Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 17: Quarrels and Quidditch
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 17: Quarrels and Quidditch
November 1, 1992
An Abandoned Classroom
Since the petrification of Mrs. Norris on Samhain, much of the school had willingly self-isolated themselves in the safety afforded to them by their password-protected common rooms and dormitories. For Harry Potter, this had meant a mostly peaceful existence with sporadic dirty glances mixed in now and again from those few students who had actually been brave enough to venture outside of the confines of their common rooms.
For Harry, this had been perfectly acceptable. It had meant that he had a rather productive day. After his rather emotionally charged conversation with Daphne, he had spent quite a lot of the day practicing magic on his own time. Then, he had spent several hours exploring the castle. This was a practice he had thoroughly enjoyed partaking in during his first year, but one he had neglected thus far for much of his second. Except, of course, for Samhain night, when he had quite literally walked into the worst-case scenario. Harry was exceptionally careful as he navigated the halls of Hogwarts that next day seeing as that memory was fresh in his mind.
To finish off his day, he had a rather busy night. Calypso, Cassius, the Carrows and himself had missed their practice the night before due to the Halloween feast. In light of that, they made it a mission of theirs to make up for it the next night. Where this became murky, for Harry, was that he also had to meet with Grace. Luckily, he had convinced his group of fifth-year friends to start earlier than normal. Still, he had to come up with a convenient excuse to slip out early and slide down the hall, taking the nearest known passage that would expedite his journey down into the Hogwarts dungeons.
He wasn’t naive enough to assume that none of his friends suspected anything. Of course, that was the one downside about befriending sharp, intelligent people. They were rather hard to deceive. None of them made a fuss though, so Harry was, for now, not in danger.
Well, that statement was not true.
Seeing as butterflies seemed to beat hard against the innards of his stomach as he remembered just how he had sent Malfoy tumbling into a rather… sensitive area of Grace’s body less than twenty-four hours earlier, Harry suspected he might have been in a great deal of danger. Just not from the friends whom he had recently departed from.
When the door to the classroom they often frequented came into view, Harry reflected that he had never been this anxious to enter this particular room. When, in hindsight, he considered how many hours he had spent locked up in the said room with the most feared dark sorceress perhaps of all time, that was saying a lot. It did not help his matter when, as he cast Tempus, still in mid-stride, he realized that he was more than five minutes late.
It was the first time he had ever been late to a session with Grace, and Harry suspected he had picked the absolute worst night to make that unfortunate miscalculation. Pulling his emotions under control as he stood in front of the door, Harry reached out for the handle, blanking his expression as he knocked three times before pushing the door aside and stepping into the familiar, well-lit room.
Grace was already present, which Harry had expected. What was more surprising to him was the fact that she did not seem to be irritatedly waiting for him. In fact, she seemed to be paying the door no mind. She had transfigured part of the wall into a large, full-body mirror. It seemed, to Harry, like she was having a rather intense staring match with her reflection. She was so lost in whatever she was doing, that until the door closed softly, she did not even seem to notice that Harry had entered the room.
When she heard the sound, she quickly withdrew her wand. With a swift, intricate motion, the well-polished, glass mirror morphed back into solid, seemingly ancient stone. To any who entered the room in the future, they would never realize that at one time, the stone had been anything other than what faced them. Grace’s next move was to quickly cast the Tempus spell, making Harry wince imperceptibly. When her eyebrows knit together, Harry really thought he was in for it. Then, her words took him completely and wholly aback.
“Earlier than I expected, actually.”
Harry almost stammered, but he caught himself at the last possible second. “Really?”
Grace finally took the opportunity to examine him. “I thought there was a chance you wouldn’t show up at all. I thought it was very unlikely, but still possible.” Noticing Harry’s posture, Grace nodded for him to take his usual seat. “Relax, Harry, I’m not bothered by you being seven minutes late. Don’t make a habit of it, or that will change, but I understand why you might have been… worried. Especially considering I don’t imagine you had a lot of leeway growing up” Surprised, Harry stepped forward and took his customary seat across from Grace, who spoke again a moment later.
“I did want to talk to you about last night, though.”
Harry tensed, wondering which part of the train wreck she wished to discuss first. The part where he had been semi-implicated as a possible criminal. The part where he had essentially thrown Malfoy on top of her. Or the fact that seconds after the latter event, he had decimated the aforementioned prat in the process. Or, even, that said prat was still currently recovering from broken ribs, a damaged knee, and a compromised Adam’s apple.
“Which part of it?” Harry asked carefully.
“More than one,” Grace began, and again, Harry winced. “First of all, if it’s all the same to you, I’d appreciate not being used as a pawn in second-year drama. I know exactly why you did it, but there were other ways you could have provoked him.”
“I needed a way to get it done then.”
Grace raised an eyebrow. “Why the hurry, exactly? You have classes with him. You sleep in a room with him. I know you wanted to provoke him so you didn’t appear as the aggressor, but I could easily list off ways you could have successfully done that.”
“Because if it wasn’t accomplished right then and there, I was going to curse him into oblivion in the dorm. That would have started a magical brawl, I imagine. And I doubt I would have looked like anything but the attacker if I did it that way.”
Grace frowned. “Why is it that you were so upset with him that you couldn’t wait? That seems… very shortsighted of you.”
Harry felt annoyance pulse against his psyche but shoved it ruthlessly aside. To Grace, it probably did seem that way. She was not the one who had gone through everything with Malfoy over the past year. She had not been the one who had put up with his antics for too long. The one who fired warning shots after warning shots before finally, they’d had enough.
“That’s… a complicated question. I’d given him chances, trust me. I let him off easy. I let him off not so easy and warned him. He didn’t get the hint. I was done with it; I had to end it.” It was nothing against Grace, but after having this conversation that morning with Daphne and having been mentally and emotionally fatigued by it the first time, Harry had no desire to repeat it once more unless the Head Girl truly pressed the issue.
For the time being, at least, it did not appear as though Grace intended to push him on his motives for attacking Malfoy in the manner he had. “I’ll take your word for it, but my point still stands. If you can kindly keep me out of lower year drama, it would be appreciated.”
“Noted, if it means anything to you, I wasn’t really targeting you. I just saw the chance to make him look like an idiot. Any of you would have done.”
Grace’s lips twitched. “Then maybe we’ll say keep my friends out of lower year drama.” Harry nodded. “Well, this does change things a bit. How much have you looked into the subskills of level two? Particularly, the ones that involve suppressing and controlling your emotions?”
Harry’s brows knit together. “I’ve read up on them a bit, but not very much. I haven’t put much time into them so far.”
“Make it a priority,” Grace told him. “It will come a bit slowly right now, but you should have it down quickly enough. All the magical talent in the world isn’t going to help you if you can’t control your mind and your emotions.”
“It also helps with spell casting, right? Supplementary Occlumency, I think it’s called.”
“Correct, and speaking of Occlumency, we should really get started.” Again, Harry felt butterflies rise in his stomach. Tonight, they would be starting a new phase, of sorts. By now, Harry could reliably banish the weak probes Grace sent his way. He still had trouble detecting her more subtle intrusions, but when she attacked with blunt probes that were easy to detect and equally unchallenging to defend against, he could force her from his mind. Tonight, she would be increasing the strength of the connections she formed. The reason this left Harry worried was that now, there was a very real possibility that she was going to see his actual memories.
Of course, their agreement was sound. She would quickly withdraw from the memories that loomed to the surface. Naturally, she had to linger for a time to allow Harry to defend himself. Once it became apparent he would be incapable of forcing her from his mind, she had agreed to withdraw. Along with, of course, a promise not to tell anybody what she had seen.
To his dismay, Harry found the new, more effective probes far more difficult to deal with. By the time they had been at it for thirty minutes, he still had yet to successfully force her from his thoughts even once. As she raised her wand again, he could not help but feel helpless against the spell.
And that was where the lesson went downhill.
As Grace had explained it, the mind was a complex web of thoughts, emotions and memories. An infinite number of strands were perpetually branching off in every direction, but the ones which were currently being used by the thinker were the ones that would present themselves for the attacking Legilimens.
Unfortunately for Harry, he had conjured up rather deep thoughts seconds before the spell had been cast.
Naturally, Grace swiftly latched onto that feeling of helplessness and before Harry could even think to clear his mind, the last memory associated with the feeling arose. That, on this occasion, was being immobilized and dragged from the common room by Calypso. The memory flashed past his eyes so fast that Harry barely had time to register it. All of the memories had done that, actually. It seemed to Harry as if they were all on fast-forward. The maximum setting, even.
Yet somehow, this one seemed to flash by even faster. The only thing he could think is how he had felt during that memory. He knew that his focus should have been on clearing his mind, but he quickly found himself distracted by the oppressive, claustrophobic feeling brought on by those emotions and their significance in regards to his past.
And just like that, the memories spiraled.
Before Harry knew it, he was eight, and a large, purple hand was clasped tightly around the back of his neck. He was forcefully shoved into a small, familiar boot cupboard. In the same instance, the door slammed and locked, and Harry was left alone with the spiders. Next thing he knew, Petunia was screeching at him. Screeching about his freakish nature causing problems. Heavy footsteps sounded a moment later and suddenly, Vernon walked into the room, purple-faced, livid and wielding a belt.
“NO!” Harry shouted before the scene could play out any further and before a shocked and off-put Grace could withdraw or Harry could advertently defend himself, the young Slytherin could practically feel a sensation of rushing forward as for a fraction of a second, he was not himself, but somebody else. Instead of standing in the familiar sitting room on Privet Drive, he stood in a familiar room in Weitts Manor, with Charlotte and Adriana gathered near him.
But before he could see any more, the physical world snapped back into focus with jarring speed and Harry staggered back, disoriented by the confusing rush of images.
Despite his confusion, Harry knew what he had seen.
More importantly, he knew what Grace had seen.
She called after him, obviously realizing the mistake she had inadvertently made by being too taken aback by the images to pull from his mind earlier.
But her calls did not reach him.
Before the Head Girl could do so much as move, Harry had spun on his heel and promptly stormed from the classroom, slamming the door loudly as he made his exit, trying valiantly to keep his surge of emotions under control.
He needed to be alone right now.
The problem was, most of his friends would know where they could find him.
There was only one secure place.
Primarily because Grace, if nothing else, should not be able to enter due to her lack of knowledge. And his friends would not dare to enter while they could be seen.
Fortunately for Harry, he alone had a way to move undetected.
About ten minutes later, in the Speaker’s Den…
One of these days, Harry was going to have to learn how to make himself invisible. As in, for more than a held breath at once. It had been a close call. While impossible to spot, courtesy of the enchanted ring gifted to him by Voldemort the year previous, Harry had slipped into the common room, swiftly removed his bag from the dorms, and made his way into the Speaker’s Den. By the time he had entered the hidden quarters, he was gasping for breath. If nothing else, he was going to have fantastic breath control by the time he one day learned how to vanish from sight without the aid of the ring.
He had never looked into doing that, but he suspected it would not be happening anytime soon. It just seemed like the sort of magic that would be very complex and difficult to learn. As flashy and practical as that magic doubtlessly was, Harry had more pressing matters, at the moment. These were the matters he needed assistance with.
Internally, as he opened the black journal in which he often wrote to Emily Riddle, he realized exactly how much he had come to rely on her as of late for assistance. It wasn’t a bad thing, per se. The questions he was asking were complex and, most of the time, not things he would have been able to answer on his own with the current resources at his disposal. Still, it was certainly something to note.
But for this problem, he could think of nobody better equipped to answer his plea.
I know we talked about subskills awhile back, but something’s come up. I really need to learn how to control and suppress my emotions. Like… as soon as humanly possible. Can you help me with that, specifically? Is there any way to speed up the process of learning that specific subskill?
Harry wondered if Emily could sense the urgency with which he wrote. The swiftness of her reply, perhaps the fastest he could remember, nearly took him aback.
There are conventional exercises to learn that subskill. Unfortunately, there isn’t a shortcut to doing it. Not unless you were to have something like an eidetic memory.
In spite of his rather morbid mood, Harry actually could have laughed. For once, it seemed that the gods of irony had decided to smile down upon him. Perhaps they realized that last night, they had gone a touch overboard with their scorn.
Well… I don’t really know how to prove this to you, but I actually do have a near eidetic memory.
A pause, and then…
How very interesting. That will certainly help the process, yes. In that case, I suppose we can begin an explanation. But first, why exactly is it this has suddenly become such a high priority for you?
Harry actually sighed; he was really getting sick of everything circling back to the Malfoy incident.
I sort of snapped last night, you could say. I’ve… been going back and forth with a kid in my year pretty much since we started Hogwarts last September. And when I say go back and forth, I don’t mean playground insults. We’ve both tried to get the other expelled. I’ve cost his family money and hurt their image, and he’s tried to ruin one of my friends’ lives. Let’s just say last night, things sort of boiled over. I goaded him into attacking me in the common room and then basically obliterated him in front of the whole house. Currently, he is still in the Hospital Wing.
I went a bit too far, but that isn’t really the problem.
The problem is that if somebody hadn’t stopped me, I’m not sure what I would have done to him. I was so lost in my emotions that I barely even realized what was happening. And that wasn’t the first time something similar has happened, either. Just the worst case of it.
That’s actually one of the reasons I started looking into Occlumency.
That and paranoia, but Harry did not share that part with his pen pal.
Hmm… that certainly seems like an adequate justification. I hope the incident hasn’t caused you too much trouble.
Now, for the process of controlling and suppressing emotions. It is a multi-step process. First, you will have to learn to understand your emotions. The process is somewhat similar to the one you went through last year to enable the ability to detect irregularities in your mind. The meditative stage of said process, that is. Through this process, you will understand each emotion. You will learn to sense and easily identify every one of them as fast or faster than you currently do irregularities. And you will be able to identify them with perfect clarity and precision.
The reason an eidetic memory helps this process is that, in order to suppress emotions, you must first learn to manipulate them. You will start with simple things like anger and happiness. As you progress, you will begin working with more complex things. Eventually, you will be able to manipulate the thought patterns of your brain, not just the emotions they trigger, but that is still quite some time in the future.
For now, I need you to think of memories for each major emotion. We will begin with happiness, jealousy and frustration. When you have a memory for each, I want you to play that memory in your mind several times. The reason your exceptional memory will expedite the process is that most people have a difficult time remembering exactly how they felt in those moments.
This is what you will need to do for step one. When that is done, we can begin to work on the actual manipulating of emotions, and then onto suppressing them. With some luck, this will not take long. Not nearly as long as Active Occlumency, at least.
That actually sounded far more simple than Harry had been expecting.
Are all subskills this easy to learn?
He felt as if he could see Emily Riddle rolling her eyes, even though he had no idea what she looked like.
Not even remotely. This is by far the most basic, even though suppressing emotions is more complex. Come stage three of Occlumency, you will learn the true complexities of some of these subskills. Fortunately, that usually means they are grander and will have more of an impact when used.
Harry shrugged. It was worth a shot.
When Emily’s response came, his lips actually twitched.
How adorably naive of you, Harry.
November 2, 1992
The Great Hall
Harry was a bit later than usual entering the Great Hall for breakfast that next morning. He had stayed up rather late the night previous in the Speaker’s Den. For most of it, he had gone over theory with Emily and practiced some of the exercises she had provided. To his pleasant surprise, none of them were overly difficult. Perhaps this process really would be far shorter than that arduous undertaking that was Active Occlumency. For the rest of the time, he had read some more about Ancient Runes, finally entering a stage where they would soon be practical for him, and written to Emily about smaller, more mundane things that did not pertain to magic.
They had done this a couple of times, lately. Nothing too personal was revealed. Just little tidbits here and there.
As a result of his late-night, and considerable paranoia on his part that Grace may well have been waiting outside of the Den to ascertain how to enter, that was where Harry had slept that night. In the small but comfortable bedroom. If he was not so worried about the Den being discovered by other students, he thought that he would likely make a habit of it. As much as he liked Blaise, it was nice not having to share a room with anybody. Both for comfort sake and to ease his sense of paranoia, which was growing stronger by the day. The entire debacle two nights earlier had only served to validate the sense. Which, in turn, only made the instincts it spurred on more pronounced.
It was for this reason that Harry was fashionably late to breakfast the Monday after Samhain. Perhaps the inevitable reaction to his arrival was also a subconscious part of it. The Hogwarts rumour mill had been churning for the past thirty-six or so hours. At the centre of it, for once, was not the Boy-Who-Lived. In his place, his Slytherin brother was being metaphorically slaughtered for his perceived part in the petrification of Mrs. Norris.
And the worst part was, Harry could hardly blame them. If he would have walked in on a similar scene, he likely would have made assumptions, too.
Unless the person was a Slytherin.
Harry refused to believe any Slytherin would be stupid enough to linger in a corridor after committing an act like that. Perhaps Draco Malfoy would be the exception. Or maybe Crabbe, or Goyle. Harry had no idea how those two lumps had gotten into the supposed house of cunning in the first place. If the ancient Hogwarts Sorting Hat had ever made a mistake, it was one of, if not both of those two.
Harry approached the Slytherin table with more caution than he usually displayed. Also, he was well aware of the fact that he was going to get a verbal dressing down from Daphne, at least, who would have wondered where he had gone. That was if Blaise had told her that he hadn’t returned to the dorms. As Harry took his seat and earned nothing more than a raised eyebrow from his closest female friend, he immediately realized that Blaise had kept his secret.
Conspiratorially, Harry shot a brief, subtle smile towards Blaise, who nodded his head minutely in return.
“Practicing, I’m assuming?” Daphne asked. Harry was just going to have to assume that Blaise had gone with the story that Harry had been gone when he had awoken. Which actually did happen on most days, so it was a rather believable cover story.
“Technically, I was studying,” Harry partially lied, referencing his work on Occlumency and Runes from the previous night. “I didn’t cast any magic, but I guess you’re close enough.”
“Do you ever stop studying and practicing?” Tracey asked with a roll of her eyes.
Harry shrugged. “I enjoy magic. It doesn’t feel like work for me.” That and he was steadfastly set on his goals. If his hellacious treatment at the hands of the Dursleys had taught him anything, it was how to attack a mission with singular, unbreakable focus.
“If you say so,” Tracey said, looking as if she could not, for the life of her, understand her friend’s philosophy on the matter.
“I don’t suppose you’ve seen the paper?” Daphne asked, sounding rather cautious.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “Seeing as I’ve been in the dungeons all morning, no, I haven’t. I’m taking it something in there is interesting?”
Cautiously, Daphne slid her own copy over towards Harry, who looked at the front page. Then, he blinked, his eyes unbelieving at the blaring, boldly lettered title.
Mystery Man, or Mishandled Evidence?
A Criminal Is Walking the Halls of Hogwarts!
By Rita Skeeter
If this rather eye-catching title wasn’t enough, the picture which dominated the front page certainly was. It was Harry at Charlus’s birthday gala. In the picture, he was shaking hands with his father in greeting. His smile was wide and charming, but Harry alone knew it to be equal parts fake and artificial. With clinical precision, Harry began to read the article.
It appears as though terrifying events have taken place this year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. According to multiple inside sources, the night of Samhain was not such a wonderful occasion.
After the traditional feast held each year at Hogwarts, much of the student body stumbled into a second-floor corridor to find a most horrific scene awaiting them. The Caretaker’s cat was found, completely still and lifeless, hanging from a torch bracket. Written on the wall was an ominous message from a supposed heir of Salazar Slytherin, warning those of less than noble blood.
Currently, no culprit has been caught, but that is not to say there is not at least one primary suspect.
When students poured onto the scene that night, they found that Harry Potter, Heir of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Potter, was being held at wand point by his younger twin, Charlus Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, and two of the latter’s closest friends. According to the same earlier sources, Charlus and co. seemed to indicate that they had heard a commotion and rushed to the scene, only to find Harry Potter studying his handiwork.
This is not the first time the Potter Heir has found himself in drama whilst at Hogwarts. In just his first year, Heir Potter was caught up in a scandal that saw the heirs of several Ancient and Most Noble Houses charged with levelling false accusations. All of whom pleaded guilty this past July.
Is it perhaps possible that Harry Potter was not quite as innocent as we all might have thought? Certainly, two bouts of major drama, both of which about cases that fall under the criminal variety by the age of 12 are troubling. Either Harry Potter has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and this is all one, massive coincidence, or perhaps the black sheep of the Potter family really may be going the path opposed to his brother and father.
Harry slid the newspaper pensively back towards Daphne with a thoughtful expression on his face. “What is it?” Blaise asked with a mix of caution and confusion.
Harry shrugged. “I’m not sure, it just seems a bit off to me. She spent the end of last school year and most of the summer slandering Malfoy and the others. Now, she’s done a complete one-eighty. Maybe it’s just good for gossip, but it seems a bit suspect. Especially since that last paragraph even hinted that she might have been wrong about last year. I know nothing about journalism, but admitting you were wrong about anything seems like a terrible PR move.”
“For real journalists, it would actually help to keep their credibility,” Daphne explained. “It’s not Skeeter’s style though, I’ll give you that. She finds that line in the sand and runs straight through it. For her to walk back the other way is a bit strange.”
It was certainly curious, but Harry didn’t see it as detrimental, per se. it was one bit of gossip about a twelve-year-old. How it had made the front page was positively beyond him. If more articles like this one came, then problems might arise. For now, there was little he could do but hope this supposed Heir of Slytherin was caught.
Judging by the past idiocy of the Hogwarts staff, there was a part of Harry that was distinctly unsure how likely that event was to come to fruition.
November 4, 1992
The Great Hall
That Wednesday morning had been the first time Harry had been near Draco Malfoy since their one-sided duel the night of Samhain. Incidentally, it had also probably been the quietest Harry had ever seen the blond be for an extended time period. During the practice, he did not so much as meet Harry’s eyes. Nor, even, did he boast about the top-of-the-line brooms his father had purchased for the team. The hilarity in all of this, for Harry, was that it was perhaps the team’s best practice all year thus far. In his opinion, this was the world trying to send Draco a message.
Things tend to go better for you when you’re not being a complete and utter git.
The practice had gone so well that Bletchley, who was nothing short of a strict task-master at the best of times, decided to call it off a bit early. This meant that the team actually made it to breakfast before the start of the first period. Granted, they made it with less than fifteen minutes to spare. Normally, they had to rush straight from the pitch to their first period classes. Oftentimes, one or more members wound up being late. Fortunately, Snape had written all of them notes to excuse their lateness on account of their early morning practice.
Because of this fact, Harry’s friends were pleasantly surprised when he dropped into the only available seat left at the table, the one beside Charlotte and across from Pansy.
“You have a letter,” Charlotte informed him at once, grabbing a hold of her handbag and withdrawing a slip of parchment from within. “I haven’t read it, but I know what it’s about already. They all watched me take it.” The thing left unsaid here was that the latter fact validated her claim of not going through his mail.
With a nod, Harry took the letter from her and opened it neatly, recognizing the cryptic crest of the Weitts family. One comprised of a river, a bridge, a tree, and a motto written in some dead language that Harry had once already failed to translate. There was another crest, as well. This one, Harry recognized from his copy of Nature’s Nobility: A Guide to Wizarding Genealogy.
It was the crest of the Greengrass family.
We understand that along with many of the heirs invited to the gathering, you were unable to attend our annual Samhain gala on account of the events that took place that night at Hogwarts castle. Though the gala went on, we do plan on remedying this inconvenience.
On behalf of House Weitts, we would like to formally apologize for the inconvenience, even though we are of course aware of the fact that we could have done nothing to prevent it.
After discussions with our close allies, we have decided to co-host a gala on the 31st of December that will be held at Greengrass Manor. So, on behalf of Lord Greengrass and the rest of his family, as well as House Weitts, we would like to formally invite you to yet another gala put on by our family.
Please return this owl with your answer no later than December 1st.
We hope to see you on the eve of the new year.
Regent of House Weitts
There was a part of Harry that simply wanted to ask Charlotte whether or not she could just respond on his behalf. But of course, that would not be proper, formal etiquette. If Daphne was being honest about her mother and her knack for enforcing the policies of high society, Harry did not think responding in such a manner would be appropriate.
As such, he spent the remainder of his breakfast penning his reply letter. He spent so long, in fact, that the first years, who had a lengthy walk before them, had already left by the time he had finished what he considered to be a passable reply.
Charlotte, Ginny and Laine were near the marble staircase when they heard the shout from behind them. Fearing that they would be ambushed once more, Ginny quickly went for her wand. Charlotte, on the other hand, knew better. No self-respecting Slytherin would scream bloody murder at their would-be victims seconds before an ambush. Of course, in the week leading up to a heated Quidditch match, especially with the tension in the school that hung heavily in the air after the incident on Samhain night, Charlotte supposed they may be about to get attacked by a Gryffindor, though she did not think they would be foolish enough to do it in such a packed corridor.
It turned out that she was half-right.
It was indeed a pair of Gryffindors that marched up to the group of them. One was Ron Weasley and the other was Charlus Potter. The latter looked slightly unsure why he was there in the first place, and the former looked as if enough steam was billowing out of his ears to power the Hogwarts Express.
“What in the bloody hell do you think you’re doing, Ginny?!” the youngest Weasley son swore loudly. Charlotte expected, at least in part, for Ginny to shrink back. To her surprise and mild delight, she was proven wrong. Perhaps she was more comfortable with confrontations that involved her brothers. After being looked up in a tight, confined space with a large number of them for eleven years, Charlotte would hardly blame Ginny if that was the case.
At the moment, she was simply content to watch the younger Weasley’s fire. That was not to say that her hand did not rest carefully close to her wand. She was ready to jump in on the behalf of her most unlikely friend at any moment when the situation seemed to call for it.
Ginny was not yet flushing quite as red as her older brother, but it looked as though she may well get there in time.
“What am I doing, Ronald? What the hell are you doing? Harassing your little sister in the hallway again? Are you going to punch me this time?”
“I’m trying to help you! What are you doing sitting with Slytherin Potter? He’s the Heir, Ginny!” Charlotte very badly wanted to interject, but she managed to hold her tongue.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Ron-“
“Ridiculous? We saw him, Ginny! We walked in on the tosser! He was standing there, looking at his handiwork.”
“That is the single dumbest thing I’ve heard all day,” Charlotte said, no longer able to contain the rebuke. “If Harry is the Heir of Slytherin, then that makes the golden boy here his descendant as well.” Charlotte turned to Charlus, who looked very uncomfortable. “What do you think, Potter? Is talking to snakes a favourite pastime of yours?”
“Don’t listen to her, Ginny!” Ron cut in forcefully. “Don’t listen to any of them, especially not Slytherin Potter. Even his own brother knows he’s going dark.”
“And you think just because I’m in Slytherin that I’m going to become some sort of dark lady?”
“That’s what I’m trying to stop!”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “I’m done with you, Ron. Get out of the way.” When Ron did not budge, Ginny tried to push past him. The much taller, much larger boy stopped her easily, taking a firm grip on her arm and cornering her against the wall, forcefully ensuring she didn’t get away. Before he could do anything further, a ringing sound like a clap swept through the corridor. When those in the vicinity looked around, their attention drawn by the sudden sound, they saw Ron Weasley staggering back, a hand to his cheek as Charlotte Weitts pulled back her own hand.
To call it a slap would be doing it an injustice. Every bit of disdain the youngest member of House Weitts had for Ronald Weasley was put into that one motion, and the impact was such that Ron almost staggered. In the moments following the resounding impact, Charlotte reflected, with some satisfaction, that she thought she might have actually hit Weasley harder than he had managed to hit Harry two months earlier.
Ron’s immediate response, once he seemed to have recovered enough to think, was to step menacingly towards Charlotte as if he were going to hit her back. Halfway forward, he seemed to realize exactly what he was doing, and he froze.
That moment of indecision cost him dearly.
Charlotte didn’t even bother to draw her wand. She didn’t need it for this, and if anything, it would only slow the process. She took a powerful stride towards Weasley. It looked as if she would step right into him. But at the last, possible second, she brought her knee up, hard, driving it with forceful precision into Ronald Weasley’s nether regions.
There was an astonishingly brief moment in time when Ron Weasley’s eyes seemed to roll back in his head as his jaw fell open. A strangled groan of pain was all that escaped before he crumpled to the floor in a heap, quickly curling into the fetal position. For his part, Charlus had looked very much as if he would step forward to assist his friend a second earlier.
All of a sudden, he did not look so eager.
Charlotte bent low over the crumpled form of Ron Weasley, whispering low, menacing words to the wounded boy before moving on with her friends. “I’m done with you hurting my friends, Weasley. Next time, I’ll make it permanent.”
Her parting message delivered, Charlotte straightened up once more, gesturing for an awestruck Ginny and an amused Laine to follow her towards their first-period class. After all, it would be rather unfortunate if they did not leave before a teacher arrived on the scene. Luckily for them, as they departed, no teacher’s eyes followed them.
Instead, the pair of eyes that honed in on them were brown, and belonged to a set of boys who had been lurking in a hidden alcove, wearing Gryffindor robes.
November 6, 1992
The Defence Against the Dark Arts Classroom
As the second year Gryffindor class began to pack their things away just before the bell was set to ring to signal the conclusion of their most recent lesson with Gilderoy Lockhart, the aforementioned professor’s voice clearly rang through the room.
“Mister Potter, I would appreciate it greatly if you were kind enough to stay behind.” Charlus exchanged a look with Ron and Hermione before shrugging. In the end, his friends decided to wait for him out in the hall, seeing as this was their last class of the week. Charlus, for his part, made his way rather warily in the direction of his Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. He had nothing inherently against Lockhart, aside from the awful detention he had been forced to endure at the man’s hand, but something about the way he stood so casually tipped Charlus off that something was certainly about to happen.
“You wanted to talk to me, sir?”
“I did,” Lockhart affirmed, discretely casting several more privacy charms on his already warded classroom door. “I wanted to talk to you about what happened on Samhain.”
Charlus’s posture stiffened. “What about it, sir?”
Lockhart frowned. “Maybe I should amend that statement. I wanted to indirectly talk to you about what happened on Samhain. What I actually want from you, Charlus, is some information that might help me catch whoever the hell is behind this.”
Charlus frowned. “Why do you think I can give you helpful information, Professor?”
“Because what I need is information on the Potter family.”
If Charlus could become tenser, he accomplished it. “Why do you need that, sir? That’s… not something people go around asking for.”
“I’m aware. I think you’ll also admit that usually, people don’t go around petrifying living things, either.” Grudgingly, Charlus had to admit that the man had a point. “But yes, I know it’s a personal question that I really have no right to ask. The problem, as I see it, is that there is only one real suspect at the moment.”
“You mean Harry, don’t you?”
Lockhart’s frown deepened. “I know it might be hard for you to see, but your brother is the only viable option right now. I’m not saying that he did it. It’s way too early to tell for sure. But we have a lead. We need to look into it. That way, if it is him, we can stop this nonsense early and prevent it from going any further. The last thing we need is a student to get attacked; the cat was bad enough.”
Lockhart fixed him with a rather intense stare. Idly, Charlus thought those deep blue eyes were odd to have fixed upon him in such a manner. He was used to seeing Lockhart pose and preen for the cameras. He was certainly not accustomed to the man peering at him so intently that he may well have been trying to read the Gryffindor youth’s inner thoughts. “Unless,” Lockhart continued, “you think it’s impossible your brother is responsible.”
Charlus wanted so badly to believe that. There was nothing in the world he would have liked to believe more.
But he couldn’t.
It was all adding up. His brother’s sorting had been problematic if admittedly not detrimental. Then, there had been the incident in the catacombs. As logical as Dumbledore’s argument had been, a part of Charlus still whispered about the dangers of trusting his brother. Even if he had ignored that, there had been the incident at Flourish and Blotts. Of course, Harry had a well-articulated defence for that. But naturally, any true Slytherin would.
This most recent offence was by far the most heinous. Being caught red-handed at the scene of the crime was something else altogether.
His natural suspicion was higher than ever in regards to his brother, and that fact made him irrationally furious.
“No, sir,” he eventually settled for, “I can’t tell you that.”
Lockhart nodded, seeming to be completely nonplussed by his answer. “Well then, to business. I’ve no idea if the ability has anything to do with the petrifications themselves, yet, but do you know what a Parselmouth is, Charlus?”
“A person who can speak to snakes. Voldemort was one.”
Lockhart nodded sagely, and Charlus could not help but notice that Lockhart didn’t even so much as bat an eye at the Dark Lady’s name.
“She was, yes. One of the many reasons why witches and wizards far and wide refuse to speak her name, even to this day. She isn’t the first Parselmouth in Magical Britain though. The ability, at least in Britain, can be traced back to Slytherin himself. Assuming this attacker of ours isn’t bluffing, they’ll be a direct descendent of Salazar Slytherin. That means they’ll probably be able to speak to snakes in addition to having their blood connection to Slytherin.” Lockhart’s gaze had turned intense once more. “Can you speak to snakes, Charlus? I need you to answer me one-hundred percent honestly. What you tell me will never leave this room, but it is vitally important in tracking down this Heir of Slytherin before things get out of hand.”
“No, sir,” Charlus answered honestly. He hadn’t exactly spent a lot of time trying. Snakes did not typically lurk around Potter Manor, for one thing. But the idiocy of it. The whole thing was obvious.
He was a Potter. They had no blood connection to Slytherin.
Lockhart’s face was impassive. “And no known connection to Slytherin?”
“Can you do me a favour, Charlus? And promise me honestly to do it to the best of your abilities?”
“That… depends on what the favour is.”
“Alright then. I need you to look into your family history. Not just reading Nature’s Nobility, but actually looking into it. Maybe get your dad to send you some books from your manor or vault talking about your ancestry.”
Charlus’s eyes narrowed. “You don’t believe me?” he asked, incredulous.
Lockhart chose his next words very carefully. “It’s not that I don’t believe you. It’s the fact that the Potter family is known for its secrecy. It has been for generations. All I’m saying is that if you, and more importantly, your brother somehow are connected to Slytherin, I don’t exactly think your family would advertise that information.” He fixed Charlus with a more easygoing expression. “Besides, chances are you have nothing to fear. Best case scenario, you’re right. Worst case scenario, we have our culprit.” He gave a deep, belly laugh. “It’s a win-win situation, after all.”
That night, after dinner, in an abandoned classroom…
For all the things Charlus currently despised about his twin, one thing that he had to grudgingly envy was his smooth ability to talk his way out of situations. Charlus deeply wished he had that ability. It would have made slipping away from Ron and Hermione far easier.
To amend that statement, it would have made slipping away from Hermione far easier.
Ron had actually been quite easy to shake off. Granted, he had been rather disheartened when Charlus showed no interest in a game of chess. But aside from that, he put up little fuss. Hermione, on the other hand, was far more inquisitive. His default excuse had been schoolwork. The problem with that was Hermione, in typical fashion, was off to the library, and she persistently insisted that Charlus accompany her. Charlus had been forced to say it was their Defence paper. It was the only subject he was actually better in than her, so he had, with some difficulty, managed to convince her he did not need written material.
But in the end, he had indeed managed to slip off back to the abandoned classroom he had frequented ever since getting the letter that first morning back at Hogwarts, even though he had been unable to read it until that night.
September 2, 1992
The Gryffindor Dorms
Charlus’s first day back at Hogwarts had been surprisingly taxing. He had performed well in his classes, which, after spending more time than ever before studying over the summer, he was grateful for. Being back in the perpetually turbulent atmosphere at Hogwarts was taxing nonetheless. It was nonstop, ever-present motion. So much so, even, that until now, Charlus had not been able to open the letter he had received at breakfast. Then, he had taken little more than a glimpse of how discrete the envelope was. Finally, hours later, protected in the privacy of his bed, Charlus finally opened the letter.
I may be unable to continue your in-person education whilst you reside in the castle, but I still plan on assuring your progression from afar.
You will continue to work on the stances, forms and spells we have worked on while you are at that school. Every month, I will send you four new spells. If maths is not your area of expertise, that means I expect you to master one spell a week.
Remember, magic is about intent. If you still lack the necessary intent, continue to force the spell with raw, powerful emotions. Conjure them up with images if you need them. The important thing is that these spells and the mindset you require to cast them become second nature to you.
Best of luck at school.
Back in the present…
Charlus actually had kept up sternly on his regiment. He had made excellent progress, even. He did often feel rather angry after practices. Morbidly so, even. Why this was, he wasn’t sure. It certainly was not his performance. He had decided long ago to push it to the side. All that mattered was improving so that in the future, he would not need to rely on others to solve his problems.
Unfortunately, he had run into a roadblock as of late.
When Dumbledore had convinced him to forgive his brother, the image he used to spark anger inside of him was suddenly less effective. Thankfully, it was still usable, but barely. It took a much larger effort to spark the raw emotion needed, but he could still do it. After the twins had pranked Harry and the rest of the Slytherin Quidditch team, conjuring up the anger had been nearly impossible. And after he had properly reconciled with Harry, it became completely implausible.
But now, as he squared up to a target that Mr. Bellona had discretely sent him one night via owl, Charlus thought that once more, he might have the ability to cast using his original image. He felt as if a dragon was roaring contentedly inside his chest as if at long last, it had been freed once more. He felt as if an restrictive dam had been broken and finally, the bottled up emotions inside of him could flow freely once more.
With a vicious slash, Charlus cleaved the dummy’s arm straight off with enough force to send it spinning through the air.
Yes, it was definitely safe to say that once more, less than twenty-four hours before he was supposed to suit up against him on the pitch, the thought of his twin brother gave Charlus enough of a motivation to cast the more questionable curses that Mister Bellona had armed him with over the months.
Meanwhile, in the hidden passage under the marble staircase…
When Ginny, who had dinner early and was consequently alone, heard the exclamation as she made to walk up the marble staircase, she very nearly set a new world record for the high jump. At least, that was what it had felt like at the time. Then, with a fair bit of surprise, Ginny saw two familiar faces awaiting her.
“Yeah, yeah,” said one of the twins, “Those are our names. Don’t wear them out.”
“While you’re at it,” the other one chimed in, “get in here, will you?” Then, Ginny realized that they appeared to be standing in a passage leading under the stairs, holding a very subtly placed door open. Slightly apprehensive but willing nonetheless, Ginny stepped swiftly forward, vanishing with the twins into the secret passageway as they closed the door behind them. Before Ginny could speak, both of the twins removed their wands with gusto, taking it in turns to hurl privacy spells at the door they had just closed. When the two of them were sufficiently satisfied with their privacy measures, they turned to Ginny.
“Come to talk, have you?” Ginny asked with a bit of coolness in her voice. She wondered if that would have been her reaction to this situation a few months ago. She didn’t think so. Ron had been right about Slytherin changing her, just not in the way he had meant. Already, she felt more confident. Part of that, she knew, was because of the people who she spent time with. But part of it was having to learn and adapt to the complexities of the house itself. Ginny knew that still, she was very far from completely adapted. Despite that, she had already come a long way. In her opinion, if all of that had been achievable, than the sky was the limit for what she could do.
Just surviving had been a confidence boost in and of itself.
Perhaps it was showing, for both of the twins suddenly looked intensely unsettled. “We’ve really bottled this one, haven’t we?” Fred asked gravely.
“If by ‘bottled this one’ you mean avoided me like the grim for the past two months, then yeah, you two have really bottled it.”
The twins exchanged looks. “Are you willing to hear us out?” George asked, his voice an odd mix between hopefulness and dread. After a brief moment of contemplation, Ginny nodded, prompting the twins to exchange looks before George took the lead.
“Look, Ginny, I don’t really know how to say this.” he began.
“I do,” Fred interjected. “We’re idiots. Complete and utter idiots.” He winced. “Gits too, while we’re on the topic.”
“We’ll go with idiots for now,” George decided. “It works better for this whole explaining thing. Well, here goes nothing. We didn’t think there was a ruddy chance in hell you’d be sorted into Slytherin. The thought never even crossed our minds, so when it happened, we were flummoxed. Had no idea how to take it, either of us. The only experience we have with snakes is on the Quidditch pitch. Obviously, the lot of them are wankers there.”
“Complete tossers,” Fred agreed. “At first, that’s where our heads went. We weren’t sure whether to yell at you, prank you back into reality, or offer help defending you from the gits in your house.” Ginny was not sure if she should have been touched or offended by that. Nonetheless, she still stood quietly, allowing the twins to finish their seemingly somewhat prepared monologue.
“Then,” George pressed on, “We realized that everyone in the house probably isn’t Flint and the other wankers we’ve played against. We realized that just because you were in Slytherin didn’t mean you were a git or anything.”
Ginny sniffed, trying very hard to conceal what she was actually feeling. “How brilliant of you.”
The twins exchanged another nervous glance before Fred picked up the tale. “Right, well, anyway, we figured that out, but it didn’t really help us. We’re… not good at the whole emotions thing. We never really have been. We’re good at making people laugh and we’re pretty decent at magic. We like to think of ourselves as clever little devils as well, but that’s another topic altogether.” In spite of herself, Ginny’s lips twitched, which seemed to spur the twins on.
“Because of us being useless at emotions, we had no clue how to approach you. Thing is, we didn’t want to make the whole thing worse. Usually, our answer would be to do something funny. Make a joke out of it, you know. Problem is, how the hell do you make a joke out of something like this?”
“You don’t,” Ginny supplied neutrally and both of the twins nodded in agreement.
“So,” Fred picked up, “in our infinite wisdom and pratiness, we decided to ignore the situation. If you came to us, we couldn’t botch it that bad, could we?” He shook his head. “What we forgot is that you took after Mum and honestly, us. Stubborn thing, you are. By the time we’d realized you weren’t gonna come to us, we thought it was too late.”
“And then Halloween happened,” George supplied. “And… other stuff. We realized how bad the divide was between you lot and the rest of the school. It made us realize that by ignoring you, we were being even bigger prats than we would have been had we come to you and royally screwed things up. At least then, we would have made an effort, you know.”
“What my dashing, but slightly less dashing than me, brother is trying to say is that we’re really sorry, Ginny. The three of us have always been closest, even with the age difference. At least after Charlie moved out, anyway. If anyone should’ve been looking out for you, it was us.”
“I thought that too, you know,” Ginny said quietly. “I thought for sure that the two of you would be the first ones to talk to me.” She snorted. “I definitely didn’t expect Percy to be the first, at least. And you know what? He was right. He gave me his thoughts on everything at the beginning of the year and he nailed it. He said you two were prats and idiots, but not outright gits. You just had no idea what to do.”
“Well, we’ve definitely acted like gits,” Fred said. “But he nailed the parts about being idiotic, clueless prats.”
“That’s us in a nutshell,” George agreed. “Funny, idiotic, clueless prats, but idiotic, clueless prats nonetheless.”
Ginny could not help but smile despite everything that had happened. Their silence had been the most painful thing for her. Even worse than Ron’s outright scorn. Even with the age difference, they had been close. Not exceptionally so, but the two of them were certainly the most similar to Ginny in the house. She had always gotten on with them better than anybody else.
“So,” George asked tentatively, “You being a snake and all now, how much is it gonna take for you to forgive us two idiotic, clueless prats?”
“Us funny, idiotic, clueless prats.” Fred ammended.
Ginny smiled. “An apology and a hug will do. I missed you two!” After a brief moment of shocked incredulity, the two twins smiled warmly, genuinely smiled and converged on their little sister. It was a rather touching moment as all present members of the Weasley family exalted in their reunion.
November 7, 1992
The Quidditch Pitch
The morning of his first-ever Hogwarts Quidditch match, Harry was presented with yet another form of motivation to learn how to control and, in this instance, suppress emotions.
He was nervous — more nervous than he had ever been in his life.
It had taken quite some time for him to even rise from the bed that morning. He was an ambitious and competitive person. He knew that the entire school expected Charlus to beat him to the snitch. In the grand scheme of things, it was his brother who had everything to lose and nothing to gain. In spite of that, he could barely stomach the thought of losing to his twin. Least of all after the events of the past week. He was furious with Charlus and his friends already. If he had to look his brother in the eye after the events of Samhain, plus a crushing defeat in Quidditch, Harry was unsure if he could ever live it down.
At breakfast, he had valiantly tried to eat nothing at all. At the time, he thought whatever he put down was certain to come back up anyway. Harry sat very near the centre of the table with the rest of the Slytherin Quidditch team. None of them had much success in convincing him to eat. Finally, it had been Grace, sitting nearby them in the dead centre seat at the table, who placed a small plate of food in front of him. The two of them had shared a very brief staring match before finally, forcefully, Harry managed to get down the minimal amount of food placed in front of him.
And then, before he knew it, he was sitting in his cubicle within the Slytherin changing room. By this point, he was already fully kitted in his team uniform and his Nimbus 2001 rested on his lap, holding itself perfectly balanced as it seemed to defy gravity. Harry had often heard the expression that one got butterflies in their stomach. The truth of the matter was that it was not an intense enough idiom. Perhaps a more apt phrase would be that a live gryphon was trapped within the depths of his chest and stomach. The gryphon, in its bid for freedom, was forcefully trying to tear through the wall of flesh and muscle that kept it contained. It was admittedly more morbid, but it was also more accurate.
The atmosphere before a major, high-pressure, sporting event, was far more intense than that. Something as small and innocent as a butterfly could never convey the true weight of exactly what an athlete felt seconds before stepping up to perform.
Sooner than Harry would have liked, Bletchley was calling the team to congregate near the exit of the changing room. Obviously, their cue to take the pitch drew near. After a fairly rousing speech from their captain, the other six members of the team joined him in waiting at the exit as finally, the magically magnified voice of Lee Jordan echoed through the stadium, reaching their ears even from their place in waiting.
“Students, staff and honoured guests, welcome to the opening match of the 1992-1993 Hogwarts Quidditch season!” A roar of eager approval accompanied Lee’s grandiose introduction and he did not speak once more until the crowd quieted. Having been friends with the Weasley Terrors for so long, it came as no surprise to Harry that Jordan had a flair for the dramatics. Whatever multitude of negative things he could say about the infamous twins, that was one attribute he grudgingly had to concede that they possessed in spades.
“This season opens in dramatic fashion, as the school’s biggest and most heated rivalry comes to head this morning, out on the pitch! It will be Gryffindor versus Slytherin!” Again, a roar of approval from the stands. “Now, allow me to introduce the Slytherin Quidditch team, who have won seven of the last eight Quidditch Cups here at Hogwarts despite a disappointing finish last season.” It sounded very much to Harry as though the first half of that statement was physically painful for Lee Jordan to speak aloud. He suspected that this part, at least, had been scripted for him.
“Welcoming the Slytherins! First, their captain, wearing the jersey number one, it’s Keeper Miles Bletchley.” With one last, hard look to the rest of the team, Bletchley mounted his broom and rocked out onto the pitch, flying straight out of the open mouth leading into the stadium.
Apparently, Jordan was not the only one with a flair for the dramatics.
“The Slytherin beaters, numbers two and three respectively, Lucian Bole and Peregrine Derrick!” Both hulking boys followed in Bletchley’s footsteps and Harry’s heart rate quickened as he realized only one more position would be called before he made his first, public appearance within the ancient castle’s stadium.
“Next up, the chasers! Numbers four, five and six in that order, Cassius Warrington, Draco Malfoy and Adrian Pucey!” The three chasers shot out onto the pitch next. Before leaving, Cassius, his face a stony visage of competitive concentration, gave Harry one last, encouraging thumbs up.
“And finally, making up one half of the most interesting duel Hogwarts will likely see this year, we have Slytherin’s new seeker! Number seven, Harry Potter!”
With an admirably blank and impassive expression, Harry too mounted his broom and as if watching it happen from a third-person perspective, Harry felt himself flying forwards and before he knew it, he was out in the frigid, November air, joining his team in a lap of the pitch at top speed.
The noise from the stands was deafening already and the game had yet to even begin. As he had suspected, Harry quickly ascertained that most of the school was vehemently routing against them. He suspected that the recent claims of an Heir of Slytherin being responsible for the mystery that currently wrapped the castle had not helped that matter. Even the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, who were usually neutral parties in the not-so-cold war that was eternally being fought by Gryffindors and Slytherins alike were very obviously in the lions’ corner this morning.
Still, Harry took a fair bit of pride in the fact that, despite being outnumbered three to one, the green and silver-clad figures that dominated one-fourth of the stands were doing a remarkable job of having their voices heard.
Just then, Harry’s eyes swept over the visitors’ section and he tensed.
Hogwarts very often played host to guests for these sorts of matches. This morning, four figures in particular interested him greatly.
The first two were Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. The couple’s eyes watched the entire Slytherin Quidditch team unwaveringly, though every few seconds, they flicked towards their own son.
Speaking of fathers in the crowd, Harry swiftly noticed that James Potter was among those gathered this morning. Pettigrew was present as well, standing beside James. Both of them were looking directly at Harry, and he had no idea how to feel about that. Before looking away, however, he did notice that Peter offered him an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and even James was smiling with what seemed to be pride.
What an odd thought that was. For the father who had abandoned him to be proud. Such a shame that by this point, Harry had all but given up on any potential for a relationship between the two of them which was anything more than cordial and friendly.
His attention was drawn back to Lee Jordan as he began to introduce the seven members of Gryffindor’s house team. Of course, Harry’s eyes were practically glued to Charlus as he hurtled out onto the pitch. As Harry noticed how his twin’s always messy hair became even worse in the wind, he suddenly realized for the first time that his own hair fell out of its perfect state whilst in the air.
He supposed you couldn’t have it all.
At long last, both teams had taken their place at centre field. As the captains shook hands, Bletchley looking like his hand was being crushed by the larger, more imposing form of sixth-year keeper Oliver Wood, Harry maintained hard eye contact with his brother. It had been Charlus who had instigated the impromptu staring match. Before a winner could surface, the whistle blew. In spite of both twins’ concentration seemingly being fixated on the other, both of them reacted instantaneously to Hooch’s whistle. In fact, they reacted at the exact same time, moving in perfect synchrony as they mounted their brooms and kicked off, hard. That was where the mirror effect had ended, for Harry’s broom took him much higher, much faster as the game began.
In the background, Jordan was commenting that Pucey had sped off and seized hold of the quaffle immediately. These were, after all, the types of advantages that the Slytherin’s top of the line racing brooms would grant them. Harry, on the other hand, was distracted immediately. When he reached his desired altitude, his first impulse was to turn and seek out the golden snitch. Instead of seeing the snitch, the first thing he saw was an angry, red bludger hurtling straight towards his face.
With casual ease, Harry inverted in the air, allowing the ball to sail harmlessly through the space his head had occupied just seconds before. What did surprise him was that when he inverted back, the bludger had done a hard, one-hundred-eighty degree turn and was pelting back towards him once more. Annoyed, Harry dodged once more but again, the bludger focused its attention back onto him.
A frown etched itself onto the young Slytherin’s face. He would happily concede that he was not well-seasoned in Quidditch. Truly, he had an extremely limited amount of knowledge and experience at his disposal. Yet for all the hours he had spent practicing hard on the pitch with his teammates over the past two months, he did not remember a single instance of anything like this taking place. When taking into account his exceptional memory recall, that meant one thing.
There had not been a single instance of this happening in the last two months.
If that wasn’t enough, Harry could vividly remember a passage from Quidditch Through the Ages which spoke explicitly about bludgers. They were created to generally target any player on the pitch. They were certainly not designed to focus on one player exclusively. In fact, there had been instances in the past where teams had either directly tampered with bludgers to do just that, or paid off the officials to do it for them. In either case, the outcome was always that the responsible party was punished with a shocking degree of severity.
Yet here was the bludger, flying back towards Harry. In an effort to shake it, he dove straight down. As he did, he could hear the bludger coming up behind him. Fortunately, Derrick realized that it was hot on his tail and intercepted it with a well-placed strike with his bat. As it turned out, both he and Bole seemed to be freed up. Harry could hear Derrick curse as the bludger made another move towards Harry.
“It’s been cursed,” Harry said as the beater intercepted it once more, sending it off course for a moment before it made another run.
“Yeah,” Bole said as he took his turn to knock it away, “we’ve noticed. If you haven’t picked up on it already, you’re not the only unlucky bastard on the pitch.” The large boy gestured to a spot on the other side of the pitch. Charlus was also dodging furiously as the bludger made to decapitate him. The twins were converging on it with matching looks of astonishment on their seemingly identical faces.
“Right,” Derrick muttered, “So the beaters are gonna be useless this game. If the Terrors have half a brain between them, they’ll try and protect their seeker. They’ll still try and hit the bludgers at you, us and the chasers, but for the most part, they’ll be focused on protecting their Potter. If we do the same, it’ll just be up to you and him.”
“We’ll never win that way,” Harry answered as Derrick smacked the bludger hard once more.
“What do you mean?” Bole asked.
“I won’t outfly him that way. I hate to admit it, but he has more experience and at least as much raw talent as I do. My best chance is to use the broom and trickery. If you two are crowding me, I can’t do either one of those.”
“Potter, it’ll fucking kill you,” Derrick pointed out as he batted the bludger away once more.
Harry scoffed. “So little faith.” They made to argue once more but before they could, Gryffindor called a timeout, which was rather ideal for Harry. Now, all he had to do was convince the beaters to let him be. It was dangerous for certain, but Harry was not losing to his twin. Especially not while riding a superior broom. He would never live it down.
“Somebody’s tampered with the bludger,” Bole told Bletchley immediately upon landing.
“Yeah, I can see that,” he said. “Seeing as Gryffindor Potter has the same problem, I doubt much will come of us complaining about it.”
“What’s the score?” asked Derrick, having been so caught up in guarding Harry that he had been completely unable to keep track.
“We’re up by forty,” Bletchley said. “Would be more, but we had a fumbled shot and Wood’s been brilliant.” Judging by the way Malfoy flushed, Harry knew exactly who had taken the aforementioned fumbled shot.
“Bletchley,” Harry cut in sharply, “tell these two to bugger off of me for a bit.”
The whole team looked startled. “Are you out of your mind?” Pucey asked, wide-eyed.
“It’s a bludger. I’m on the fastest broom that money can buy and if you lot are to be believed, I’m pretty decent at this whole flying thing. I’ll be fine.”
“Potter, that’s the single stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Pucey argued back. “You might be able to outfly the thing for a bit, but you’re human, it’s not. Eventually, you’ll make a mistake, and it won’t. When that happens, you’re fucked.”
“I’ll just get the snitch before that happens.”
“Bletchley, you can’t let him do this!” Bole said.
“He can do it,” Cassius said quietly. “I don’t like it; not at all. I think it’s a terrible idea, but he can probably do it.” At that moment, Harry felt a great surge of gratitude for his friend. It took a lot of stones to go against the popular opinion in a group anything like the one they currently stood in. But Cassius had stood firm. He made it obvious that sending one of his good friends off to fly against a rogue bludger was something he didn’t like, but he also expressed his seemingly sincere confidence in Harry.
Bletchley shrugged. “It might be a bad idea, but we have reserves and we can’t lose to Gryffindor.” He winced at how harsh that sounded. “No offence, Potter. It’s just that as captain, my job is to win Quidditch matches.” When Harry perked up, Bletchley froze him in place with a glare. “That also doesn’t mean I want to see my teammate get splattered. Be careful, Potter. I’m giving you fifteen minutes. If you don’t catch the snitch by then, I’ll use our timeout and sub you out. I’ll let you try it, but I’m not gonna let you die for it if I can stop you.”
It was not exactly what he had hoped for, but Harry nodded solemnly. He understood the risks just fine. A set time limit was better than no chance at all. Realistically, he only had to hold Charlus off for that amount of time and he would already have surpassed the school’s expectations for him.
But he would go above and beyond.
When they took to the air once more, it was apparent that Charlus had suggested the same thing that Harry himself had. As such, both the Weasleys and the Slytherin beaters hung in the air, not entirely sure of what to do. In the end, they decided to focus on being opportunists.
As Harry and Charlus dodged, weaved and corkscrewed to avoid the rogue bludgers, they all waited. Any time one of the seekers dodged a bludger that had enough momentum to allow it to travel well past them, one of the beaters would fly towards it. If the opposing chasers were close enough, they would hit the bludger towards them. If they were not particularly close, however, it would redirect itself before reaching them. On these occasions, whichever beater reached the bludger first, (almost always the Slytherins due to the drastic advantage of their brooms) they would hit it back towards the opposing seeker.
As for Harry and Charlus, the two of them had their focuses divided.
For Charlus, it was divided evenly across two streams of thought. The first one was not getting murdered by the vindictive bludger that seemed to be out for blood. The second was to frantically look around for any glint of gold.
His brother was a bit more complex, as the majority of his mind was dominated by several thoughts. The first, similarly to his brother, was staying alive. The second, again, mirroring his twin, was to catch the snitch. The third was trying to come up with creative ways in which he could work the unique circumstances to his advantage. Experimentally, Harry shot towards Charlus, startling his twin. At the last second, he pulled up, leading the bludger on a collision course for Charlus’s face. His brother was more gifted than Malfoy though. With a tremendous, last-second evasion, Charlus let the bludgers both miss him, collide with one another, and spiral off course for about three seconds before pelting back towards their designated targets.
Before dodging once more, Charlus shot a particularly nasty glare towards Harry, who smirked back vindictively. He could not outfly Charlus. That sheer brilliant move to evade two bludgers simultaneously had proven that to him. But he could certainly out-think him. He was not deluded enough to think that if he began to weaponize his bludger against Charlus that his twin would not respond. He was, however, confident that if both boys started doing that, Harry would have a significant enough tactical advantage that he would be able to triumph.
As such, Harry promptly dove towards Charlus, ready to instigate the most dangerous game of tag the crowd had ever seen. A part of him, the logical, cunning part, he suspected, was loudly screaming that this was a terrible idea. Indeed, he suspected many would call it a Gryffindor-esque strategy. But those people were narrow-minded. Those people forgot that there was more to being a Slytherin than cunning. Slytherin was also the house of the ambitious. Harry had no higher ambition in life, at the moment, than proving to the world he was greater than his twin. Proving to the world that James, Dumbledore and the rest of them had hatched their bets on the wrong brother.
That ambition gave Harry the courage to put his plan into motion.
As soon as he did so, the game descended into pure and utter chaos.
Charlus and Harry took turns having goes at one another. In turn, the bludgers were diverted onto the opposing seeker through last-second bails and quick, sharp turns. This entire time, Harry realized that if this kept up, he would never be catching the snitch in time. As he barrel-rolled to avoid both his brother and the bludger before turning in mid-air to shoot towards Charlus like a javelin, an idea formed in his mind.
The idea had actually been spurred on a moment earlier when he had contrasted Gryffindor and Slytherin in his mind. The Gryffindor beaters were likely impulsive, to an extent. Not just because they were Gryffindors, Harry was not that narrow-minded. But he knew a bit of them. If their brother Ronald was anything to go off of, and taking some of their hasty pranks into account, Harry thought it was a safe bet to assume that the pair of them were react first individuals.
That could be taken advantage of.
As Charlus chased him towards the stands, Harry signaled to his beaters. It was actually a signal the chasers usually gave to him, but he hoped they got the idea. Normally, chasers, if struggling to contain the opposing line, would signal their seeker to run interference. Harry gestured for the beaters to do this, but he gestured towards the twins, not towards the chasers. His beaters looked perplexed for a moment, but after the signal Harry had given him during tryouts had worked so well, Bole was the first to react. Before the twins knew what was happening, they and the Slytherin beaters were also engaged in a rather deadly game of tag. They were shooting towards each other like overgrown bullets, leaving their attention successfully diverted from the battling seekers.
This was the good thing.
The bad thing was that Harry and Charlus, whilst being tailed by the rogue bludgers, were streaking straight towards the packed bleachers.
Realizing that this was an impending disaster, Harry swerved hard, taking them on a slightly different course. This new course was far less dangerous for those in the bleachers. Unfortunately, it was far more dangerous for Harry and Charlus. This new path only presented the two seekers with one viable option.
That was to fly under the bleachers. That, or fly straight into a stadium wall.
Channeling whatever inner Gryffindor Harry may have possessed as part of his Potter lineage, he went for it, flying straight under the bleachers. Charlus cursed and followed. For the third or fourth time in the last six or so months, Harry had his perception changed on what the most dangerous thing he had ever done in his life was.
Flying under bleachers, weaving tightly in and out of columns that he could barely see coming while avoiding the rogue bludger hot on his tail certainly took the cake. He honestly just hoped he made it out at this point. And the worse part was, in spite of the advantage his superior broom granted him, Charlus was gaining. There were no straightaways here. In this tight, windy course, Harry was outmatched. He may have been the best pure flyer in Slytherin House, but he still could not yet compare to his brother’s rare ability.
Harry swerved harshly to the left, dodging not one, but two pillars. The bludger tailing him slammed into the second one, ricocheting towards Charlus and granting Harry a few more seconds. That was thankfully all he needed to find an opening and fly back out onto the pitch, streaking towards the still battling beaters at top speed. Fortunately for his plan, Charlus emerged also. The ball chasing Harry had punched a hole through the infrastructure for Charlus to fly through. Thankfully, the stadium and stands were held together by not only matter, but magic.
Due to his point of exit, Charlus was hot on Harry’s tail as they flew towards the beaters. As he flew, Harry saw it. A speck of gold not far from the beaters. But he had to keep Charlus from seeing it. He had to distract him.
Luckily, Charlus was by now more pissed off with Harry than he was desperate to catch the snitch. In light of this, his complete and undivided attention was fixated upon his brother, who, seconds before he had reached him, tore through the battling beaters, bludger hot on his tail. Charlus pulled up at the last second, raising his altitude by inches to miss the bludger, which had been hit back towards him by Fred Weasley.
Just as he did, searing pain flared in his shoulder. When he had been forced to adjust his trajectory, he had indeed avoided being hit by the bludger. Less ideally, he had put himself in prime position to be struck by the beater’s bat, just as Fred followed through with it after making contact with the bludger. Fred hadn’t looked to see if Charlus was coming. He had just seen the bludger and swung.
The pain in Charlus’s shoulder was blinding, disorienting, even. White spots danced in front of his eyes and his vision swam.
And to make things worse, his suffering was not yet over.
The rogue bludger, which had failed to hit him all game, slammed forcefully into his right arm, sending him toppling off of his broom. And to add insult to injury, the last thing Charlus Potter saw before unconsciousness took its hold on him was his brother, grinning ear to ear as he held up his arm, still flying as not to get struck by the bludger.
There was an unmistakable glint of gold in his fist.
I hope the Quidditch match was satisfying. To further Charlus’s dynamic with Harry, Slytherin Potter sort of had to get the snitch. The thing I struggled with was that Charlus is a better flyer than Harry, plain and simple. I needed to have Harry win the match, but make it clear that Charlus was technically the better seeker. I hope I got that across. I cut some scenes where Charlus got the better of Harry because frankly, I know not everybody loves reading Quidditch and this was long enough. Rest assured, Quidditch is not going to be relevent again for some time.
Oh, and it may look like it, but I’m not just incessantly bashing Ron. I actually am going somewhere with it beyond the usual, overdone tropes. Let’s just say all is not as it seems.
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NOTE FOR DISCORD USERS: I came up with the chapter title last minute and am not at all sold on it. If somebody has something better, leave it in AoC Editorial. All discussions on proposed titles are to be had in AoC chat, but the titles themselves will be easier to keep track of in Editorial.
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