Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 18: Warnings and Wake-Up Calls
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 18: Warnings and Wake-Up Calls
November 7, 1992
The Quidditch Pitch
The moments following the conclusion of the Gryffindor versus Slytherin Quidditch match were dominated by frantic chaos on all sides. Thankfully, the limp form of Charlus Potter had not been allowed to hit the ground. Before that could happen, his body had been caught by his teammates, Fred and George Weasley. Their reaction to his fall had actually been rather impressive. Harry thought that if nothing else, as the two of them might not get the shine of actually winning the match, they would likely be heroes within their own house for their spectacular catch of the Boy-Who-Lived.
Speaking of Charlus, Harry had to admit that he was quite thankful his brother had not splattered against the pitch far below. They had their differences, now more than ever, but as much as Charlus annoyed Harry and the latter would not mind cursing the former quite severely at the moment, he didn’t want him dead, by any means.
Of course, all these thoughts came much later.
The actual thoughts running through Harry’s mind after his first ever Quidditch victory were not nearly as organized as his later reflection. They were a cluster of chaos, confusion and euphoria. He didn’t allow himself a rest until the rogue bludger, which had not ceased its rabid pursuit of him when the match had ended, had been wrestled to the ground by Bole and stuffed forcefully back into the crate of balls, still resting open at centre field. Even in the restraints, both bludgers fought wildly to break free, but neither of them achieved that rather destructive desire.
Instead, Harry was free to bask in his victory with the rest of his team and house. As he was lifted victoriously onto the shoulders of Slytherins, young and old, he could not help but reflect that this was perhaps the first time in his life he had no objections to being touched, even if the clustered crowd was not exactly to his tastes.
It was a wonder what euphoria could do for the human soul.
Later that night, in the Slytherin dorms…
The rest of that day had passed in a blur. It seemed as if the entire school had universally agreed to forget about the debacle that had taken place one week earlier. Of course, Harry wasn’t naive enough to not realize the scorn of the school would be fixed fast upon him once more that very next morning. Perhaps now, more than ever, as their envy would now be levelled at him on top of their unfounded suspicion. Harry honestly no longer cared.
He had spent ten years of his life being hated every moment of his existence. If the school thought they could break him with words and glares, they were sorely mistaken. Mind you, he certainly would not be opposed to the students ceasing their efforts to hit him in the back with stinging jinxes and other minor impediments. Though that could have had as much to do with the upcoming Quidditch match as it did the Heir of Slytherin implications. It was frankly hard to tell which one of those two things the school would prioritize.
Knowing the logic, or lack thereof, commonly employed by most of the wizarding population, Harry thought that prioritizing a Quidditch rivalry over a suspected criminal was a distinct possibility.
The party had stretched on for the entirety of the day in the Slytherin common room. Harry was, as Calypso and Cassius had predicted, the centre of attention. On the exterior, Harry smiled casually and easily fed into everything being thrown at him. On the interior, he was a little bit more than uncomfortable, but he didn’t show it. He had years of practice at not showing how he truly felt about situations he would rather not be in.
After a time, he had needed a break from all of it. He had gone to practice spell casting. Paranoid as he was, he hadn’t used the dungeon classroom that he and Grace often practiced in. That was still a meeting he wasn’t entirely sure how to approach. Instead, he had simply selected one at random and frequented it for much of the day. Cassius and Calypso, when talking to them later, seemed satisfied with the amount of time he had spent amongst his peers, so all was well in the end.
The only down part to the day, really, was when Daphne and Blaise informed him in hushed voices that they had spotted Grace looming close to the hidden entrance of the Speaker’s Den. They assumed she knew he was gone somewhere and was waiting for him. Harry thought the odds of Grace guessing the password were slim to none, but he thought reimplementing a Parseltongue password on the Speaker’s Den was something he needed to do at the first available opportunity.
He had nothing against Grace, but Harry didn’t want anybody finding that room. It was, even if all else failed, the one place he could always rely on for solitude and safety.
He had also met his father earlier in the day. Initially, it was something he had firmly expected to be a bad thing about the day, but the meeting was surprisingly pleasant. James applauded Harry on an extremely well-played game of Quidditch and told him, seemingly sincerely, that he was proud. Oddly, Harry felt no flutter in his stomach the way he had on those odd occasions when others had expressed pride in him. That was as good an indicator as any as to exactly how he felt about his father. It wasn’t even that Harry necessarily disliked James. He would just never be able to trust him again.
Peter had been there too, a man whom Harry trusted even less. The sixth sense within him which screamed whenever someone lied was perpetually screeching every time Harry was in range of Peter Pettigrew. Everything about the man screamed of deceptions.
He even looked like a rat.
That somewhat awkward meeting hadn’t lasted long. James had needed to go check on Charlus one final time before he left the property. It seemed that Harry’s twin hadn’t suffered any serious injuries which would affect him long term, but apparently, it was going to be a long day for Charlus.
Finally, after all of that had concluded, Harry was able to just lay back and doze off. It was the fastest he had fallen asleep in some time. Nothing that day had been nearly as jarring as Samhain, nor his last Occlumency lesson with Grace, but the fatigue had slowly accumulated and evidently, it had taken its toll on Harry.
Unfortunately, Harry’s sleep was not overly restful, nor was it undisturbed. He was actually quite perplexed when he was woken some time in the middle of the night. This happened quite frequently, but it was normally in response to a nightmare. Harry didn’t remember any nightmares at all.
He felt something brush against his leg and all at once, all wariness was quickly wiped away by adrenaline as he sat bolt upright, swiftly snatching his wand from under his pillow.
What he saw at the foot of his bed was the last thing he had ever expected.
“Dobby?” he muttered, narrowing his eyes at the elf in question as he quickly cast the Muffliato charm on his hangings. As of yet, he hadn’t figured out how to tie that charm into his ward scheme. The problem was that the spell wasn’t exactly one which could be researched in a book for information. There were silencing charms layered in, but he trusted the traditional privacy spell far less than the one he had frequently used for the past fourteen months.
Dobby looked rather downtrodden. His ears seemed to have a natural sort of droop to them and he looked as if the events of the past day had taken every bit as much a toll on him as they had the youth who sat in front of him.
Despite all of that, his ears seemed to perk up when Harry mentioned his name. “Harry Potter remembers Dobby’s name?”
Harry had to resist the urge to frown. “Our last meeting wasn’t exactly easy to forget, Dobby. And between the two of us, I don’t forget much.” Dobby very clearly took that to mean he had made an impact on Harry, for the little creature’s eyes quickly started to well up with tears of joy. Before he could start grovelling, Harry resumed speaking. “Last time you showed up, you almost got me killed by my uncle. So I’m curious, Dobby, what are you going to do this time?”
The elf looked taken aback. Whether it was at Harry’s swift reasoning or the fact that he no longer seemed drowsy at all, Harry wasn’t sure. “Dobby would never want to hurt Harry Potter, sir!”
“What about your masters, Dobby?”
Dobby frowned. It seemed to Harry as if he was putting real thought into that question. “Dobby doesn’t think my masters be wanting to hurt you, Harry Potter.”
This actually surprised Harry quite a bit. He had suspected that some rich, snobbish Slytherin had sicked the elf on him during the summer in order to get him in trouble, or worse. Assuming Dobby wasn’t lying, and Harry was sure he wasn’t, this changed things rather drastically.
There was a thought floating around at the back of his mind, too. One that seemed far too convenient to ignore.
“Last time we spoke, you told me that there was a plot this year. A plot to make ‘terrible things happen at Hogwarts.’ I’m assuming those terrible things started on Samhain when Filch’s cat turned up petrified?”
Once more, Dobby looked taken aback. It seemed as if much like in the summer, he was caught off guard by the cold logic that Harry employed against him. “Dobby tried to warn you, sir,” the elf moaned. “Dobby tried to stop you from coming to Hogwarts, but Harry Potter didn’t listen.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to let you get me expelled for that rubbish over the summer if I could avoid it. By the way, whoever your masters are, give them a smack from me for that, will you?”
“My masters never told Dobby to stop the Potter twins from coming to Hogwarts.”
Again, this surprised Harry. According to Dobby during the summer, the elf had gone out of his way to stop Harry, and presumably Charlus from attending Hogwarts because they had “roles to play”, whatever that meant. Perhaps the elf’s masters actually had nothing to do with this. Perhaps he was just that dedicated. That persistent…
“Wait a minute,” Harry said as his eyes narrowed dangerously. “If your masters didn’t tell you to do all of this, I’m guessing you’d still rather me and Charlus weren’t at Hogwarts?” Dobby nodded. “You didn’t happen to petrify Mrs. Norris, did you Dobby?”
The elf looked incredulous. “Of course not, sir! Dobby would never do anything like that. Dobby is not even capable of such magic, sir.”
Whether that last part was true or not, Harry had no idea. Still, he decided to take the elf at his word. “Alright then, let’s take a different approach. Did you have anything to do with the bludgers?”
Dobby immediately looked nervous. “You mustn’t be angry, sir. Charlus Potter was furious with Dobby. He couldn’t believe Dobby did such a thing.”
“My brother does a lot of stupid things,” Harry understated. “Seeing as he’s currently regrowing his bones, I actually think he has a very valid point this time.” He fixed Dobby with a meaningful stare. “But don’t worry, Dobby. Unlike Charlus, I’m not surprised. Your stunt in the summer might have got me killed if not for my friend and her family. I already knew that you sometimes forget to think before you act.”
It was a rather blatant ploy on Harry’s part. Hopefully, he could guilt the elf into spilling something. He had no desire to get involved in this year’s mystery. But if he could find out some way to prove he wasn’t at the heart of it that was of little risk to him, all the better. And even if he couldn’t, information was hardly a bad thing. If anything, it might help him to not become the next Mrs. Norris. Harry had no doubts that these “terrible things at Hogwarts” were in reference to whatever had happened on Samhain. If that was indeed the case, it was only logical that the specific event in question had only been the beginning. A warning shot, perhaps. Harry very much doubted this supposed “Heir of Slytherin” would be sticking to creatures for long. Students might well be next, and any information that could help him and his friends to avoid that fate would be more than welcome.
Dobby’s ears drooped once more. “Dobby thought that his bludger would make Harry Potter go home, sir.”
“Dobby, I’m going to say this very simply and I want you to listen very closely, okay?” The elf nodded. “No matter what you do, I am not leaving Hogwarts. You’re wasting your time setting up these schemes because none of them will work. The best way you can keep me and Charlus safe is by telling me what’s going on and who’s behind it.”
“Dobby can only be telling Harry Potter what he knows already, sir. The Chamber of Secrets is open again. Hogwarts isn’t safe for students anymore.”
“Again?” Harry asked, his eyes narrowing. “Are you telling me that this isn’t the first time the Chamber of Secrets has been opened? And that whoever opened it isn’t bluffing? It really has been open, then?”
The elf’s ears drooped. “Dobby has said too much, sir,” the elf said, downtrodden. Then, before Harry could react, the elf vanished with a loud CRACK, leaving Harry to mull over all of that information in the confines of his bed. Sighing, he quietly slid open his curtains to pour himself a glass of water from his bedside table. To his surprise, there was something else resting on the surface.
A piece of parchment with elegant, unfamiliar writing written across it sat there, seemingly innocuous. Carefully, Harry levitated it behind his hangings and therefore into the range of the Muffliato spell. Then, he cast the limited amount of detection charms he knew. When none of them came up with anything, he frowned. Eventually, he decided that if somebody wanted to harm him, they probably wouldn’t have done it in the middle of his dorm room, so he finally picked up the parchment and began to read it.
I know that our last meeting didn’t end as well as either of us would have liked, but I think we need to talk.
I would really appreciate if you would meet me at the normal time and place tomorrow evening, but understand if you won’t.
Just give it some thought.
November 8, 1992
That next morning, Harry and his friends found themselves diligently working away in the Library. Harry himself wasn’t behind on any classwork, but he had taken out a basic book on Arithmancy. It appeared as if most of their first year learning Arithmancy would be taken up by ensuring that the class had a strong foundation of mathematical knowledge. At least, that would be the first half of the year. Harry had always done well in maths during muggle school, so he was actually rather far ahead already. Granted, some of the algebra was new to him, but not much of it. That’s what he was polishing up on now. Once he finished, he might actually be able to start learning the actual applications of Arithmancy, as well as his other classes, in which he was steadily pulling further and further ahead in by the day.
A noise from the other end of the library drew the group’s attention. Looking up, Harry saw a most peculiar sight. Two upper-year Ravenclaws were arguing heatedly over what seemed to be higher-level Arithmancy.
“I’m telling you, the answer has to have three sig figs!”
“Are you kidding? It has to have four. Look, the number with the lowest number of significant figures is 3.460. That’s four sig figs right there.”
Harry and his friends watched in amusement as the other boy argued back. They were both eventually kicked out of the library by Madam Pince, who had been giving them her death glare for quite some time now.
Harry, Blaise, Daphne and Tracey had chosen the most secluded corner of the library that they could find. Now that the post-match chaos had subsided, Harry once more found himself at the centre of the whole “Heir of Slytherin” conspiracy, and he could barely walk down a hallway without getting glared and hissed at by passers by.
Considering this fact, the four of them were actually somewhat surprised when Pansy found them and plopped her things down beside Harry. Pansy was not at all a morning person, and she had clearly overslept this morning. Despite that, her countenance spoke of significance. It was in equal parts worried and gleeful, an odd combination to be sure.
“What’s happened?” Harry asked her in a low voice, subtly withdrawing his wand and preparing to cast his typical privacy measures. When Pansy subtly nodded to indicate doing so was probably a good idea, he did, and only then did she look at each of them in turn before coming out with it.
“A student’s gone missing.”
The air at the table was suddenly filled with tension. “Petrified?” Blaise asked.
“No,” Pansy said insistently with a shake of her head, “Missing. He’s completely vanished. No writing on the wall, no hints, no nothing. He’s just… gone.”
“Another attack,” Daphne mused.
Pansy looked pensive. “Maybe, it’s hard to tell, really. I mean, I don’t think many people liked him, so it could’ve been anything. But it makes sense that it was an attack. He’s a muggleborn and it doesn’t look like he went willingly.”
“So there are some hints, then?” Harry asked curiously.
“Just one, and it’s not really a hint. The one who was petrified, it’s that muggleborn from Gryffindor. The annoying firstie with the camera.”
“Creevey,” Harry supplied, remembering his name from the sorting, “Colin Creevey.”
“Yes, him. When they went looking for him this morning, they didn’t find anything. Apparently, he was last seen in the Gryffindor common room last night after dinner. What they did find was his camera. It was laying on the floor near the Hospital Wing, and apparently there was damage done to it.”
“What kind of damage, exactly?” Blaise asked.
“I have no idea,” Pansy responded, sounding genuinely annoyed by the fact. “That’s the other thing I’ve been trying to figure out, but nobody seems to know. I’m sure the higher-up professors do, but they’re obviously not telling.”
“Better question,” Tracey asked with amazement, “How do you even know all of this?”
Pansy had actually kept her word since joining their group more than a month ago now. It had seemed to have taken about a week for the habit to be broken, but after that, she had addressed Tracey perfectly in line with how she would address any prestigious, pureblood heiress. “I have my ways,” she answered elusively. Tracey rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically, obviously realizing she wasn’t going to get anything else done.
“Harry,” she asked, “Do you mind helping me with the transfiguration homework? I’m a bit lost.” Tracey was quite good at both Potions and Charms, but Transfiguration had never been her best subject.
“Me too, while you’re at it?” Pansy added, turning puppy dog eyes on Harry. In return, Harry just rolled his own eyes, but he did end up helping the two of them finish their homework — an essay he had finished on Friday evening.
Later that night, in a room in the dungeons…
Harry was more than a little bit anxious for the second consecutive occasion on which he was nearing the room in the dungeons which he frequented with Grace. This time, the reasoning behind it was quite different.
Last Sunday, he had been expecting a rather dramatic dressing down for the incident pertaining to Malfoy in the common room. The same incident which Grace was accidentally (sort of) dragged into. Tonight, Harry was not so much nervous as to what might happen to him. He was nervous because he was worried a topic of conversation might come up that he had been trying quite hard to bury.
The only person whom Harry truly talked about the Dursleys and his home life with had been Daphne. Tracey suspected more than she knew, and the two of them had shared an emotional heart to heart in July, but he hadn’t opened up to Tracey yet in the same way he had done to Daphne.
Harry had a decent amount of trust for Grace. Or at least he had before last Sunday’s incident. He had never trusted her unconditionally, but she was certainly one of the few people alive whom he trusted at all. Now, he wasn’t entirely sure where they stood. He would need to hear her side of things, and it was a side he frankly didn’t want to hear. Because he knew once it was brought up, deep, uncomfortable conversations about the nightmares of his past were sure to arise.
And to think, he had been having such an easy, normal year until the night of Samhain.
Then again, he had been having such an easy, normal life until the night of Samhain eleven years ago. The troll had also put in a rather impressive attempt at killing him that very same night a little over a year ago. The conclusion that Harry was slowly drawing from all of this was that Samhain was just not his night. Maybe next year, he would be better off locked away in a bunker on that day.
Refocusing, Harry noticed that he was once more standing right in front of the door. His ring told him nothing, which was quite impressive. Even when Malfoy’s older friends had set up wards last year, his ring had alerted him to their presence. Standing directly in front of the door that led into the classroom, nothing was being broadcast to him at all. He was pretty sure Grace was likely inside, but his ring was none the wiser. Clearly, the wards were well-designed. Taking into account whom Harry knew had cast them, that fact wasn’t exactly surprising.
With a sigh, he reached out and took the doorknob, slowly and deliberately pushing the door open as he blanked his face and tried hard to clamp down on his emotions. Lately, he had been working diligently to learn to control and suppress them. It was a skill he had nowhere near mastered as of yet, but Emily had assured him it wouldn’t take long. Apparently, he would have it down by late February or early March, according to her. Possibly earlier, but she hadn’t wanted to get his hopes up too high.
At the moment, Harry really wished it was a skill he had already mastered, for just seeing this room once more caused his anxiety to rise. As expected, Grace was present and waiting for him. She was sitting at one of the desks in one of the number of comfortable armchairs. In spite of that, she wasn’t lounging. Quite the opposite, in fact. She looked entirely alert, her eyes were sharp and focused and she was leaning forward, her foot impatiently tapping against the ground as she waited. As soon as Harry entered the room, her bluish-silver eyes found him at once and Harry felt frozen in place by her stare. For an irrational moment, he thought she might try to legilimize him.
She didn’t. She simply gestured for him to take a seat across from her and very hesitantly, he obliged her silent request. There was a long, awkward moment of silence between the two of them before finally, Grace sighed. “You’re not going to make this easy, are you?”
Harry didn’t answer, primarily because he had no idea how to.
“I didn’t really expect you to,” Grace admitted. “I’m assuming you’d rather avoid the topic altogether, but it sort of has to be brought up.” Harry tensed, but he did his best to keep his face impassive as not to give anything of significance away.
“Well, let’s start with the basics that I’m assuming probably don’t mean a whole lot to you but that I feel obligated to say anyway. I’m sorry, Harry. That was an awful mistake on my part. I thought I had an idea of what was going on in your home life after this summer. Mother… told both myself and Charlotte what she knew, which was everything that Celia had told her. I was wrong. I… didn’t expect to see any of that. I was curious to see what your thoughts were about Samhain. Specifically, about the Malfoy incident. I didn’t expect it to spiral like that. I certainly didn’t expect to see what I did.
“When I felt your emotions, I froze and started operating off of instinct. That’s when the memories from your childhood came up. Breaking a connection you form with Legilimency isn’t difficult, but it does have to be done consciously unless the defending Occlumens breaks it on their own. I was too taken aback, too surprised. The thought never even crossed my mind, which in hindsight, is rather horrible. I didn’t realize how terrible that probably was for you until I tuned back in and felt the emotions it was triggering. It was… not my proudest moment.
“I have a habit of looking at everything clinically. Situations, problems, people. I look at everything from my perspective and the perspective of what needs to be done to get us to the ideal situation. I… don’t think of other people’s emotions sometimes. I’m not using that as an excuse. That was borderline sociopathic of me, and it was disgusting. I’m just telling you why breaking the link never even came to my mind. If I would have tuned into your emotional reaction sooner, it would have jogged me. But I didn’t.
“I’m sorry for that, Harry. I completely understand if you don’t trust me in your mind, right now. We don’t have to work on Occlumency tonight if you would rather not. I just hope that I’ll be able to earn back your trust at some point in the not-so-distant future.”
Again, heavy silence permeated the room. All in all, Harry was actually rather happy with that response. He had feared more than anything that Grace would press him about the Dursleys.
But she hadn’t.
She hadn’t even mentioned them except in passing. Beyond all else, there was no pity in her words. That was another thing he had dreaded, but it didn’t seem to be there. She had been clinical, just as she had described herself as. Harry was also quite the clinical person. He could understand the approach, and her explanation actually made sense to him.
It was probably the same thing he would have done if the roles were reversed, and he sensed no malicious intent. That was not to say he was in the mood to have her go anywhere near his mind at the moment. That was the last thing he wanted to do right now, but he would not hold the incident against her. It would be noted and remembered, but not weighed with any degree of importance, at least not right now.
“If it’s all the same to you, I would rather not work on Occlumency right now,” he admitted. “It’s… not even that I don’t trust you, necessarily. I just… have a hard time with the idea of anybody in my mind right now. Especially because those thoughts and memories will probably keep hovering around the surface for a while.”
Grace nodded. “I completely understand that.” She paused. “I’m not going to talk to you about them,” she prefaced. “I know you wouldn’t be interested in having that conversation at all, least of all with me. I’m not even going to ask you what you want to do about them, even though I personally think they can burn and rot. I’m just going to say one thing about all of this and then move on.”
Tentatively, Harry nodded, prompting her to go on, though he had become rather tense once again.
“If you ever need to talk about it, let me know. I’m not going to pretend I can understand the situation at all, because I can’t. You would probably tell me that I had life extremely easy next to you, and you would be completely right. But I am fairly good at reading people and situations and between the two of us, I rather like you. My sister does especially, as does Mother and Father. If you ever need to talk, I’m here.”
Harry was quite sure it was a lifeline he would not be using, but he nodded appreciatively nonetheless, and the gesture was more than sincere. It left an odd, heavy lump in his throat to think that people like Grace were actually willing to hear the problems of a random boy which had no impact on them. There was always the chance that he was being manipulated, but he personally didn’t think that to be likely.
“Right, well, I thought we might try something different tonight. Something less stressful for you, but something that I have a feeling you’re going to be very interested in.” Harry raised an eyebrow in question, showing his intrigue. “Technically, common practice is to not teach Legilimency until the student has progressed to level three or higher in Occlumency. I’m not going to make a habit out of teaching it to you, but I don’t think one lesson will hurt, if you’re willing.”
Harry had to suppress the widening of his eyes. He wasn’t sure if this was Grace trying to get his trust back or not, but it was certainly interesting. And it was certainly a bold move on her part. Harry had no doubt that he would never be breaching her “shields” unless she wanted him to. Still, the thought of letting anyone voluntarily into your mind when the option to not was available was baffling to Harry.
“Alright then, where do we start?”
November 9, 1992
The Defence Against the Dark Arts Classroom
After a long, theory-based class, Gilderoy Lockhart had finally told the Slytherin second years that it was time to pack up their things and prepare for lunch. Much of the class found themselves quite relieved to hear that proclamation. Lockhart was a surprisingly difficult professor. Hurst had been more so, but Lockhart still expected a lot of his students.
Speaking of his students, one such raven-haired boy was about halfway through packing his things when he heard the professor call his name. “Mister Potter, stay behind please. I’d like a word with you, if you’d be so kind.”
Daphne’s head snapped around at once. Her look towards Harry was inquisitive, but he merely shrugged. He had no more idea what this might be about than she did. Seeing as he also had no inkling as to how long or short this “word” might be, he told his friends to go on ahead and wait for him in the Great Hall. When all had cleared the room, Harry walked towards the teacher’s desk. Lockhart was looking directly at him, and Harry had the impression he had been doing just that the entire time he had been speaking with Daphne, Blaise and Tracey.
“You wanted to speak with me, Professor?”
Lockhart nodded, piercing Harry with a deep, blue-eyed stare. “Warn you would be more accurate, but yes, that was the general idea.” Harry could not help but feel the shift in mood and subconsciously, his hand drifted minutely towards his wand. Not that he would have had any hope of outduelling the honorary member of the Dark Force Defence League, but that was another matter altogether.
“Warn me, Professor?”
Lockhart’s eyes narrowed. “We both know what I’m talking about, Mister Potter. Do the both of us a favour and stop playing ignorant, will you? It would be the most polite course of action in your current predicament.”
Now, it was Harry who narrowed his eyes as he tried to piece together exactly what this could have been about. He had answered several questions correctly in class and had actually earned Slytherin House a handful of points. He was fairly certain he was the top-scoring student in his year within Lockhart’s subject, so he was pretty sure it had nothing to do with his academic standing. Then, his mind rested on the reason why everybody seemed to be out for his head at the moment, and he suddenly remembered exactly how insistent Lockhart had been in maintaining his stance against Harry on the night of Samhain.
Harry couldn’t help it. He actually sighed and very nearly rolled his eyes; it was a near miss. “You actually think I’m the Heir of Slytherin?”
Clearly, this was the wrong thing to say.
Lockhart’s face scrunched up as he leaned forward, placing his hands on the desk in front of him as he made hard eye contact with Harry. With a jolt, Harry wondered if Lockhart was a Legilimens. According to his reading, the number of people who chose to learn Legilimency was typically far fewer than those who learned Occlumency, and even that was a fairly small number. But with all of the man’s accolades, Harry decided it was a good idea not to make eye contact, just in case. Lockhart seemed to take this as a sign of weakness, which Harry had expected. Better he suspect him guilty than forcefully enter his mind.
“I’m going to give you one warning, Potter. You are my top suspect, at the moment. You’re the only one who makes sense right now and you were caught dead in that corridor. I don’t believe in coincidences like that. From my experiences, where there’s smoke, there is usually fire. I can’t prove you did it. Hell, I might be wrong; it wouldn’t be the first time. But just watch yourself if it is you. I’m watching you and if you’re the one petrifying students, you haven’t a chance. I’ll catch you before long.”
If nothing else, Harry could respect the bluntness and honesty.
He didn’t need to be told twice. He left the room at a brisk pace, wearing a blank expression. It was lucky for him that he had no plans of getting involved with any of this. Still, it might not be a bad idea to look into Gilderoy Lockhart. And he knew of at least one person who at least knew something about the man that he did not.
“What did Lockhart want?” Daphne asked him several minutes later, practically as soon as he had sat down.
Right then, Harry was experiencing a fair amount of indecision. Should he tell his friends that Lockhart thought him the Heir of Slytherin? He saw no reason to trouble them with it, at least not yet. It didn’t seem as if it was going to be important. Hopefully, Lockhart, or Dumbledore, or any other member of the staff would catch the actual perpetrator and this whole fiasco would be over. Barring that, Harry’s plans were to stay clear of the whole thing, so Lockhart being watchful of him really shouldn’t be too much of an issue. At worst, he would be caught out after curfew. It might look bad at the time, but it was hardly a damning offence that could implicate him to anything.
“He asked me about Samhain,” Harry responded, deciding to tell a half-truth. “He was curious as to whether or not I saw anything in that corridor before my brother and his sidekicks showed up and tried to play hero.”
There was a long pause at the table before Pansy asked the question that was obviously on the tip of everybody’s tongue, the question which the group at large had blatantly ignored for the past nine days. “Did you see anything?”
“Nope,” Harry answered, completely honest this time. “Just the cat hanging from the torch and the writing on the wall; same as everyone else. Mind you, I didn’t exactly have much time. I only beat my brother there by about a minute, and then I sort of got jumped, so…”
“Twat,” Blaise muttered. “He’s even glaring at you now.”
“Let him, I hardly care.” He glanced around the table. “Where are the firsties?” It was a fair question. Charlotte, Ginny and Laine all appeared to be absent.
“They took some sandwiches to the library, I think,” Tracey answered. “Doing an essay for Snape.”
That made sense. Harry and his year-mates had always had Potions on Monday mornings last year. It would make logical sense that Charlotte and her friends, being the new crop of first years, would share the same schedule as Harry had the year previous. Why make a new schedule every year if you could recycle as much of the old one as possible? It probably couldn’t be done after third year due to the additional classes, but everyone took the same courses up until at least third year.
“I’m going to join them,” he decided, taking a few sandwiches before getting to his feet. “I want to take out some books on Arithmancy.” That part was actually true, and he did plan on doing that, but it wasn’t the real reason he was leaving. By now, his friends were used to him disappearing. They had History after lunch anyway. It wasn’t as if Harry was actually going to attend that class.
Minutes later, he found himself up in the library and after a brief scan of the room, he found who he was looking for.
He briefly debated just walking up to Charlotte and asking for a word. He very much doubted that either Laine or Ginny would spread it around. The latter was more of an unknown to him, but she seemed the quiet type who seemed to pretty much follow the other two. Deciding against that course of action, Harry took refuge behind a bookshelf which rendered him basically invisible from the girl’s vantage point. From there, he began to project the mental equivalent of begging for attention, hoping that Charlotte would notice. He was probably royally botching the message, but he thought it possible she would pick up on it.
A second later, he felt rather surprised when he felt… something. It was as if somebody had just dropped something into his mind. It was vague, not remotely specific, but he understood the general meaning. It was more of an impression than a thought, really, but he knew that Charlotte would find him in a few minutes.
He remembered, back in the summer, when Charlotte had explained her ability to hear the thoughts of others. Harry had thought even then that it was vaguely similar to an ability of his own. Granted, he had mostly needed eye contact in the past, but he had always been able to sense general emotions, moods and lies. He had wondered whether or not that was some sort of Natural Legilimency of his own. Now more than ever, he found himself curious. Something to ask Emily, perhaps.
Harry could feel a presence moving closer to him via the ring about two minutes later. When she drew near, he smoothly stepped around the corner. “Clever,” she said quietly, offering him a small smile.
“I have my moments,” he said in return. “How long did you tell your friends you would be gone for?”
Charlotte quirked a brow. “You weren’t using an eavesdropping spell? I’m surprised.”
“I don’t know any to use.”
She blinked. “Really?”
“Why the tone of surprise?” Harry asked. “Do you have any recommendations?”
“No, I don’t know any of them either, though I wouldn’t mind learning a few. I never really had need for them. It just seemed like something you would know.”
“It isn’t, but thanks for the idea.” Charlotte’s lips twitched. “Back to my original question though.”
She shrugged. “I didn’t really give them a timeline, I sort of just said we would be back. Why?”
“You have defence after lunch, right?”
She blinked. “How do you possibly know that?”
“I figured out you likely had the same schedule as the one we had last year. We always had defence after lunch on Mondays.”
Charlotte actually looked surprised. “That is… shockingly impressive that you just know that off the top of your head. Most people in my year still have to check their timetable. Do you know mine off by heart?”
“Assuming it is the same as ours from last year, which I’m pretty sure it is, then yes, I do. I’ve been over this with Daphne, Blaise and Tracey, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually explained it to you. For now, let’s just say I remember things and leave it off at that.”
“Uh-huh,” Charlotte said, “whatever you say. One last question before we move on. Is this a… new thing of yours?”
“What, remembering things? No, I’ve been able to do that forever.”
Charlotte nodded, an oddly pensive expression in place. “Alright, fair enough. So what was so urgent?” Harry subtly jerked his head towards the door. Charlotte sighed. “You have to be the most paranoid person I know.”
“Everything I’ve learned over the last fourteen months tells me that paranoia gets you places.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Lead the way then.”
Within a few moments, the two of them found themselves alone in an empty classroom. Funnily enough, it was the same classroom that Malfoy, Selwyn, Nott and Macnair had locked him up in last year.
“You know things about Lockhart,” Harry said bluntly. “I’m not sure what, but they’re important. You knew right away he wasn’t a fraud. Even in the book store, you told me I was wrong, and as far as I know, you had never met him before that day.”
“What’s your point?”
“You don’t deny it then?”
“Of course I don’t deny it. What’s the point in playing word games if the other person is so convinced they know the answer that nothing you say is going to change their mind.” She scrunched up her face. “There’s also the fact that it’s true.”
“Yet you haven’t told us anything.”
Charlotte seemed to ponder that. “Harry, I can’t tell you much. Partially because I don’t actually know much about Gilderoy Lockhart at all. Let me finish,” she said sharply, seeing that he was skeptical. “I know a lot about other things that let me make very educated guesses on some things about Lockhart. I would have bet my family’s fortune that he wasn’t a fraud, but I didn’t technically know that. I just knew a lot of other things that all pointed in that direction.”
“Okay, point. But it still doesn’t answer the question. Why don’t you tell us what you assume about him? Or whatever it is you know that lets you make guesses?”
Charlotte sighed. “I’ll just be honest with you and we can be done, because I doubt you’re going to let it drop unless I am. The short answer is, I can’t. As in, I physically can’t tell you what I know because magic won’t let me. I don’t know what I can and can’t say, exactly, because it’s up to magic to interpret it. But I’d rather not start telling you something and then be forced to stop, only for you to have context that leads you in a completely different direction.”
“Something like that, yes.”
Harry wondered what Charlotte could possibly know that would be so important it was classified under oath. The Weitts family were known for being probably the most secretive family in the country. Could it be family business, of some sort?
“If I ask you a question and you can answer it, will you?”
Charlotte suddenly looked suspicious. “That depends on the question, I guess. And why you’re asking.”
“Fine, since you were so honest with me, let me do the same in return. Gilderoy Lockhart thinks I’m the Heir of Slytherin.” Charlotte’s eyes widened. “He thinks I’m to blame for both Samhain and for the Creevey incident. He basically just told me that he’ll be watching me like a hawk and that if I am the one going around petrifying cats and kidnapping students, that I’m completely screwed because he’s going to catch me.”
“Okay,” Charlotte admitted, “That’s actually a pretty good reason for being interested in Lockhart.”
“I certainly thought so.”
“So what’s your question, then?”
“Do you know or think that Lockhart is a Legilimens?”
Charlotte pursed her lips, obviously thinking about that. Eventually, she shook her head, actually looking disappointed. “I’m sorry, Harry, but I have no idea. This isn’t even me not being able to tell you things, I just actually don’t know. I have no proof that he is, nor are there any real hints, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he knows Legilimency. I’m just not confident enough to say either way. I’d rather disappoint you than tell you the wrong answer.”
Harry sighed. “Fair enough, I suppose.” He took out his wand and tapped it on his wrist, causing the time to appear in front of him. “Speaking of Lockhart, you should probably get to defence.”
“Yeah, I should,” Charlotte agreed. “For those of us who don’t have our friends’ timetables memorized, what class do you have next?”
“History, but I don’t go to that class.”
“I might start doing that.”
“Go for it, as long as you have faith you’ll still do well on tests and exams. I just go for the tests so I can write them. I read the textbook and get on well enough.”
“I might try it for a test or two and see how it goes. Anyway, I’m off. Enjoy… whatever you’re going to do.”
“Take out books on Arithmancy and then go work on some spell casting.”
“Well, like I said, enjoy.”
“Thanks, have fun with Lockhart.”
“I will. I’ll be sure to tell you if he tries to legilimize me.”
Harry laughed. “I appreciate it, Charlotte.”
Later that night, in the Slytherin dorms…
I had a few questions about Legilimency.
The pause was perhaps a bit longer than normal, but not by much. If Harry’s memory was not so sharp, he probably wouldn’t have ever noticed the minor discrepancies in the promptness of her replies.
Legilimency, this time? You have kept up with the Occlumency practices I recommended despite your newfound interest in its sister art, correct?
I have. I just had some questions about Legilimency.
Very well then. Ask away, I shall answer what I can.
Harry took a moment to best decide how to word his questions.
I have two main questions, but they both sort of tie into other things.
First of all, the more pressing issue I have. Is there any way to tell for sure whether or not someone is a Legilimens?
Not until that person makes a move, I’m afraid. If somebody is a Natural Legilimens, an extremely skillful witch or wizard can sometimes tell if they are in-tune enough with magic to read its flow. But with respect, you are nowhere close to being at that level. I suspect Dumbledore to be the only person in that castle who has the ability to do that.
That was interesting, but it was more troubling than anything else. He would have much preferred an affirmative answer to that question.
So, if I’m not sure, my best option right now is to avoid eye contact?
Yes, avoid any eye contact and keep your mind clear at all times. Monitor the thoughts in your mind very closely and constantly be on the lookout for any irregularities or thoughts that seem out of place. I know it’s stressful and unfortunate, but soon enough, you will be able to adequately defend your mind. At least against those who are not terribly skillful.
Harry sighed. He had somehow expected an answer to that effect, but it was disappointing nonetheless. Not that he was hiding anything damning in regards to the Heir of Slytherin, but he had no interest in Lockhart roaming around in his mind.
For that matter, he had no interest in anybody in his mind.
Still, loathe as he was to admit it, it was a stark reminder of exactly why it was so important that he persist with Occlumency despite the hiccup with Grace the previous week. It had been quite a bad mistake on her part, but if Lockhart may be making attempts to poke around his head in the future, he thought that getting back to lessons in Active Occlumency was going to be a necessity going forward.
Alright, he wrote back, that’s unfortunate, but not surprising. I had one other question and then I’ll stop bothering you for the night.
The pause was practically non-existent this time.
I believe I have said something to this effect before, but you’re not a bother at all, Harry. There are few things in this world I enjoy more than magic, and you have been more than a pleasant pen pal. If I had not been enjoying the correspondence, I simply would have cut it off long ago. Go ahead and ask your question.
Again, Harry felt an odd warmth in his chest. After spending weeks identifying emotions with perfect clarity in preparation for emotional manipulation, he thought he might finally be able to recognize the sensation. Turning his mind inward, Harry isolated it easily enough. It was an emotion that had been rarely felt in his life, but he was indeed able to accurately identify it with little issues.
Pride, and perhaps a bit of content.
Alright, he responded, not entirely sure how one was supposed to reply to a statement like that. Merlin, he was clueless with emotions. Even if he could now understand his own, how to actually deal with them was such a foreign concept. I have an… admission to make.
I think I might be a Natural Legilimens. If I am, it’s to a lesser extent than my friend, but I’m not sure it’s possible to be more or less of it.
There are certainly levels to natural Legilimency. The key component is that a natural Legilimens has pre-created links in place to the minds of others. The difference is the strength of said links. And the most powerful witches and wizards aren’t always the ones with the strongest Natural Legilimency links. My question is, why do you think you’re a Natural Legilimens?
It’s… kind of complicated. I’ve always been able to tell when somebody was lying, but I can’t really explain how. I’ve always been good at reading people and the general mood of a room. But earlier today, I sort of had it trigger in my mind. To get my friend’s attention without being obvious about it, I sort of just try and blast out my thoughts and hope she picks up on them, and she always does. Well today, I think she did the same thing and I noticed. I basically blasted out that I wanted to talk, and I felt… something? Not even really a thought, more of an impression. The general idea was “I’ll be there in a few minutes” and she was.
He had to wait longer than usual for a reply this time, but one did eventually come.
Judging by the limited amount of information I have, I would say that you are almost definitely a Natural Legilimens. Even if you can’t pick up precise thoughts, what you have described certainly fits many of the common characteristics. Here is another one. Do you ever find that in conversation with people who you know are unaware of Occlumency that you just know exactly what to say? Oftentimes, it isn’t even a conscious thing. But thinking back, has this ever happened to you?
Harry didn’t need to think about it. The answer was a resounding yes. Almost every teacher he had ever charmed in muggle school fell into this categorization. Hell, the same could be said for Longbottom last year…
This was something new to ponder on for certain.
November 13, 1992
The Potions Classroom
With satisfaction, Harry bottled what he considered to be a perfect potion. Or at least as close as he had ever gotten whilst working with Neville. The two of them had kept up their common practice of last year. Meaning, they worked together at least once every two weeks, often once per week. Neville was still by no means good at potions. Harry actually still considered him to be below average in the field, but he had come a very long way since they had started to work together last spring.
“That might be the best one we’ve ever brewed,” Neville commented after Harry returned from handing the potion into Snape.
“It might be,” Harry agreed. “It’s definitely one of the best. You’ve improved a ton since last spring. It’s been a lot easier to brew with you lately.” Harry could practically see the euphoria leak from Neville as his face split into an ear to ear grin.
“Cheers, Harry. You’ve been super helpful the whole time. I wish we were able to talk more, actually.” The last admission was made in a rather small voice, but Harry graced Neville with a smile in return, trying to set the boy at ease.
“Yeah, it’s a bit complicated with the whole Gryffindor and Slytherin thing. I’ve also just been a bit caught up this year. Quidditch has taken up a lot of time, and I’ve also been trying to get further ahead in my classes and the like.”
“It’s okay,” Neville assured him. “I don’t blame you, or anything. Just a thought, that’s all.” He paused. “For what it’s worth, I… don’t think you’re the Heir of Slytherin.”
Harry smiled thinly. “This is why we get along, Neville. Your tie might not be my favourite colour, but at least you have some sense. More than I can say for my brother or his two stooges.”
“Hermione’s really smart,” Neville defended.
Harry shrugged. “If you insist, but being smart and having sense aren’t the same thing. A person can have both, but not always.”
Neville looked conflicted. He was too polite to contradict Harry but too loyal to his own housemates to accept any criticism of Hermione. Really, it was an impossible situation.
Instead, he chose to broach a more interesting topic of conversation. “She asked about the Chamber of Secrets, you know?”
Loathe as he was to admit it, Harry found himself grudgingly interested. He might have had no plans to get involved if things escalated further, but natural curiosity was a strong force. He could be informed and still stay out of things. There was hardly any rule against it.
“Who did she ask? I doubt anybody knows much about it other than what’s written in Hogwarts, A History.”
“Binns,” Neville answered to Harry’s surprise. “It was the first time I’d ever heard anybody ask him anything in class. He didn’t seem keen on answering, but Hermione talked him into it eventually. She said something like how myths were based on facts, or something.”
“Again, I never said she wasn’t intelligent. Did he say anything interesting? Anything that wasn’t written in Hogwarts, A History? Assuming you’ve read it, of course.”
Neville shrugged. “I have, but it was more sort of me skimming it. I… don’t really remember much from it. My memory isn’t very good, you see.”
Harry had noticed as much, so the admission came as no surprise to him. “Fair enough. What was it Binns said?”
“He said that Gryffindor and Slytherin had gotten into an argument over blood purity. Over who should be let into the school, you know. Slytherin wanted it to only be purebloods, I think. Either way, Gryffindor wanted everybody to be able to attend. There was supposedly this big fight over it, and Slytherin ended up leaving. Binns said that’s all known information. No rumours about it.”
Harry nodded. It matched what he had read on the subject, both on the infamous compendium of Hogwarts and in other, historical texts.
“Anyway, the Chamber of Secrets is apparently part of a legend. When Slytherin left the school, the legend said he left some sort of monster behind. Some sort of monster that would purge the school of all the Muggleborns.”
Harry frowned. All of that had indeed been in Hogwarts, A History except for that final tidbit. According to the book, Slytherin had left a monster behind out of spite. But the book never really clarified a purpose. It sort of just made it sound as if the monster was going to one day escape and ruin the school. He wondered where Binns had gotten that particular bit of information from. Or whether he had just assumed it based on the reasons for Slytherin’s departure. Harry wasn’t really sure whether or not setting up a monster to carry out your bidding a millennia later was possible, but he supposed anything might well be possible with magic. Perhaps he was just too ignorant to see how it all fit together.
At that exact moment, the bell rang, signifying the end of the period. Harry and Neville had finished early, so up until now, they had been talking quietly at their station. Wishing his closest Gryffindor acquaintance a good day, Harry joined Daphne, Pansy, Blaise and Tracey in leaving the classroom as all four of them started making their way up towards the Great Hall.
“You’re getting much better at potions,” Daphne compliment. “You must be. You and Longbottom have finished second the last few times. Considering how miserable he is at the subject, that’s impressive.”
Harry shrugged. “He’s not great, no. He’s getting better though. He can at least follow simple instructions now and I don’t have to watch over his shoulder like a hawk the whole time. It’s progress. Coaching him through the brew definitely doesn’t slow me down as much as it used to.”
Daphne just hummed. “If you say so. Want to work together next Friday? It seems fair. You had the disadvantage during this double-period. You can have the advantage next one.” Her confidence was casual. She wasn’t going out of her way to brag, it just sort of came up and she saw no reason to downplay it.
“Yeah, that sounds good to me,” Harry agreed with a smile. “Once I get further ahead in my other subjects, I might start looking into some more advanced potions and theories. I’ll probably pick your brain a bit when I get to that point.”
“You’re more than welcome to.”
“What does one talk about with a Gryffindor?” Blaise asked, sounding genuinely curious. “I admit I don’t spend much time with them, but it seems like most of them would struggle to keep up.” Tracy and Daphne smiled amusedly whilst Pansy hid a giggle behind her hand. She seemed to rather enjoy Blaise’s dry sense of humour.
“Depends on the day, really. Most of the time, it’s just normal gossip.” He paused. By now, he had decided not to inform his friends of anything that Dobby had told him. He saw no reason for them to know. If he wasn’t getting involved, he saw no reason for them to. Plus, that was rather sensitive information. Harry trusted them, but parting with important, delicate information was still something he was rather hesitant to do, especially when he had nothing to gain by doing so. But Neville’s gossip was harmless, really. Aside from the tidbit about the monster’s supposed purpose, all of what Neville had told him could be found in easily accessible books.
“Apparently, Granger asked Binns about the Chamber of Secrets. More amazingly, he actually stopped reading from his notes long enough to answer her.”
“Truly astounding,” Blaise agreed with a smirk. “It’s an occasion for the history books. We should start a petition. I wonder how Binns would feel about sliding it into his curriculum.”
“Shut up, you prat!” Tracey said with a laugh, gently shoving Blaise before turning back to Harry. “What did he answer with?”
“Long story short, Slytherin and Gryffindor had a fight over whether or not muggleborns should attend Hogwarts. Gryffindor won the argument and apparently, Slytherin left. Legend has it he left this fabled Chamber of Secrets behind with a monster hidden inside. Only his true heir is supposed to be able to open the chamber and unleash the monster within. When it’s released, whatever is inside is supposed to purge the school of all muggleborns.”
“How delightfully dramatic.”
“Watch it, Greengrass,” Blaise protested. “That’s supposed to be my line.”
Daphne sniffed. “It’s hardly my fault you’re too slow. I know it’s hard, but get that brain of yours into motion, will you.”
“Now, now, Daphne, play nice. I have to let you get one every once in awhile.”
Daphne rolled her eyes. “Watch it, Greengrass,” she quoted in a poor imitation of Blaise’s silky voice. “That’s supposed to be my line. If that’s you letting me, Zabini, I’ve misread this conversation.”
Harry could not help but smile as they began to climb the marble staircase.
He really did enjoy the company of his friends.
“Anyway,” Tracey cut in, “I don’t suppose any of you are going to look more into the whole Chamber of Secrets thing?” At once, all of them looked at Harry.
“I don’t plan on it. If it’s all the same, I’d rather not get caught up in drama this year if I can avoid it. I think I could be doing more productive things than looking up myths and legends.”
“But what if they’re true?” Pansy countered. “Whoever petrified the cat wrote on the wall saying they were the heir. It was probably the same person who kidnapped Creevey.”
“If I found out about some myth that would scare half the school to death, I would probably use it too,” Daphne pointed out reasonably.
“I have to agree with Daphne on this one,” Blaise admitted with a sigh, sounding truly disappointed by the fact.
Pansy glanced to Harry, clearly interested in his opinion on the matter. “I probably would too,” he added. “Granted, it would actually be sort of brilliant to advertise that if you actually were the heir.”
“Why?” Tracey asked, confused. “Wouldn’t that just be giving it away?”
“Look at our reactions. Most reasonable people would assume that the whole thing is either a myth or that the person attacking cats, or students, or both is just using it. If they actually were the Heir of Slytherin, them claiming that would probably lead everybody down the wrong path. Headmasters and Headmistresses have tried to find this thing for centuries, is what Longbottom told me Binns said. If that’s true, they’d probably be wasting their time.”
“So to summarize,” said Pansy, “Either option is possible.”
Harry shrugged. “Pretty much.”
“Well that won’t do,” she decided. “I’m going to write home and see if Mother or Father know anything. I’m sure they’d love to hear about all the dangerous things happening at Hogwarts. It might help them and Lord Malfoy prove how useless Dumbledore is as a Headmaster.” She smiled. “And who knows? They might even know something useful they don’t mind telling me.”
Harry shrugged. “I’m not touching this one, but you go right ahead, Pansy. Do tell what you find, will you?”
As if it had ever been a question. Sharing gossip was probably Pansy Parkinson’s favourite hobby. That or sorting through the tangle of gossip and finding out what was truth and what was lies. She was disturbingly, unnaturally good at that, too.
Later that night, in the dungeons…
Charlotte was confused.
Earlier that day, she had received a letter at breakfast, courtesy of her Head of House. Apparently, Professor Snape required her presence in his office that night at nine o’clock. What exactly Snape could possibly want her for, she had no idea. To her knowledge, she hadn’t done anything worth note as of late. Unless it was about her antics involving Mulciber and Jugson, but that had been some time ago. If the two of them were going to run to Snape over the whole incident, she was reasonably sure they would have done so already. Even if they had, it wasn’t exactly as if they could prove it. Unless, of course, it had been a Prefect or professor who found them. If that had been the case, Charlotte was pretty sure she would have been called to Snape’s office a lot sooner.
The only thing she could think of was that she had scored particularly well on their practical quiz in Charms. She knew that she had performed extremely well, but that didn’t seem right to her either. She was quite certain that Harry regularly recorded jaw-dropping scores on his assignments. To her knowledge, he had never been called to Snape’s office to discuss them.
Needless to say, Charlotte was more than a little bit curious to see what Snape wanted from her. Curiosity was also one of the more dominant qualities within Charlotte.
That thought was quite prevalent now, when she was so lost in thought that she didn’t even notice the two people sneaking up behind her.
Thankfully, being a prodigious Natural Legilimens had its perks.
She could sense… something change around her. Reflexively, she dove to the side. It was fortunate that she did, because magic swiftly occupied the space she had been standing in just moments earlier. It was hard to tell exactly what curse had been fired towards her back, but she was pretty sure it hadn’t been pleasant.
When she stood to her feet and stared down Alex Jugson and Derrick Mulciber, she was quite certain of it.
Unlike that time all those weeks ago, neither boy looked prepared to back down and Charlotte’s pulse quickened. She had never practiced duelling extensively. Her mother had given her some basic tutoring in self-defence, but she could only hope it would be enough. She was easily more skilled than each of the boys individually. The problem was going to be the two of them working together. That and the fact that both of them had probably been spoon fed nasty curses for years.
That was what Charlotte thought, at least.
Instead, the problem actually turned out to be the figure who stepped out of the nearest classroom, which had been warded. Charlotte had sensed the wards, but her senses had been so focused on Mulciber’s curse that she had barely noted it.
How unfortunate a miscalculation that turned out to be, for it was this figure’s red spell that hit her in the back, causing her to slump to the floor in a heap.
Meanwhile, in the out of order girl’s bathroom on the second floor…
Charlus felt emotions churn inside of him as his two friends peered at him expectantly. Both of them were currently debating whether or not Harry was the Heir of Slytherin. Ron was completely convinced and obviously unwilling to change his stance on the matter. Hermione didn’t seem to have a strong opinion either way. In her own words, all physical evidence pointed to the fact, and there were no better suspects. Charlus wanted nothing more than to deny the fact.
“You have to admit, it makes sense,” Ron said darkly. “He was the only one in that corridor. He was just staring at the wall with that calculating look of his, like he had been studying his work.”
“He is also unnaturally good with magic,” Hermione mused. “As if he’s read advanced tomes that none of us have access to, or something.” She frowned. “The thing that doesn’t make sense to me is that he’s a halfblood. Why would he care about blood purity? All the evidence points to him, but I don’t see a motive. Why go after muggleborns in the first place?”
“He hated the muggles he lived with,” Charlus said quietly. “They… apparently didn’t treat him great. He doesn’t talk about it much, but maybe he holds a grudge.”
“Must be,” Ron muttered darkly. “As if a snake needed a reason to hate muggles.”
“I suppose we could always check,” Hermione said nervously. “It couldn’t hurt, could it?” Both boys’ eyes found her at once.
“How could we ‘check’ something like that?”
“Well… there’s a potion that lets you look like anybody else. If we play it right and don’t get caught, we could probably get close to him and just… ask him.” She shrugged. “If we plan carefully, I don’t see too much about it that could go wrong, right?”
Back in the abandoned classroom…
Charlotte came to with a painful jolt as her head snapped forcefully to the side and she felt an odd, stinging sensation on her face. It wasn’t until a few seconds later, as the memory of what had just happened flooded back to the forefront of her mind that she realized she had been woken by a rather forceful slap to the face.
“Wakey, wakey, Weitts.”
Charlotte hissed indignantly as she felt her face get slapped again. This time, the impact was a bit harder and, being fully awake, if a bit groggy, she felt the full, dull force of the impact. Her eyes snapped open, and when she caught the sight of Derrick Mulciber and Alex Jugson standing over her, they practically shot sparks. She tried to scramble to her feet, or reach for her wand, but she could do neither.
Her legs were bound with magic and her arms seemed to be bound to the leg of a desk. She didn’t know it, but the desk in question was currently being held in place by a strong sticking charm.
To put it simply, Charlotte wasn’t going anywhere.
“Morning, sunshine,” Mulciber mocked, getting to his feet once more as he stared hatefully down at her. Obviously, it had been he who had slapped her. When she got out of there…
“You look upset,” he noted. “What’s wrong, Weitts? Not so fun being the nail, is it?”
“When I get free, Mulciber, I’m going to show you exactly what it’s like to be the nail.”
“That would be a bad idea,” Jugson warned. “If you didn’t notice, we had help.”
“Help that doesn’t even have the courage to show up, face to face.”
“Help that doesn’t find you to be worth their time,” Mulciber corrected. “Powerful help, Weitts. This is the end of all of this. It was supposed to be a one and done, but then you had to go and make it worse. Well, we’re going to end this right about now.”
Charlotte sneered. “You better get me killed or expelled, Mulciber. Otherwise, you have no chance.”
Mulciber’s eyes gleamed. His family was synonymous with cruelty. There was a reason his grandfather was and would stay in Azkaban for the rest of his life. “That’s the beauty, Weitts. You’ll never know who did it.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve seen your faces.”
“The potion, Alex?” Mulciber requested, and Alex Jugson reached a pale hand into his robes and removed a small vial of dark, purple potion. The liquid was so dark it was nearly black. “Since there’s no way in hell you know what this is, let me fill in the gaps, Weitts. It’s called Celare Identitatem. Ring any bells?”
Charlotte’s face stayed impassive. She would not give the bastard the satisfaction of seeing her reaction. However awful that potion was, she was going to occlude her mind and no reaction would slip.
“It’s rough translation is hide identity. Alex and I have added some of our own blood to this potion. What will happen once you drink is that you’ll fail to remember us in our last interaction.” He smirked cruelly. “You’ll remember the interaction itself though. We wouldn’t want that to leave that pretty little head of yours. The message wouldn’t exactly… sink in.”
With that sadistic smirk still in place, Mulciber withdrew a long, silver ornate from his robes. Instinctively, Charlotte knew that it was no ordinary knife. She could feel the apprehension rolling off of Jugson. He might have been a bit jaded, but he was clearly not a sadist. Evidently, Mulciber was a sociopath, or something.
“When I say sink in, I mean it literally. This dagger’s wounds can never be healed. They scar terribly and they don’t fade… ever.” He smirked. “I imagine little Miss Perfect’s ego might take a hit if we cut her up a bit and stuck her to a wall for the rest of the school to see, new scars and all.”
Charlotte’s face didn’t change, but she felt her body tense. That level of public humiliation… yes, Mulciber had read her well. That would be quite the hit to her mental health.
“We might need to clean up the blood though. Wouldn’t want to hide those scars.”
Then, hungrily licking his lips, sadistic glee prominent in his eyes, he advanced on her with the knife…
Before anybody reviews and says Mulciber’s and Jugson’s plan is too dark or advanced for an eleven-year-old.
Minor spoiler here, but they did not orchestrate that. As for who did… you will find out later in the year. Oh, and Mulciber actually is a sociopath. That will come up much later in the story.
Next chapter will be the first of a three part title that will take us up to the Yule break, so I hope you are all excited for that.
Please read and review.
Editor’s Note (Luq):
Hmm…I wonder what’s going to happen next. Oh, and also, that whole sig fig thing in the library was a last minute addition by me. It was sort of an inside joke on Discord.
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