that. Also, for those concerned about pacing, it does speed up. The end of year 2’s fifteenth chapter will be Samhain.
Please read and review.
PS: The next chapter will be posted on Saturday, September 5th, 2020 at approximately 3:00 PM EST.
Thank you to my lovely Discord editors for their contributions this week:
Asmodeus Stahl, bloodstainedsoldier, ccp, rawmeat898 and Sesc.
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