AoC Ch 36
Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 19: Dangerous Duels and Deadly Drama Part I
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 19: Dangerous Duels and Deadly Drama Part I
November 13, 1992
An Abandoned Classroom
Charlotte had stayed completely impassive right up to the point when Mulciber had sliced clean through the sleeve of her robes and pressed the tip of the dagger into the flesh of her forearm. She couldn’t help it. She screamed a terrible, high-pitched scream. It wasn’t a normal cut. It felt nothing like a normal cut. There was far too much blood for it to be a normal cut. The room swam in front of her eyes, both at the pain and sudden loss of blood.
“Just a taster,” Mulciber hissed near her ear. “Now for something… more noticeable.” To her horror, he began to extend the dagger towards her face.
And that was when all hell broke loose.
With a thunderous bang, the door to the abandoned classroom slammed open and before Charlotte’s brain could catch up with what was going on, she saw Jugson fall out of the corner of her eye. Mulciber quickly withdrew the dagger and dove to the side. With her vision still swimming but no longer obscured, Charlotte could see who had entered the room, and she actually shivered at the sight.
It was Harry, but he looked nothing like the boy she was accustomed to seeing.
He looked absolutely enraged, and Charlotte’s hazy mind was half trying to analyze how the air around him seemed to change with his moods, and half trying to figure out exactly how the hell he had found her.
Sometime earlier, in the Slytherin common room…
Harry’s vivid eyes stayed fixed on the entrance to the Slytherin common room even after Charlotte had left. It was one of the rare nights where he actually stayed in the common room. Currently, he was trouncing Blaise in a game of chess, much to the boy’s dismay. It annoyed Blaise even more because Harry hadn’t grown up playing chess, even though he knew the basics. What Blaise had overlooked was the fact that Harry’s mind and memory were both impeccably sharp. He could remember every move and mistake he had ever made in previous chess matches from the prior year. The first few times they had played, Harry lost decisively. However, thanks largely to his memory, he was an exceptionally quick study. The matches had changed significantly, and Harry was currently beating Blaise without putting in much effort.
He’d spent more time looking at the entrance to the common room than he had on the game.
‘What are you looking at?” Blaise asked, clearly a bit frustrated. “Or are you just trying to prove you can beat me without paying attention?”
“I just have other things on my mind, that’s all.”
He found the circumstances leading up to Charlotte’s exit from the common room to be suspicious.
For one thing, the few times he had received invitations to Snape’s office, they had never come by mail. They were either delivered by another student or Snape had told him to be there at the end of a Potions lesson. He said this to Charlotte, too. She dismissed it as a coincidence. After all, both times Harry had been called to the man’s office, once over Pansy’s ploy and the other to receive his new broom, had been rather special circumstances. Maybe for something more mundane, Snape wouldn’t go to the trouble of being so dramatic. Harry had agreed, not wishing to press the point.
But he knew that was not Snape.
Snape was nothing if not dramatic. His start-of-term speech to the first years had proven it, as had pretty much every introduction to any lesson he had ever given.
What was odder to Harry was the time.
He had never heard of a teacher requesting the presence of a student later than eight o’clock.
Of course, either of these things, or even both of them could easily be chalked up to simple coincidence. Most probably would make that assumption, even. Charlotte certainly had.
But not Harry.
Harry would admit that this year, he had been exceedingly paranoid, but he thought he had all the right to be. Especially after growing scales and being set up as a criminal.
Whether he was being overdramatic or not, only time would tell, but the longer Harry waited for his friend to return, the more persistently his instincts warned him that something was amiss.
Back in the present…
His green eyes were practically glowing straight out of his skull and his normally perfect hair seemed to stand on end as if it had been subjected to a sudden bolt of lightning. Another curse left his wand, immobilizing the falling form of Alex Jugson. By now, he had stepped into the room and was looking for Mulciber, who had darted behind a row of desks as he made for the door. Harry’s wand trained on him at the last second as he fired off a curse Charlotte had never heard before. It missed by mere inches, but it left a long, deep slash in the wall. Mulciber made it out the door and Harry whipped around, obviously about to follow him when he paused, clearly remembering that Charlotte was still in the room.
He cursed violently as he turned, eyes widening upon her. “We need to get you to the Hospital Wing.”
So obviously, the wound was bad.
Or the amount of blood, she supposed.
“Not like this,” Charlotte muttered, weakly. She was more than just dizzy now. She felt ill, faint. “They can’t see me like this… nobody can see me like this.”
Charlotte thought she saw an odd look on his face. Sympathy? Understanding? But before she could register that, his wand was shockingly aimed towards her. “I’m sorry, Charlotte, but you’re going to have to trust me.” Before she could protest, her world once more vanished in a familiar flash of red light and for the second time that night, Charlotte was rendered unconscious.
About an hour later, at Potter Manor…
With a loud whoosh, the small fire located just off of James Potter’s favourite sitting room erupted in green flames, sending emerald sparks of light dancing through the air, suddenly and vibrantly illuminating the dimly lit room.
Out of the fire, his dark silhouette starkly apparent against the vivid light of the flames, which licked hungrily at his black overcoat to no avail, stepped Peter Pettigrew. He had come from a long day at work. Not eventful, physically taxing or anything of that sort, but long. Monotonous, above all else, which had only made it feel all the longer. With this in mind, one might have expected him to look dishevelled or exhausted. Perhaps even frustrated that he had agreed to this meeting in the first place two weeks ago.
But none of that described Peter Pettigrew’s outward appearance as he deftly stepped from the roaring flames and into an all too familiar area within Potter Manor.
Peter looked awake, alert and even eager. When he first stopped his rapid spinning and settled in the correct grate, there had even been a spark of anticipation dancing in his watery-blue eyes, giving them an odd, extra sort of gleam. Of course, none of this was visible at the time, as it was disguised by the flames, which were nearly blinding in contrast to the low light around them. By the time Pettigrew stepped out of the fireplace, his face was stony and impassive. Suddenly, he looked very much as if he had been dreading this meeting for a very long time, even if such things were blatantly untrue.
A minute or so later, Peter was greeted by James, who wore casual robes and looked a lot more on edge than his best friend of twenty years. “Wormy. Peter noticed that the cheerful note which was usually prevalent in his friend’s voice was noticeably absent. There seemed to be a firm layer of tension surrounding James and for the briefest of moments, Peter felt a slight pang of pity for what James was about to learn.
A slight pang which he ruthlessly suppressed as he simultaneously berated himself for his brief moment of weakness.
“James,” he greeted in return, his voice obviously sounding more solemn than he actually felt. “Out early today?”
“Not so much out early. Moody just didn’t make me spend hours longer there than I needed to.”
Peter shrugged. “Same thing, really. The old dog’s always doing that to everybody. Any time he doesn’t, you’re off early, as far as I’m concerned.”
James sighed. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Merlin, what’s the Auror Office going to look like without him?”
“Probably a lot less chaotic,” Peter answered dryly. “You’ve heard the rumours as well then?”
“Yup. Word around the office is that Scrimgeour is going to announce his retirement at the dinner the night after the solstice. From there, Bones will take over.”
“And she’ll run a ship tighter than a noose,” Peter summarized succinctly. “Moody’s chaos doesn’t really fit well with her.”
“She’d never fire him, though. He’s earned way too much respect.”
“Nope,” Peter agreed, “She’ll either wait for a mistake or slowly try to talk him out of it. Merlin knows if anyone deserves a happy retirement, it’s that man.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean he’ll get it,” James said with an unwilling smile. “I doubt retirement is going to be kind to Mad-Eye. I can’t picture him not being busy. It’s a scary thought, actually. Thinking of what he might get up to if not kept busy and in-check.”
Peter shuddered. A scary thought indeed. “Shall we… er, get to business then?” Looking resigned, James nodded, and the two men made their way into the comfortable sitting room adjacent to them, taking seats in two, squash armchairs opposite one another. Peter made to begin but before he could, James raised a hand to pause him. Then, hand still raised, he snapped his fingers, summoning a house elf.
“Firewhiskey, please.” He hesitated. “Make it two bottles.” His voice was an odd mixture of exhaustion and fear. The elf popped back into the room a minute or so later with James’s request, along with two glasses. James poured himself one and offered the bottle and a glass to Peter, who did likewise. James downed his first glass immediately, sighing contentedly before pouring himself a second and finally looking expectantly towards Peter. “Okay,” he said through a deep, steadying breath, “I’m ready.”
Or, at least, he had thought he was ready.
Peter gave him an honest and clinical evaluation of what he suspected to have happened to Harry as a child. Of course, Peter knew exactly what had happened when Harry had been a child. Veritasirum was obscenely expensive and he was no legilimens, but the Imperius Curse worked just as well on those with no defence for it. On command, the Dursleys had spilled every secret about Harry Potter, and now James was being buried under their collective weight.
He learned how his son and heir had brutally worked and lived life like a house-elf. He learned about how he had been unjustly punished for offences such as besting Dudley on a test as a child. He learned about how, when the Dursleys decided punishment was needed, the punishment was often carried out crudely and physically. He even learned about how his son and heir, a future lord of one of Magical Britain’s most prominent houses, had spent most of his formative years locked in a spider-infested broom cupboard under a rickety set of stairs.
By the time Peter had finished his tale, James had already consumed what was probably an unhealthy amount of Firewhiskey. Later, James would reflect on the moment and wonder exactly how he had stayed coherent.
“Fuck,” he muttered, not quite knowing what else to say to the jarring revelations that had just ploughed straight through him as if he were unsuspecting roadkill in the path of a herd of angry hippogriffs.
Peter downed his own glass, finally being able to now that his tale had concluded. “Yup,” he said with a heavy sigh and dramatic smacking of his lips, “That about sums it up, I’m afraid.”
“No wonder why he hated me,” James muttered. “Oh… fuck. I knew it was bad but… FUCK!” Suddenly, James was coming to realize not only why Harry had been so hostile at first, but why exactly one day earning his forgiveness for a second time looked like a bleak, insurmountable mountain that he may never be able to climb.
And that wasn’t all.
Since the petrification of Filch’s cat, James’s brain had never quite been able to stray away from the seemingly unreal possibility that Harry might somehow be the Heir of Slytherin. Actually…somehow was too ambiguous a word. He suspected he might know how, on some level. Up to this point, he had comforted himself by repeating over and over again that there was no motive for Harry to strike out against muggleborns and, in the case of petrifying the Caretaker’s cat, he supposed, squibs.
Yet now, after all of this, James could understand exactly how Harry could have possibly come to hate muggles. Whether he actually hated them or not was currently a mystery, of course, but he could see how a hatred could have blossomed over time. And he could see how once fully matured, that cynical weed would have slowly but surely polluted other things, possibly turning one to extreme measures like seeking the help of legends to achieve their morally corrupt goals.
“But James,” Peter said in what the Potter Lord was certain was supposed to be a reassuring tone of voice, “Surely, Harry’s not the Heir of Slytherin. Even if he were to hate muggles, he couldn’t possibly be. The Potters aren’t descended from Slytherin. I did some digging into your lineage over the past couple of weeks and there’s no possible connection to Slytherin. Unless you somehow think he, a twelve-year-old boy, is the one physically doing the petrifying, I don’t see how it’s possible.”
James deflated slightly in front of Peter’s eyes. There were some secrets that even he couldn’t know. Some secrets that there fearfully guarded so closely that revealing them would be considered the highest act of political treason. “I guess you’re right, Wormy.” James hadn’t quite realized that though Peter had no idea what the context was, the man knew immediately that James was lying.
James stayed blissfully ignorant of this fact, snapping his fingers once more and summoning the same house elf that had popped in earlier that night. “More Firewhiskey, please. A lot more Firewhiskey.”
Several hours later, in the Hospital Wing back at Hogwarts…
Charlotte did not wake for some time. Even whilst unconscious, she had realized that this time, she was out for far longer. Possibly, the high number of painfully unpleasant dreams she experienced whilst in the clutches of Morpheus had something to do with her accurate assessment of the situation at hand. Nightmares would be a more accurate description of the terrible things that Charlotte saw. One painful image flashed seamlessly into the next, like her own personalized, muggle horror movie, if it had been brought to life and made so vivid that she hardly realized she was dreaming at all. The only thing that truly separated these visions from that horrific analogy was the fact that every transition was punctuated by a bright flash of red light and a familiar, searing pain in her forearm.
After some time, Charlotte did wake up. She was too dignified to scream, but much of her wanted very badly to do just that. Thankfully for her dignity, her Occlumency, while not on the level of her Legilimency, was very solid. She managed to suppress all of the negative emotions that surged to the forefront of her mind, gently easing them back into the depths of her psyche for later evaluation. Right now was not the time to scream.
Looking around the dimly-lit room with its pale ceiling and taking in its sanitary, artificial scent, Charlotte swiftly realized where she was, if for no other reason than weeks earlier, whilst he had been unconscious, she had visited Harry in this very room.
She was in the Hospital Wing.
“Awake, are we?”
Speaking of Harry, Charlotte recognized his voice. That was another trick with Occlumency. One could commit things to memory and recall them perfectly, so long as they actively chose to do so once the thing happened. In the case of voices, she did this whenever somebody she knew spoke. It was a practice her mother had instilled in her and Grace. Though her family motto did not centre at all around paranoia, it was certainly a quality that they lived by. Her mother had justified the practice easily enough. If a person was masked, disillusioned or disguised in any such way when they spoke, she would know their identity, so long as whichever method of disguise they employed did not change their voice as well.
“I suppose so.” She felt a small swell of pride when she heard her own voice come out calm and level. She really did love Occlumency. Calm and level was certainly not how she internally felt at the moment. “What time is it? How long have I been out?”
“It’s around midnight,” Harry informed her. “You’ve been out for almost three hours. Nothing too serious. You lost a terrifying amount of blood, but a few blood-replenishing potions fixed that easily enough.”
Charlotte tensed before asking her next question and, to her disgust, her voice came out small and vulnerable. “She couldn’t heal the scar, could she?”
“No.” Harry’s voice was different. It was low and Charlotte could tell he was trying very hard to modulate it. Clearly, he didn’t like the fact much more than she did. Nevertheless, she appreciated his honesty, even if the answer itself sickened her beyond belief.
“Bastards!” she hissed in a hateful whisper, her voice quavering as she took deep, calming breaths. She would have cried right there if not for her own mental control and for the third time that night, she was intensely grateful for said control over her emotions.
Harry nodded curtly. “Mulciber and Jugson,” he said quietly. “I’m sure you knew that already, but just in case they did anything to your memory.”
“They were planning to,” Charlotte said in a small voice.
“The potion, I take it?”
Charlotte nodded. “Please tell me that’s destroyed?”
Harry hesitated. “It’s not.”
“Where is it? Please tell me they didn’t get away with it? If they got away with it-“
“Charlotte, calm down.” He stepped closer to her bed and pulled up a chair. Before, he had been leaning casually against the wall. For a moment, Charlotte worried his movements would wake the matron. Then, she realized that this was Harry she was thinking about. Of course, he had privacy spells in effect. Now that she opened her mental senses, she could feel the magic around them, thick and heavy in the air. How he had managed to sneak in here was another matter altogether, but she felt that they had more important business on hand, so she didn’t ask.
“Who has it, then?”
“I do. If you told me your memories were tampered, I was going to give it to Pomfrey, or Snape, or whoever would need to examine and hopefully reverse it.”
“And now that you don’t need to do that?”
Harry’s face darkened. “I don’t imagine this potion is at all legal, whatever it is.”
“I’ve never even heard of it until tonight, but I’m sure it’s not.”
“Well then, I doubt Dumbledore can keep them in Hogwarts when I shove this under that crooked nose of his. If we’re lucky, the fuckers might even get legally charged.”
Charlotte had never heard Harry curse with such vulgarity before now. It was odd and took her aback. This was the most unhinged she had perhaps seen him thus far in their relationship. Except for Samhain, when he had brutalized Draco Malfoy, but that was another matter altogether. The surprise at his tone and then soft, warm feelings of its implications were not enough to crush her sharp and immediate reply.
Harry blinked. “Excuse me?”
“You are not giving that potion to Dumbledore, or Snape, or anybody else. You’re not telling anybody about this, either.”
“And you are not getting involved in this!”
Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Those two dickheads just assaulted one of my best friends with a deadly weapon. There is no way I’m not getting involved with this.”
Charlotte sighed; this conversation was going to go down a road she would rather not cross. “What if I told you that said friend really didn’t want you involved?”
Harry frowned deeply. “I would say that said friend better have a very good reason for wanting me to stay out of it.”
Charlotte met his eyes and her stare was hard. “I have to do this on my own, Harry.” Her voice was small. Not quite feeble, but it somehow sounded inadequate.
Charlotte huffed, not at all pleased with how this conversation was going thus far. “Because I hate feeling powerless,” she admitted. “It’s… not a feeling I’m used to. I was raised with every advantage possible, and power was preached to me forever. I don’t just mean magical power, either. Power, to me, is control. I’m… a bit of a control freak.” Idly, Harry remembered her sister making the same admission back in July whilst in the confines of her bedroom at Weitts Manor during their first ever long, one on one meeting. That had been the day Harry had agreed to protect Charlotte in exchange for direct tutoring in the Mind Arts.
“When I was in that room,” Charlotte continued, audibly shivering in spite of herself, “I never felt like I had less control. And then… this.” She touched her forearm gingerly, though it still lay under the sheets, so Harry couldn’t see it. “All of it. I need to do it myself. It’s personal and I need… I need to get control back, myself.”
Harry looked to Charlotte as if he were pondering very deeply. Inside the mind of the forsaken Potter, there was a war going on as two opposing storms brewed and clashed forcefully with each other.
On one side was the protectiveness Harry held towards all of his friends, mixed with his promise to Grace. He had been tormented for years, and allowing anybody to do that to any person he cared for did not sit well with him at all. And, he had promised Grace that he would keep her little sister safe.
But the other side of him… damn his empathy, was screaming for Charlotte and her situation. The feeling was so relatable. For opposite reasons, granted. Charlotte had been in control her entire life, so losing it was jarring because it was a sudden and forceful shift away from the comfortable normality she had grown accustomed to. Harry, on the other hand, had never experienced what it felt like to control anything until he had arrived at Hogwarts fourteen and a half months ago. He hated the feeling of being powerless above all else. His mind remembered what it felt like being bound by Malfoy, Macnair, Nott and Selwyn. Charlotte’s situation really wasn’t all that different.
But even that was a contradiction. If Harry let Charlotte go at the group of boys alone, he would feel powerless once more, for his actions wouldn’t be able to directly influence the outcome. An outcome he was deeply interested in, both as Charlotte’s friend and as a person who had promised her older sister that he would manage such outcomes. Even if he hadn’t liked Charlotte, pissing off Grace Weitts would never have landed on his to-do list. As a matter of fact, it ranked quite high on his list of things to never touch with a forty-foot pole.
This time, it was Harry’s turn to sigh. “What if we work together? You’ll still be getting your revenge personally. It’ll still be you gaining back control, and-“
“But it doesn’t-
“Merlin, you’re impossible!” Charlotte exclaimed, momentarily forgetting that it was the dead of night. Both pre-teens were suddenly very thankful for the privacy wards that Harry had erected long before Charlotte had even awoken.
“There’s something else, isn’t there?” Harry asked softly, eyes narrowing. “Another reason you don’t want me involved. One you don’t want to tell me.”
“I didn’t want to tell you any of this!” Charlotte bit out. Harry knew she wasn’t truly upset with him. Becoming snappish in a high-pressure situation was something he could very much relate to, so he didn’t hold it against her in the slightest. She shut her eyes tightly. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“Try me.” Charlotte’s primary grievance had been something that Harry could very much relate to. If that trend continued, there was a very real possibility Charlotte’s statement could be the furthest thing from the truth.
She looked sheepish. “Actually, you might understand. I… spoke without thinking.” Harry’s lips twitched. Ah, the stereotypes. Millions of teenage boys and girls alike screaming to their parents that they could never understand their problems. It was the main plot point of countless angst-filled teenage dramas.
“There’s only one way to find out.”
Charlotte hesitated. It was very clear to anyone with a set of eyes or an ounce of intellect that she was looking for any way out of spilling whatever it was that was on her mind. After she clearly found no methods to do so, she visibly deflated, but still mustered up enough energy to glare vehemently at Harry. “This does not leave this room… ever.”
He had a feeling anything other than immediate acceptance would not be taken favourably. “Charlotte, you can tell me anything. If you haven’t noticed, you’re not the only one with secrets. I understand how important they are more than most people.” After a long, tense pause, Charlotte let out a dramatic sigh and began to speak in a resigned tone of voice.
“I can’t have help with this, because it’s just going to prove what everybody’s been saying this whole time, and even before I got to Hogwarts.”
“That I’m just Grace Weitts’s little sister. There’s nothing special about me, I just come from a rich family and have a talented older sister. Everything I ever do at Hogwarts will be because of Grace. Anything I do at Hogwarts that isn’t because of Grace won’t mean anything, because she’s already done it. What can I do? Get an O+? Nope, she’s done that already. Be a Prefect? Nope, she’s done that too. Be Head Girl? Guess what? Grace has done that too. The only thing I could do is join the Quidditch team, and you’d never catch me dead doing that.
“If I go and run off to my older, more powerful friend, it’s just going to be that all over again with you. Then, even when Grace is gone, the one percent chance I have of being anything other than Grace Weitts’s little sister is gone. At that point, everything I do is only going to be because of Harry Potter. It will be the same thing all over again. I might never make it out of Grace’s shadow, even if I’m going to try with everything I have for the rest of my life, but the last thing I need is a second shadow.”
A heavy silence permeated the Hospital Wing as Charlotte looked pointedly down at the floor, trying to fight tears from blossoming in her eyes as she shuffled her feet. She couldn’t lookup. She couldn’t bear to see the look of disgust on Harry’s face at how immature and childish she was. He must be laughing at this. It had taken him what? A month to step out of the oppressive shadow cast upon him by his twin? He must be wondering why Charlotte was making such a big deal out of it. Wondering what was so difficult about it, why she was being so childish.
On the contrary and unbeknownst to Charlotte, Harry felt his heartstring tug.
Yes, he could understand that very well. Being his own person and free from all that came with being Charlus Potter’s brother was his dearest ambition. It was, above all else, what he desired to one day accomplish. For different reasons, mind you. Charlotte’s was due to her own sense of inadequacy. Harry felt that, sometimes, though it had more to do with his upbringing than anything else. And he felt it more around people like Charlotte herself, as well as Daphne. But oh yes, he understood very clearly, and during that moment, he knew exactly what Charlotte had been planning. He knew exactly why she had made her moves this year, and he could see how every single one of them tied into her plan.
It appeared that she had bitten off more than she could chew tonight, but try as he might, knowing her intention and now understanding her motives, Harry could not find it within himself to fault her.
“Okay,” he muttered softly, causing Charlotte to nervously lookup. To her surprise, she saw none of what she had expected. She saw an odd blend of compassion and understanding in his eyes.
But it was definitely compassion. Not pity, thank Merlin. There was none of that at all; Charlotte knew that for obvious reasons.
“You win, I’ll leave you to it.” He paused. “If things get really serious and whatever plan you work out backfires, I will get involved.” Charlotte nodded her understanding gratefully as warmth surged up towards her chest. It was so intense that goosebumps rose up all over her arms and neck. “I understand perfectly. Just… please be careful, Charlotte.”
She nodded, offering him a rather watery smile. If he noticed the emotion in her eyes, he didn’t comment on it. “Thank you, Harry.”
Just then, Harry felt the ward he had placed outside the door trigger. Somebody was waiting outside, and Harry instinctively knew exactly who it was.
“You have a visitor outside, I should go.” Wary of any eavesdropping charm Grace might be using, Harry crept towards Charlotte, leaned down and whispered in her ear. “Between the two of us, Grace never got two O+’s. Give it some thought, okay. I’ll help you in any way I can.” He almost jumped in surprise when he felt Charlotte take a vice-like grip on his hand. He turned back to her, and met those entrancing, bluish-silver eyes.
There was something different this time. Those eyes had always spoken of power, composure, and control. They had been the eyes of an oncoming storm, as grey, impassive and unwavering as the force of nature itself. But tonight, for perhaps the first time ever, Harry could see an extreme amount of vulnerability in those eyes.
“Will… will you teach me to fight?” Charlotte asked in little more than a whisper. “Not help with this, just… you know… for the future?” She scowled as soon as she said it, and Harry could practically feel her self-hatred. Charlotte obviously didn’t love the idea of asking for what she probably viewed as charity. “I’ll teach you something in return,” she hastily whispered.
Despite himself, Harry’s eyes narrowed. What could she teach him? Politics? Intricate details about the Wizarding World that he didn’t already know? She could probably teach him a great deal about both, but somehow, neither seemed like Charlotte’s style.
Harry frowned, making sure his Muffliato was still in place. Perhaps Grace knew of a way around it. Harry wouldn’t put it past her, hence the whispering. It still made him feel better to know the spell was still in effect, even with that fact in mind. “Aren’t you not supposed to learn Legilimency until you’re a level three occlumens?” Grace had taught him one lesson, but that had been an exception.
“Not everyone,” Charlotte said softly, gently pushing him towards the door before he could argue. Before he exited, she got in one last remark, one that made his eyes widen. “Especially not people like us. Natural Legilimintes have their own rules.”
‘Damn,’ Harry thought as he nodded respectfully to Grace, gesturing for her to go in. He knew they would be having words about this at some point in the future, but that point was not yet now. ‘Always has to get the last word in, that one.’
Meanwhile, back at Potter Manor…
By the time Peter had left Potter Manor late that night, James was exceptionally drunk.
Despite his drunken state, he had enough mindfulness left at his disposal to think back on what terrified him the most about their conversation.
The one thing that Peter himself was ignorant of.
“But James,” Peter had said just hours earlier, “surely, Harry’s not the heir of Slytherin. Even if he were to hate muggles, he couldn’t possibly be. The Potters aren’t descended from Slytherin. I did some digging into your lineage over the past couple of weeks and there’s no possible connection to Slytherin. Unless you somehow think he, a twelve-year-old boy is the one physically doing the petrifying, I don’t see how it’s possible.”
As James had reflected on at the time, there were some… family secrets that even his closest friend was not aware of.
James stepped into the Master Study of the manor and looked carefully around the room. Behind his desk sat a massive, ornate golden plaque, emblazoned with the Potter family crest. It was taller than James by at least a foot.
“Sanguis honorem tuum.”
The plaque swung open like any ordinary door, revealing an unbelievable sight behind it.
The room James had walked into very much resembled a Gringotts vault. Not just in it’s architecture, but in what was stored within it.
Piles of heaping golden galleons stretched upwards towards the ceiling, and piles of ornate, ancient jewellery were dotted across the room.
But that wasn’t why the room was so hidden, nor was it how the reason it tied into the dilemma involving the probability of Harry being the Heir of Slytherin.
That reason was emblazoned upon much of the jewels, as well as some of the books that were littered through the vault-like room.
A faded, triangular symbol containing a circular shape and vertical line. One that connected the Potters to a hidden lineage that they had masked centuries earlier.
A lineage that directly tied House Potter to the man who had founded the house of serpents.
How Slytherin’s gift would trigger in Harry when it had never manifested in a Potter in the last two hundred years, not to mention the fact that James was technically first in line for the lineage, he had no idea. That fact alone should have made it impossible for Harry to be the Heir of Slytherin.
But who knew?
Many mysterious things had circulated around the Peverell family for centuries. Even now, hundreds of years after its death and wide-believed extinction, perhaps there were still mysteries that had not yet been unravelled.
November 15, 1992
A Room in the Dungeons
Exactly two weeks after Grace’s last Legilimency probe went astray, the two of them were finally back in their room of choice and once again, Grace had been permitted to delve back into Harry’s thoughts. It was a process that she carefully eased back into. At first, the intrusions were little more than light brushes against his psyche. It took some time before she was confident enough in his calm state of mind to try a more forceful intrusion once more.
This time, it went off without a hitch. Not just once, but repeatedly. There had been once or twice, near the beginning, when she had seen very brief flashes of what she knew to be his home life before Hogwarts. This week, as soon as those images arose, she hastily retreated from Harry’s mind, a fact which the younger Slytherin was profoundly grateful for.
Harry had been extremely nervous to dive back into these sessions. He had known the nerves were irrational. He did trust Grace with this practice, but they had been there nonetheless. If it hadn’t been for his natural sense of paranoia being exacerbated even further by Lockhart’s not-so-subtle threats and their possible implications, he might have taken far longer to dive head-first back into an endeavour which was intrinsically linked to potentially allowing others unfettered access to his thoughts.
But Lockhart’s warning had bordered on a threat, if not been across that line. It was something that Harry was entirely unwilling to chance. The man certainly knew of Legilimency. There was just no way, in Harry’s opinion, that he could have done all the things he had accomplished without stumbling across information on the art. Whether he was a capable user of the art or not was still up for debate, but the outcome of that debate wasn’t something that he was willing to put to chance.
It was all of that which had pulled him back into this room with the thought of Occlumency at the forefront of his mind. Despite his apprehension, he had just wrapped up one of the very best sessions he and Grace had ever had regarding the Mind Arts. They both sat back and for a few minutes, they made idle small talk. Eventually, a topic that Harry had been not-so-eagerly waiting for since arriving in the room arose, and he had to ensure that his expression and emotions stayed as modulated as possible.
“You know what happened to Charlotte, don’t you?”
“I do.” There was no point in lying about it. For one thing, he doubted whether he could lie bluntly to Grace’s face and get away with it. For another, she did have a right to know, even if Harry planned to keep her out of the entire situation.
“She was ambushed by Mulciber and Jugson. There might have been somebody else involved, too. She doesn’t remember being stunned by either of them.”
“What did they do to her?” Grace’s voice was perfectly calm and her expression gave nothing away. Her eyes told the story. It wasn’t obvious, but Harry had spent many hours looking into those eyes during their sessions. He knew them well, even without the aid of his memory, and he could easily spot the minor irregularity within them. There was a minute gleam. One that was fierce, resolute, and mildly terrifying.
“They got her arm with a dagger. Apparently, it’s cursed. No magic can heal whatever scars it leaves behind.”
Grace’s eyes blazed. “Where is this dagger now?”
“In my trunk where nobody can get it. Mulciber panicked when I burst into the room. I noticed Charlotte was gone for longer than she should have been and went looking. But yeah, I took the knife and the potion. Both of them are locked in my trunk and I’m one-hundred percent sure that nobody can get into it.” That was because it had the very best legal wards that money could buy and it was protected by a Parseltongue password.
“What is this potion, then?” Grace asked carefully.
“It would have made sure that Charlotte remembered the whole thing, but not who was involved.”
Grace’s eye twitched. “I’ve… never heard of that potion.”
Okay, that was noteworthy. Harry and Charlotte were only first and second years respectfully, even if one of them was a child prodigy. But Grace was extremely skilled and borderline prodigious for her age. Being five whole years older than Harry and nearing the conclusion of her Hogwarts education, it was in equal parts worrying and surprising that not even she had heard of this concauction.
There was also the fact that if Grace had never gone looking in illegal books on potions, Harry would stab himself with the damned dagger. Meaning, there was no chance of that statement being true.
“They could be charged for that,” Grace hissed in a soft, deadly voice.
“I said the same thing. I was… very forcefully told no.”
Grace’s brow furrowed. “Why?”
“Charlotte wants to do it on her own. She’s… actually very set that I should have nothing to do with it.” He placidly paused, peering pensively at Grace as he tried to deduce how best to word his next statement. “I… know you won’t love that idea. I didn’t either. The problem is… she laid out her reasons. I can’t tell them to you, but… I don’t disagree with any of them and… I can relate to a few of them.” When he saw Grace’s eyes narrow, he held up a hand, imploring her to let him finish.
“Charlotte can take Mulciber and Jugson. There’s nothing special about either of them, as far as I can tell. Well, aside from the fact that Mulciber is a sociopath, a psychopath, or both. I’m not sure if you count that as special or just troubled. Either way, I know that Charlotte can take the two of them. It seems like this time, the only reason she failed was because another student got involved. Maybe older, maybe not; I have no idea. Thing is, after this attempt on her went to hell, I doubt those students will be queuing up to help those two against her any time soon. And if she’s on the offensive, it’s not exactly as if they’ll be able to plan for her attack.”
Grace’s face was impassive. “I don’t like it. I see no obvious flaw in what you’ve said, but I still don’t like it. There are always variables involved. Any plan that doesn’t have a contingency in place is a bad plan.”
“Who says I don’t have one?”
“I’m going to be watching her very carefully from now on. If something looks like it’s going to go wrong, I’ll know.”
“How can you possibly be confident in that? Even if you could make yourself invisible, which I frankly doubt you will be able to do for some time, it wouldn’t do you any good. Until you can establish basic Occlumency defences and make sure they’re sound, Charlotte’s Legilimency will be able to sense you.”
Harry’s smile didn’t waver. “I’m not planning to go anywhere near Charlotte. I don’t have to be close to her to know what she’s doing.”
“And what, pray tell, makes you say that?”
“I have my ways.”
It was actually this whole Heir of Slytherin nonsense which had given him the idea. He had pondered one night that if he was truly the Heir of Slytherin, he would have every snake depicted on the castle firmly on his side. Then, his brain had caught up with reality and came to the realization that such a thing might actually be possible. He’d shared some preliminary conversations long after curfew with some of the snakes in the dungeons and so far, they had all complied easily enough.
The only flaw in this plan was that there were less snakes once you left the dungeons. But Harry was sure that wouldn’t be a problem. What happened in the dungeons, stayed in the dungeons. That’s where Slytherin drama tended to happen, and it was exactly where Harry was most well-positioned.
There was also the fact that he didn’t plan to be completely uninvolved.
“Even if this works, what if it isn’t enough? What if they seek retaliation again?”
“They won’t,” Harry said, and his voice was perhaps more confident than Grace had ever heard it.
“How can you be so sure? It will be my sister’s plan, not yours. You’ve already made it clear you’re not going to do it for her.”
“That doesn’t mean it won’t be my plan. It doesn’t mean I won’t have some sway.”
“She won’t let you help her at all,” Grace said bluntly. “She’s never going to let you force a plan on her.”
Harry smirked. “I have no plans of forcing anything on her. I’m just going to… say a few things here and there and let her choose a plan that I’m sure is going to work.”
Grace’s face was blank again. “You think you’ll be able to manipulate my sister? She’s better trained than you and she knows both Occlumency and Legilimency.”
“She’s already said she won’t use Legilimency on me. As for the training… let’s just say that if Charlotte thinks she’s come up with a master plan, I doubt she’ll look too far into it.”
Realization dawned in Grace’s eyes. “I’m trusting you,” she said, resigned. “Just know if this doesn’t work, you’ll have me to answer to.”
“Oh trust me, I know. That’s exactly why I’m going to make sure that this works.”
Soon after, in the Slytherin common room…
When Harry re-entered the Slytherin common room after his session with Grace, he could feel the palpable emotion running through the air. It wasn’t tense like the night that Grace had duelled Flint and Higgs, nor even like the night earlier this year when Flint had resigned as Quidditch Captain. The prominent emotion, as far as Harry could tell, was actually excitement.
It was muted and hesitant in many cases, but it was definitely present, and Harry was intensely curious as to what may have started the wave of positivity. “What have I missed?” Harry asked Blaise quietly as he slid into a seat beside him. He was the only other one of Harry’s friends present who wasn’t buried in homework. It was History that had the others preoccupied, and Blaise had always been very astute in that subject.
“See for yourself,” he responded, gesturing to the noticeboard hung near the entrance. From across the room, Harry eyed the notice and his eyes widened. Despite himself, he quickly joined the ranks of those who were practically exuding excitement. Even if, in his case, it was mixed with no small amount of anxiousness.
Hogwarts would be hosting the first meeting of the newly reformed Duelling Club on the seventeenth of December.
As much as the prospect did make him mildly nervous, as there were few things he feared less than losing something like a duel in front of the student body, Harry couldn’t help but grin.
This time, he was perfectly happy with the sudden shift away from normality.
Harry looked around once again, examining his group of friends this time, looking for their reactions to it. Most of them didn’t show any. Charlotte was in this camp, but when Harry looked at her, his brow furrowed as he thought of exactly what she was probably thinking.
That wouldn’t do.
It wouldn’t be good enough.
Public humiliation via duel was too basic. It was too easy to retaliate to, but he was sure Charlotte was sat there, devising methods of embarrassing Mulciber and Jugson. There was also the issue of what happened if they just refused to duel her, or didn’t show up at all.
No, sometime between now and the seventeenth of December, Harry would have to steer Charlotte away from that course of action, assuming he was right in guessing that was where her mind had gone. Along the way, he would plant a few seeds, too. Just to be safe.
November 18, 1992
An Abandoned Classroom
Draco stared pointedly at Ares, who had insistently dragged him off to speak in private. Ares regretted the fact that most of their major, private conversations this year had pertained to things that neither of them would exactly wish to be talking about. The two of them hadn’t spoken much in the past month. Ares had been rather stressed. It seemed as if the Hogwarts workload was getting to her. Exhaustion seemed to be a constant factor she had to contend with as of late, and that was to say nothing about everything else going on inside the castle at that same moment.
Meanwhile, Draco had seen his fair bit of stress as well. Of course, there had been the nightmare of an incident on Samhain. Then, the ruthless preparation for Slytherin’s opening Quidditch match against Gryffindor. After that, Draco had been working slowly to gain back some of the dignity that he had immediately lost in the aftermath of his one-sided defeat to Potter. As of late, he looked pale, lost and exhausted. It was as if he didn’t know who he was anymore or what to do, and it was taking all of his energy to try and find those answers.
It was for all of these reasons that Ares loathed the fact that now, their first real private conversation in ages would be held in light of delicate matters once more.
“I’d love to think you actually just arranged this to talk, but I doubt it,” Draco said bluntly. Ares might have winced normally, but she felt annoyance creep up. Stressed or not, Draco shouldn’t be snapping at her like that. Least of all when she was trying to help him. Trying to prevent a repeat of Samhain. That had been painful to watch.
“You’re not the only one who wishes that, you know? It isn’t my problem that I keep having to get involved to stop you from getting into disastrous situations.”
Draco’s cheeks flushed. “What do you think I’ve done this time?”
“You haven’t done anything yet. But that’s not the point. I’m not worried about what you have done. I’m worried about what you might do, and what it might cause.”
“I’m not going to go around calling people mudbloods in front of Potter if that’s what you’re worried about.” Draco spoke that proclamation through teeth gritted so tightly together that Ares thought he might have been able to bite straight through metal.
“Thank Merlin and Morgana for that, but that’s not actually what I was going to tell you. I sort of just assumed you weren’t daft enough to make that mistake again. How you managed to screw that up after the warning he gave you in the changing rooms amazes me.”
“So happy to be of service,” Draco drawled, obviously not taking well to Ares’s sharp jabs. That wasn’t her problem. That was how she acted. Other people could take it or leave it. It wasn’t her fault that over the years and in the last few months in particular, Ares’s tongue had gotten sharper and sharper. She attributed the exponential increase in her ability to come up with quips to the fact that suddenly, her social circle was much larger than her parents, cousin, aunt and uncle.
“Yes, I’m glad you enjoy pleasing me. It’s a great trait to have.” Seeing that her cousin likely wouldn’t take much more of this, Ares decided to cut to the chase. “I want to take back what I said about Potter earlier this year, especially with the duelling club coming up.”
Draco’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”
“I’m afraid you’re going to do something stupid at the duelling club. Like force your way into a duel with him and fire some horrid curse before the command to start is given to try and win some of your shine back. Let me just warn you, Draco. That would be a terrible idea. You know I follow duelling, and Potter is good. As in, a prodigy for his age kind of good. I doubt you would stand a chance against him if you trained like a professional for months and he just sat around and waited.”
“You’re saying that I’m a lesser wizard than Potter?”
“I’m saying that having a rivalry with him would be a terrible idea. Especially at the duelling club. He will be expecting you to try something. I’m sure of it. Say whatever you want about him, but he is a Slytherin from what I’ve seen. He’ll be way ahead of you if you try something like that.”
“For your information, I never had any intentions of trying to start drama with Potter at the duelling club. Father was… very firm in his warning this time around. More so than the last, even.” Ares internally cringed for Draco. She had only seen her Uncle Lucius truly angry a handful of times, but he was a rather intimidating man when he was upset. Unfortunately, she could see how badly that instruction conflicted with what Draco wanted to do.
“You’re going to listen to him this time.”
Draco blinked. “Are you… giving me an order?”
“Yes, I am.”
“On what authority?”
“Challenge me, cousin, and find out.”
The two of them locked eyes and Ares could practically feel Draco’s burning frustration and anger boiling beneath the surface. It was as if the boiling pit of emotions was producing fumes which Ares herself was breathing in. The imagined feelings were so vivid. It was the only way she could explain it.
“Every time you’ve gone after Potter, it has ended in disaster. It’s over, Draco. You can’t beat him. You’ve been told for years that you were better than everybody. It was the way you were raised. And until now, nobody has had the stones to tell you the truth. So I’m here to break it to you. Potter is too skilled. Both in setups and confrontations. Attacking him again would be suicide, and I would rather my cousin be upset with me again than have him utterly ruined over some stupid, petty grudge.”
Their eyes were still locked onto each other when Ares saw his grey ones narrow. He made to say something and Ares growled, trying to shove every bit of her resoluteness and certainty as to her stance through her gaze. It was as if she was trying to convey everything through her stare alone. Draco flinched as if he had somehow received the message. In fact, he looked away, down towards the floor and when he next spoke, that was where his stare remained.
“Fine, I won’t go after Potter. I’ll… end it, no matter what he does. Are you happy now?”
Ares’s smile was genuine as she reached across the table and gave his hand a gentle squeeze, trying to convey that she had only had his best interests at heart. Had she manipulated him into getting wound up just so that she could make him snap and open her up to make her own points? Absolutely. Did that take away from the satisfaction and relief she felt? Absolutely not.
In fact, she felt quite pleased. She supposed it was a rather skillfully played game on her part. She should be proud of it, after all.
“Perfectly happy,” Ares responded without missing a beat, eyes gleaming.
November 22, 1992
The Great Hall
I feel as if the relationship between us, as well as that which connects our two families has gotten off to a shaky and an unfortunate start, in part as a result of my son and heir’s immature foolishness. I am sure if the two of us sat down, we could come to a sort of mutual agreement that could see a relationship blossom in the future. I, for one, am quite eager to see this relationship formed, and I think it to be in my son’s best interests if I intervene and seek to cease the dangerous rivalry between the two of you by any means necessary.
I am writing to inquire whether or not you might be agreeable to meeting me during the first week of the Yule break? Perhaps the first day after the children arrive back home, the 22nd of December.
If this or another date works best for you, please write back swiftly.
Lord of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Malfoy
Harry bit his lip. That was certainly interesting. Potentially very dangerous, but interesting nonetheless. He had been in the presence of Lord Malfoy twice. Three times, he supposed, if one counted the Samhain gala from his first year, but they had barely interacted that night. Both other times, he’d remarked at how well the man played the game.
Harry wasn’t sure whether the Lord of House Malfoy was stepping in as a means to form a genuine relationship, sparing his son from future, brutal retaliation, or a combination of the two.
Either way, it was something he needed to think about, and it was not a letter that should be responded to impulsively. Luckily, he had another matter with which he would be writing to his solicitor about that very night. So fortunate that the Greengrass family had been gracious enough to acquire one’s services for him. He needed her now, possibly for more than he had ever realized.
December 12, 1992
The Second Floor
Fred and George Weasley peered back down at the Marauder’s Map, double-checking that their eyes had not been playing tricks on them. This was about the twentieth time they had checked. They’d been following the irregularity for several floors now, and both of their hearts were threatening to beat straight out of their chests.
When there was a mystery and or chaos at Hogwarts, Fred and George Weasley wanted nothing more than to be at the centre of it. Specifically this one, for the timing was quite ideal. They were still in hot water over their admittedly horrid prank on the Slytherin Quidditch team two and a half months ago. They had never been implicated with enough proof to actually punish them, but the teachers were still on high alert. Snape was still extra snappish in Potions, taking at least ten points from each of them every lesson. Their own Head of House, Professor McGonagall, wasn’t much better. She watched them like a hawk every chance she got, and the two of them were privately more fearful of her than Snape
In short, the teachers were doing their best to monitor their every move. It was as if they were waiting for them to slip up and do something else equally stupid. Something that they would this time be able to pin on them.
At least, they were doing this when not otherwise occupied by this Chamber of Secrets nonsense, which was one of three reasons the twins had decided to get involved.
The first was that, if the two of them managed to turn in this self-proclaimed Heir of Slytherin, it would probably get the teachers to bugger off, and they could go back to pulling pranks as normal and actually enjoying their time at Hogwarts. The second tied into the first. Unlike most in the castle, the twins actually believed themselves capable of this. They were no narcissists. They didn’t think themselves some magical titans or any such nonsense. But they had an advantage that nobody else in the castle had. Not even Albus Dumbledore, for all of his accolades and greatness.
That advantage was the Marauder’s Map. With it, they could easily and efficiently track every single person in the castle. In theory, this would give them a massive leg up in discovering who truly was behind the attack of Mrs. Norris and the disappearance of their fellow Gryffindor, Colin Creevey. That could actually be a fourth reason they had gotten involved. It was bad enough before Creevey had seemingly been kidnapped. Then, he, a Gryffindor, had been dragged in. Gryffindors needed to protect their own, so…
But the true fourth reason led right back into the Marauder’s Map. There was no Chamber of Secrets labelled on the map. This was no surprise to neither Fred nor George. If the Marauders had ever found it, the Chamber of Secrets would likely have been public knowledge. The twins had prided themselves on knowing more about the castle than anyone else, and that had been even before they had acquired the map which had helped them immeasurably in the past fourteen or so months. Knowing that a secret, hidden chamber full of potential could just be hiding under their noses was far too tempting.
Despite all of those motivations, some more important than others, the two of them would admit, they had been at it for weeks and made no progress.
Whilst out killing time after curfew, the two of them had pulled out the map and scanned it. In the process of doing so, they had noticed a dot which neither of them had ever seen before. And they would know, because over the past number of weeks, they had made note of every single living person in the castle just in case something like this happened. But they didn’t recognize the new name, one that they had followed down onto the second floor.
When they had first spotted the mysterious dot of Emily Riddle, George had reasoned that perhaps, they should go and fetch Dumbledore. Fred had disagreed. If this mysterious Emily Riddle knew things about the castle that even the Marauders hadn’t and could seemingly sneak in and out at will, what were the odds she would still be around by the time they managed to summon the Headmaster?
Unfortunately, George had to concede that Fred’s logic was sound, so they had followed Emily Riddle for about five floors.
Which led them to an alcove on the second floor, vigorously checking the map one more time before the two of them made a move to end the supposed Heir of Slytherin’s reign of terror over Hogwarts. When they made to verify for a final time, however, they found themselves in complete and utter shock.
Emily Riddle’s name had vanished.
“Fuck!” Fred cursed, scanning the map frantically and trying to relocate her. “No, what the fuck! That’s not possible! She was right there! In that bathroom, wasn’t she?”
“Yeah,” George muttered, scanning the map one more time himself, “you can’t think of any way she could have known we were coming?”
“Homenum Revelio, but it still wouldn’t explain how she erased her name.”
“I was going to say that maybe she has some way of hiding from any form of detection and she enabled it when she noticed us coming?”
“Maybe, who knows? So… we wait then, for her to leave the bathroom?”
“I guess, yeah. Best to set up an ambush then, you reckon?”
“I do, yeah,”
As one, the twins stepped out from behind the suit of armour which had concealed them only seconds before.
They didn’t make it far.
As they made to step back out into the hallway, both of their eyes caught movement off to the side, and they quickly turned to peer in the polished shield held by the suit of armour, hoping to see what was coming up behind them in a reflection.
Just like that, they saw no more, and as the two of them fell, the map which they had held only seconds earlier gently fluttered out of their grasp and fell, face down, into the alcove that they had just abandoned.
And this is where I start kicking canon in the dick in terms of the attacks if you can’t already tell.
A quick note on the Peverell thing. The Potters have buried that connection for centuries for fairly obvious reasons. As such, they are in no position to take the Peverell’s Wizengamot seat. Just thought I’d answer that before people had a chance to ask it.
Next, the duelling club goes forward. It isn’t only filled with fights, but phenomenon the likes of which hasn’t been seen for centuries.
Please read and review.
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