Ashes of Chaos Chapter 30
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Harry Potter and The Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 13: The Dead of Night
September 25, 1992
The Headmaster’s Office
As per usual, Charlus was admitted into Dumbledore’s office before he even had the chance to knock on the door. This time, he managed to get all the way to his seat before the venerable old man looked up, if only because the Headmaster himself seemed to be nose deep in a rather complex-looking pile of notes. After about a minute, Dumbledore looked up and gently moved his pile of papers to the side.
“My apologies, Charlus. I do love and cherish almost everything this illustrious job has to offer, but there are certainly rare components of it that I am not as fond of. The monotony of inevitable paperwork certainly falls into the latter category.”
“Uh… that’s alright, sir. You wanted to speak to me?”
“indeed, I did. To start with something potentially lighter, how are your friend Ronald and his family handling the… surprising result of their youngest sister’s sorting?”
Charlus hesitated. “Ron’s… a bit upset, I guess. He’s not pleased she was sorted into Slytherin and he kind of went off on her a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t seen them talk since. Ron, Hermione and I talked about it last weekend and he still wasn’t happy.”
Dumbledore scratched at his beard. “I did hear about their confrontation. It saddened me very deeply. Do try and remind Ronald of the things I reminded you of a year ago. The colour of one’s tie does not dictate who they are. It is our choices which define us, as well as the complex and intricate thinking that goes into each and every choice we make.”
Charlus just nodded, being somewhat accustomed to Dumbledore’s whimsical ways of speaking. “I’m not sure about the others,” he admitted. “The twins haven’t talked about it but I don’t think they’ve gone in on her either. I… don’t really talk to Percy, to be honest.”
“Such things are not a surprise to me. There is a significant age gap between yourselves, and the pair of you are quite different from one another. Do keep an eye on the situation for me, will you?” Charlus nodded again and Dumbledore steepled his fingers, obviously about to get to the true contents of the meeting.
“Speaking of sibling relationships, I don’t suppose you are aware of what has happened to your own brother?”
Charlus frowned. “Harry?” He realized as soon as he asked the question how stupid it was. What other brother did he have? Dumbledore did not comment on his moment of idiocy. Instead, he just nodded benignly, prompting Charlus to continue. “I… uh, haven’t, no. I… haven’t talked to him at all, actually.”
Dumbledore sighed. “I suppose it is better than being openly antagonistic. Allow me to enlighten you, in that case. Two nights ago, after practice, the entire Slytherin Quidditch team were the victims of an extremely ill-thought and childish prank that could have very well had disastrous consequences.”
Charlus felt his heart quicken. “What happened, sir?”
“It appears that the water in the Slytherin showers was replaced with a potion that caused all seven of them to grow rather painful scales.” Dumbledore stare pierced Charlus. “To elucidate further, scales that grew alongside bone and then forcefully pushed their way up through each player’s skin.”
Charlus actually paled as the impulse to vomit briefly arose. That was a terrifying image that he did not need to contemplate. “Are-are they-“
“Oh, they are perfectly alright, though the road to recovery was a painful one. In order to remove the rather inexpertly grown scales, Madam Pomfrey had to vanish a vast number of bones. Of course, those bones all needed to be regrown. Regrowing a bone is unpleasant. Regrowing a vast number of them is painful enough that our esteemed matron thought it best that none of them wake at any time during the process. They were all awake by this morning, though they are not being discharged until after breakfast tomorrow.”
Charlus was even paler now. He was a bit conflicted in regards to his brother, even if he could admit that he himself had been a git for months now. Still, nobody should have to go through that. “Did you catch who did it, sir?”
“Unfortunately, we have not. That is actually why I wished to speak with you, Charlus. I had hoped that you might know, or at least, perhaps suspect who the culprits might have been? The offence was… quite heinous. It can not go unpunished. Even if I thought it could, the Board of Governors is pushing the staff quite hard to investigate further. Lucius Malfoy is, after all, the Head of the Board. I will be announcing a formal investigation at breakfast tomorrow, as well as urging students with any information to come forward. Before I do so, however, I thought I might endeavour to ask if you have any insight on the matter?”
The Weasley twins were the first names that rose to the surface of Charlus’s thoughts. But surely Fred and George would never do anything that malicious? They were pranksters and could be gits from time to time, but they weren’t that bad. If they had somehow been behind it, surely the prank had been meant as harmless. Perhaps it had gone terribly wrong, in one way or another.
That was the only way Charlus could even imagine Fred and George being responsible.
But even if they somehow were, it wouldn’t be fair for them to be expelled for a prank gone wrong. For Charlus had no doubt that whoever had been behind this prank would likely be expelled for such an offence
“I’m sorry, sir,” he said, coming to the decision to keep all of that to himself. “I have no idea.”
As Dumbledore politely dismissed him, Charlus made one promise to himself on the way out of the Headmaster’s office.
He was going to look into this.
September 26, 1992
Severus Snape’s Office
“What can I do for you this evening, Miss Parkinson?”
Snape spoke in his typical, silky tones, raising one, greasy eyebrow in question as he stared curiously upon the Parkinson Heiress. It was rare that Snape actually had students come to him directly. Part of that was his reputation, he was sure. Though it was true he favoured Slytherin House rather blatantly, he was also well-known for his brutal honesty with those of his house while outside his classroom.
“Well, sir, I think maybe I should’ve gone to a Prefect about this. I’m not actually sure it’s worth your time, but I don’t know any of the Prefects very well, you see? I… didn’t want to bother them. I didn’t want them to get upset, especially because they were studying and-”
“Miss Parkinson, you will cease the telling of this unbefitting sob story at once.” Immediately, Pansy sobered, realizing that her Head of House would not be deceived so easily. “Make your point promptly, Miss Parkinson. I do not have the time for misplayed mind games or poorly perpetuated attempts at ascertaining my favour through some tasteless sob story.”
Pansy nodded. “We have a Transfiguration assignment due by the end of this week, Professor. I’ve tried everything and I just don’t get it! I really could have gone to a Prefect, but I was afraid they would just tell me to shove off. It’s never been my best subject but my parents expect better grades from me this year. I was wondering if you could set me up with a tutor, or something? Maybe a study partner, if not. It could even just be somebody good in my year. I don’t need free answers, just a bit of help.”
Snape studied her for a long number of moments. “I am well aware that this is an attempt to further a personal scheme, Miss Parkinson,” Snape said bluntly and at once, Pansy deflated. “However,” Snape continued silkily, “your Transfiguration grades truly are poor, and it likely would be in your best interests if you were… guided in the right direction. I shall arrange a meeting for you on Tuesday evening. Be in my classroom at 8:00. Do not be late.”
Pansy debated whether or not she should specify her desire if Snape was going to play into it anyways, but at this point, she thought it best not to test her luck. Hopefully, he had correctly deduced her true intent, or at least part of it and not just that it was a scheme of some sort. “Thank you, Professor,” she said gratefully. “I’ll… make it a point to work on my grade in Transfiguration.”
Meanwhile, in an abandoned classroom…
Harry winced as Hestia’s well-placed cutting curse just barely made impact, opening a fairly deep cut on his cheek. He had tried to lean out of the way but she’d changed directions faster than he’d anticipated. Knowing that a follow-up spell was to come, Harry threw himself to the floor on instinct, not taking the time to think more on the now thickly bleeding wound she had opened. Sure enough, three spells sailed through the space he had just occupied in quick succession. In an instant, Harry was back on his feet.
He batted aside her attempt to disarm him and countered with a quick, fluid spell chain of his own. Chaining spells together was something he had always been good at. Probably because Voldemort had been a stickler for the tight precision of wand movements. It was this precision that allowed him to fire off his own disarming spell, followed by a full-body-bind, a stunner and a cutting curse in quick succession. Hestia did an admirable job of avoiding the first three but the cutting curse sliced a long, jagged cut on her arm, which was exposed by the top she had chosen.
Despite the brief look of pain on his older friend’s face, Harry could not help but feel excitement rise within him. He had duelled Hestia a number of times over the months. Out of the four of them, she was definitely the second best duellist after Calypso, even though the gap between first and second was very wide. This was the first time Harry had actually wounded her. In his estimation, it was an achievement worth celebrating.
Unfortunately, her next move was to conjure a flock of ravens which bore down on Harry with razor-sharp beaks and talons exposed. Hastily, Harry conjured a Protego shield to grant himself more time as he tried to conjure up the focus to make an attempt at vanishing the birds. On Grace’s recommendation, he had worked diligently on the vanishing spell, but it was not coming easily to him. He had yet to manage it and he could already tell this would not be the time.
Luckily, Hestia was not cruel enough to watch him get his face torn apart by the birds.
At the last second, she sent them off course, but it was too late for Harry to take advantage of her mercy.
The birds had been used to obscure his vision. Which was how Hestia managed to sneak in a well-placed blasting curse that tore through his shield. Thankfully, the shield did absorb the curse itself, but the residual impact still sent Harry tumbling backwards, his wand skidding out of his hand. Seconds later, Hestia had summoned his wand, and the duel had ended.
Annoyed, Harry got to his feet and accepted his wand, handle first. “You’re improving,” Hestia commended. It was probably the closest thing she would ever give to a blunt compliment. “You’re improving incredibly fast, actually. It’ll be… interesting to see how these duels go in a year from now.”
Harry nodded, thanking her quietly before healing the cut on his cheek. It was a bit deeper than the Episkey charm was meant to mend, but he took care of most of it and Calypso finished the job seconds later. She echoed Hestia’s statement about Harry’s rapid improvement as the four of them took seats at a number of the desks to take time and recover after the round of duels.
“Have any of you heard anything about the Terrors actually getting punished for trying to kill me and Cassius? Aside from Dumbledore’s announcement at breakfast, I mean.”
“Nothing,” Cassius said through gritted teeth. “I’m sure the teachers all know who did it, but the bastards are too clever to leave proof.”
“Shame,” Harry said coolly, casting his eyes around the room. “I don’t suppose any of you have any decent ideas on how we might actually get them back?”
“Get them back?” Flora asked, as if she was unsure about what Harry meant.
“Well, personally, I’m not too pleased about the whole mess, to tell the truth. If we don’t, will they not keep doing it? Who knows what they’ll try next time if this was their first idea.”
“They’ll lay low for a while,” Calypso said reasonably. “Mind you, they’ll pull their minor petty pranks and whatnot, but they’ll avoid doing anything major until they think it’s safe to act again.”
“Which makes it the perfect time to strike back,” Harry reasoned. “They’ve been targeting Slytherins the whole time I’ve been at Hogwarts. Now, they’ve gone and pulled something like that.”
“They don’t think like we do, Harry,” Cassius explained. “If we get them back with something vile, most people would get the hint and stop. Those idiots would take it as a challenge. They’d think it’s some kind of game and it would only get worse until one of us really did do something drastic.”
“Or we could just do something drastic from the start and end it in one move.”
“It’s not worth it,” Calypso said sharply, locking gazes with the youngest member of their group. “I know you’re upset about being attacked and I would be too, but don’t play into their games. You’re better than them, a million times better. There’s a reason you’re in the house of the ambitious and they’re not. They’re too busy focused on being school bullies to actually see the big picture. You should spend your energy working on things you actually care about, like magic. Don’t waste your time on those two idiots, especially not with Quidditch on your plate now, too.”
“We’ll make them pay for it on the pitch,” Cassius vowed. “We’ll make the both of them look like idiots. It’s like Calypso said, not worth our time.”
Solemnly, Harry nodded. Perhaps he was just too vengeful, but letting those two tossers off easy felt wrong to him. Calypso and Cassius made valid points and for now, he would listen.
But if the twins pulled anything else in the future, Harry would have to look into a way of ending their one-sided bullying once and for all.
He didn’t like it. Not at all. But for now, he would comply with his friend’s wishes.
September 27, 1992
Summer Isles in Diagon Alley
Rita had seriously contemplated falling back on her default tendency for any and all meetings of the business or personal variety. In her opinion, showing up fashionably late was a rather excellent way to set a tone for a meeting and to quickly establish an unspoken hierarchy, of sorts. On this odd occasion in late September, she eventually concluded that such a choice would not be prudent.
There was the small issue of her curiosity to contend with. She was genuinely curious about this man in many ways. Not least of which was where he had been for the past ten years. Only months after losing the ministerial election of 1982 in a landslide defeat, Daniel Shafiq had vanished without a trace. Lucius Malfoy had apparently received written permission to serve as proxy for the Shafiq seats, but beyond that, the man had left no indication of where he was or why he had left.
Rumours had circulated over the years, speculating that he had emigrated to somewhere in Eastern Europe. Personally, Rita had always thought such rumours to be rather lazy. Much of Eastern Europe, particularly those nations that had once formed the Soviet Union were rather secretive. Unlike Magical Britain, France, America and even some major nations in Asia, they did not broadcast their news for the world to see. Germany fell into a sort of middle ground. They would put out the information they wanted to be seen as opposed to anything and everything going public like in Britain.
As a result of the opaque nature of these nations, Skeeter had never put much stock in these rumours. It was rather lazy journalism to make a bold claim on the simple and singular basis that it could not be disproven.
Needless to say, the reporter was very curious. With Shafiq vanishing so soon after a ministerial campaign and being little more than a ghost for the past decade, she could not help but wonder not only where he’d truly been and what he’d actually gotten up to, but also what exactly had brought him back to Magical Britain.
And why now, of all times.
This curiosity meant something else, too.
It meant that to Rita, Daniel Shafiq was an unknown.
She had no idea how much, if any power, he had at his disposal. She had no idea how he might react if she were to show up late, nor did she know if that was a tendency of his, as well. And if she did somehow manage to offend him, she knew nothing of his temperament.
It was uncharted waters for the reporter, and it made her extremely uncomfortable and more than a little bit frustrated, but she had decided that wearing a metaphorical life jacket would be her best course of action.
Part of the reason she often did pull the fashionably late routine, at least when dealing with more known companions, was because Rita herself was an extremely impatient person. It was that exact fact which made her extremely thankful that at 8:00, the exact time the two of them had agreed upon via letters, the door to their room quietly slid open, and a very dapper wizard strode into the room with a definite air of confidence about him.
He was of average height and had a lean sort of look about him. His hair was a dark brown and perhaps an inch or two longer than what would be considered average. In spite of that, it was well-styled in a very classy, sophisticated sort of manner. His facial features were regal and well-defined. His dark eyes had a perpetually calculating look about them. Tonight, he wore simple, but shockingly elegant dress robes of a sleek, black material. His red accents danced rather fabulously in the low candlelight of the room. As they were in the restaurant at this time of the night, the beachside view on all four walls was a night-time view.
If nothing else, he was a rather handsome man who seemed to have an admirable sense of both style and punctuality. Rita, being the impatient person she was, found herself rather grateful for the latter. She only had to wait for about ten minutes and the man had quite literally strode through the door just as the clock struck 8:00.
“Good evening, Ms. Skeeter,” Shafiq greeted politely, offering her a warm smile as he took the chair across from her before performing a more formal greeting. To her mild annoyance, his accent, though very light, actually did sound Eastern European. Perhaps if it was heavier, she would be able to specify further. As it was, she noticed only because she’d been listening for it.
“A pleasure, Mr. Shafiq. Or, is it still Lord Shafiq?”
The man smiled thinly. “For all intents and purposes, I suppose it is still technically Lord Shafiq while I am on these isles. For you, darling, call me Daniel.”
He was smooth, Rita would give him that. If she were almost any other woman, she suspected she might have blushed.
Fortunately for her dignity, she was not any other woman.
She realized exactly why the two of them were here. For one reason or another, this was a business meeting.
Rita doubted Shafiq was simply returning to Britain to lure a witch into his bed. And even if he was, she was realistic enough to realize that she would not be his first choice. Certainly not a witch he would go out of his way to seduce for the sake of pleasure, in any case. Rita was good enough looking, sure, but she was no bombshell, per se. And though she was by far the top reporter at the Prophet, even if that Doe fellow was closing that gap rather significantly as of late, she was not exceedingly rich or important.
To summarize, Rita was not delusional enough to trick herself into believing that she was the kind of woman who Daniel Shafiq would go out of his way to impress.
As she thought on all of this, a well-dressed waiter entered the room and took their orders. Seeing as Shafiq was footing the bill, Rita ordered a rather extravagant meal. To the man’s credit, he did not so much as bat an eye. Really, if he was as clever as Rita suspected, she was sure that he had expected exactly that as soon as the waiter had entered the room.
When the man left, Daniel turned his dark, calculating eyes back on Rita. In spite of herself, Rita felt a shiver run up her spine. Not out of lust or any such emotion. His eyes were just so probing. It was as if his very stare was serving as thorough and clinical observation of not just her appearance, but her very soul. It was like Legilimency, but she knew it wasn’t. She was no master Occlumens, but she was competent in the art.
“You are single, correct?” Shafiq asked silkily. Rita’s eyes narrowed but she nodded. Shafiq smiled easily. “Relax, Rita. I have no plans of seducing you or any such nonsense. Simply making small talk is all. From what I remember, Brits tend to do most of their business after meals.”
Rita sniffed. “It depends on the Brit, I suppose. Personally, I like to enjoy my meals. If you wouldn’t mind terribly, Daniel, I’d like to get the business out of the way.”
Shafiq studied her for a number of seconds before slowly nodding. “If you wish,” he agreed easily. “I doubt it’s any mystery to you why I’m here, Ms. Skeeter. If your mind is as sharp as your pen, you’ll know exactly what it is I want.”
Rita rested her hands on the table, peering intently across at the man seated before her. “Well, my pen’s quite sharp, Daniel. I’d like to think I still have a pretty good idea as to why you’re here though.” Shafiq showed no reaction to her words. He just kept staring straight ahead, obviously waiting for her to get to the point. “You want information, I’m sure. You think I’m your best bet for blackmail material, so here you are.”
Shafiq’s lips twitched. “A bit crude, but not too far off the mark, I suppose. I have no intention of blackmailing anybody at the moment. Frankly, it’s a headache I have no interest in putting up with at this time. What I would like from you, Rita, is the lay of the land. The real overview, mind you. Not the censored trash that your Ministry of Magic puts out.
“It’s been years since I’ve left Britain. I imagine that many of the top power players remain the same, but the game has changed, I would assume. When I last left, the country was still in shambles after the Dark Lady met her maker. Now, I imagine that Britain is mildly more stable than it was ten years ago. I want to know, Miss Skeeter, who are the true power players of Magical Britain? Who is it I need to go to in order to get real business done?”
Rita smiled sweetly back at him. “You might have to tell me more, Daniel. If you’d like my help, you would have to tell me what kind of business you’re interested in.”
Shafiq smiled sharply. “You Brits do love dancing around the point, don’t you? I have not missed that in the last ten years. Let’s cut to the chase, Rita. I want information from you and you want information from me. You want a scoop and I want to open myself some avenues. I think we can help each other here, provided we’re both… cooperative. Reasonably so, at least.”
Rita tilted her head. “Sorry, Daniel, but I don’t sell out my sources.”
“I’m not asking you to. All I need to know is some names. If you’d be so kind as to tell me exactly what kind of compensation might interest them, that would also be more than welcome.”
Rita bit her lip. It was nothing damming, she supposed. At least, it didn’t have to be. She could, of course, provide Shafiq with blackmail material, which would serve as an excellent method for him to make whatever transactions he was interested in making.
But that was a sure fire way to make very dangerous enemies.
“I’m sure I can tell you a bit about a few names,” Rita said diplomatically.
Shafiq smiled, reaching into the pocket of his robes and withdrawing a small, discrete pamphlet. With widened eyes, Rita realized it was dedicated to the Potters. “I’m sure you can, Rita,” Daniel said, and Rita could practically hear the amusement in his voice. “After all, I do enjoy your work.”
Rita did valiantly try to keep her eyes from widening but she found herself to not be quite successful in the endeavour. She was fairly sure he didn’t know that she was an Animagus. His voice was a bit smug, perhaps, but not enough so to imply he had true blackmail material on her.
Still, it was an impressive deduction to make. Devilishly difficult to prove, but not impossible.
Just then, the door opened as their meals arrived. Discreetly, Daniel slid the file off the table just in time. When the waiter left the room, he pulled his meal towards him and began to cut the steak on his plate, clearly waiting for her response.
“Touché,” Rita conceded with a slight inclination of her head. “Quite tricky to prove, but useful.”
“I don’t intend to blackmail you. I just personally find that revealing the truth upfront makes conversations far less guarded. Especially between relative strangers.” Rita had to give him one thing. The man was good — very good. “But, I’m a fair man,” Shafiq went on. “I know it kills you to let unfounded rumours float around so freely. So, I’ll give you the scoop you want. My condition is that the article in question is released no time soon. It will be published when I give the okay, no sooner, no later. Those are my conditions, my trade proposal. It’s all on the table, Ms. Skeeter. Take it or leave it.”
Admittedly, having to wait to publish the article was irritating, but not impactful, per se. Unless she wasn’t the only reporter he was meeting, but she doubted that seeing as her being a reporter clearly wasn’t his primary reason for meeting her. “Fine.” Rita agreed haughtily.
Daniel smiled, reclining back in his seat as he took a long sip of his wine. “Well then, ask away, Miss Skeeter. The floor is yours.” He paused. “It should be obvious that I won’t tolerate any tampered quills or altered accounts.”
Rita nodded stiffly, pulling her purse from under her chair and removing a roll of parchment and a magical quill. When she had set the latter up to accurately dictate the conversation, she began. “Where have you been for the past ten years? With respect, it’s quite unusual for a would-be Minister for Magic to just get up and leave the country.”
Daniel seemed to ponder the question before answering it. “I realized that Magical Britain was not what I needed at that time. That election and its entire process taught me many things. One of which was that I wouldn’t be able to achieve the things I wanted in Britain. No time soon, at least. Once Crouch became Minister and I came to that realization, Magical Britain had nothing to offer me. I’ve been in Eastern Europe ever since. Nowadays, I proudly represent the Resurgent Republic of Hansa as one of its top political minds.”
That was news to Rita Skeeter.
In 1920, a number of the most powerful nations in Eastern Europe formed the Soviet Union. The reasoning behind this was that considering Grindelwald’s impending war, the countries realized that it was likely they would need to rely on each other for support. Funnily enough, the muggles followed suit two years later. This was not unusual. Oftentimes, when a major political play was made in the magical world, it would be reflected in the mundane world not long after, especially when it was one of that magnitude.
Ultimately, the tactic was ineffective, as Grindelwald still managed to steamroll his way through Eastern Europe. But when he fell, the Union remained. Crippled by Grindelwald’s war, they relied on each other for more than forty long years.
In the mid to late 1980s, there were rumblings that the Soviet Union would disband, as several of the magical nations believed that after all this time, they were well enough off to stand on their own two feet. In 1988, those rumours became reality when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia disbanded from the Magical World’s Soviet Union and formed the RRoH, or, the Resurgent Republic of Hansa. Skeeter knew the name had historical significance only because she had written an article for it in the Prophet.
The Hansa portion of the name was in reference to the Hanseatic League, which had been a union of nations in the Baltic region from the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries. This union had existed in both the magical and muggle worlds, which really wasn’t all that surprising. Apparently, the name “Hansa” was an allusion to the region’s past history.
“What is your role, exactly?” Rita asked, genuinely curious.
“I have several,” Shafiq admitted. “Most notably, I am the newly minted international ambassador. For several years now, I have served as a top political advisor. I was one of the many who pushed along the process of the union’s founding in the mid to late 1980s. It was a long, tiresome process but in the end, it’s all worked out for the best.”
“Is that what brings you back to Britain then? Your role as international ambassador, I mean.”
“Among other more personal matters, yes.”
“What can you disclose about the founding of the Republic? Details were scarce when the news first broke, as I’m sure you know.”
“Very little, I’m afraid,” Shafiq answered apologetically. “That’s a bit above my pay grade, unfortunately.”
Rita very highly doubted that was true, but she could hardly press him on the matter. “And what of those more personal motivations? Any comments on those?”
“Not at this time.”
Rita sighed, sitting back to ponder more questions. Shafiq, on the other hand, took the chance to lean forward. “While you think of more questions, I have some for you as well, if you’re willing?”
Nearly two hours later, the two of them concluded their meal. Rita was fairly happy with the information she had gathered, even if she was mildly miffed about Shafiq’s insistence that the article was only to be published on his command. She had given him the information he had wanted, but she hadn’t given away anything damming.
All in all, she was rather pleased with the exchange.
When Shafiq stood, he neatly made his way around the table to pull out her chair as she too took her feet. As he did so, he seemed to be a bit tipsy, likely as a result of the wine he had consumed. He steadied himself with a hand on Rita’s shoulder. She felt a slight yank as his hand forcefully and inadvertently tugged at her hair, but she made nothing of it.
When Shafiq apologized in a manner marginally less smooth than he had been thus far, she simply waved him off.
She was in too good of a mood by this point to be overly bothered by a hand on her shoulder.
September 29, 1992
The Potions Classroom
Harry paused outside the door to Snape’s classroom with narrowed eyes. In typical Snape fashion, he’d been told to show up to the classroom the next night during their Monday morning Potions lesson. Just as typical, Snape hadn’t told him what he would actually be doing. He had just told him to bring his textbooks, which Harry found wholly unhelpful.
He could tell, with the help of the enchanted ring he still wore on his finger that there was one person inside the room. The logical assumption would be that the person was Snape. For some reason, Harry considered that very unlikely. Snape did not exactly go out of his way to make Harry’s life easy, so he highly doubted he was about to start some sort of secret tutoring sessions.
After spending about two minutes standing outside the room and trying to figure out who was inside and what was going on, Harry gave up. In the end, he had always known that there was only going to be one way to find out. Still, paranoia had reared its head a fair number of times as of late. After the events of his first year, it was only natural, after all.
Sighing, he knocked lightly several times on the door. When he heard no immediate response, Harry correctly assumed that the door was enchanted to block noise both ways. Keeping this in mind, Harry took a firm grip on the doorknob and quietly slid the door open while he positioned his other hand to summon his wand at a moment’s notice.
He had to admit, whatever he’d been expecting, Pansy Parkinson was not it.
“Potter.” Harry just stared at her, trying to mentally put the puzzle together. They’d spoken privately a grand total of twice, and both of those occasions were direct components of a sort of business acquisition.
It was that thought and Harry’s memory that put the pieces together as he quietly closed the door behind him.
Parkinson had come to cash in. With some amusement, Harry decided that he wasn’t going to make this easy on her. Not at first, anyway.
“I’ll admit, Parkinson, I wasn’t sure what to expect when Snape told me to turn up here. Whatever it was, you weren’t it.”
Pansy just tilted her head while gesturing for Harry to take the seat across from her. As he made to do so, she endeavoured to respond to his rather open-ended statement with one of her own. “I’m not sure whether or not I should be offended by that.”
Harry shrugged as he took his seat. “Personally, I thought I was beneath your notice.”
Pansy blinked. “You what?”
“You’ve never exactly been my biggest supporter, have you? I mean, you never went out of your way to make my life hell like some others I could mention, but you never exactly minded when they did it. It never stopped you from supporting them.”
Pansy’s eyes narrowed. “So, because I didn’tkiss up to you, you think I thought I was better than you? A bit rich, isn’t it?”
Harry shrugged, deciding to get to the point. “I think it’s about right. You think all people like me are beneath you, don’t you?”
Parkinson’s eyes narrowed further. “What are you on about, Potter?”
“Don’t play dumb, Parkinson. It’s a waste of my time and yours. I’ve seen the way you look at Tracey. You’ve never gone out of your way to curse her, but I’ve seen the glances. The way you grudgingly put up with her when Daphne was around. I wasn’t much different, really. You never went out of your way to talk to me last year. You actually weren’t interested until I offered you something in return. You preferred Malfoy, obviously. You had no problem following him around while he tried to get me and Tracey expelled.” He raised an eyebrow. “You clearly didn’t care about ‘halfblood scum’ last year. I’m curious, Parkinson, what’s changed?”
The two of them had a rather intense staring contest in the moments that followed Harry’s challenge. For his part, Harry had to actively resist the impulse to try and push past her eyes and glean at least her general thoughts. Merlin, Harry couldn’t wait until he could actually learn Legilimency. After about a minute, Parkinson looked away, sniffed and then glared back at Harry.
“Why are you making this so difficult, Potter? You obviously know what I want since you’ve already brought it up. I’m sure you remember the deal as well as I do. So what do you want from me?”
“Answer my last question first, Parkinson. I’m still deciding.”
Pansy sighed. “Fine then. Yes, I chose Draco. Can you blame me? The heir to one of the richest and most powerful families in Magical Britain. Lucius Malfoy being a family friend. Not a close one, I admit, but still. I mean, really, no offense, but who would you have bet on? Draco’s group, which also includes Theodore, and heir of a Founding House, or your group? Yes, Daphne is the heiress of a House at least as powerful as Draco’s and even more prestigious, but Davis is a nobody, Zabini isn’t even a House in England and I knew nothing about you.”
“So you just made assumptions. You assumed I was like any other halfblood — not worth your time.”
“But honestly, can you blame me? Can you blame me for picking Draco’s-“
“Parkinson, you either don’t get my point or are avoiding it. I think it’s probably the latter, so let’s make this very direct. I couldn’t care less about Malfoy. As long as he keeps that damn slur out of his mouth, that mess is over. If he keeps throwing that word around in every damn conversation then yes, we have problems. I don’t care that you picked Draco right away. I would’ve probably done the same thing if I was in your position. My problems, Parkinson, came later.
“You want me to just open my arms and let you into my group of friends, but there are two major problems with that. For one thing, how can I trust you? You stuck it out with Malfoy as long as he was useful to you. You made damn sure I was the better option before deciding to switch sides. He tried to ruin my life last year and you stuck by him. How can I honestly believe that you’re not going to backstab me as soon as you see a better option?”
Parkinson fixed him with a long, hard stare. “First of all,” she started, “I have no idea what Draco did to you. I know exactly what he did to Davis at the beginning of the year, but I have no idea what you mean when you say he tried to ruin you.”
Harry’s eyes widened. She wasn’t lying. He knew that much at once. He could sniff out a lie from a mile away most of the time, and that sixth sense of his was screaming that she was being honest.
That did change things, at least a little bit.
“Even if that makes you a bit more decent, it doesn’t really answer my loyalty question, does it?”
“I’m not making a vow or signing a contract. You’re just going to have to trust me.”
This was going to be a problem. Harry did not trust people. Not easily, at least. Granted, between him and Charlotte, he thought the chances of Pansy getting away with some sort of play were fairly low. It still wasn’t a risk he was thrilled to take, but he supposed if it was necessary.
“I’m going to pretend to be way more naive than I actually am and just take your word for it, for now. So, let’s just summarize this. You want to slide into my group of friends even though you practically hung off of a rival of ours last year?” Scowling, Pansy nodded. “And you want to leave your group of well-bred purebloods to come hang out with two worthless halfbloods?”
“Can you just get to your point, Potter? It’s not like it matters, anyway. You already agreed last December.”
“I don’t remember signing anything.”
Pansy suddenly paled. “You gave me your word! You wouldn’t-“
“Not unless I had a good reason to, no. But I need to make sure I don’t have a good reason to tell you to bugger off. That’s the entire point of all of this.” Technically, Harry was not bound to do anything. Among purebloods, however, giving your word was not something to be taken lightly. It was only done with true intent and if you openly violated an explicitly verbalized agreement, it would not be something you wanted floating around. It was a rather effective way to plunge your reputation straight into the dirt.
“Here’s the deal, Parkinson. I’m going to hold up my end since you held up yours. As long as you answer one question one-hundred percent honestly and make me one promise.”
Pansy just sighed. “Fine — what do you want?”
“Why now? Why are you finally picking me over Malfoy?”
Pansy didn’t seem to want to answer that question but after a time, she acquiesced. “I stuck it out with Draco as long as I could, like you said. He’s been… different since the end of last year, but really different lately. I put my bet on Draco, like you pointed out. It’s obvious that it was the wrong bet. I… was raised by parents who would’ve wanted nothing more than for me to have Draco’s children. I thought tying myself to him early was the best thing to do. Obviously now, I realize it isn’t.”
The answer was blunt and clinical, but that was exactly what Harry wanted in it. “Fair enough,” he accepted. “Now, you do realize that both me and Tracey are halfbloods, right?” Pansy nodded. “And you realize that right now, if I have to pick between you and Tracey, I’m picking her every time.” Pansy seemed to glower at that but nodded. “I have a feeling you’ll be civil to me, if for no other reason than the fact that I’m the Heir of an Ancient and Most Noble House. But Tracey isn’t. I hate to admit it, but you were right. She’s basically a no-name halfblood.
“Can you promise to not only be civil to me and Tracey, but to actually try and ignore our blood? Can you promise to treat me and Tracey like you would treat any other rich, powerful pureblood? Can you promise that if you enter our friend group, you can actually try and form friendships and not just business partnerships?”
The pause that followed Harry’s string of questions was the longest and tensest one yet. This time, Pansy did not meet Harry’s gaze. Instead, she sat stock still with her eyes closed as if she were in deep thought. A full minute later, she slowly tilted her head up and opened her eyes, finally locking them onto Harry’s emerald gaze.
“I promise that I’ll treat you, Davis and whoever else you like as if they were a pureblood heir or heiress and that I will actually try and form friendships and not just relationships.”
Harry smiled and held out his hand. “Well then, I’m a man of my word, so I guess we’re done here.” He paused. “Oh, one more thing. If we’re going to try this whole ‘friends’ thing out, call me Harry.”
Pansy took his hand. “Pansy,” she answered shortly but not impolitely. “And… if we’re going to be friends now, I don’t suppose you’d help me with some Transfiguration? That was the excuse I gave Snape, but I actually don’t have any idea what McGonagall has been talking about.”
In spite of himself, Harry’s lips twitched. “I don’t have all night, but we can spend some time on it, sure.”
Meanwhile, in the Slytherin dorms…
Benedict Cuffe’s week was off to a miserable start. This week was the first of his Hogwarts tenure in which the teachers had truly unleashed their full, unguarded wrath upon the new, first year Slytherins. That was to say, the mountain of homework which sat in front of the youngest son of House Cuffe was truly gargantuan in comparison to any they’d had prior to. It was because of this that not only Benedict, but also his year mates, Derrick, Archer, Martin, Brandon and Alex were all cooped up in the quiet privacy of their dormitory. They were all working diligently to finish the outrageous amount of work on all of their collective plates.
Benedict found himself jolted out of his work, however, when a faint glow emanated from his school bag. Unfortunately, this also drew the attention of all the other Slytherin first year boys.
“What do you have there, Ben?” Derrick asked with interest, his dark eyes roaming over Ben’s school bag, which was opened just a crack.
“Nothing,” Benedict answered hastily, sliding the bag further under the desk and subconsciously moving his feet to either side of it in order to serve as a kind of shield. Derrick shrugged and looked away, but Benedict was not fooled.
The glow had caught the eyes of his fellow first year Slytherins.
And its source was something that he could allow none of them to see.
October 2, 1992
With a soft crack, a tall, pale-skinned man with slick-backed raven hair appeared about a block away from a rather shady apartment complex. To most, the sight of the low, battered building that lay ahead would be underwhelming, if not outright depressing.
But to the young, keen reporter named John Doe, it was all he had.
John had lost his parents at a very early age. In fact, he’d lost his parents as they had attempted to take him home from the hospital. Both of them died in a tragic car accident. It was only much later in life that John realized his magic was likely the only thing that had saved him. That night, he had been brought to an orphanage. Apparently, it was somebody’s sick idea to name him John Doe and for some, god-forsaken reason, the name had stuck.
Fast forward years later, and the quiet, awkward outcast of the orphanage who made mysterious things happen around him was given a Hogwarts letter. While at Hogwarts, John had been a Ravenclaw who had not made a great number of friends. He had been a decent student, but never brilliant. He’d excelled in History of Magic, but was average aside from that.
When he’d graduated Hogwarts, he’d known immediately that journalism was what he wanted to pursue. By then, he had already known that for years. He had spent a great deal of time researching his parents, their origins and anything to do with them. Those were the days when the idea of journalism had first crawled into his mind.
Then, in 1986, John Doe had graduated from Hogwarts and several years later, in 1990, he had been employed by the Daily Prophet. Even after being employed, money was tight. The newspaper employed a large stable of writers, but oftentimes, they only used a few of them.
Thus, John Doe had been forced to purchase a very low budget apartment in Knockturn Alley. It had been the cheapest place he could find and at the time, that had been all he’d cared about. Finally, after his big break that had been the Potter family gala of 1992, John was starting to become hopeful for his prospects. The Prophet had been putting him in a number of big spots lately and soon, he planned to move out of this dump.
But unfortunately, tonight was not that night.
Tonight, John was apparating back home after a long, tiring day at work. Actually, it had been a long, tiring week. John was greatly looking forward to just sitting back and relaxing for the night but as soon as his feet touched down in the shady half of the two connected alleys, John immediately knew that something was wrong.
He drew his wand immediately, lighting its tip and turning in a full circle to find the stare he could feel upon him. There were no lights of any kind around him, so John could see almost nothing beyond what was lit by the tip of his wand.
But about three-quarters of the way through his circle, his wand light found a figure. She was rather familiar, too. In the dim light, he couldn’t make out much, but those ostentatious glasses were nearly impossible to miss.
“Good evening, John.” Her voice was perfectly neutral, which was what John had come to expect over his several years of employment for the Prophet. Despite the fact, he knew that she had been rather bothered by the entire fiasco involving James Potter and his family’s gala.
“What brings you to Knockturn Alley, Rita? For some reason, I didn’t peg you for the type.”
John almost recoiled at the smile on Rita’s face. “Just taking care of business, John.” Before John could do so much as move, Rita’s wand had slid from her sleeve and it was slashing through the air. Then, she incanted, and the words she spoke shocked John Doe so greatly that he didn’t even attempt to move or cherish the last moments of his life.
As the killer quickly disapparated, another man lurking nearby nodded in satisfaction as he shuffled under the invisibility cloak that his employer had supplied him with. This job had escalated quickly, but Mundungus Fletcher had to get paid somehow.
If you guys haven’t figured out the ending yet, be patient. As crazy as it all seems right now, I promise you it makes sense and will all come together in the next chapter
I’m happy to finally have Shafiq back in the equation. I have been planning his backstory in detail for quite some time now, so it’s good to have him back. I hope that scene didn’t come across as too much of an info dump.
For those who missed it in the chapter, the fictional Resurgent Republic of Hansa is an allusion to the real-life Hanseatic League. If you haven’t been able to tell from the references in the fic thus far, I enjoy history.
Please read and review.
PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, September 12th, 2020 at approximately 3:00 PM EST.
Thank you as always to my lovely Discord editors for their assistance this week:
Asmodeus Stahl and rawmeat898
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