AOC 31

Ashes Of Chaos Ch 31

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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos

By ACI100.

Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin

Chapter 14: Schemes Uncovered

October 4, 1992

A Room In The Dungeons

9:52 PM

Harry sighed as the pressure on his mind relented as Grace leaned back. “That should do for tonight.” she told him, neatly concluding yet another one of their Occlumency focused lessons. With Harry’s inclusion onto the Quidditch team, they had slightly altered their schedule. Now, they worked exclusively on combat magic every Thursday night and Occlumency every Sunday. Learning Occlumency was a slow process. Well, according to Grace, he was actually progressing quite quickly, but it was a much slower process than level one had been thus far. Granted, Emily had forewarned him that this would be the case, but it was still mildly frustrating. As much as he tried, Harry wasn’t the most patient person the world had ever seen, and this fact stared glaringly at him during Occlumency lessons as of late.

For now, Grace wasn’t actually attacking his mind, per se. They still had yet to progress past the stage in which she launched weak probes into his mind and simply allowed him to clear it in spite of the presence. Even the presence of the probe made the clearing of his mind more difficult. He could do it easily but not quite instantly. According to Grace, there would be a stage in which she would actually have to increase the potency of her probes, but that would not come until he could consistently clear his mind instantaneously in spite of a weak probe’s presence. 

Harry had conflicting feelings about that inevitable time in the progression of his Occlumency. On one hand, Harry was, as noted, impatient. He wanted to improve as fast as possible. On the other, that was the point of the practice in which Grace would actually have to attempt to breach his defenses. In the process, it was inevitable that she was going to glean memories.

Regrettably, Harry had quite a vast array of memories that he would prefer to be kept from any eyes, no matter who they belonged to. Even if he was starting to trust Grace more and more each lesson, that did not mean he wanted her to potentially relive his worst memories.

“You seem bothered.” Grace observed, peering curiously at the younger Slytherin in front of her. 

Harry shrugged. “A lot on my mind, that’s all.”

Grace did not immediately answer, but when she did, her voice was carefully modulated. “I’m assuming you’re frustrated about not being able to speed through level two in the same way you did the first stage?”

“Among other things, yes.”

“Don’t worry about it, Harry. I know it might not feel like it, but you actually are speeding through stage two. At this rate, you’ll be onto level three well before the end of the year, which would be much, much faster than average.” Grace paused. “I think you’re at a point where you can start looking into subskills, too. There isn’t a whole lot for level two since most of the more useful skills require a very firm grip on Occlumency, but there are some things that could definitely be of interest to you.”

“You said that subskills could be learned on my own, correct?”

“They can be, yes. They shouldn’t give you any problems at this stage, at least. Go research them and if you have any questions, you can always ask me. If we need to spend a session on them, that’s fine. Between the two of us, I really don’t think you’ll have a problem with them.”

It was still odd getting complimented by anyone. It didn’t happen much until Hogwarts, with the exception of the odd peer commenting on his intellect throughout his muggle school days. Even then, instances of that became less and less frequent as he had grown older. Primarily, because most of the time, praise of any sort leveled towards Harry usually resulted in the person who praised him getting beat to a pulp after school hours. 

Since joining Hogwarts, he had been praised far more often. By his peers, friends and teachers alike. In spite of the fact that it happened more often, it still wasn’t frequent. Mostly because of his group of friends. All of them, with the exception of Tracey, in some instances, were very modulated in what they revealed or said. This made things like open praise infrequent. 

In light of that, Harry still felt an odd warmth rise in his chest every time somebody praised him. It was a nice feeling, but it was almost always contradicted by a feeling of awkwardness as well. As of yet, he had not quite figured out how to respond to praise from friends. It was easier with strangers, for some odd reason. There was less pressure with strangers. Harry was used to putting on a facade for strangers, so it was easy to take in stride.

With friends though, another thing was still somewhat new to him, it was still a situation he was learning to navigate slowly.

With all of this in mind, it wasn’t really a surprise when his only reaction to Grace was a small, slightly awkward smile and a muttered thanks.

Meanwhile, in the Slytherin dorms…

Benedict found himself thoroughly exhausted as he entered his dormitory on Sunday evening. The last week had been by far the busiest of his Hogwarts career thus far. The workload had taken a toll on him, but the same could be said for most everyone in his year. Oftentimes, students looked forward to the weekend for the much needed rest bit it often provided. But for Benedict and most of his yearmates, their reality over the past two days had solely consisted of the library, in which they poured over an absurd number of texts for assistance and cross references. 

Honestly, Benedict could only hope the teachers finally relented a bit this week. Aside from a couple of assignments that weren’t due until later in the week, he’d mercifully caught up and if it could stay that way for more than twenty-four hours, Benedict would be profoundly grateful for the fact.

Finally being done with his work for the weekend, Benedict was intensely looking forward to a bit of relaxation. He’d politely turned down Alex Jugson’s offered game of chess in favour of a calm, quiet night in the dorm. At present, Benedict wanted to do nothing that was mentally more fatiguing than reading. Well, he might write to his parents, a bit, but that would be the extent of the exertion he would be willing to put up with tonight.

It was, upon later reflection, the night in which Benedict had been more mentally exhausted than any thus far.

It was also the night that taught Benedict that the force of irony truly was a fickle and petty thing. It often struck when those at its mercy were at their weakest because in its estimation, causing a bit of mayhem in one’s life clearly wasn’t enough. If it did that and also exacerbated existing stress simultaneously, that was a more worthy result of its intervention.

The precise manner in which Benedict Cuffe learned that hard reality was manifested in what greeted him upon entering the Slytherin dorms. As soon as he pushed the door open, he paused, mouth hanging agape as his eyes bulged with worry.

Most of the dorm room was untouched.

The exception to this was the space around Benedict’s bed.

His trunk was turned on its side and left open with his clustered belongings spreading haphazardly out around it. Clearly, the standard wards that came with the trunk had not been enough. He’d never even considered that he might have needed wards of a stronger variety, and his father had certainly never mentioned the fact.

Thoughts of the clearly broken wards on his trunk were not what plagued Benedict as he hastily scrambled to sort through the mess on the floor, heart racing faster and faster as his continued search for a very specific belonging continued to produce no results.

After five minutes, Benedict completed his third full search of his belongings and by this point, his heart had practically beat out of his chest.

He had not brought many things to Hogwarts he deemed as essential.

But the one thing he absolutely could not afford to lose was the small, black book that he used to communicate with his mother. Not only was it something sentimental, but if somebody found it, managed to break the privacy enchantments and read its contents, the results would potentially be catastrophic, and inevitably be disastrous.

With terror closing around his heart, the youngest son of House Cuffe raced back out of the common room, intent on sending a letter of warning as soon as possible.

If the sacred secrets of the past were about to be uncovered, those who would be most directly and impactfully affected should know as soon as possible.

Fifteen minutes later, in a different dorm room in the dungeons…

Only one room down from the distressed first year Slytherin and completely unaware of his housemate’s trouble, Harry Potter retreated behind his warded curtains and slid his own, slim, black book from his bag, propping it open and putting a quill to the pages for the first time in what felt like ages.


Apparently, I’ve been making good progress with Occlumency. It doesn’t really feel like it, to be honest, but I guess my tutor is probably in a better place to say than I am. 

Not surprising in the least. Emily wrote back. As I told you, the stages of Occlumency get exponentially more difficult and monotonous to progress through. Did she give any specific updates on your progress?

Just that she thinks I’ll easily finish stage two this year.

Hmm… I would expect nothing less, if truth be told. If you keep the same dedication you had this summer, I would estimate some time in the late winter or early spring, perhaps? Though admittedly, she should have a better estimation than I, even if I have superior knowledge in the field.

Harry never failed to be amazed by Emily’s casual confidence. She wasn’t braggadocious or anything of the sort, nor did she go out of her way to claim herself above others. That being said, if a natural comparison came up, she would clinically and confidently state her superiority each and every time. It was similar to how she’d spoken about her alternative methods with such a startling degree of confidence and clarity. It was one of the things that had convinced Harry to fully buy into her system of teaching mind magic in the first place.

That wasn’t all she said today. Harry wrote. She told me to go and research subskills of stage two.

Wise of her to wait as long as she has. Emily commented. Judging you based on the limited amount of information I have, I am going to assume that you’ve likely already at least skimmed the subskills contents of stage two Occlumency?

With a twitch of his lips, Harry wrote back his affirmative answer.

And please tell me that you have not tried any of it on your own before myself or your tutor has told you to proceed?

I haven’t, no. Harry assured. Believe it or not, I’ve actually only skimmed the subskills bit. I’ve been more focused on combat magic, Runes and Arithmancy lately. Also in getting further ahead in my other school subjects.

The pause this time was a bit longer than normal, but the response was still swift.

Runes and Arithmancy? If I am correct, neither of those subjects are taught at Hogwarts until third year. Wise of you to work ahead in foundational branches of magic, nonetheless. I’d be happy to answer any questions about either of those subjects, too. The same goes for any of your school subjects or… extracurricular studies.

Harry took a moment to ponder that offer. Immediately, he knew it was one he would be taking advantage of. He had no idea if she was nearly as prodigious with those branches of magic as she was with Occlumency, but she had been a once in a lifetime prodigy as a youth, so he thought his odds were quite favourable.

I don’t suppose you could give me a rundown on subskills for stage two Occlumency? 

Certainly, Emily answered promptly. As you know, stage one of Occlumency was about understanding your own mind and being able to sense irregularities within it. Naturally, stage two is an extension of the first. In terms of the active Occlumency side of things, you are learning and will continue to learn to actually repel the directly harmful irregularities. 

But the passive side of Occlumency is also an extension of level one as well. During stage one, you used meditation to understand the regularities and irregularities of your mind. You did this on a very broad, very general scope. In level two, you will dive deeper into the process of self-exploration. You will not only learn to recognize irregularities, but you will learn to read your own thoughts and emotions on a deeper level. You will learn to accurately and clinically evaluate your own emotions. 

This is the first major step in stage two Occlumency. It is a subskill in and of itself, in a way, though it is not technically classified under that categorization. Without a very strong grasp on this concept, the wielding of other subskills within this field will be detrimental to your mental health and possibly your sanity.

Harry had to resist the urge to gulp. Thanks for the warning, I guess. What are these subskills in level two, then?

To vastly oversimplify things as I usually do in regards to the Mind Arts, the manipulation or outright suppression of one’s emotions at any given time.

Harry’s breath caught in his throat.

Yes, he could see why that could potentially be extremely dangerous if one’s mind was not very well moderated before diving into the deep end attached to that particular pool.

He couldn’t deny how useful that sounded, either.

It was definitely something he would be looking into as soon as possible.

Building on the manipulation of one’s own emotions, stage two is when you can begin implementing supplementary Occlumency.

Harry frowned. I’m… not actually sure of what that means.

I wouldn’t expect you to be. Are you aware of the impact intent has on your magic, and the ways that emotions can potentially be either useful or utterly counterproductive depending on the spell and the context in which it is used?

Harry winced, remembering his conversation with Voldemort the year prior after he’d blasted Nott with the most grossly overpowered boil hex one could dream of. I am, yes. he understated.

Well, supplementary Occlumency makes the entire process almost trivial. In short, supplementary Occlumency is you manipulating your mind to have it rest in the perfect state for any given spell. For instance, if it is a spell that relies heavily on either intent, visualization or a combination of the two, you can keep a mind that is void of everything except the intent or image that is required. This will greatly increase both the effectiveness and efficiency of the spell. For esoteric magic, you can actually force certain emotions to the surface, though that is more difficult to do. 

Supplementary Occlumency also has the benefit of increasing the speed with which you can cast magic. This is most noticeable when casting in chained formats, but even for singular spells, you will channel the magic more quickly because your mind will already be in the necessary state with a mere thought. There will be no need for forceful manipulation, least of all once the necessary mental memory has been obtained.

Harry swore he could feel his ears perk up. 

Now that… that was something he wanted very badly.

October 5, 1992

Malfoy Manor

10:43 AM

Lucius and Narcissa had a late breakfast that Monday morning. The previous day’s Wizengamot meeting had gone far, far longer than expected as a result of heated discussion centering around proposed alterations to the Muggle Protection Act. As much as Lucius had been in favour of each and every proposed adjustment, it had still been rather irritating in the long run. It turned out that as the Lord of an Ancient and Most Noble House, co-leader of the largest faction in the Wizengamot and owner of several major and countless minor businesses, his schedule was quite tight. 

And even that did not account for other, miscellaneous activities and endeavours.

Needless to say, Lucius’s entire day had been rattled as a result of the extended cluster of chaos that had been the meeting the day prior. For the rest of Sunday, he’d essentially been running around like a wild chicken with its head cut off trying and for the most part failing to catch up on the day’s events. 

All in all, it had been a rather miserable day.

It could have perhaps been salvaged if their alterations to the blasted law had been passed, but the chaos had delayed the voting process even further. Forget about passing, they hadn’t even had time to propose all of their counter ideas, let alone open a court wide vote on the matter. Sometimes, Lucius thought that Magical Britain was more chaotic now than when the Dark Lady had been at the height of her powers.

At least then, there had been one major faction in the country that was organized.

All of this chaos meant that Lucius had been up very late last night. Narcissa was naturally a late riser and was absolutely not a morning person. So for a rare morning, the two of them sat together at the immaculate table which dominated much of their more “casual” dining hall. 

There had never been much love between Lucius and Narcissa. They got on and were more than cordial with one another. The two of them found the other attractive, which made things easier in a lot of ways, but in the end, their marriage had been a business proposition, and in large parts, it had been tainted as a result.

Perhaps that was another one of the reasons they rarely ate breakfast together whilst Draco was off at Hogwarts.

Just as Lucius raised a cup of tea to his lips, a loud crack emanated throughout the room. If not for very well honed emotional control, Lucius may well have flinched and dropped the cup from the surprise. As it was, he just raised it to his lips, quirking a platinum brow and narrowing his eyes disdainfully at his least favourite of the filthy creatures who served him. He did not dignify the thing with a verbalized question. It understood his intent well enough.

“Your mail, Master Lucius, Mistress Ciss-Narcissa.” Narcissa’s eye twitched at the elf’s slip up. There had been a time when the elf had called her Cissy for quite some time. Probably because by that time, it had heard her sister, Bellatrix, call her that every time she was over. Seeing as Bellatrix was likely closer to Narcissa than anyone else, Lucius supposed the elf had tried to endear itself to his wife.

But such things were unacceptable.

An elf was to address its masters properly at all times. An elf was certainly not supposed to take nearly a year of harsh reminders before finally getting the point, either.

With a stiff nod, Lucius signified for Dobby to place the mail on the table. 

It all appeared to be simple letters. Well, simple as in nothing interesting in side. Lucius was sure that the contents of each letter was likely anything but simple. The lone exception to this was not a large box by any means. In fact, it was one that Lucius had not expected. In spite of, and, he supposed, as a result of that fact, it was the package he was most interested in. Not least of all because of the way it had been wrapped. Clearly, whomever had wrapped it had done so in extreme haste. As if they had been desperate to send the thing off.

As suspicions started to race in Lucius’s mind, he reached out a hand towards the largest package and pulled it towards him. With well practiced precision, Lucius opened the package. At first, his eyes narrowed at the seemingly mundane contents. But then, when he read the note haphazardly stuck to the back of the book, his posture straightened at once.

“Narcissa,” Lucius addressed his wife, “arrange for Bartemius and Bellatrix to join us tonight for dinner, will you?”

Narcissa tilted her head. “Of course, husband. Is there any particular reason why you suddenly seem so interested in their company?”

Lucius pondered how much to tell her, but decided for the truth, if not all of it. “Bartemius’s knowledge of Charms is rather impressive. It’s always a pleasure to… pick his brain on the subject.”

Meanwhile, at the home of Rita Skeeter…

Rita’s eyes bulged comically beneath her gem encrusted glasses as her hands shook violently at the letter she clutched near her chest.

The contents of that letter were something to fear. Rita was a paranoid person. For many years, she had feared the truth of this situation coming to light. But now that said reality was bearing down fast upon her, Rita could not help but shake with nerves.

This could be damming, ruining even.

So ironic that the very candle that had helped further her career may well end up being the one that ended it.

October 7, 1992

An Abandoned Classroom

7:46 PM

Yet again, Ginny found herself sitting at a desk in an abandoned classroom with her eldest Hogwarts attending brother. The two of them had made a sort of weekly habit of this since Ginny’s sorting. This week, they’d spent much of the time with Percy helping Ginny with Transfiguration, which was by no means her best subject. In addition, the two of them had talked about the rest of the family again.

By now, Ginny had received a number of letters from their mother. On the whole, she seemed entirely supportive. There were certainly numerous warnings about “not falling in with the wrong sort” and “making friends with the right kind of people”, but her mother did not seem to think any less of her as a result of her sorting, which was a relief to Ginny. Her father had only written briefly, but he included some passages in her mother’s letters. He was a busy man at the moment, what with the ongoing drama concerning the Muggle Protection Act. Even in the best of times, Arthur had never been overly fond of letters. He always preferred to do things in person, when applicable.

Percy thankfully echoed her assumptions, assuring her that neither their mother nor their father held her sorting against her. Apparently, he had been in contact with Bill, and he too had seemed nonplussed by the whole event. Granted, as Percy put it, Bill was nonplussed by most things.

Finally, they came to the other Weasleys currently calling Hogwarts castle their home.

“I still haven’t heard anything from the twins.” Ginny said carefully, watching Percy’s face for a reaction. There was definitely something in his eyes, but Ginny was not entirely sure what it meant.

“Their opinion hasn’t changed, I don’t think. They wish you were in Gryffindor, like we all do, but they don’t hold it against you. But again, the twins… well, they don’t exactly deal with emotions well. They just resort to humour to get their point across and obviously, that’s not going to work here. I actually don’t think they know how to make heads or tails of the situation. I don’t think they know how to approach you at all.”

“What if I approached them instead?”

Percy paused. “I… think you would be in for a very awkward first few minutes of conversation until the ice broke. After that, all would be normal, I’d guess. They’d realize that they don’t need humour to solve every problem, at least, which is a plus in my books.”

Ginny snorted. “Why do I feel like you actually keep notebooks for all of the members of the family?”

“That seems like something you lot would do, no?” Percy asked teasingly, gesturing to the serpentine crest which adorned Ginny’s robes. 

Ginny sighed. “Probably, yeah.”

“Still trouble in Slytherin, then?”

“You could say that, yeah. I… have people who are helping me. I don’t really think we’re friends, but they’ve been nice the whole time. If-if not for them, it would’ve been a lot harder.”

“But?” Percy prompted, sensing that there was a catch that had not yet entered the equation.

“But the bigoted gits are still being gits.” Ginny deadpanned. “Most of them just glare at me, but the odd one will mutter blood traitor when I’m walking near them. Travers still keeps going off on me every time Weitts isn’t there. Honestly, the way she looks at Weitts, you’d think she’s You-Know-Who.”

“The younger one, you mean?”

“Charlotte, yeah.”

“I… know her sister, a bit. Not well, but we’re both Prefects and she’s Head Girl this year. We’ve been in the same meetings for the last two years, and she runs the Prefects meetings this year. I’ve always found her to be perfectly respectable. She’s always treated me decent. We haven’t spoken much, but she’s never sneered at me or called me anything childish under her breath.”

“Is that why you said I should try and make friends with her little sister?”

“It didn’t hurt the idea.” Percy admitted. “But I was just working with what you’d given me the first time we talked. It seemed like her and that friend of hers, Slater, were decent. The Slaters are… a bit shadier, at least in the Wizengamot.”

“They’re Conservatives, then?”

“They are, yes. They’re seat isn’t overly important though. They’re not an Ancient House yet, even if they’re going to become one some time in the next few years. Lord Slater is fairly quiet at meetings, apparently. There have been rumours for years that they’d jump ship to the Neutrals, but they never have. Not yet, at least.”

“Well, Slater’s getting pretty close with Weitts. Her family are leaders of the faction, right?”

“Co-leaders, yes. They lead it alongside the Greengrass family. Weitts isn’t an Ancient House either. They haven’t been in Magical Britain for long at all, actually. Lord Weitts does have an Order of Merlin First Class award though, so the family get a few extra seats because of that.”

Ginny scrunched up her nose. The book on etiquette she had received courtesy of Charlotte had been very helpful thus far. Dry and monotonous to say the least, but helpful. Now, it appeared as if she may have to somehow get her hands on a book with some details about the Wizengamot and politics. She knew the basics, but they had never been schooled in detail. Her father didn’t even use their seat to vote. Instead, Dumbledore served as their proxy. 

“Has anybody been outright hostile towards you?” 

Ginny hesitated but when Percy’s stare intensified, she sighed. “Me and Weitts got jumped a week or so back. Thing is, I don’t know if they were after me or her. She’s… stirring things up in Slytherin, from what I can tell. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but she’s definitely ruffling some feathers.”

Percy paused. “I… have a hard time believing they’d attack Grace Weitts’s younger sister so openly. Unless she really did something to offend them.”

Ginny shrugged. “Like I said, I haven’t figured it all out yet.”

Percy sighed, glancing up at the clock. “Well, I’m going to have to make an exit right about now. There’s a Prefect’s meeting I need to be at in less than twenty minutes. Just… be careful, Gin. If you need anything, you know how to get a hold of me.”

Minutes later, when Percy had exited the room, Ginny herself did likewise. She was unsure what made her wait. Perhaps it was the fact that the classroom in which they’d occupied for all of their talks had become a sort of mental sanctuary for Ginny. It was a place away from the stress and drama of her house and the oppressive weight of their current workload. Or perhaps it was because she was just lost in thought. 

More than likely, it was a combination of the two.

She certainly was lost in thought, for when she exited the room, she didn’t even notice the figure walking up behind her. Not until she’d been grabbed around the waste, hoisted into the air and slammed forcefully against the wall. The impact knocked the wind out of her and she would have slumped to the floor if not for the fact that the large, dark-haired girl’s hands were making sure that she stayed upright. 

Ginny tried to struggle, but this girl was much, much larger than her. She was equally as strong as she was hulking, and Ginny quickly realized that physical force was not going to be an option to get out of this situation. 

That was until the large girl tried to lift Ginny into the air and press her against the wall with her feet off the ground, thereby rendering leverage as a completely unusable tool for Ginny to escape. As she did this, however, she had to switch her attention from pinning Ginny to lifting her. Clearly, the girl had no idea how physically outmatched the smaller Slytherin was. If she had, she certainly would not have given up her advantageous position in order to gain an extra edge when doing so was wholly unnecessary.

But Ginny wasn’t complaining.

As soon as the girl’s hands were occupied, Ginny lashed out. She didn’t even make an attempt to throw a punch or any such nonsense. Instead, she jabbed each of her pointer fingers hard into the tall girl’s eyes.

Immediately, she reared back, raising her hands to her face as she tried to regain her bearings. After a moment, she fumbled for her wand, but Ginny was faster.

“Mucum Disrumpat!”

Internally, Ginny thanked Charlotte for mentioning all those weeks ago that she should research jinxes, hexes and curses. Though her arsenal was still extremely limited, she had taken a liking to this one and proven to be rather adept at it. And now, it was coming in big as it served to ward the older snake off.

After all, it was only natural to instantly flee when bats began to fly out of your nose and start forcefully bombarding you. To say that it was an unpleasant experience was doing the whole thing a serious misjustice.

Nonetheless, within seconds, Ginny found herself in what she believed to be an empty corridor.

“You alright, Weasley?”

Ginny jumped. Obviously, the corridor was not as empty as she’d thought. Leaning on the wall opposite her, looking completely at ease while twirling a dark wand through her fingers was Charlotte Weitts.


“I thought that much was obvious.”

Ginny spluttered. “I… where… how… why didn’t you…” Ginny was about to ask why Charlotte hadn’t helped her. Then she remembered that for all of the kindness the youngest scion of House Weitts had shown her, they were not truly friends.

“I only just stumbled into this corridor.” Charlotte answered easily. “I’d just finished eating and was on my way to the library to do some extra studying. I heard some scuffling, a thud, and then decided I’d follow the sounds. When I saw that Bulstrode was attacking you, I took out my wand to curse her.” Charlotte held it up, as if displaying the point. “By the time I had it out, you had the situation under control.” she shrugged. “Nice wand work, by the way. I wasn’t sure if you would actually taken my advice seriously or not.”

“You-you were going to help me?”

Charlotte raised a delicate brow. “Is it that surprising to you?”

“No, sorry, I didn’t mean it to be offencive or anything I just… didn’t think you cared.”

Charlotte studied Ginny for a long period of time. Ginny actually shivered. Those bluish silver eyes of hers were equal parts enchanting and intimidating. There was an ever present glow in those eyes, as if something powerful and calculating was perpetually shining behind them. 

After a time, Charlotte held out her hand, taking Ginny by surprise. “I guess I never did approach you. Charlotte Weitts, youngest daughter of House Weitts. It’s nice to finally meet you formally, Ginny. I was wondering if you’d like to join Laine and I in the library?”

Thankfully, Ginny managed to pick her jaw up off the floor for long enough to shakily take Charlotte’s outstretched hand and reply with her own sentiment.

Meanwhile, in Rita Skeeter’s office at the headquarters of the Daily Prophet…

Rita was more than mildly annoyed when her office door banged open suddenly, jolting her from her work. People did not just barge into her office. Not in the past number of years, at least. Scowling, she looked up to see exactly who may have done such a thing and paused at the man in front of her. He was unimportant, but he often carried messages from those of more importance than himself.

“Mr. Cuffe has a message for you, Ms. Skeeter.” the man said politely, levitating a sealed roll of parchment onto her desk before taking her leave. 

With worry and apprehension, Rita opened the roll of parchment and her eyes narrowed. In light of the rather panicking news this week had presented, she had suspected an invitation to meet with her old friend to discuss potential countermeasures. Instead, the only mention of the week’s drama was a bit at the end that it was best if the two of them kept their distance. In his own words, there was no need to perpetuate the rumours that were inevitably going to leak some time soon.

The true contents of the letter were far more interesting and less disturbing. 

For the better part of two months, the Prophet had been hoping to score an exclusive, one on one interview with a high-up within the ranks of the Conservative faction. The reason for this desire was so that they could get an honest, no questions off limit take on the Muggle Protection Act. Now, more than ever, after the turbulent Wizengamot meeting that had transpired days earlier, old Barney was sure that the Prophet would be a top-seller.

In spite of that desire, Rita had been fairly sure that no Conservative would agree to the meeting. If they did, what they said could potentially be used against them at a later date by the Liberals. Potentially, they could ascertain which counter points the Conservatives would be bringing forth in their ongoing attempts to make amendments to the bill. 

But to her surprise, Rita would be meeting a Conservative representative on Sunday night at Summer Isles. Knowing the caution and composure the representative would likely bring, Rita thought that this was going to be a rather dull interview.

That’s what her mind was telling her, at least.

Contrary to her mind, her instincts tingled. Something about this meeting was going to be anything but ordinary; Rita could practically sense it.

Two hours later, back at Hogwarts…

Ginny, Laine and Charlotte left the library after several hours of study. Charlotte was researching Transfiguration theory which was frankly beyond Ginny while the other two did homework. Apparently, Charlotte had been tutored in magic for several years, so Ginny didn’t take it too poorly when she realized just how far ahead of her the other girl was.

Honestly, she was just in disbelief that she was there at all.

How was it that somehow, the youngest, least important member of a blood traitor family which was insignificant in comparison to the houses of Weitts and Slater managed to find herself in this position? She had certainly never dreamed of being even reluctantly included in a group like this. She could tell that Charlotte and Laine were a bit guarded around her, not quite welcoming her with open arms as of yet, but it was a massive step in the right direction.

Perhaps it would even keep Millicent Bulstrode and those like her away. Perhaps Evelyn Travers, as well. The girl seemed more than a little bit wary of Charlotte, so if nothing else, that would probably serve to aid Ginny going forward. Not that she could blame Travers, frankly. Charlotte had an intimidating air about her. Ginny was not afraid of her, per se, but she was certainly wary.

As for Laine, she walked to Charlotte’s right, who stood in the middle, wondering how all of this had transpired and mentally readying her list of questions that she would ask Charlotte as soon as they wound up alone together.

And speaking of Charlotte, her mind was racing at a million miles an hour, connecting all the dots related to the drama of the year and seeing dozens of possible outcomes. 

She had suspicions, but as of yet, she had no way of confirming them. For that, she would need to speak with some friends, something she immediately made her top priority as the three Slytherin first years entered the common room. Without hesitating, Charlotte led her two friends over towards Harry, Blaise, Tracey and… Parkinson. That one was new. Then again, maybe it wasn’t. Harry had not been in the common room much at all in the past week. Not much at all since he’d been attacked after Quidditch practice, actually.

Either way, this was the first time Charlotte had seen Parkinson sitting with the group. In response to the fact, she allowed her eyes to do a quick sweep of the common room, trying to find and identify Malfoy. It would be interesting to see his response to losing Pansy to Harry and his group of friends. Of course, Charlotte was well aware that Pansy had made the right decision. Even saying that, she was still curious of how the choice had come to be.

“Evening,” Charlotte greeted as the three of them took seats. Harry tensed minutely, so lost in whatever project he had been working on that he had evidently failed to notice their arrival. The eyes of each second year roamed towards Ginny almost at once, some more discreetly than others. Tracey was the most obvious about it, followed by Pansy, who honestly didn’t look much like she was trying to hide it. Harry, Blaise and Daphne did so with a degree of swiftness and discreteness so high that Charlotte would not have noticed had she not been able to hear the curiosity resonating within them and having watched for it as a result of the fact.

“Evening,” Harry muttered distractedly, flicking his eyes up towards Ginny one final time before he let them fall back on the mountain of papers in front of him.

“How was studying?” Daphne asked Charlotte, having inquired as to where she had been heading earlier that night.

“It went well, I think. I’m trying to work on Transfiguration. I’m easily the best in my year at Charms, but Black is just as good with Transfiguration, if not better.”

Laine sniffed. “You can’t be the best at everything, Charlotte.”

“Tell him that.” Daphne muttered, gesturing vaguely in Harry’s direction. For his part, the raven-haired youth didn’t even react to the comment.

“He wasn’t top in Astronomy or History.” Blaise said reasonably, as if that debunked Daphne’s entire point.

“Only because he didn’t care about one and didn’t show up to the other.” Daphne pointed out.

“Still don’t.” Harry said distractedly as his quill continued to scratch away on the parchment.

“But you’ll still get O’s in them.” Tracey pointed out.

Harry shrugged his shoulders. “Hopefully,”

Charlotte sniffed with a purposefully exaggerated amount of haughtiness. “He’s not the best at everything, Daphne.”

Daphne just raised an eyebrow as if in challenge. Charlotte just smiled slightly back, like one would do if they were subtly letting their friend in on a dark secret. Harry’s eyes flicked up towards Charlotte’s and she swore she could see annoyance there. Clearly, he had ascertained that she’d been referring to the Mind Arts. Briefly, Charlotte contemplated brushing his mind with Legilimency, but seeing as they were actually friends now, it might have been considered marginally immoral to do so.

“Look,” Charlotte said with a smirk, “he’s alive.” 

Harry rolled his eyes. “There were better ways you could have got my attention, you know. I would’ve stopped working if you’d just asked.”

Charlotte continued to maintain her sweet, trademark smile. “Maybe, but what fun would that have been?” When Harry just rolled his eyes for a second time, Charlotte asked, “What is it you’re working on, anyways?”

“Runes,” Harry answered simply. “I’m trying to test how far I’ve actually come with the subject. There’s… some specific stuff I’d like to do with them, and I’m trying to work it out. It’s still a bit above my level, I think.”

Charlotte nodded, deciding to humour Harry, who obviously wished for her to get to the point. “What do you all know about Milicent Bulstrode?” Beside her, Charlotte could feel Ginny tense. The youngest Weasley had still not said so much as a word, and Charlotte could tell the fact that she was bringing up Milicent to the older students after their altercation made her intensely uncomfortable. Charlotte briefly gave Ginny’s knee a reassuring squeeze as she awaited the answers of the others.

Harry shrugged. “No idea why you wanted me for this. I literally know nothing except for her name, what she looks like and the fact that her family is one of the Sacred Twenty Eight and are part of the Conservative faction.”

“I’m getting to that.” Charlotte assured him, waving her hand dismissively as she glanced at Daphne.

The Greengrass Heiress shrugged. “Not much myself, honestly.”

“I know a bit.” Pansy offered in a neutral tone, speaking up for the first time. When all of their eyes were trained upon her, she seemed to swell, as if bolstered by their attention. “She’s sort of in no-man’s land with Lillian Moon. Draco, Theodore, Crabbe and Goyle make up one group from our year, while we obviously make up the other main group. Lillian and Milicent kind of rest in the middle. She’s sat with us at meals before while I still hung around with Draco, but not often. She’s quiet and mainly talks to Theodore when sitting with them. 

“I think she’d like to join up with that group, but she’s too shy to say that and Draco doesn’t care enough about her to bring her in.” When all of the faces around her were showing varying degrees of surprise, Pansy suddenly looked indignant as she took her own turn to roll her eyes. “No need to look so surprised. I’m not just a pretty face, I’ll have you know.” 

Blaise’s mouth twitched in a manner that made it very obvious he wanted to say something. Charlotte caught Harry looking at Blaise out of the corner of his eye and the son of the Italian House of Zabini said nothing. Obviously, Harry could tell that whatever reason Charlotte had for bringing this up, she at least deemed it to be serious.

“That’s all very interesting,” Daphne said carefully, “but why do you want to know about Milicent Bulstrode?”

Charlotte paused, seeming to choose her next words with a high degree of caution. “There was an incident with her earlier today. It was dealt with, but I think she might be involved in… other incidents.” Charlotte could practically sense the rise in curiosity from all of them, but Harry in particular. In spite of that, his face did not change. “I just wanted to figure a bit more out, you know. See if I was just being paranoid, or if there’s anything to me worrying.”

“And which one is it?” Harry asked softly, his eyes focusing completely on Charlotte for the first time during the conversation.

“I’m… not sure yet.” she lied. In reality, she was fairly certain that Bulstrode was working for others. It made no sense why she would risk herself as an outcast to go after Ginny otherwise.

The problem was, who and why?

Before Charlotte could ponder on that for too much longer, an air of tension settled upon the group. The reasoning for this made itself evident moments later when a small cluster of students moved towards them. Charlotte quickly recognized the one in the lead by his platinum blonde hair, cold grey eyes and pale, pointed face. Behind the Malfoy Heir trailed Theodore Nott, Ares Black and Benedict Cuffe, as well as Crabbe and Goyle.

“Excuse me,” Draco said with what was obviously forced politeness, “but I think you should let Pansy up.”

Finally, Harry’s attention was completely torn away from his work as he met Malfoy’sgaze. Charlotte could practically feel the intensity oozing from her friend’s every word.

“We’re not keeping her here. She’s free to leave at any time.”

Perplexed, Malfoy looked from Harry to Pansy expectantly. When Pansy just raised an eyebrow at the blond, he quickly paled before flushing a shade of red that any of the Weasley contingent would likely have been proud of.

“You… you two-faced bitch!”

A hush fell over those in hearing range as Malfoy uttered the slur. Pansy’s eyes widened as several of the girls looked stunned. As for Harry, his wand was in his hand in an instant as he shot to his feet, stepping forward and getting right in Malfoy’s personal space. The blond may have been the taller of the two by several inches, but the air of danger that seemed to cling to Harry was more than enough to compensate for it. Charlotte saw Theodore hesitate as if to draw his wand, but Black’s hand closed around his wrist, preventing that action.

“I told you in the changing rooms that was your last warning, Malfoy. This time, I mean it. This is your real last warning! Next time you insult one of my friends or throw out bigoted slurs, I’m going to completely and utterly ruin you!”

For a moment, Draco looked as if he may respond. When he saw the look in Harry’s eyes, he clearly thought better of it. As he took a step back, Harry stepped with him, keeping his wand firmly pressed against his throat. By now, the attention of the entire common room was on the two of them and Charlotte realized with some satisfaction that most of Slytherin House was about to watch Malfoy run from Harry with his tail tucked between his legs.

“Go!” Harry snarled, shoving Malfoy forcefully backwards, sending him bumping into Crabbe and Goyle, who had stood there, stunned as they watched the whole exchange.

Again, Theodore Nott looked murderous, but he was dragged out of the common room by the rest, who clearly saw that retreating was their only option.

Harry scowled, quickly packing his things into his bag. “I’ll be back.” he muttered. “I need a walk. I’ll never finish anything now.”

“Harry!” Tracey called. “Curfew is about to-“

“I’ll be fine, Tracey. Don’t worry, when have I ever been caught?”

All in all, Charlotte thought as her magnetic eyes watched Harry leave the common room that she would summarize the night as one of very high intrigue.

October 11, 1992

Summer Isles in Diagon Alley

8:00 PM

Everything Rita had thought in regards to punctuality prior to her meeting with Daniel Shafiq was applicable once more tonight. She’d have loved to try to portray herself in the position of power by showing up late, but again, she knew it was not an option.

For one thing, she was not here on a personal level, but under the employ of the Daily Prophet. For another, no matter how much she wished it was the case, she was not the one with the power in this situation.

Rita had not been told who it was she’d be meeting. That was expected and a fairly typical move in the political arena. Rita did not need to know who she was meeting to know that she would be the lesser power in the room. Whoever the Conservatives were sending as a representative, it would be somebody high up in their ranks. Given the vast number of prestigious families whose allegiance lay firmly within the folds of that particular faction, that was enough for Rita to make a correct assumption on the matter.

Building on that point, there was also the small issue that several members of the faction had rather questionable morals. Some of them had extremely murky pasts. Some dark reputations may have been unwarranted. Others, Rita suspected to be understated. Others still, Rita knew to be fabricated completely. 

Moral of the story — it would be a very bad idea for Rita to piss off whoever she was meeting at Summer Isles.

As she neared the room reserved for them right on time, Rita only had two hopes for this interview that, by all estimations, was likely set to be profoundly dry.

The first of them was that whoever was meeting her wasn’t a prick and didn’t make her wait for thirty minutes just to flex their muscles and flash their prestige.

The second was that whomever they had sent, it was not one of the few people who she knew to be outright upset with her at the moment. Though she had to admit as she stepped towards the door that would lead her into the room, that would be a rather clever scheme…

And a rather clever scheme it was.

When Rita was led into the room by their well-dressed waiter, she had a moment of pause when she saw the scene laid out before her.

To her surprise, she was not the first to arrive. 

To her dismay, the person who had arrived before her was somebody who was undoubtedly not pleased with her, to put it kindly.

“Good evening, Ms. Skeeter.” Lord Lucius Malfoy greeted her with a perfect air of politeness as he stood gracefully from his chair to greet her further and more formally. Rita, rather tense given the fact that by now, she suspected the worst, allowed herself to be led through the motions and eventually into her chair. Before she knew it, the waiter had taken their respective orders and left them alone.

“Allow me to clear the air, Ms. Skeeter.” Lucius said promptly, noticing exactly the way her eyes anxiously darted around the room. “I am not pleased with you, nor the slander of my family at your hands. But tonight, I am here on business. A true businessman is always able to put their personal prejudices aside in favour of actions that are more productive. You have nothing to worry about, Rita. Not when business is ongoing.”

Rita looked hard for a lie but could not spot one. Of course, she was not foolish enough to believe one might not exist. She was rather perceptive, but if there were any in Magical Britain with the ability to fool her, the political mastermind known as Lucius Malfoy might well have sat right atop the list. For now, however, she had little choice but to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“I’m glad, Lord Malfoy.” Rita said with a smile. “After all, you of all people should know that my articles don’t always reflect my views. It’s all about perception, as you very well know.”

For an infinitesimally small amount of time, Rita could have sworn she saw something predatory in Lucius’s cold grey eyes. It happened so fast that by the time it had seemingly passed, Rita was certain her paranoia was acting up again.

“Of course, Rita, I know you very well.” he paused. “It isn’t too forward of me to address you as Rita, I hope?”

“Not at all, Lord Malfoy.”


Rita noticed how he did not offer her the courtesy in return. Despite his seemingly civil demeanour, it was very obvious that the power dynamic which Rita had pondered was being established with pinpoint precision on the man’s part.

Speaking of Lucius, he leaned forward slightly and folded his hands in his lap in what Rita thought was a rather dignified pose. “Well, we are here on business, which waits for no witch or wizard. Time is money, Rita. I’m told you’re here to ask me some questions. I’m here to answer them; ask away.”

“Well, of course, we’re here to speak on the Muggle Protection Act. The Conservatives have been very vocal in their opposition to this act. What is it in particular that you as a faction find unacceptable? Is it the act itself? Its implications? The idea of protecting muggles?”

“In the context which is important, it’s none of the above.” Lucius answered smoothly. “I’ll never claim to be an advocate of muggle rights, but I don’t make it my life’s mission to sabotage their lives either. For those who have… doubts on that front, you’re more than welcome to look into the dozen or so public records that pertain to attempted raids on my family home. Of course, Arthur Weasley and the HIT wizards found nothing, because there is nothing to hide.

Truly, that is our point, Rita. We have no doubt that the goal of the Liberal faction with this act was… admirable, but the execution was sloppy and mishandled. The act was written by Arthur Weasley, Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office. Naturally, Arthur could have only gained from these arrangements. I do believe he gets paid bonuses for major successes. Raiding a family’s home to find artifacts in violation of a major bill of law would certainly qualify. It is this and… other, deeper reasons that we believe he made sure to write several loopholes in his bill.”

“What loopholes, Lord Malfoy?”

“For one, the criteria on who can and cannot be searched is nonexistent. The vague criteria which is given contradicts itself. Which effectively allows Arthur Weasley, in his position over the department responsible for the maintenance of this new law, the ability to search wherever he pleases whenever he chooses. We feel that the bill unjustly violates the rights of the fine citizens of this wonderful nation. Furthermore, we believe it to be a blatant abuse of power on Arthur Weasley’s part.” Lucius’s lip curled. “Of course, that is saying nothing of the loopholes in place to protect him. The loopholes which allow you to illegally enchant muggle artifacts. Like cars, for instance.”

The interview went on as their food arrived. Its pace slowed down as they ate their meal, but it continued nonetheless. Despite her previous anxiety, all nerves were gone now. The troubles of the past week had been all but forgotten for Rita. This was a safe place for her. Conducting this kind of business was second nature to her by now, and she had room for no other thoughts in her mind. 

When they had finished, the interview proceeded for about ten minutes before finally wrapping up. Before they could depart, the waiter entered once more, carrying what appeared to be two covered plates. They seemed to be very large, evidently heaping with whatever dessert was underneath. The waiter quietly set both of them down on the table and left the room once again, leaving Lucius and Rita alone in the room with the two plates and their heavy, wrought silver coverings.

Rita had no idea how dessert coverings could be ominous, but these ones managed it.

“Care to do the honours, Rita?” Lucius asked, gesturing towards the plate nearest to her. “My treat, of course. Business may have been concluded, but I see no reason to waste.” Smiling, Rita reached forward and removed the oddly heavy covering.

Only to gasp at what was underneath.

Instead of any dessert, Rita pulled the large covering off to reveal a large, golden plate. What rested atop the plate was what was odd, however. 

The odd, intricately carved basin was impossible to miss. 

Rita stared open-mouthed from Lucius to the pensive, as the man leaned forward, the predatory gleam in his eyes now more than obvious. 

Rita’s paranoia had been right to flare up. 

This had been a trap all along. She had never imagined anything at all.

“Don’t leave, Rita.” Lucius hissed in a soft, dangerous tone of voice. “I think you are going to want to hear what I say before you leave. Otherwise, I really don’t think you will like what happens.”

“L-Lord Malfoy,” Rita stuttered, “what-what is the meaning of this?”

“I was nothing but honest with you, Rita. I told you that while business was ongoing, you had nothing to fear. Unfortunately for you, business has concluded.

Lucius’s smile only grew more smug as he slipped his wand from his sleeve and gently prodded the surface of the silvery substance that swam within the confines of the basin. 

Immediately, an image rose to the surface, one that made Rita’s eyes widen with shock, confusion and terror.

Rita’s gasp was audible as two figures rose from the pensive. 

The first was John Doe, who had been found deceased just outside his home in Knockturn Alley just over a week ago. As of yet, his cause of death was unconfirmed. The paper had only run a brief article on his passing. It had been more of a memorial piece as opposed to gossip, so naturally, Rita had not written it.

The only thing that surprised Rita more than seeing the now dead John Doe was seeing the other figure.


Which made absolutely no sense. 

She had never met John Doe in Knockturn Alley. Of that, she was certain.

“Rita?” the figure of John Doe asked, clearly surprised.

“Good evening, John.” The other figure which looked so much like Rita but couldn’t be Rita answered. Her voice was spine tinglingly neutral. One might even go as far as to categorize its tones as clinical.

“What brings you to Knockturn Alley, Rita. For some reason, I didn’t peg you for the type?”

“Just taking care of business, John.” the had-to-be imposter purred with a smile so predatory it put Lucius’s rendition to shame. Then, to Rita’s shock and horror, her doppelganger had a wand trained on John Doe. 

And to her even greater horror, the next two words to leave her mouth rendered the true Rita Skeeter completely and utterly speechless.


The pair sat in complete silence for more than two minutes as Lucius watched Rita like a cat might watch a dying mouse. For her part, half of Rita’s mind was trying to figure out what had just happened and how to respond. The other half of her was trying to decide whether or not she was having a heart attack as the organ in question seemed to be putting in a valiant effort to free itself of its prison.

“I… but… I never… what… how… you can’t prove-“

“The ‘how’ is actually quite easy, Rita. Expensive, but easy. You see, I could not have my family name be slandered. It was very costly, you know. It caused any stock I was associated to drop quite dramatically and it was an unacceptable blight on the Malfoy family name. Now, perhaps, I may have let this slide. Unfortunately, I recognize the power of the media more than most. I truly appreciate the damage a talented reporter can do. So, I decided that having one who was rogue was a risk I could not take.

I employed a lowlife thief whom I have worked with before to watch you. He did an admittedly stellar job at tailing you and observing your patterns. You’re rather conspicuous, Rita. There wasn’t a whole lot to work with.” he paused. “Except for one thing, of course, but we will circle back to that in time.

Unfortunately, you were too clever to alert the thief as to any blatant wrongdoings on your part. That would not be due, would it? A suspicious sense of paranoia is hardly something that you would fear if used against you. So, the thief concocted a plan to artificially create a situation that would land you in a great deal of trouble. His proposal was good, if expensive. After all, Polyjuice potion does not come cheap. I modified his plan. Firstly because if he had been your date at Summer Isles as he’d planned, this whole thing would have gone up in flames. Secondly, because I have connections who were willing to do more than petty crimes while wearing your skin. From there, it was only a matter of getting your hair. 

With how dry the news has been lately, I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist a good scoop. Daniel Shafiq is an old friend of mine, and we agreed a business transaction between the two of us could be mutually beneficial. I confess, I expected better from you, Rita. According to Daniel, you didn’t so much as react as he ripped the hair from your head.” 

Lucius was definitely smirking now as Rita paled further. “This-this isn’t proof!” Rita argued. “I didn’t do it! Priori Incantatem will show as much!”

“Indeed it would, if your wand was tested soon after. You forget, Rita, that Priori Incantato only reveals spells cast in the past number of hours. Though I could manufacture documents from abroad which show that you purchased a second wand days before this incident occurred. A wand that has been conveniently discarded for reasons that I hope for your sake are obvious.” 

Rita paled even further as she clapped her hand over her heart. 

This was it.

If this memory played in court and Lucius’s paperwork stood up to the test, she would go to Azkaban for life.

“What’s the matter, Rita? You’re looking rather faint. Was the first encore not to your liking? How about the second of our delectable desserts?” 

With a flourish, Lucius removed the second covering and Rita actually gasped, rocking back in her chair as if she were about to faint.

“It looks familiar, doesn’t it?” Lucius purred, lifting the small, black journal up from off of the golden plate. “A clever way to communicate, Rita. Very discrete, too.” his smirk widened. “But then again, I’d be discrete in your position as well. Especially while writing to my bastard son.”

Rita was hyperventilating now as panic wracked her body and her whole world came crashing down around her. 

Not only had she just been framed for murder, but her biggest, most damning secret had been uncovered after eleven long years.

“Again, childishly easy to work out.” Lucius retold clinically. “You see, my acquaintance noticed that you spent quite a lot of time at the Cuffe residence. An unusual amount of time, even considering the fact that Lord Cuffe is your superior. So naturally, I was curious. I had Draco befriend Benedict in hopes that he would be able to uncover something interesting. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that with the help of some first years spying for him and some older students who were more than happy to lend a hand, he would uncover this.

A journal between yourself and the youngest son of House Cuffe. A journal dating back several years. But the most mind boggling thing of all was how young Benedict seems to always refer to you by mother. How strange, when one considers that at the time of Benedict’s birth, Barnabus Cuffe was married. Even more peculiar, when one considers that allegedly, the boy’s mother died during childbirth.”

Lucius leaned even further forward, locking eyes with Rita with a startling amount of intensity. “Here is my ultimatum, Rita. From now on, as far as the public is concerned, your boss is Barnabus Cuffe, editor and majority stakeholder of the Daily Prophet. But as far as reality is concerned, you work for me.” 

With genuine tears rolling down her pale cheeks, Rita nodded. “And secondly, you will tell me at once exactly how Benedict Cuffe came to be, as well as exactly how his supposed mother died.”


“Speak up, Rita. I can’t hear you. I know it’s hard, but for your son’s sake, I would answer promptly and clearly.”

“I was young and stupid! I was pushing through the war, trying to write article after article but nothing was helping. I wasn’t getting recognized and I was lost in the shuffle.” she paused, taking deep, rattling breaths as she tried to suppress the involuntary sobs that threatened to wrack her body. “I saw the way that Barnabus looked at the younger women. I… saw it as my best chance to get to the top. My best chance to be put in the best position. It… was never meant to be serious but… it escalated.”

“I see.” Lucius said softly. “And how, Rita, did the false mother truly die?”

“We-we panicked. When I was p-p-pregnant, w-w-we were so worried that somebody would find out what had happened. Y-you know what that would mean.”

“Cheating on one’s sworn spouse is one of the lowest things a witch or wizard can do. It is on par with being disowned from your given family.”

Rita nodded as sobs wracked her body. She took a moment to compose herself and do her best to calm as Lucius watched on coldly and without emotions. Finally, after a time, the reporter was speaking again. 

“We were-were so s-s-scared! If they found out… if anyone found out. B-B-Barney had the idea to h-have the baby abroad, to set it up as a vacation.” Rita took a long, rattling breath. “His wife never died giving childbirth. She died before we left. I… had the couple over at my home. To d-d-discuss a possible p-p-promotion. I p-p-put aconite in her drink.”

“And the foreign nation in which you gave birth knew nothing of either of you. So naturally, they accepted your given names without complaint?”

With a soft wail of emotion, Rita nodded in spite of herself, allowing her head to sag onto the table in front of her.

As she did so, Lucius pushed back his chair, stood to his feet and summoned the pensive to his grasp once more. “I shall endeavour to purchase you a new book out of pity.” Lucius told Skeeter in a terribly smug tone of voice as he snatched the one on the table up and stowed it away in his robes. “I would advise you to purchase your son a trunk that is warded far better than the one he has now.” Rita’s sobs grew louder. “I must be off, Rita.” Lucius said cheerfully, his lips curving up into a smirk. “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you and I look forward to a long, pleasant working relationship between us.”

Author’s Endnote 

Well, this is going over one of two ways. Either it will be received very well, or very poorly — there isn’t going to be an in between, I don’t think. I’m personally rather happy with the whole Lucius/Skeeter/Cuffe subplot. Something I’ve never seen done and I had a lot of fun writing it, so I hope you guys enjoyed it. Obviously, its ripple effects will be felt for a long time to come.

I have said this on my Discord server, but I will say it here on site since I can see questions about this arising:

Pensive memories are technically admissible in a court of law within the AoCverse. Oaths and Veritaserum are not. Oaths have already sort of been explained (See the chapter “Morbid Thoughts” in which Peter explains oaths to Charlus) and Veritaserum, without spoiling too much, is similar in many ways. 

Now, pensive memories can only be used in court for major offenses. A major offense is categorized as anything that, if proven true, would land the accused a sentence of at least five years in Azkaban. It should be noted that there are a few exceptions in which pensives can be used for lesser cases, but that is a complex matter we don’t need to get into yet. Just know it will be important in the first chapter of year 3. 

Even for major cases, pensives are not always used. There is a process one must go through to use a pensive in court, and it’s one that not everybody can actually fulfill, so… Oh and also, a pensive can only be used if the accusations levelled against the accused are deemed plausible by the Wizengamot.

The reason I’m limiting pensives is to close plot holes. If they can be used for any small accusation, then this is going to turn into a mess very quickly. For instance, if these limitations weren’t in place, Rita could accuse Lucius of blackmailing her and all the rest.

Problem is, with no evidence whatsoever, her case would be very weak, so she’ would never even get to the stage where a pensive becomes an option.

Just thought I’d clear that up to hopefully limit confusion.

Next chapter will take them up to Samhain, so we’re finally moving along again. Granted, it is a very long chapter, (17k), so there is that.

Please read and review.

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