AoC 3

Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos

Year 1: The Forsaken’s Ascension

Chapter 3: The Building of Foundations

By ACI100

Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter universe. All recognizable characters, plots and settings are the exclusive property of J.K Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to my beta Umar for his work on this story. Additionally, a massive thank you is extended to Fezzik. She became a beta for me at a later date and has graciously agreed to assist me in revising these early chapters.

Self-Promotion: I have a discord server where you can chat and read all of my chapters early. If you would like to join, simply copy the link on my profile.

If you would like to dive further into the AoCverse, you can check out the AoC Wiki and TV Tropes Pages by following the links on my profile. You can do likewise to follow the ACI100 account on Twitter for live updates and to check out the official website.

September 2, 1991

The Slytherin Dorms

5:43 AM

Harry had always been an early riser. At least since he had taken up residence with the Dursleys. He had never been given much of a choice in the matter. It had been expected of him to be up and have breakfast made by the time the next member of the house had escaped the grasp of Morpheus. Needless to say, he had been conditioned to be awake quite early. So it came as no surprise to him when he woke up the next morning and tapped his wand on his wrist, muttering “Tempus” under his breath and causing the time to display in front of him in analogue form. 

He had been quite tired the night before and crashed pretty much as soon as his head made contact with the plush pillow that he had been provided with. Now, contrary to the previous night, Harry felt more alert and energized than he could perhaps ever remember feeling. 

As quietly as he could, Harry slid out of his bed, thanking go… Merlin that he had not had his usual nightmares. He hardly wanted to cry out in the middle of the night in front of those whom he knew to be vultures practically waiting to strike. He was sure there was a spell to ensure that no sound escaped past his curtains, but if there was, it wasn’t taught in first year. He knew all of the first-year spells, and nothing even remotely like what he needed was among them. 

Resigning himself to searching the library later in the day- something he had already planned on doing anyway- Harry slipped out of his bed and quickly gathered up some of his clothes before slipping off to the bathroom. Upon entering, Harry could not help but be awed at the room. It was absolutely massive, with a tiled marble floor and taps in the shape of serpent heads. The house emblem was emblazoned in emerald in the centre of the floor. Idly, Harry wondered if every bathroom in the ancient castle was anywhere close to this luxurious.

Stepping into the shower, he marvelled at the perfect water. He had read in Hogwarts, A History, that all of the taps within the castle adapted the temperature of the water to the desire of the shower’s occupant. Or, in the case of the sinks, whoever was using it at that time. How such a thing was achieved, Harry didn’t know, though he intended to one day find out. It sounded like an extremely useful enchantment to know. 

Harry didn’t take long to shower. Having never been given the luxury of doing so all his life, he fell easily into old habits. He was quickly back in the dormitory to grab his enchanted school bag carrying both bottomless and featherlight charms. Once it was in his possession, he swiftly made his way down into the common room. It was still lit by what he assumed was ever-present, almost ethereal looking green light coming from the lake outside. 

His first instinct was to take a seat in the comfortable looking lounge area nearest the still blazing fire, but he hesitated. He thought back to the night previous when the lounge had been left completely unoccupied by everyone until his escort, Grace Weitts, entered the common room. She had claimed it along with some of her friends, one of whom had been the fifth-year prefect who had escorted the rest of Harry’s year mates down into the common room. 

He remembered suspecting the sway and influence that Grace had within the house. With that in mind, he could not help but assume that the lounge was reserved for those of a higher political standing within the house itself. It was likely an unwritten rule of some sort.

Having no desire to alienate himself from the rest of the house so quickly, Harry took a seat near, but not too near the fire in a large, comfortable armchair before he reached into his bag and took out his book, The Rise and Fall of The Dark Arts. He hadn’t had the opportunity to read much if any of it on the train the day before. As of yet, he wasn’t far into the book, but he found the stories of dark magic and, in particular, dark lords to be rather interesting. It was almost like a muggle fiction novel brought to life.

With the help of his unworldly memory, he’d read a great deal of the book when he heard a soft, cool voice speak from in front of him. “Eager to begin our education, are we?”

Recognizing the voice, Harry decided caution was his best vice as he peered up from his book and met those bluish-silver eyes that had so enchanted him the day before. “I’ve never been much of a late sleeper, if I’m being honest.” 

“You’ll find that a habit like that will make you quite unique in this house,” Grace commented as she deliberately made her way towards him, glancing at the book that now laid still open in his lap. “History, Potter? Of all the subjects you could be studying?”

“It has nothing to do with studying. You can call it a personal interest of mine. I’ve always been interested in history.” 

“Have you?” Grace asked with a small smile. “Well, I suppose that interest of yours will be tested by our most esteemed history professor.” 

Harry frowned. “What’s wrong with the history professor?”

“Aside from the fact that he’s dead,” Grace said casually, causing Harry’s eyes to widen for a second before he took control of the impulse once more, “he is dull to the point of being painfully so. He also doesn’t pay attention to anything aside from the notes in his hand. Plenty of students sleep in his class and just read the textbook on their own time. He has never noticed any of them.”

“Duly noted. I might have to look into that.”

“Be careful, Potter. You shouldn’t imply plans to misbehave in front of a prefect.”

“I think you’ll keep my secret.”

“Do you? Interesting. I fail to see how you would so easily trust somebody you know so little about.”

Harry just smiled pleasantly back at her. “It isn’t your personality that convinces me. I’m not thick enough to convince myself I know enough about you to judge. It’s your standing. You don’t get to that point without having certain traits.”

“Oh?” she asked, seeming truly intrigued for the first time.

“This is the house of cunning. It’s not that hard to piece together that you obviously fit that trait if you’re standing in the house is so high. Nobody with an ounce of cunning would want to make an enemy of an Heir to an Ancient and Most Noble House without a very good reason.”

“Maybe, but what do I need of your clout and potential political power? Our families are not aligned within the same faction anyway. And I currently possess just as much clout as the Weitts Heiress as you do being the Potter Heir.”

“That can change. And just because you don’t need the clout doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be interested in it. Especially considering we’re in the house of the ambitious.”

Grace laughed softly, shaking her head as she peered at Harry with more interest. “It looks like we have all underestimated you, Potter. I had wondered if your choice of seat was coincidental, but now I’m sure it wasn’t, was it?” Harry shook his head, to which Grace chuckled again. “You are very perceptive, and a fast learner as well. I will grant you that.” 

He supposed that if she was complimenting him, it was a decent enough start.

Grace took her seat in the dead centre of the lounge area, pulled a book from her own bag and began to read, prompting Harry to do the same. 

It was a while later when the first few students began making their way down into the common room. Some second years were the first to arrive, followed by the large girl from Harry’s year — Bulstrode. After her was the Zabini boy, who made his way over towards Harry.

“Do you mind if I join you?” he asked politely, causing Harry to shake his head as Zabini took his seat. “Ah,” he said after eyeing Harry’s choice of reading material, “I see I won’t be the only one interested in history.”

“Likewise, I suppose,” said Harry, still not looking up from his book and therefore failing to notice the small smirk that played across Zabini’s lips. 

Nott was the next in the common room, followed by Lillian Moon, a small, blonde girl who had seemed to keep mostly to herself. She was followed by Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, and then the three girls, Greengrass, Davis, and Parkinson also made their way down together. Harry noticed Malfoy shoot a quick glance towards the trio of girls as he was putting away his book and catalogued that away.

“First years,” came the voice of Grace’s fifth-year prefect friend — Rhea, her name had been. “We’ll lead you to the Great Hall this morning. From here on out, you will be expected to make it to mealtimes on your own. Are we understood?” They all nodded. 

Rhea, being accompanied by Grace and a few others, led the lot of them up to the Great Hall. Harry quickly made note of the route, thanking Merlin for his near eidetic memory. He would never have had a chance of remembering this maze without it. Not on the first day, anyway.

When they entered the hall, they were some of the first to do so. They all took seats at the far end of the table once more. The spot seemed to be designated for them. This time, alphabetical order was seemingly not necessary. 

Harry found himself sitting beside Blaise Zabini and across from Lillian Moon. He did notice that Malfoy, and by extension, Crabbe and Goyle took seats further up the table alongside the Macnair boy from the first night and his group of friends. They had clearly been beckoned over before making their move.

How interesting that the only way to break out of the designation appeared to be by earning the favour of older students.

It was a smooth system. Not only would it serve as a fair test of politics for the first years, but it would easily let the upper years observe and evaluate them. Harry actually smiled at the trap that was the system that had been laid out for them. Whoever had set it up Merlin only knew how long ago had played the game well.

He knew he should eat something, so he piled a measly amount of fruit onto a small plate and pulled it in front of him. He wasn’t used to anywhere near three meals a day, so he was well aware of the fact that, at least in the beginning, he would need to pace himself in terms of his consumption habits. 

He felt a stare burrowing into him just as the muttering in the hall rose. He was intent on ignoring it, but Zabini had other ideas. 

“You have an admirer,” he muttered with some amusement, causing Harry to glance over his shoulder. It was a pair of deep, hazel eyes that still watched him with a large amount of betrayal prevalent within them.

“You have a very loose definition of the word admirer, Zabini.”

“When it suits my purposes,” the boy answered quietly and with a smirk. Harry just shook his head exasperatedly. 

He watched his brother intently. For a moment, he actually feared the Boy-Who-Lived would make a scene, but he didn’t. He instead allowed Weasley to drag him to the Gryffindor table, though not before he threw a look towards Harry that could wither a plant.

“I doubt even you can honestly call him an admirer,” Harry commented with even more dryness than before, which caused Blaise to chuckle. 

“No,” he admitted, “that would make me look a bit daft, wouldn’t it?

Harry didn’t answer the rhetorical question. Instead, he chose to open his book once more and continue to eat his fruit. Sometime later, their Head of House, Professor Snape, swept along and distributed timetables. When Harry’s landed in front of him without a word, he quickly pulled it towards him, reading it over and committing it to memory all in one go.

‘So, Snape first then,’ he thought. The man had given him rather odd vibes the night before. He was interested, if a bit apprehensive, at how the man would conduct himself in his role as professor. 

“I wonder if the rumours about Snape are true,” Zabini mused beside Harry, as if he could read his mind, making him peer curiously at the other boy. 

“What rumours?”

“Everybody seems to say he favours Slytherins. As in, very blatantly favours Slytherins.”

Harry shrugged. “Good for us if it’s true, I guess.”

“I’ve heard the same,” Lillian said quietly from across the table. Blaise smiled and nodded at her.

Harry stood five minutes later, packing his book and timetable into his bag as he slung it over his shoulder. It was best to reach the classroom quickly and on time. He also had no desire to meet his brother on the way. That was a confrontation that he would rather save for a later date. 

Thankfully, Snape’s classroom was attached to his office and was therefore labelled with his name. Even more thankfully for Harry, the door was unlocked, so he quickly slid inside and took a seat near the back. He never had trusted anyone easily. The idea of people sitting behind him was one that he was not entirely comfortable with.

Greengrass and Davis were the next two students to enter the room. They both took seats directly in front of Harry before the other students started filtering in. To Harry’s amusement, almost the entirety of his year from Slytherin had entered the room before anyGryffindors not named Hermione Granger made their entrance. What may have amused him more still was that his brother and Weasley were the last two students to enter the classroom, rushing in and quickly glancing around as they did so. 

They were late. Not blatantly so, but the bell had rung a minute or so earlier.

“Thank Merlin Snape isn’t here,” breathed out Weasley as he clutched at a stitch in his side.

“Yeah,” said Charlus, smiling and seeming far less winded than his friend, “that would have been…” then he paused as his hazel eyes landed on Harry, who was sitting beside Zabini. 

Charlus’ face went through several stages of both colour and expression before he began to march towards Harry. For his part, Harry’s face never changed as he continued to gaze upon his brother with perfect neutrality. 

“Harry,” said Charlus, and his voice carried the obvious note of betrayal, “why… Slytherin… why?”

“You can thank Father next time you see him for that,” Harry said with no real emotion. After sorting out his feelings on the matter, he had decided that his more “Slytherin traits” had likely manifested as a direct result of necessity while living under the roof of the Dursleys.

Charlus’ face suddenly took on a red tinge. “You’re blaming dad?” he asked incredulously. Harry merely stared back in return. Charlus shook his head, looking disgusted. “Maybe you do belong in Slytherin,” he said with some distaste, making the sentence sound as if it were the worst insult he could possibly come up with. “Blaming dad for stuff like that would be about right.”

“If he didn’t abandon me,” Harry said in a voice quiet enough not to carry to the rest of the class, “I wouldn’t have to say it at all.”

“How could you say that?” Charlus hissed, looking furious now. “He-he regrets it so much… more than anything.” Charlus shook his head again. “When-when he finds out you’re in Slytherin… He’ll blame himself; he’ll feel awful.”

Harry didn’t dignify his brother’s response with words. He just raised an eyebrow, as if asking what Charlus’s point was.

“You really do belong in Slytherin!” His brother’s words had more heat and conviction this time around. “You don’t accept responsibility for anything, do you?”

“And you really do belong in Gryffindor,” Harry bit back evenly. “All impulsiveness and no critical thinking. You just see the world exactly how you want it to be.” 

Vaguely, Harry noted the hypocrisy of that fact. Charlus was in the house that prided itself on acceptance, yet he couldn’t accept Harry’s sorting… but Harry decided not to ponder on that for too long.

Many of the Slytherins hid smirks, snickers, or other humorous reactions. Crabbe and Goyle both just guffawed openly. The Gryffindors all looked offended to varying degrees, but none of them had time to say anything before the classroom door slammed open, and Slytherin’s Head of House swept into the classroom. His cloak billowed behind him in a bat-like manner as he stopped in mid-stride, casting a contemptuous glare towards Charlus.

“Three points from Gryffindor for deplorable behaviour, Potter. I would expect any civilized child with even an ounce of dignity to await the beginning of class in their seats. Not to accost other students before the bell has even sounded. Then again,” he added with an almost cruel smile, “I suppose the unfortunate traits I have mentioned can be expected from one in your… situation.”

“Are you insulting my father?” bit out Charlus.

Snape sneered. “I would never dare,” he said with a curled lip. “An insult is to bring to light a person’s more disposable qualities.” Snape allowed his lip to curl even further. “I assure you, I speak of the least deplorable qualities that manifested inside of your father’s over-inflated head. 

“Now,” he snapped before Charlus could say another word, “sit down.” Charlus did so, but he was shaking with rage as he glared openly at their professor. “I hope that the rest of you have not modelled yourself too closely after our new… celebrity.” 

Most of the Slytherins snickered once more before falling truly silent for the first time.

Snape allowed his eyes to roam over each of them. They paused for a nearly imperceptible amount of time too long on both Harry and Charlus, something that caused Harry’s eyes to narrow.

So, last night definitely hadn’t been a coincidence, then.

“You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making.” Their professor spoke in barely more than a whisper, but they caught every word— Snape had the gift of keeping a class silent without effort. “As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I do not expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses… I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death… if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.”

More silence followed this little speech. Harry saw Charlus and Ron exchange looks with raised eyebrows. Hermione Granger was on the edge of her seat and looked desperate to start proving that she wasn’t a dunderhead.

Snape then took out his attendance and began to read the names, pausing when he came to that of Charlus. “Two Potters,” he drawled, “I dare say Hogwarts has never seen such dark times as are undoubtedly on the horizon.” Snape smirked cruelly as much of Slytherin snickered for a third time. 

Harry silently cursed his father once more. He had no idea what the man had done to his Head of House. If Snape, who was apparently notorious for his blatant favouritism towards Slytherins, was mocking a member of his own house openly, it must have been bad.

“I am, however, most curious how two children of similar stock could possibly end up on the opposite ends of a most telling spectrum. I think we have in front of us an excellent opportunity to test the theory of nature versus nurture.” 

The class remained perfectly silent.

“Potter,” the professor snapped suddenly, frowning when both Harry and Charlus turned towards him with two completely different visages. “Gryffindor Potter,” he elaborated. “Where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?”

Charlus looked stumped, but Hermione Granger’s hand shot quickly into the air, something that caused Harry to frown. He’d read that one should only raise their hand if they had a question or if the teacher had posed one to the class. To do so when another student was asked a direct question, especially when said student was a pureblood, was considered very disrespectful. It implied that you didn’t think the student capable of answering.

“I’d look in your potions cabinet,” Charlus answered dryly. Much of Gryffindor laughed and for Snape’s lip to curl. 

“Two points for your cheek, Potter.” Charlus glared at Snape and looked as if he would say something, but he was never given the chance. “Let us try a question that falls in a similar vein but one that cannot be deflected with such a poor attempt at humour. What, Potter, is a bezoar?”

Granger’s hand rose again, but Charlus seemed intent on continuing to dig himself a hole. “No idea. Definitely not a hair care product. You clearly don’t own any of those.” 

The class went dead silent. 

“Ten points from Gryffindor for blatant disrespect of your superiors,” Snape said softly. “And I believe a detention this Saturday would be most… elucidating for you. Perhaps then, you may even be able to recognize them.” 

“I know who my superiors are.” Clearly, Charlus had no idea when to stop. “You’re not one of them.” 

“And one on Sunday as well, just to ensure the message… sinks in.” Snape’s voice was tinged with venom as he turned his icy glare towards Harry. “Now, let us see if your brother is as pathetic a representation of an ancient and noble bloodline as yourself. Slytherin Potter, answer me the same questions your terrifically incompetent twin failed to answer.”

“Of course, Professor,” Harry said with well-practiced politeness, taking the time to smirk at his brother for his, as Snape put it, incompetence. “A bezoar is a stone formed from the bodily fluids of a goat that can cure most poisons. To find it, you would look in the goat’s stomach.” He looked at the Gryffindors on the opposite side of the room who, in many cases, were either glaring openly at him or looking stunned. “It was on the first page of chapter two,” he added helpfully, doing his utmost best to add insult to his brother’s injury. 

Snape’s face remained impassive. “Correct on both counts.” He whirled back towards the Gryffindor side of the room. “Incompetent Potter,” he snapped, causing Charlus to flush in anger, “what is the difference between Monkshood and Wolfsbane?”

“No idea.” gritted out Charlus. “Maybe one goes in your morning tea to make sure you stay a complete wanker and the other goes in your hair to keep it nice and greasy.” 

Harry immediately realized that Charlus had finally gone a step too far as Snape scowled. “I think, Incompetent Potter, that we shall take a stroll up to the Headmaster’s office come the conclusion of this class.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.”

Snape’s lip curled again. “I am afraid I never granted you a choice in the matter.” Harry could have sworn he heard Charlus mutter “we’ll see” under his breath, but he couldn’t be sure. 

Predictably Snape whirled to face him once more. “Potentially Competent Potter,” he addressed, almost causing Harry to snort, “can you enlighten your brother as to the difference between Monkshood and Wolfsbane?”

Harry smiled. “I don’t think I can, sir. A better question would be if I could enlighten my brother on the lack of differences between the two.”


“Monkshood and Wolfsbane are the exact same plant; a poisonous variety known as aconite.”

Snape nodded curtly. “I see one of the two Potters has progressed admirably far into his copy of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi. Even if in the case of his brother, books seem as if they are a foreign concept.

“Your task is to brew an acceptable potion to cure boils, working with the person sitting next to you. I expect a flask of the finished product on my desk by the end of the lesson.” He waved his wand towards the board. “The instructions are written on the board.” 

“Unless you have a better idea, I’ll go and get the ingredients while you set up the cauldron,” Harry proposed.

Zabini nodded from beside him. “That sounds acceptable.” 

By the time he got back, Zabini had the cauldron set up, and it was boiling very close to the correct temperature.

“Any idea how good you are with potions?” 

“Above average,” Zabini assured, causing Harry to internally thank Merlin for his luck.

“I’ll prepare all of the ingredients if you add them and tend to the cauldron.”

Zabini shrugged. “Sounds like a fair exchange to me.”

They worked in companionable silence for much of the class, with Harry taking great care with their supply of ingredients and Zabini managing to follow Snape’s instructions without issue. Nothing of real note happened until about halfway through the class. 

An explosion shook the dungeon and within seconds of looking up, most of the class were on their chairs in order to avoid the liquid that was spilling all over the floor. It was very clearly pouring from Longbottom’s and Finnigan’s melted cauldron. The concoction seemed to be incapable of removing boils, though it seemed to be giving Longbottom some pretty nasty ones. 

Snape rounded on the boys and as discreetly as Harry could, he began carefully filtering the mess of a potion off the floor and into several vials. The only person who seemed to notice was Zabini, who looked almost appreciative. As odd as the thought was, Harry suspected a potion that looked rather painful and could be absorbed through the skin could prove rather useful in the future, even if it were completely useless for curing boils.

“Idiot boy! I suppose you added the porcupine quills before taking the cauldron off of the fire?” Snape scowled at the pair of them and addressed Finnigan next. “Take him to the hospital wing.” He waved his wand, causing the rest of the potion to vanish and prompting Harry to stand up, pocketing the two vials he had managed to procure with a satisfied smile whilst Snape glared daggers at Charlus and Weasley. “Incompetent Potter,” he spat, “why didn’t you tell him not to add the quills? Thought he would make you look good if he ruined his potion, did you? That will be yet another five points from Gryffindor.”

Harry saw Charlus make to speak up, but he didn’t. Clearly, Weasley had enough sense to keep his twin quiet. Harry knew such a thing was blatantly unfair, but he couldn’t find it within himself to care much for the situation.

The next event took place not five minutes later when Greengrass marched confidently up to the front of the class and presented Snape a vial of clearly perfect potion with a third of the allotted time remaining. A rather smug looking grin was plastered on her face.

“How the hell?” Harry muttered under his breath, a sentiment that Zabini quietly agreed to with a nod. 

By the time class had ended, Harry and Zabini were one of a few groups to hand in what seemed like perfect potions, something that would have made Harry a lot happier if Greengrass hadn’t done the same thing twenty minutes earlier than them. He could almost feel her superior smirk directed at their backs as Harry handed in their potion to Snape, who took it with a blank expression. Harry felt as if the Potions Master was straining every muscle in his face in order to suppress Merlin only knew what expression.

The bell rang soon after and Harry and the other Slytherins made their way out of the dungeons and began on their ascent up to the charms’ corridor for their first lesson in the subject for the year. As he left the dungeons classroom, Harry did not fail to notice that neither his brother nor Ron Weasley were present. He silently commended his twin for somehow managing to slip past Snape, even if he did so begrudgingly. 

Harry had no idea how to get to the Charms Classroom, but he thought following the rest of the crowd was a fairly safe bet. If worse came to worst, he doubted their charms professor would dock points from the entire class for being late. It turned out that most of them were late, as it was a rather long trek from Potions to Charms. Harry suspected those without near eidetic memories may end up late for the first couple of Mondays. 

His other assumption also held true though, as Professor Flitwick, a diminutive man who needed to stand on several books just to see over his desk, took the whole event in good spirits. 

“Good morning, everyone, and welcome to your first Charms lesson here at Hogwarts! My name is Professor Flitwick and I am the Charms professor and Head of Ravenclaw house!” After his introduction, Flitwick took roll, pausing almost curiously at Harry’s name before putting down the attendance and looking at them all far more seriously.

“To put it simply, Charms very well may be the most important subject we teach at this school and I assure you, my own biases towards the subject have no impact on that statement. Charms is, in my humble opinion, the most versatile branch of magic, as Charms can be used to achieve almost anything a witch or wizard would like. The subject has applications in self-defence, household upkeep, day to day tasks, leisure activities, and almost anything else you could come up with.

“Charms is also one of the five foundational branches of magic. Can anybody tell me the other four?”

Harry’s hand hit the air first, and Flitwick pointed to him eagerly. “Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, Potions, and Transfiguration.” 

“Very good, Master Potter, very good indeed. Take three points to Slytherin. Now, can anyone tell me why these five branches of magic are called foundational?”

Harry’s hand hit the air first once more. To her credit, Greengrass was not far behind him. Flitwick pointed to her this time, and Greengrass recited without preamble: “They’re called foundational branches because one of, or a combination of the branches is needed to perform any task using magic.”

Flitwick‘s smile only grew. “Correct, Miss Greengrass! Take five points for Slytherin on top of the three from a moment ago. Yes,” he continued, “needless to explain anymore, Charms is extremely important, and it is a subject I thoroughly encourage each and every one of you to continue after fifth year if you have earned the opportunity by scoring well on your O.W.L.s. Speaking of which, the expectations in this class…” 

And the lesson continued. 

No practical magic was performed that day aside from Flitwick making objects fly around the room as a demonstration of what was to come. The lesson was spent entirely as a lecture, both for expectations, future lessons, a yearly outline, and a bit on the correct grip on one’s wand for Charms and some other safety measures. What was equally unfortunate was the fact that Flitwick became the second of two professors to assign them prep, his being six inches on safety measures in his class. 

Harry had already come to the conclusion that the year would be a rather easy one, at least in that subject. He could already perform the Levitation Charm with no issue at all. The same went for the Colour Changing Charm and a fair few others. He suspected he had already reached Christmas break, if not further in terms of the practical portion of the curriculum, and the entirety of first year in terms of theory. Absently, he wondered just how far ahead he could actually get.

They had lunch next, and though Harry definitely ate more than he had at breakfast, he spent most of that time with his nose in the potions book. He was trying to find what Greengrass possibly could have done differently, but his search came up empty. Harry’s mood had dimmed considerably by the end of lunch. For the first time in the magical world, his research had been fruitless. 

His low spirits didn’t last long, as now, he was walking into the class that he may have been most excited about — Defence Against the Dark Arts, and a double period at that. Nothing was known about the professor, but Harry was eager for the subject and he really did hope she was competent. 

Competent she was indeed.

When they entered the room, Professor Hurst was sitting behind her desk, reading from a book that did not seem to have a cover. She glanced up briefly, smiling quickly at them before going back to her book. A quick glance around the classroom didn’t reveal a whole lot about the woman at all, as the room had been left almost completely barren. Harry suspected that if she had gone to Hogwarts in her time, she had been a Slytherin.

When they had all entered and the bell had rung, the professor got to her feet, and Harry saw none of the shyness that some may expect from a new professor.

“Welcome,” she said in a smooth, confident voice, a small, almost twisted smile adorning her lips, “to Defence Against the Dark Arts.” The loving tone in which she spoke the name of her subject took Harry aback, but the obvious charisma the woman carried caught his attention immediately. 

“I have little doubt that professors Snape and Flitwick have already lectured you as to the importance of their subject but let me ask you this. What is more important to you; speeding up household tasks that could be performed easily, if admittedly tediously without a wand? Brewing potions that could admittedly be quite useful? Or making sure that no matter the situation, you are prepared? Making sure that you are both powerful and competent enough to ensure your safety within the magical world?” Several people were nodding along with the woman, and Harry found himself chief amongst them. 

The way the professor spoke… it was as if she were drawing them all in, placing them in a kind of trance. 

“To defend against the Dark Arts,” Hurst continued, “one must understand the scope of which they are fighting.” Her lips twitched again, but she did not elucidate as to why. “The Dark Arts are a monstrous branch of magic themselves. They are ever-changing, ever-evolving, and endless in their applications and possibilities in the hands of a sorcerer who has mastered their mind, their magic, and their intent. It is like fighting a battalion of warriors who are all prodigies in their fields, but without knowing which fields they all specialize in. 

“That is to say, your defence must be flexible, ever-evolving as the Arts in which they are to defend you from, and if you can make them so, creative and multi-purposed. In my eyes, a spell’s power is not necessarily measured by the damage it can cause, or the solidity of the protection it offers as much as it is measured by how many ways the spell can cause damage, or how many ways the spell can protect you.”

Harry was enraptured now. Everything Hurst said resonated with him and he found his anticipation for the class growing by the second. 

“I will not be teaching you the complexities of the Dark Arts.” Harry swore he could detect an undertone of regret, perhaps even an apologetic note in her voice. “The Ministry is rather strict on their guidelines for one thing, and for another, with all due respect, none of you in this room would be capable of wielding the most dangerous weapons magic has to offer. In a similar vein, I will not be teaching you the subtle, more complex, or even more powerful ways in which to defend yourself against these weapons. In order for a wall to stand strong and impenetrable, the wall must be built on foundations which are as near infallible as one can make them.” 

She smiled proudly out at all of them. “What I shall be doing my best to accomplish this year is helping you lay the foundations to what I hope will one day become a structure that will hold against even the darkest of arts and the blackest of magics.

“Now, most professors would simply have you discuss the safety measures to be taken in this class. Quite frankly, if you are not all well aware of the dangers of such a class and don’t possess the common sense to keep yourself and those around you safe, failing in this subject will be the least of your worries.”

With that message out of the way, she smiled at them. “Now, let us begin with something rather simple. The most rudimentary, yet still a rather useful shield charm. I will require a volunteer.” No one’s hand rose and her dark eyes scanned the crowd before resting on Harry. “Master Potter, would you be so kind?”

“Yes ma’am,” Harry said automatically as he scrambled to his feet, looking nervous.

She smiled reassuringly at him in a way that put him immediately at ease. That statement was odd, for he was a rather paranoid person, but he didn’t have time to ponder on the fact. “There’s no need to worry,” she said quietly as the rest muttered, speaking softly enough so only he could hear her. “You will be attacking me. Assuming, of course, that you know of a spell to attack with?”

“Nothing at all powerful or useful, but I know a few jinxes.”

“They will more than suffice for our demonstration,” she assured him, raising her hand and causing the class to quiet as she drew her wand from her sleeve and stood to face Harry. Harry quickly summoned his from his holster, causing one of her eyebrows to raise for the merest of moments before she nodded for him to attack.

“Mobiliarbus,” he said, firing what he hoped would be the leg locker at her without hesitation. It worked; the jet of blue light shot straight towards her.

“Aegis Vocar,” she intoned calmly and without a wand movement, causing a nearly imperceptible shimmer in the air to absorb Harry’s curse. “Continue,” she instructed as she moved to the side.

“Rictusempra, Furnunculus, Flipendo.” His wand stayed trained on her as she moved to the side, but without bothering to incant another spell, she just allowed his spells to slam harmlessly into her shield. Harry raised his wand to attack again but never had the chance. He saw her wand give a nearly unnoticeable twitch and he suddenly felt as if the very air had grabbed him. He was forcefully jerked off his feet and hung upside down. He tried to move his arms, but he couldn’t. He felt as if they were tied to his sides.  

The class was completely silent as Professor Hurst strode casually up to where he was hanging upside down, his head about level with her chest. She reached out her hand, deftly plucking Harry’s wand from his limp fingers. She rolled up his sleeve as well and made a show of miming the disarming of his holster.

“That,” she said casually to the rest of the class, “is the difference defence can make in a fight. Master Potter, despite the fairly impressive spell work he displayed, never stood a chance without a proper defence.” She twitched her wand again and Harry felt himself flip in the air as his feet touched down on the floor. He took a moment to orient himself before reaching out and taking back his wand when his professor offered it. 

“The Aegis Vocar shield is the weakest of the magical shield charms, though it will hold against a few jinxes depending on the power that you are able to put behind it. In a fight, it is next to useless. In a duel, its low energy costs and unique ability to move with the caster could be of use. 

“For this class, it is a spell that will protect you from those of your age and it will serve as an apt introduction to defensive magic. The spell is basic, though I do not expect many of you to have managed this spell by the end of class today. If two of you can cast it, you will pair up and test your shield against the other’s jinxes. The incantation, as you heard, is Aegis Vocar. The wand movement is a circular motion in front of your chest.” When they all looked up at her a bit nervously, she snapped her fingers. “Begin.” 

Before she could stride away from him, Harry shot her a questioning glance and she nodded to show she was listening. “You didn’t use a wand movement.”

She smiled. “You are quite observant. For such a basic spell in comparison to my skill level, wand movements are wasteful and unnecessary. They are a crutch, if you will, a method to aid in casting. They are not strictly necessary.” He nodded. “Seeing as I am here already, let me see your attempt before I observe the others.” 

Harry raised his wand and traced it in the circular motion a few times before committing to it. 

“Aegis Vocar.” 

There was the same shimmer as the professor had created, though it was even less noticeable than her own. 

She looked surprised. “That is your first ever attempt with the charm, correct?” 

“Yes, ma’am.”

She nodded approvingly. “Five points to Slytherin.” She prodded his near-invisible shield with the tip of her wand. “It is weak, but for you to produce a shield at all on your first try is impressive for certain. Continue your attempts and I will circulate the room and inevitably return to you.” 

And continue he did. 

Harry only took a few brief moments to glance around the class as he attempted to strengthen his shield. From what he was seeing, nobody else had yet managed one. After quite some time, the professor was in front of him once more, and when he cast the spell, she poked at the barrier with her wand several times again before giving it a firm jab and causing it to collapse. She pursed her lips and before Harry knew what was happening, her wand had snapped deliberately towards his face. 

“Dolor,” she incanted. Harry recognized it as the incantation for the Stinging Hex.

“Aegis Vocar!” he snarled with conviction. The air shimmered more noticeably now, and her spell sparked harmlessly against his shield.

“Remember that,” she told him sharply. “Remember the desire to not get hit with that jinx, the desire to stay safe, the intent to defend yourself. Cast with that intent every time whether I am casting at you or not and your shield will strengthen and hold. Fail to do so, and your shield will crumble.” 

He nodded thankfully and she made off to help the others again. It was a blunt way to learn and it had scared the hell out of him, but it had been effective. That was all he could really ask from a professor.

By the time the class had ended, the only other person who had managed anything was Theodore Nott.

Harry left the class in high spirits, feeling joy at the success of the lesson as well as the potential that the class held if Professor Hurst’s words were anything to judge by.

Authors Endnote:

A couple of things to go over quickly.

The first is that I was criticized by a guest reviewer for choosing “Liberals” and Conservatives” as the names of the two opposing political factions. It should be noted that this choice is based completely off of the English definitions of these words. I could not care less about real-world politics, so it had no impact on the story.

Also, I have been told that the name Amelia Hurst is used in another fic titled Power is Control. At the time of writing this, I had honestly never heard of, let alone read the story. No infringement was intended. She was one of about sixty names I have in notes as potentially being usable in the future. She was actually going to be an Unspeakable in a fic that I scrapped before ever posting.

I have also had it pointed out to me that in English boarding schools, many of the professors refer to the male students as “Master” as opposed to “Mister”. This was intentional on my part. No mistakes were made. I am simply trying to write at least a semi-realistic depiction of the culture the story is taking place in. For this same reason, as I am now going through and revising these chapters, I will slowly be changing all instances of “homework” to “prep”.

Please read and review.

This chapter was revised on September 8th, 2020 with the help of Discord editors Asmodeus Stahl and rawmeat898.

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