Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 16: Raging Emotions
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 16 Raging Emotions
October 31, 1992
The Second Floor
Harry stood rooted to the spot as he heard the vast crowd surging ever closer. In moments, they would be on top of him. In a matter of seconds, everything was about to go very, very poorly. Rapidly, he tried to think of an escape. A diversion, an explanation, a way in which he could avoid the fate that seemed to be an inevitability.
Unfortunately, he could come up with nothing.
He intuitively knew that fighting the magic that Granger had cast upon him would be useless. And even if he did somehow manage to break it, which he knew would not be the case, he would never get away. She, Weasley or his brother would curse him in the back before he got far. Failing that, judging by how close the oncoming crowd seemed to be, they would round the corner and their eyes would fall on the horror scene before them faster than Harry could make a feasible escape.
Sure enough, the front-most members of the crowd rounded the corner faster than he’d have liked. Immediately, the ones who did so froze in their tracks at the rather horrific scene that awaited them in a seemingly mundane corridor. Most of the collected students’ eyes leapt immediately to the limp form of the cat and the ominous writing on the wall. While this was true, many students’ eyes did follow Harry. As for the seeming culprit himself, he had no idea what was about to happen. He was only certain of one thing.
If he was fortunate enough to remain at Hogwarts, the fallout from this fiasco was going to be nuclear.
More of the crowd was surging into the corridor now, spurred on by the screams, gasps and other exclamations of those before them. The corridor was a mess. Those trying to catch sight of the atrocity were forcefully trying to plow through those in front of them. Somehow, as chaos ensued, one voice managed to make itself heard above all of the others, and it was this voice that Harry honed in on, even in his position of peak vulnerability.
“Enemies of the heir, beware. Watch out, mudbloods! You’ll be next!”
If Harry got out of this sticky situation (no pun intended), he decided that teaching Malfoy a lesson and finally being done with warnings had just soared very near to the top of his list of priorities. But at this rate, as the crowd muttered and now began to point, whisper and even started to hurl obscenities towards Harry as they began to grasp what was going on, he suddenly realized exactly how slim his chances of staying at the castle were.
That thought terrified him more than any other. If he was expelled from Hogwarts, where would he go? He would never return to the Dursleys. Of that, at least, he was certain. He would sooner lie about his age and join the muggle military. He would do something, anything, but return to that hell hole.
But the uncertainty and the inevitable unpleasant events that would come along with it terrified him.
Terrified him more, even, than Argus Filch, who was currently rushing towards him with a crazed, murderous look in his eyes. The fact that Harry, still bound and with his feet stuck to the floor would not be able to defend himself against the surging squib was just the icing on the cake.
But before Filch could slam into him, a bluish shield flared between them, and Filch bounced off of the semi-transparent barrier and reared back as if shocked. Emerging from the crowd stepped Calypso and Cassius, both of whom had their wands at the ready. Judging by Calypso’s expression, it had been she who had cast the protective charm. If that same expression was anything to go by, Harry was suddenly more afraid for the health and safety of the Caretaker than he was for himself.
There was also the problem that now, Calypso and Cassius were being semi-vilified by the crowd of onlookers. Just when Harry thought that surely, a full-on riot would break out, there were several bangs, each sounding like a gunshot, accompanied by an equal number of bright, white flashes. They almost resembled muggle flares. Thankfully, they were less potent.
Still, they did achieve the desired effect. That being to draw the animalistic attention of the ascending crowd away from Harry, Filch, Calypso, Cassius and the crime scene, at least for the time being. Instead, the crowd was now focused exclusively on the Headmaster, as Dumbledore strode stoically and confidently through the herd of gathered students, followed closely by professors McGonagall, Flitwick, Snape and Lockhart.
The crowd parted for the professors and Dumbledore led all of them straight towards Harry, Charlus, Weasley and Granger. Charlus made to speak up, but Dumbledore initially paid him no mind. He elected to pass them by altogether, gingerly stepping towards the limp cat and removing its form delicately from the torch bracket. The man took a moment to critically examine it before, with a stony visage, he turned to the gathered crowd. He did not need a Sonorus charm for those students present to hear him loud and clear.
“All students are to return to their common rooms immediately. A full lockdown will be in effect. I offer my most sincere apologies to those who intended on leaving the castle this evening, but doing so will no longer be possible. Prefects, you will escort your house back to their respective common rooms and take roll. You will report the attendance results to your Heads of House as soon as possible. Do not leave the common room. They will come to you.” Slowly, as if coming out of a trance, the Prefects began to disjointedly herd their students together and started to martial them all from the corridor.
Only when the crowd had left did Dumbledore turn his hard stare upon Charlus. “Please explain what you believe to have happened tonight?” he asked, his eyes flickering from Charlus to Harry, to the writing on the wall and back again.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Filch snarled before Charlus could so much as get a word in. “HE KILLED HER! The bastard killed her! I’ll kill him! I’ll string him up by the ankles and make him beg for death! I’ll… I’ll-“
“Argus, I would kindly ask you to cease levelling death threats upon a student. Martial law will not be tolerated no matter what the events of the night would be. Now, your opinion is noted, but I would like to hear some other perspectives on what may or may not have transpired.” The fact that Dumbledore made no move to lift the binding magic still weighing heavily upon Harry only intensified the young Slytherin’s seemingly perpetual desire to strangle the Headmaster.
“It was him!” Ron exclaimed, pointing furiously at Harry. “We… we heard a commotion and came quick. When we got here, he was already here. He was staring at the wall! Just standing there and when he realized we were here, he looked like he was going to run for it!”
Dumbledore turned his penetrating gaze towards Harry and then back to Charlus and Hermione. “Is this true, Charlus? Miss Granger?”
“That is what it looked like, sir,” Hermione said respectfully, narrowing her eyes at Harry. At that moment, it looked as if her mere stare might be capable of incinerating his very essence.
Charlus hesitated, a look of great pain coming over his face before very slowly, he nodded. With a flick of Dumbledore’s wand, Harry felt his magical restraints lift. He very nearly ended up on his face, but he managed to right himself. “You will accompany us, Mister Potter,” Dumbledore said gravely, fixing Harry with an intense stare that practically froze him in place once more.
“My office is closest, Headmaster,” Lockhart offered, glancing from Dumbledore to Harry. As bad as he knew this must look, Harry was taken aback by the look on Lockhart’s face.
It was brief, but it was very obviously an expression twisted and contorted by poorly masked fury and utter, unquenchable hatred.
Harry would not be receiving Lockhart’s vote of confidence.
With a nod, Dumbledore politely agreed, ushering the students and professors along. Annoyingly, Hermione, Ron and Charlus kept their wands trained upon Harry the entire walk to Lockhart’s office. Honestly, it wasn’t like he was going anywhere even if he wanted to. It wasn’t as if he could best the most gifted professors at Hogwarts. Let alone four of them at once, plus Albus Dumbledore, the supposed most powerful sorcerer alive.
Within no time, the rather morbid party of ten quietly entered Lockhart’s office. As Dumbledore strode forward and carefully laid the still immobile body of Mrs. Norris on Lockhart’s desk, the tension in the room grew to unbearable levels. It didn’t help that every few seconds, all of the room’s occupants, except Dumbledore, for now, seemed to be shooting not-so-covert glances in Harry’s general direction. Most of them were outright accusatory, if not furious or loathing.
A select few were merely curious or calculating, but they were the exceptions.
Finally, after nearly burying his nose in the cat’s fur for what felt like ages, Dumbledore slowly straightened up, frowning deeply as he turned to address the cantankerous caretaker. “She is not dead, Argus.”
Harry couldn’t help but be confused by that statement. Not dead? She certainly looked dead. Perhaps she was merely unconscious, but the way she had hung from the bracket, not to mention the blood on the wall…
“She-she’s not?” Filch gasped, his eyes going wide as his body began to shake with what could have been hope, relief or an odd combination of the two.
“No, I am certain of it,” Dumbledore affirmed. “For the time being, at least, Mrs. Norris has been petrified.”
“Petrified?” McGonagall asked sharply, eliciting a curt nod from Dumbledore.
“Severus,” the Headmaster asked, beckoning Snape forward, “If you would.” Snape swept forward and withdrew his wand, taking his own turn to examine the cat. He cast numerous, complex spells, some of which seemed to be in languages more ancient than Latin. Additionally, he actually took the time to smell the cat, as well as pressing his ear to her stomach.
After a time, he too straightened up. “She hasn’t ingested any potions, Headmaster. At least, she has not done so recently.”
“Are there any means you are aware of that may fool the procedure you have carried out, Severus?”
“Yes,” Snape admitted, “But most of them would assuredly see her in a worse state than the one she rests in now.” Dumbledore nodded in understanding and beckoned his Charms Master forth. Flitwick took his own round of examining the furry victim but he too could find nothing.
Finally, Dumbledore turned to Lockhart. “Do you know of any magic that may have caused this, Gilderoy?”
“The only magics I know that could have done this would’ve been obvious and easy to identify,” Lockhart said in a clipped tone of voice. “The air would have practically been singing with magic.”
Dumbledore nodded. “You and I are of a similar mind then, it seems.”
“How about you ask him?!” Filch screeched, gesturing frantically towards Harry, who flinched almost imperceptibly at the motion. It didn’t help that his brother and his friends still had their wands trained upon him.
“I do not believe Harry to be the culprit, Argus,” Dumbledore answered gently. “No student his age would be capable of magic like this, no matter how prestigious their academic standing.”
“If I may, Headmaster,” Lockhart interjected, “There are ways in which a younger student could have done this. There is no reason he couldn’t have acted indirectly, for instance. If the legends about the Chamber of Secrets hold true, he may have only needed to find and open the Chamber. I see no reason why he would have needed to cast any advanced magic to do so.”
Snape scoffed. “Headmasters and Headmistresses have spent centuries seeking Salazar’s secret Chamber, Gilderoy. If it is not blatantly obvious already, none have succeeded. With respect to Mister Potter, I do not think him capable of doing what Albus Dumbledore and many before him have thus far failed to accomplish.”
“Respectfully, Severus, I think that is a rather… narrow-minded way of looking at the situation.”
Snape’s lip curled in distaste. “Do you?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” Lockhart asserted. “If Slytherin was half as cunning in life as his legacy seems to suggest, it makes perfect sense that the Chamber would be much easier to find for those who are his heirs. Perhaps even impossible to find if you don’t share his blood.” Lockhart shrugged. “Who’s to say? I can think of ways it could have been done.” Again, Lockhart’s eyes fell upon Harry, and there was obvious malevolence in his gaze. “We have a very clear culprit who was caught red-handed at the scene of the crime. I’m not saying we should just jump to conclusions, but to assume Mister Potter is innocent because of his age is ridiculous!”
“Gilderoy’s point is valid,” Dumbledore conceded. “I very much doubt this supposed ‘Heir of Slytherin’, whomever they might be, cast the direct magic which left Mrs. Norris in her current state. More likely, some prerequisites had to first be completed to set a spiral of events into motion.”
“While your fantastical theories are doubtlessly amusing to bear witness to,” Snape interjected silkily, sarcasm oozing from every syllable, “You have both overlooked a rather obvious hole in your presumptions.”
“And what is that, Severus?” Dumbledore asked with an air of curiosity.
“Even if Potter is an Heir of Slytherin, which frankly, I would bet my wages he is not. Being able to open a hypothetical Chamber that may or may not exist and knowing how to do so are two entirely different matters. Even if Mister Potter could hypothetically open the Chamber of Secrets, I see no possibility of him knowing how to do so. Doubtlessly, if a Chamber of Secrets exists at all, it is a mystery guarded selfishly by whatever remains of Slytherin’s line. This would mean that however this Chamber might be accessed, it is a family secret that one would likely learn during childhood.” Snape’s jaw tightened. “Seeing as Mister Potter spent his childhood in a mundane, muggle home, the two of you will forgive me if I do not think it likely that the boy has been enlightened on old, family secrets from a line which is likely isn’t connected to in the first place.”
Lockhart looked very much as if he would argue once more, but before he could, Professor McGonagall cut sharply into the conversation. “Severus is right,” she said shortly. “There is simply no way Mister Potter would have gained access to that information. Unless there is far more proof in the future, I think the idea that he has done this is completely absurd!”
“Hear, hear!” Professor Flitwick seconded in his high, squeaky voice.
Dumbledore nodded pensively. “As much as I do think your theories about the process of these events hold true, Gilderoy, Severus’s logic is rather sound, as I have come to expect over the years of knowing him. Rest assured, your insights will be taken heavily into account during this investigation, but I have a very hard time imagining that Mister Potter is responsible for the night’s atrocities, at present.”
Lockhart’s posture was stiff but he nodded curtly. “Of course, Headmaster. You will… understand, of course, if I run my own investigations into the matter?”
“Why of course, Gilderoy. The more experienced eyes that rest watchfully on a problem, the faster the problem will be resolved.”
Lockhart nodded once more, seeming to be satisfied. Harry cast a glance in the direction of Charlus, Ron and Hermione and knew at once that the three of them were not entirely convinced. Granted, Charlus looked more conflicted than outright hostile, but the look on his face was far from friendly. Granger was in a similar state, but Weasley seemed to be having none of the defences put forth by Harry’s Head of House. Not that this was in any way surprising. Though he would not claim to know much of the boy, Ron Weasley did not strike Harry as the paragon of logic, by any stretch.
“Minerva,” Dumbledore spoke up, “can you kindly escort Miss Granger along with Messers. Potter and Weasley to the Gryffindor common room, please? It may also serve as a rather opportune time to receive your Prefect’s attendance report.”
“Right away, Albus,” McGonagall intoned, gesturing for the three Gryffindors, who were still shooting wary looks in Harry’s direction to make for the door.
“Um, Headmaster,” Harry interrupted, trying to carefully project his voice to carry nothing but polite innocence. “Can I have my wand back before they leave? Miss Granger has it tucked in the pocket of her robes.”
“Of course,” Dumbledore agreed easily and seconds later, Harry had his wand in hand once more, revelling at the immediate warmth that spread outwards throughout his body upon reconnecting with the wooden implement. “Severus,” Dumbledore said tiredly, “If you could do likewise with Mister Potter as Minerva has done with Charlus and his friends, I would be most appreciative.” With a curt nod, Harry was led from the room by Snape as the two of them began to make their descent down towards the Hogwarts dungeons.
“If you know what is beneficial to you, Mister Potter, you will not repeat your mistakes from last school year.”
Harry frowned, though Snape, still looking straight ahead, could not see it. “How do you mean, sir?”
“Last year, you rushed recklessly and impulsively into a situation which very nearly saw you and your twin killed. For the sake of your health and your public image, I would strongly and sincerely recommend that you stay well clear of this entire debacle as long as it may persist.”
Harry nodded, actually intent on doing just that. He had certainly made mistakes last year, but he had no interest in repeating them.
Well, something he was about to do very soon could constitute as repeating a mistake, he supposed, but that was on a far lesser scale. Besides, that situation was very different now. Unlike last year, the deck was stacked firmly in his favour. Unlike last year, he knew that retaliation was not only unlikely, but it would be potentially damning to those who may retaliate.
The main target, in particular.
“Of course, sir,” he said politely, unsure whether or not Snape had picked up on his nod. The man said nothing for the next two minutes but when he spoke, his voice was modulated very carefully. To Harry, it was obvious that every word was being selected with the utmost caution and spoken with rather forced precision.
“You are, in most instances, more than a competent member of Slytherin House. Do not squander your potential by succumbing to the Gryffindor-esque idiocy which seems to have ruled your family for generations.”
This time, it was Harry who deliberated and chose his next words with a high degree of caution. “Thanks for the advice, sir. I’ll do my best to learn from my mistakes and do better in the future.”
Ten minutes later, in the Slytherin common room…
When Harry had re-entered the common room with Snape, he had never felt more intense stares follow him. For his part, he too looked around, but the person whom he sought did not seem to be present.
Neither, it seemed, were those who seemed to commonly associate with him.
Harry glided over towards his friends as discreetly as he could. Harry took a seat beside Daphne, the furthest left-most seat available on the large sofa. To his right, with room to spare, sat Daphne, Blaise and Tracey. On the sofa directly across from them, Charlotte sat with Ginny and Laine.
As soon as Snape left the room, Daphne immediately rounded on Harry. Before she could begin asking her inevitable stream of questions, Harry’s wand was in his hand as he ensured his typical privacy measures (the Muffliato charm and human-detection ward) were in place. Only when he was sure both had taken did he allow Daphne to begin her questioning of him.
“Harry, what happened? Did you see whoever wrote on the wall and hung the cat from the torch bracket?”
“Yeah,” Tracey continued, “did they chase you there, or something? Why were you there? And what were the lions doing there? And what happened when-“
“Let him breathe, you two,” Blaise put in rather sharply, glancing between Harry and the two girls who seemed intent on starting a formal interrogation. For her part, Charlotte, who sat directly across from Harry, had also looked as if she might jump in, as her eyes had narrowed the more questions were thrown at Harry all at once. Looking a bit abashed, the two girls quieted and waited for Harry’s answers.
They did not come immediately, as he sat back, pondering the night’s events and choosing his words very carefully as his eyes kept up their steady sweeps of the common room.
“I have no idea who petrified the cat and wrote on the wall. It might have even been more than one person, for all I know. I’m assuming it was the same person or people who did both, but even that could be wrong. I… heard a commotion and thought I would investigate. Obviously, I did so carefully. I used my ring, so nobody could actually see me at the time.” He winced. “The problem with that is that it only keeps me invisible as long as I can hold my breath. And apparently, my brother and his two sidekicks weren’t far behind me. I barely had time to realize what was going on before they came sprinting into the corridor, wands drawn and ready to be heroes.” He sneered. “They didn’t even give me the chance to explain. Before I knew it, I’d been bound, stuck to the floor and disarmed before I could even move.”
Reflecting on that, Harry thought he would have to come up with some creative way of getting Granger back for the incident. Harry had the impression she intensely disliked him. Probably because he was the only one who consistently outscored her in almost every single class. If he left that jab unanswered, she might get the wrong idea and think that he was actually conceding his position to her. Which was not and would never happen.
There was also the fact that had his brain not been focused on the night’s more pressing matters and therefore suitably distracted, he would likely be panicking at the feeling of helplessness he had been subjected to.
“Do you have any idea how stupid that was?” Daphne hissed, clearly furious with him judging by the tone of her voice and the way her sapphire eyes flashed dangerously.
Of course, he hadn’t been quite as idiotic as he led his friends to believe. The problem was, he had no interest in explaining how he had actually wound up alone in that corridor. His friends were, if nothing else, logical people. He had no idea how they would react to somebody hearing seemingly disembodied voices. Years of being alone and friendless had left their mark on Harry. After one year of exploring the beautiful alternative to how he had lived the last ten years of his life, he had no intention of turning back. The thought of turning back scared him, and he would avoid it all costs. Better his friends think him idiotic and at times reckless as oppose to mad and possibly unstable.
“I didn’t expect it to be something like that,” Harry answered with a half-truth. “I figured it would just be some students pulling a prank or something. I thought if I was lucky, I might even be able to catch the Terrors in the middle of something. Maybe either ambush them while I was invisible or sell them out to a teacher. Not sure which one would be more satisfying, to be honest.”
“I thought you told Calypso you were going to leave that be,” Daphne remembered with narrowed eyes. “She said it wasn’t worth the risk, remember?”
He shrugged. “Well yes, but I was invisible. I had no plans of getting seen by them.”
Daphne opened her mouth again, probably to forcefully warn him of such actions when Harry stiffened. Draco Malfoy and his group of followers had just strode back into the common room, presumably returning from their dormitory.
“Enemies of the heir, beware. Watch out, mudbloods! You’ll be next!” Harry remembered.
In his estimation, he had granted Draco enough warnings. So far, he had retaliated to the usage of that slur with petty retorts. An admittedly painful but relatively harmless boil potion and forceful threats. If he was willing to shout the slur for the entire school to hear, something more forceful and direct would be required. Going off what he knew of the boy already, Harry could think of two tools that could potentially be of use. Even more so if they were appropriately used in conjunction with one another.
Fear and public humiliation.
Draco was, at his core, an extremely arrogant, self-centred boy filled with delusions of grandeur. With this in mind, self-preservation was surely a strong motivator. That was, after all, why he had stopped antagonizing Harry after the dragon incident, he was sure. That instinct had probably come into play after threats by his father if Harry had to guess. And with Draco’s pride and upbringing, public humiliation was probably quite near the top of the Malfoy Heir’s list of worst-case scenarios.
Ordinarily, Harry would have devised an effective and probably convoluted plan of attack. Tonight was different. For one thing, he was just done with Draco Malfoy. He had been done with Draco Malfoy a very long time ago, in fact. To make matters worse, this had been an exceedingly long and stressful day. His moodiness, anger and somewhat remaining feelings of helplessness bubbled inside him, and he felt something snap. Presumably, whatever it was inside of a person which allowed the on a modicum of restraint.
Oh, and there was the whole fact that it was the anniversary of the night his life had gone to shit. Understandably, that alone had Harry in a piss-poor mood and left him impatient and short-tempered.
Combined with everything else that happened tonight, the stress that he had allowed to mildly corrupt his mental state and his general disdain for Draco Malfoy, it really was the perfect storm to set Harry off.
That was not to say he’d be foolish. Perception was power, after all. Particularly in a house as brutal and politically dependent as Slytherin. Harry was going to strike Draco hard, but he would still try to do so intelligently. His hastily-formed idea, if all went to plan, would still have Draco looking like the antagonist, which would hopefully get the blond in even deeper shit with his father.
Fortunately, the world seemed to have decided that he had been cursed with enough misfortune for one night.
The path Draco took, obviously trying to score seats near the fire, had him walking directly in front of the lounge, where Grace and her friends were seated. Discreetly, Harry slid his wand into his hand once more, his eyes focused intensely on Draco.
Charlotte was the first to realize something was about to happen, which was not surprising. Her eyes narrowed and sought his own. Whether it was to try and genuinely read him or use Legilimency, he would never have known, for he stubbornly avoided meeting her odd, enchanting eyes. Soon after her, Daphne too took notice. “Harry?” she asked as he dispelled the privacy measures around them. “What are you doing?”
“Sending a message,” he said in a voice low enough not to carry. Then, just as Draco and his friends were walking past the lounge, Harry struck, praying to whatever force that seemed to be granting him a small, modicum of luck that his timing was on point.
Just as Draco walked in front of Grace, Harry’s well-aimed tripping jinx hit him whilst he was in mid-stride. The odd timing of the curse threw him completely off-balance, and Draco fell — straight on top of Grace. More precisely, most of Draco fell right into the Head Girl’s lap. His face, however, smacked straight into her chest region, causing her to wince and shove the younger boy forcefully off of her, sending him roughly to the floor, where he sat, flushing a shade of red that any Weasley would doubtlessly be envious of.
Before Draco got his bearings, Grace’s eyes rapidly searched the common room. Unlike her younger sister, she did manage to meet Harry’s eyes. And though he doubted she employed Legilimency of any kind, Harry did not doubt that Grace knew exactly who had caused Malfoy to make a fool of himself, and exactly who had knowingly made her a part of it.
Harry actually winced almost imperceptibly. He had never seen Grace truly upset before. For his sake, he sincerely hoped that did not change. He had no idea what her ire would be like or how, in his case, it would manifest itself. Frankly, he had absolutely no desire to find out.
His dread at potential repercussions was cut short when Malfoy stumbled to his feet, quickly casting his grey-eyed stare frantically around the common room. Knowing that Malfoy’s eyes would find him, Harry allowed a minute smirk to adorn his features, hoping that, in his current state, it would be enough to enrage the Malfoy Heir. Judging by the fact that by now, Malfoy looked as if literal steam would soon begin to billow from his ears, Harry liked his chances.
Sure enough, not seconds later, Malfoy’s gaze found Harry, and his face contorted in pure, unadulterated hatred.
As much as Harry would like to strike Malfoy before the blonde could even arm himself, that would sort of ruin his self-defense story. Perception was important, especially if he did not wish to be vilified by the older pureblood students. His position on the house team would afford him protection, to a point, but he imagined that cursing a fellow teammate and an heir to an Ancient and Most Noble House would seriously challenge that natural protection.
Thankfully, after training with some of the most gifted students at Hogwarts and even the Dark Lady herself, Harry found an enraged Draco Malfoy to be less than intimidating. Indeed, he was more than confident that he need not fire the first spell to win the inevitable battle.
When Malfoy did indeed fire the first spell, he conjured the Protego shield, assuring in the process that none of his friends were caught in the crossfire.
Once Malfoy made his opening move, Harry leapt to his feet and allowed his shield to dissipate. Looking to press the advantage, Malfoy fired off another curse, one that made Harry’s eyes widen.
Initially, Harry had intended to deflect whatever spell Malfoy was about to fire towards him. As it turned out, he had obviously underestimated Malfoy. Of course, he knew his own spell arsenal would still be far superior to Draco’s. But suddenly, he was mentally kicking himself for not at least dipping his toe into the Dark Arts. Evidently, in Draco’s case, daddy dearest had assured that his precious, pureblood heir was armed with some rather nasty tools. Harry wondered just how many other pureblood heirs from Conservative families that would be the case for.
So instead of blocking, Harry sidestepped. He had stepped away from the sofas his friends still occupied by now, so none of them were caught in the crossfire.
As admittedly impressed as Harry had been by Draco’s surprisingly sadistic spell selection, it did not change how badly the blonde had just royally botched this situation. Harry had already been in a piss-poor mood. Now, Draco had attempted to curse him with something truly foul.
Now, he was incensed — truly and indisputably pissed off.
Harry fired off three spells in quick succession, chaining them together so only one incantation was required. The first spell, Expelliarmus, was merely used in hopes that Draco would dodge. He did. The second spell, Diffindo, was used in hopes that Draco, still being a bit off-balance from his earlier movement, would conjure the basic, Aegis Vocar shield. Harry was fairly confident that would be the only shield charm Draco knew of. It was. And finally, Harry fired a stunner, knowing that Draco would realize his shield wouldn’t hold and dive hastily in the opposite direction. At that point, Draco would likely be off-balance once more, and very probably would not be expecting a fourth spell on the end of the chain. Least of all from a mere second year.
Unfortunately for Draco, he wasn’t dealing with a typical second year.
Harry’s well placed and perfectly set-up banishing hex caught Draco in mid-dive, hurling him through the air and causing him to slam so hard into the smooth stone wall of the common room that those nearest the fallen second year could actually hear the cracking of his ribs. If the boy had thought Harry’s overpowered knockback jinx had been painful in the changing rooms, then this certainly gave him a new perspective.
The banishing hex was, for one thing, more potent than the knockback jinx. One could hurl objects at much higher speeds with it. Beyond that, it allowed for more control as to where exactly the object was being hurled. Flipendo, or the knockback jinx, simply sent an object hurtling backwards. The banishing hex allowed the caster to direct the flight of the object.
So naturally, Harry picked the wall which would place Malfoy in the plainest view of those gathered in the common room.
The impact was such that Malfoy slumped to the floor, not only winded but also dazed. His wand seemed to have fallen from his hand, and Harry stocked slowly towards him with a completely blank expression and an almost hungry look in his vivid green eyes.
Harry chained three bludgeoning curses together in quick succession, now acutely aware of the undiverted attention the rest of the common room was paying him.
He could not have cared less.
On the contrary, he wanted them to see. He wanted them to see exactly how he obliterated Malfoy, here and now. Beyond the fact that public humiliation was going to be a fantastic way to get his point across to his chosen target, Harry hoped it would also serve as a message, at least to the younger years.
His first bludgeoning curse was well-aimed. It impacted hard against Draco’s kneecap with the blunt force of a brass-knuckled punch. Harry knew instinctively that he could have done more damage. If he overcharged the spell, he could probably have exuded the force of the swing of a baseball bat. But in his hazy mind tainted by rage, he had just enough control left to realize that serious, long-term injuries probably weren’t a good idea.
Anything that could be quickly healed by magic was fair game, in his opinion.
With this in mind, his second bludgeoning curse, which struck Draco in the ribs, had perhaps a bit more power than the first, though still not too near to its true potential. His third bludgeoning curse, however, had far less punch behind it. That’s because the area which Harry was aiming for was rather sensitive. In an almost sadistic, self-satisfied manner, Harry internally thanked Voldemort, as odd as that thought sounded, for making him spend hours and hours working on his accuracy alone. If she hadn’t, he may never have actually been able to hit Draco in the throat.
As soon as that curse impacted, Harry could practically feel the energy in the common room shift. For his part, the blond clutched desperately at his throat, struggling to breathe. Judging his own magic, Harry intuitively knew that no long-term damage had been done. It was the equivalent of a punch to the upper throat. His Adam’s apple was certainly not appreciative, and it was letting him know it, but he was not at any risk of suffocating to death, or any such extreme.
As Draco struggled to raise his hands to his throat, Harry’s wand was already moving in its next motion. By now, it was just himself, his magic and Draco.
Nothing else mattered. This was simply about proving a point.
He made sure to aim the “dark” cutting curse towards Draco’s shoulder, since he was pretty sure if enough intent was put behind the spell and its aim was true, it could take a limb. Perhaps that could be healed with magic, but Harry had no idea and was in no mood to test his luck. Still, the spell opened a deep wound in Draco’s shoulder, and blood quickly began to rush from said wound.
At this point, Daphne was halfway to her feet, realizing that her friend was in the same mental state he’d been in the day Tracey had been setup. The same mental state that had seen the need arise for her to forcefully drag him away from Malfoy, lest he do something drastic. Now, she realized that he wasn’t going to stop until somebody forced him to stop. Blaise immediately took hold of her arm and pulled her back down, muttering something along the lines of how insane she was to get in between that. Charlotte seemed to agree with Daphne, but she made no move to stand.
For one, Harry would at least, for the most part, let Daphne touch him. The same was not always true for Charlotte. And for two, she knew without having to test the theory that she would be unable to actually stop him if Harry did not wish to be stopped. Speaking once more of Daphne, realizing that her friends were not going to allow her to intervene, she started casting not-so-subtle glances in Grace’s general direction, hoping that the Head Girl would step in on her behalf. Charlotte, after the Lacero curse had been cast, began to do the same. Grace looked very much as if she were about to step in when Harry cast his next spell.
A thin tendril of fire protruded from his wand, licking hungrily at the hem of Draco’s robe and causing the fabric to ignite. Draco screamed openly now. He tried to roll to put it out but between his damaged kneecap as well as his several bruised and several broken ribs, it was not an easy task. For his part, completely lost in the haze of red that was his reality, Harry was already raising his wand to cast his next spell.
But he never got to cast it, and though Grace was, by now, halfway to her feet, it was not she who stopped him.
A hand forcefully closed around Harry’s wand arm and it pulled it down, just as the figure’s other hand reached over Harry’s far shoulder and cast a jet of water towards Malfoy. Harry struggled to pull his arm free but before he could do much, his assailant had hit him with a mild paralysis hex. It wasn’t a full-body-bind, nor was it even permanent. The effects would last for a minute or two if not countered. It was simply designed so that the figure, whom Harry realized a second later to be Calypso Rosier, could wrap an arm around Harry’s waist and haul him from the common room before the situation could escalate further. Again, Daphne made to pursue Harry but this time, it was Charlotte’s stare and a subtle shake of the head that halted her, which allowed Blaise to pull her down once more.
Calypso got Harry several corridors down and into an empty classroom and then warded and locked the door before she made a move to free Harry from his temporary paralysis. Even then, she levelled him with a hard stare before she cast any such counter. When she finally released him, Harry slumped against the wall, breathing fast and heavily as he tried to pull the raging tumult of emotions which was assaulting his mind under control
The pent up anger he had released in his attack on Draco was still crashing against his mind, if admittedly far less intense now that the blonde was out of his sight. Additionally, he did not take well to being paralyzed once, let alone twice. It reminded him far too forcefully of long, painful nights and the oppressive helplessness he always felt during them. It was a reminder of much darker times and even when Calypso’s spell had been lifted, Harry was so tense that it may well have still been in effect.
Calypso had expected Harry to snap at once upon his release. She had even lifted her wand in a defensive posture, prepared to defend herself against anything her youngest friend may have forcefully thrown at her. What she was not ready for was for Harry to slump against the wall with his eyes closed as he slowly began to pull his deep, ragged breathing under control. Calypso had no idea how to react, for she wasn’t exactly sure what had triggered this reaction.
Her eyes darkened as a possibility flashed through her imagination. He had been unable to respond to her letters for the first month of the summer holidays and when talks of home had arisen within their group, he had always stayed peculiarly quiet. Perhaps now, she was getting a look into why?
“Harry?” she asked tentatively, still ready to defend herself if he snapped. Instead of snapping, he reacted almost imperceptibly, nodding his head to indicate that he heard her even though he did not look up or open his eyes. “Are you okay?”
“Fine,” he answered far too quickly. Calypso knew at once it was a lie, but she decided not to press him on it. Instead, she sought to divert the conversation back to what had happened before the paralysis spell. It was perhaps a more dangerous topic of conversation, but judging by his reactions, it was likely a less painful one.
“Would… you be willing to talk about what happened in the common room with Malfoy?”
Harry took one last deep breath, thanking Merlin and Morgana for Occlumency as he finally opened his eyes and looked up to meet his older friend’s stare. If not for the mental control he was slowly gaining as a result of the Mind Arts, he would likely have been a shaking wreck right about now, similar to the state he had been in upon freeing himself from his bindings the night before he flipped the dragon debacle on its head. Mind you, he was probably going to be a shaking wreck as soon as he acquired some privacy, but that was best left unsaid.
“Yeah, I’m fine, sorry,” Harry said distractedly, focusing back on her.
“Malfoy?” Calypso prompted.
“Right,” Harry muttered, a rather ugly looking scowl crossing his face, “Him.” He shrugged. “I was done with warning shots.”
Calypso raised a brow. “Meaning?”
“I’ve let him get off easy so far. I cost him some money and roughed him up a bit in the changing room after we had a run-in with the Gryffindors. I gave him enough chances. This was sending a message. It was hopefully the last time I’ll have to remind him to keep his mouth closed.”
“And what did he say to you, exactly?”
“It wasn’t what he said to me,” Harry said shortly. “I don’t appreciate that slur. Anybody who throws it around is on my shit list.”
Calypso looked pensive. “I’m not advocating for the term,” she prefaced, “but what is it that bothers you so much about it? You’re not a muggleborn.”
Harry actually had to think very deeply about that. “Blood supremacy is nonsense,” he said after a time. “I’m sorry if that offends you, but it’s true. Dumbledore might be a wanker, but he’s probably the most powerful wizard alive right now. And he’s a halfblood.” Harry hesitated. “I would bet a good bit of my inheritance that the Dark Lady was no pureblood either.”
Calypso’s eyes widened. Harry had chosen not to refer to her as Voldemort, having no idea how that would go over. He was not certain as to her father’s loyalties. Her mother, however, had died in a Death Eater raid, and she had not been an Auror. That was enough, in Harry’s opinion, to call into question the loyalty of the Rosier family. As such, he chose to tread rather carefully in regards to how exactly he addressed Voldemort.
“What makes you say that?” Calypso asked quietly, not giving away her feelings on the matter one way or the other.
“If she were a pureblood,” Harry said bluntly, “she wouldn’t hide behind a fake name. For one thing, she would probably be proud of her heritage, especially if she went around preaching blood purist nonsense. And for two, it would be to her advantage if she was from some family with an important Wizengamot seat.” He scowled. “My mother might have something to do with the reason why I hate that word so much. Don’t ask me why. I know it doesn’t make sense since I’ve never met her, but…” his voice trailed off.
“It makes perfect sense, Harry,” Calypso assured him. “You don’t have to explain that. I was just… curious. After what Malfoy did to Davis last year, I’m not surprised you went after him. It was well done, too. Just… be very careful not to look as if you’re going after prestigious, pureblood heirs. That would probably be a very bad idea.”
Harry nodded sagely. “I know. He started the fight, which was exactly how I planned it.”
Calypso smirked. “Nice touch, that. I doubt Weitts will bother with a second year, either. So even if she realizes who did it, it’s unlikely she’ll do anything about it. All in all, very well done.” She paused. “But between the two of us, learn something painful other than a bludgeoning curse, will you?”
Harry nodded carefully. “I’ve… looked into the addiction thing we talked about.”
Harry hesitated. “I… think you’re right about it, but I want to check at least one more source first.”
Calypso’s lips twitched. ‘Check as many as you like, Harry. Just tell me if you’d like any help along the way.”
“Thanks, Calypso. I’ll keep it in mind.
November 1, 1992
The Slytherin Common Room
When Harry woke up the morning after Samhain, he felt the exact opposite of well-rested. In fact, he reflected on the night previous and decided that he had not slept so poorly in ages. Dreams had not been kind to him that night. Dreams of being expelled from Hogwarts, petrified and hung on a torch bracket, and even disappearing in a flash of vivid green light, and something soft and oddly comforting running through his hair. Perhaps the touch of Death right before it took him away?
As a result of all of that, Harry woke up a bit later than usual. Showering quickly, he exited the dorms wearing his school bag and intent on occupying the room that Voldemort had set up the year before in the dungeons. He had Calypso’s birthday present within the bag. It was not explicitly labelled as a book that dealt with the Dark Arts, but Harry knew that there would be some very questionable curses in that text. She had made a rather apt point last night. When faced with a situation where he wanted to do true harm but not cripple the individual, he was rather limited in what he could do.
It was time to fix that.
As he neared the common room, Harry quickly realized via the magic of his ring that he was not the first Slytherin to rise that morning. For a moment, he suspected that Grace might be waiting for him. Whatever Calypso had said about her not getting involved in lower year drama, she did not realize the relationship that Harry shared with the Weitts Heiress. Perhaps she was waiting to tear a strip off him for involving her in his power play with Malfoy, who had been sent to the Hospital Wing after Harry had been dragged from the room.
It said quite a lot about Slytherin House that Harry had not been implicated in any way, shape or form. They stuck very true to one of their few, unwritten rules.
What happens in the dungeons stays in the dungeons.
When Harry did enter the common room seconds later, he was not entirely surprised at who awaited him, even though it was not, as he had suspected, Grace.
“Morning, Daphne,” he greeted cautiously, immediately aware of how her sapphire eyes had honed onto him as soon as he entered the room. Daphne never had trouble rising early enough to make it to breakfast, but she also very rarely awoke any earlier than was strictly necessary. With this in mind, Harry suspected this had something to do with the night before. He had a sense of deja vu as he remembered what had happened the last time she waited for him in the common room at this time of the morning. That had been the day, early in their first year, when Harry had first opened up to Daphne.
“Morning, Harry,” she returned, looking him up and down, “Do you fancy a walk?”
Truthfully, that hadn’t been on Harry’s list of things to do. “If you’ll walk into the dungeons, then sure.”
Daphne arched an eyebrow. “You say ‘if’ as though I’m afraid of the dungeons.”
Harry’s lips twitched. “You never know. It’s not like you were ever interested in exploring the castle with me.”
“That’s because most of that time is probably wasted.”
Harry shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
“Always have done.”
Harry snorted as the two of them exited the common room and began to make their way down into the depths of the Hogwarts dungeons. This was the first time in ages that Harry hadn’t used the secret passage concealed behind a suit of armour. He suspected this conversation would be taxing and take time, so he decided that taking the long route would be best.
Indeed, they had been walking for two minutes when Daphne finally spoke. “So, what made you do it last night?”
Knowing this question was coming, Harry had his answer ready. “I was done with Malfoy. I wasn’t going to put up with him anymore. I had fired too many warning shots and he hadn’t got the hint.”
She nodded. “He deserved it,” Daphne said harshly. “He deserved every bit of it, and I want you to know that before I say anything else.”
“I know I went too far,” Harry said quietly. That had also been a part of his dreams last night. Mercilessly reigning magical hell down upon an opponent and not being able to stop.
“You didn’t,” Daphne defended him, “but you would have.” Harry nodded solemnly. There was no denying it; it was the truth. “It was like that day when Malfoy framed Tracey. Do you remember what you told me about Malfoy?”
“I’ll kill him,” Harry quoted, knowing full well that Daphne was perfectly aware of the fact that he remembered every word spoken in that conversation.
“You meant it, didn’t you?”
There was a long pause in which Harry tried to formulate an honest answer to that question. In the end, he decided on complete transparency. “I don’t know.”
Daphne slowed their pace and looked at him again. “Explain that. What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I don’t know what I would have done. It… wouldn’t have been pretty. I definitely wanted to hurt him very badly at that point. I… would like to think I would have stopped before it got to that point, but I’m… not sure if I actually would have or not.” His eyes darkened. “If not for Calypso, I have no idea how far I would have gone last night.”
“Can I… ask you a more personal question?”
Harry laughed almost bitterly. “Daphne, you know things about me I had never planned to tell anyone until the day I died. At this point, there is nothing more damning or embarrassing than what you already know.”
Daphne frowned. “How is it embarrassing?”
Harry took a minute to ponder that. “I act well,” he stated, “I always have. I’ve had to; it was never an option. Because of that, I don’t think you realize how far out of my depth I feel around people like you and Charlotte.” When Daphne tensed, Harry raised his hand. “Not because of anything either of you does. It’s just… you both practically come from magical royalty. From birth, you both probably had anything and everything you ever wanted. You had friends, luxuries and everything in between. Since you could talk, you knew about magic. You’ve spent your life learning the ins and outs of magic, the world, politics — all of it.
“Then there’s me. I was abandoned by my father, who could have given me the same life. I was shoved away with muggles who hated me and hated magic. I was kept in the dark and given nothing. Everything I had, I took. And if I was caught with it, I would lose it.” He took a deep, calming breath. “I’ve seen your houses, both yours and the Weitts family’s. If you can even call them houses.” Again, a long, deep breath. “The room you saw when we left Privet Drive — the one with the bars on the windows, that wasn’t always my room. Until I was ten, I slept in a boot cupboard.” Daphne’s sharp intake of breath vaguely registered in Harry’s mind, but he did not stop.
“Whilst you and Charlotte were learning how to run the world one day, I was busy getting kicked around by muggles who don’t even matter in the grand scheme of things. That’s why it’s embarrassing, Daphne. I came to Hogwarts knowing nothing. I was so ignorant; I probably still am. I was so much less than you, or Charlotte, or Grace or Calypso or whoever else you want to compare me to-“
“Stop it!” Daphne’s voice was not loud, per se. In saying that, it was forceful. Shockingly so, even. Enough so, in fact, that Harry immediately stopped talking, even before he felt Daphne’s vice-like grip close on his hand.
“Stop talking, Harry. This is ridiculous, all of it! I completely understand why you wouldn’t want to talk about any of it, but this is exactly why you should. You get these crazy ideas in your head that are so backwards. You think you’re less than me and Charlotte because of the fact our parents had money and your father is a good-for-nothing tosser? That’s rubbish! That’s the exact thing Malfoy would say! That’s exactly why you stood up to him in the first place. It’s exactly why you defended Tracey. It’s exactly why every time he’s said the word ‘mudblood’, you’ve ruined his life.” When Harry’s grip on her hand tightened for a fraction of a second, Daphne rolled her eyes. “Don’t think the house hasn’t noticed, Harry. I know you wanted to send a message and you know what? It worked. I doubt anybody under the fourth year will be saying that word anywhere near you anytime soon.”
“It’s more than that, though,” Harry said softly, ignoring the last part of Daphne’s statement.
He struggled and gasped for words. “Whilst I was struggling not to get kicked around like a football by my cousin, you, Charlotte, Calypso, Pansy, Weitts, hell, even Black, Nott and Malfoy were living like kings and queens. I’ve put in so much time to catch up, but there are still times when I feel so far behind. Not in classes,” he interjected before Daphne could interrupt, “but in the world. In life.” He shook his head. “It’s like last night; that sums it up. I’m good with books and I don’t miss much when it comes to magic. But I wasn’t raised with morals. I don’t understand my own emotions, let alone the emotions of those people around me. I have no concept of what too far is. I’ve always done what I could get away with. I’ve always done whatever it takes.”
Silence stretched towards the duo, paused in the same corridor that they had shared their first heartfelt discussion more than a year ago. Neither of them noticed, as they were too completely fixated on their conversation. Still, it was odd how the world worked sometimes.
Glancing around the corridor to assure that the two of them were alone, Daphne tentatively reached towards Harry, as if to hug him. By this point, Harry tolerated being touched by Daphne. Hugs were still not something he was accustomed to, but he was too numb and lost in memories to protest at that moment. Having been prepared for it, he did not stiffen quite as drastically as he might have on most other occasions.
Daphne smiled as she pulled him closer to her, rubbing at his back in an oddly soothing manner. “See? You’re already getting better. Last year, you almost jumped out of your skin when I did this. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Getting better? And I don’t think you realize how amazing you actually are, Harry.”
“You’re better than me,” Harry muttered. “I’m better at magic, but not the rest. Stuff like emotions, morals… I don’t know. But it’s that sort of thing that’s important in life sometimes. I have no compass. What use is intelligence without a compass?”
“But don’t you get it, Harry? Don’t you see how much further ahead of all of us you’ll be when you figure that out?”
Harry scowled bitterly. “I might never figure that out, Daphne. I spent ten years having those things trained out of me.”
“You will figure it out. Just like you’ve figured out everything else along the way. You’re right. People like me, Charlotte and Malfoy had every advantage over you we could imagine. And you know what? You’re already the top student in the year. Maybe the top student Hogwarts has ever seen. And unlike Granger and some others, you haven’t just devoured textbooks. You actually understand how the world works. You understand how the world is actually run, you understand how to act in it, for the most part. The small, little things that aren’t in books are things you’ll learn in time. You’re too smart not to.
“Don’t you get it, Harry? You came from all of that rubbish and you’ve evolved. You’ve taken everything in and learned it, grown from it. You’re going to do the same thing here, I know you are. Just like you did with magic. There’s a reason people flock to you. There’s a reason why you lead-“
“I don’t lead anything,” Harry interrupted. “We’re equals; all of us.”
“I know we are, but you know as well as I do that you’re what holds it together. You’re why Parkinson treats Tracey decent and fits into the group. You’re why Blaise didn’t go and join Malfoy and his thugs. Because both of them realized you were the better option. Yes, yes, I know what you’re going to say, my family had something to do with it, too. But if they wanted me so badly, they could have tried to make friends with me, right away. We’ll always be your friends, Harry. We’re not going to turn into mindless followers or anything, but you are the leader. It’s never been said, but it doesn’t have to be.” She smiled. “Those are the little, social cues you miss. But that doesn’t mean we won’t help. You’re so good at everything else that until you figure the rest of it out, we’ll happily be your compass.”
Harry couldn’t help it. He hated the fact emotion was seizing him and could not wait until he would be readily able to suppress it with Occlumency.
But for now, he allowed his head to rest on Daphne’s shoulder. He allowed himself six long seconds of weakness, granting himself three deep breaths in and three out, all the while taking in the slightly flowery, sweet scent of her hair.
When he looked up, he had managed to compose himself once more, and he slowly stepped away from the embrace. “Thanks, Daphne,” he said as sincerely as he could manage. “I’ll hold you all to that.”
Two hours later, at Potter Manor…
James had been rather happy with his Sunday morning, thus far. Sunday was, after all, the only day he usually had off. In light of this, he had treated himself to a bit of a lie-in and had been having an enjoyable breakfast with Peter until the owl flew through the window. Initially, noticing that it was a Hogwarts letter, James suspected it to be from Charlus. But when he noticed the familiar, loopy handwriting of his one-time Headmaster, he grew concerned.
However concerned he had been, nothing could have prepared him for the contents of the letter.
His son and heir had been found at the scene of a crime connected to Salazar Slytherin himself. There was no proof implicating him and, by logical thought, it was unlikely to be him.
But still, Dumbledore’s request weighed heavily on him.
I doubt it is a possibility you have ever considered, James, but I would be profoundly grateful if you run a thorough background check on your family’s ancestry. I would like to be as sure as possible that there is no relation close enough to Salazar that may implicate your son as a potential suspect.
I have seen the muggles whom he lived with and would not be at all surprised if he has developed a rather justified disdain for them and their offspring. Of course, I did not mention this last night, but it is something to be taken into consideration…
James could not believe the request. It was so absurd to him that he almost wrote back telling Dumbledore how ridiculous that possibility even was. But he supposed if it was so ridiculous, he could indulge the old man.
The more troubling thing, for James, was Harry’s childhood. If Dumbledore was to be believed, he may very well have reasons to despise his relatives. This seemed as opportune a time as ever to find out once and for all.
Especially with the DMLE’s top detective seated not feet from him.
“Peter,” James said carefully, “I… have a favour to ask.”
Originally, this chapter and the next one were going to be one chapter. Seeing as this wasn’t even the halfway mark, I decided breaking it up was probably for the best.
I am nervous about the second-to-last scene since that interaction took me more drafts than I would care to admit, so I do hope it turned out well.
The next chapter will take us up to the end of the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin. From there, the pace will speed up significantly until the end of the Yule break.
Please read and review.
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