Ashes of Chaos Chapter 37
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 20: Dangerous Duels and Deadly Drama Part II
December 12, 1992
The Slytherin Common Room
Harry awoke bright and early the morning five days before the duelling club was to meet for the first time. This was a fairly typical occurrence, and as such, he went through a fairly typical routine. Wake up, shower, take his bags, and leave the common room. Sometimes, he left for his personalized training room in the dungeons. Other times, when he was feeling more academic, he headed for the library.
This morning was one of the latter occasions. It was around a quarter after six when he first arrived in the library. As he debated on which topic to read up on; his eyes idly flicked towards the Restricted Section. By now, both Calypso and Emily had verified the idea that magic commonly said to be dark was not inherently indicative of evil in and of itself. Harry was pretty sure this was the truth, but he wanted one more take to be sure. He would ask Grace soon. Possibly tomorrow night, even.
He just wanted one more opinion to be one-hundred percent sure before he dove into the topic. He was an obsessive person, and that was a fact about himself that he was well aware of. If he began to dive into the Dark Arts, he wouldn’t be stopping until he had one day mastered them. If he was going to do that, he was going to be damn sure that the endeavour wasn’t going to horribly backfire on him in the long run.
If it did indeed turn out that she too spoke the same ideas as Emily and Calypso, he would begin exploring the subject. At that point, he would need to find a way into the Restricted Section.
The pass from Voldemort in his first year hadn’t carried over to his second. That tended to happen when the professor in question turned out to be a Dark Lady in disguise. Harry really should have made more use of that pass last year. He was certainly wishing he had it now, as the full potential of its usage drew near. Perhaps he would have Charlotte verify whether or not there were wards on the Restricted Section. If there weren’t, he could always just sneak in at night with the help of Voldemort’s ring and Blaise’s enchanted shoes. The former would render him invisible. The latter would assure no sound emanated out from his steps.
Thinking on the senses, he noted down to look into a spell that could possibly mask his scent. Maybe a cleaning charm would be his only option… He could easily grab some reading material that may be helpful before he left this morning.
If there did turn out to be wards, which he suspected there were… that could be more problematic. He knew how to set some basic wards by now, but breaking them was still beyond him. It wasn’t that he didn’t have the capability of breaking them, even though that was likely true. He just had no idea how one went about breaking wards. That could be solved though. The book Grace had let him take from the Weitts family library the previous year detailed ward-breaking, but he just hadn’t looked into it yet. Thus far, it hadn’t been something he had needed to explore.
He spent about an hour reading in the library. By now, he had a strong enough grasp on a few of the basic runic languages to begin using them for actual Runes. He was looking for books specifically detailing Elder Futhark. He thought it would be a good place to start. He did find a few, but ended up reading mostly about Arithmancy. He didn’t have many books on that topic, and though the books he found on runes did look promising, the ones on Arithmancy captivated him more at the moment.
Before leaving, he scooped up a number of useful looking books on charms. Hopefully, one of them might have something to help him mask his scent. If not, he would hopefully learn something of interest from them, and he could come back and try at a later date.
Or, he could just ask Emily.
That was also an option, he supposed, though he might have to explain why he wanted to know at that point. He doubted Emily would judge him, but it was still a difficult thing for him to do, asking for help in potentially rule breaking matters.
Ugh! He needed to get this emotional suppression thing down. Being easily able to squash irrational hesitation was going to be extremely useful. Not to mention the fact that it alone would probably lower his general stress levels significantly.
By the time he’d wrapped up in the library, it was around half-past seven. He thought that this morning, he would actually have time to meet his friends in the common room instead of just dropping into a spot near them at the Slytherin table, which was his usual practice. Along with just not going to breakfast at all. That was also a frequent occurrence, nowadays. He often became so engrossed in whatever he was doing, that the thought of breakfast didn’t even occur to him.
It took Harry some time to reach the Slytherin common room. When he did, he noticed that at least one of his friends was awake and ready.
“What’s the occasion?” Blaise asked with a twitch of his lips. “I don’t even remember the last time I saw you in the common room at this time.”
Harry shrugged. “I wrapped up early this morning. Thought I might grace you with my presence.”
Blaise laughed. “You honour me, my lord.”
“Have you figured out what you’re doing over the Yule break?” Blaise had been saying for some time that he was unsure of his Yuletide plans. Last year, he, like most in Slytherin House, had opted to return home for Yule. This year, apparently his mother would be travelling with a new romantic interest. Number Seven, as Blaise referred to him. Blaise was either unsure whether he would be invited along, or unsure as to whether he was interested in joining them. He had yet to specify which of these was true, and Harry hadn’t asked.
“I’ll be staying at Hogwarts. I’m assuming I can expect you to grace me with your presence all break long?”
“For the most part. My father did offer for me to spend the break at Potter Manor. Apparently, Charlus had already told him he’d be staying at Hogwarts. I personally wasn’t interested in the offer.”
Blaise’s eyes danced with amusement. “Shocking.”
“Truly,” Harry responded with an upward curve of his lips. “I’ll be out for at least one day and one night, but you’re stuck with me the rest of it.”
Blaise looked surprised. “You’re leaving the castle? I wasn’t aware we could even do that. Not until third year when the village opened up to us, anyway.”
“It’s a privilege of heirs to Wizengamot houses,” Harry said. He hadn’t been sure of that fact for quite some time. It had been what his father had said in his first-ever letter to Harry. For quite some time, Harry had wondered whether the fact had been true, or whether James was just bending the rules via his publicized, personal relationship with Dumbledore. But when inquiring about the fact with his solicitor through letters, she had also confirmed it to be true.
Blaise frowned. “I suppose me not being a British heir probably has something to do with it, but I’m surprised that it’s never come up before. I would have thought Daphne would have called on that privilege by now.”
Harry shrugged. “It’s not exactly something that needs to be used very often. And I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it. They don’t exactly advertise it. I only know because it’s how I got out to meet my father last year.”
Blaise nodded. “So that’s the day time excursion?”
“And the night…”
“The gala at Greengrass Manor on New Year’s Eve.”
“Ah, I see. I might actually get invited to that, apparently. I usually don’t, since the Zabinis never had much to do with England until mother decided to send me to Hogwarts. I was talking about it last night with Daphne though, and she seemed to think she was going to ask her parents to invite me and that I would get an invitation.”
“Do you even want to come?”
“Beats sitting around and killing time.” Blaise smirked. “And with you around, I doubt it will be a typical or dull social event.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Blaise waved a hand. “Come on, Harry. Surely you’ve figured this out by now. Some people in the world just can’t catch a break. No matter what they do, trouble follows them.” He grinned. “You, my friend, are most certainly one of those people.”
“And honoured, I assure you,” Harry answered dryly, causing Blaise to chuckle just as Tracey and Daphne made their way into the common room. Like Blaise, the two girls were quite surprised to see Harry there at all. After greetings and pleasantries had been exchanged and the group had decided against waiting for their younger friends, they made for the exit, intent on getting an early start on breakfast.
They never made it.
Apparently, the world was out to prove the point that Blaise had made not moments earlier.
Before they could reach the exit, the wall slid aside, revealing Pansy Parkinson, who appeared mildly short for breath. Her brown eyes scanned the common room at top speed, and Harry almost sighed out loud when they fixed upon him, and she began her approach with purpose.
Whatever this was, it wasn’t good.
He could feel mild panic radiating from Pansy, thanks to what he now suspected to be a mild affinity towards Natural Legilimency. He didn’t have much time to ponder that however as within mere seconds, Pansy was upon them, and she quickly focused her entire attention on Harry and began to speak.
“You might not want to go to breakfast.”
Whatever he had been expecting, that hadn’t been it. “Do I even want to know?” he asked with exasperation, looking anywhere but at Blaise. If he knew his friend as well as he thought he did, Blaise would have a terribly smug smirk on his face right about now.
“Probably not, but I’m going to tell you anyway,” Pansy declared with finality.
“Naturally. Well, get it over with then.”
“So, you know how the whole school thinks you’re the Heir of Slytherin?” Harry nodded. “Well, now they’re really going to think that you’re the Heir of Slytherin. And… I don’t know if it would be pleasant for you to be in public right now.”
“What’s happened?” Harry asked sharply, his focus suddenly becoming much more intense as his mind put together the general idea of what had evidently transpired.
There had been another attack, or perhaps a disappearance.
If Pansy’s words were true, it would somehow make people even more certain that Harry was the one behind it.
“Two students have disappeared,” she started, not seeming to be sure whether or not she should sound upbeat or worried.
“Two students?” Tracey asked, wide-eyed and incredulous.
Pansy nodded, looking significantly in Harry’s direction before peeling the metaphorical bandage. “Yes, two students. Twins. The Weasley twins.”
Yup, that would do it alright.
The twins had never been proven guilty of the heinous prank on the Slytherin Quidditch team from two and a half months ago. That had hardly mattered. Naturally, the entire school was reasonably sure who had been behind it, even if the bastards were too clever to leave obvious evidence behind. Personally, Harry thought the two of them disappearing was rather poetic. Karma really was a special sort of bitch. He didn’t wish death upon the twins, per se, even if he would hardly mourn the twats. More accurately, he wished for them to suffer quite a lot of pain, and maybe several nights in a hospital bed.
So in some ways, he thought they deserved whatever was happening right about now, so long as it didn’t result in the end of their lives.
On the other hand… Harry could see how this would further the school’s suspicion of him. He also could not help but think of how convenient this whole thing was. The entire school suspected him of being the Heir of Slytherin. Then, two people who everyone naturally, and accurately, assumed were on his shit list vanished in the middle of the night.
Oh, and they were Gryffindors, so even those that didn’t think he was responsible would be even more sure that the culprit came from Slytherin House. Of course, most would naturally think this anyway, based on the mysterious assailent’s chosen title. Whether that fact was true or not, it certainly wasn’t a good look for Slytherin House.
And here Harry thought he had been making progress in making a dent in that reputation. What with him being the Potter Heir and a noted child prodigy.
Maybe that would be a goal of his going forward. As soon as he made it through this mess without getting killed in cold blood by some furious lion, or falsely expelled for a crime he didn’t commit.
Why was it so hard to just stay out of everything?
“Harry?” Daphne’s voice brought him out of his thoughts and back to the present. All four of his closest friends were staring at him.
“Yeah, sorry about that. What did you ask?”
“I asked what you were going to do about this. The Gryffindors are going to be livid! I wouldn’t be surprised if you were mobbed in the corridors.”
Yes, that would be a problem. Even if he wasn’t, he didn’t fancy dodging curses all day. So far, it had been mild jinxes, for the most part. Yet he suspected this would escalate things. He had no idea what unsavoury curses the lions might know, but he wasn’t intent on finding out.
There was also Gilderoy Lockhart to contend with.
The man had been on his case already, and this certainly wasn’t about to help matters. He was far more worried about Lockhart than any Gryffindor. And he still had no idea whether the man knew Legilimency.
Worse still, he wasn’t confident enough in his abilities to keep Lockhart out of his mind if he did. If Lockhart did know Legilimency and was ever going to try to use it on Harry, today would be the day. He wouldn’t find anything on the Chamber of Secrets, but he may well find something else. Even something as simple as which books Harry kept could prove to be problematic.
And beyond all of the pragmatic reasons for avoiding confrontations, Harry really just couldn’t be bothered at the moment. Years with the Dursleys had conditioned him to accept being ostracized, even hated. He wasn’t exactly going to curl up and cry because nobody liked him, largely thanks to the Dursleys. At the same time, and even more so after experiencing true friendship, being universally hated was exhausting. Not to mention it surfaced many memories he would rather forget.
No, Harry really couldn’t be bothered to deal with the school.
“You guys go on ahead,” he said with a sigh. “I have things I need to take care of, anyway. I… might be a bit hard to find for a bit.” Blaise, Daphne and Tracey all seemed to understand what he meant.
He was retreating to the Speaker’s Den, where he was quite confident none would be able to find him.
December 12, 1992
An Abandoned Classroom
Charlus was furious. Charlus had been furious all day. Worse still, he had been forced to ruthlessly contain his fury for the better part of the day. By the time he’d returned to the common room after breakfast, the morbid news was already spreading throughout the school.
The Weasley twins had vanished.
The rest of the day had been one of the worst Charlus could remember. Ron had gone up to the dorms and not returned and Charlus could hardly blame him. He sat with Hermione and valiantly tried to not utterly lose his shit. There had been numerous moments throughout the day in which Charlus started to shake with pent up emotion.
After dinner, he had taken the opportunity to slip away from his muggleborn friend and enter the abandoned classroom in which he had set up the dummies sent to him by Mr. Bellona all those months ago. With the dummies had come several ward stones and some very specific instructions on how to set up some very specific wards.
With all of that, Charlus had himself a personal training facility.
But right now, it was more of a therapeutic canvas on which he could paint out all of his emotions and fury.
Today, Charlus hadn’t needed to conjure up any feeling of hatred or anger to cast some of the darker curses he had been taught. Hatred and fury came to him very easily.
Yet the focus had not changed.
His utter bastard of a brother!
Charlus hadn’t wanted to believe that Harry could possibly be the Heir of Slytherin. There was nothing more painful than the possibility that Harry could be behind the horrible things happening this year at Hogwarts. Yet this set of disappearances had confirmed it. This time, it had been personal.
He had no idea what the cat had done to Harry, but he suspected it had been a display, of sorts. That’s what Hermione had said, at least. It was how she had explained why Mrs. Norris had been petrified and the other victims had simply vanished. The first attack was a warning. The rest were to further whatever twisted goal the Heir of Slytherin had in mind.
And Charlus couldn’t stand it any longer.
As the pure, unadulterated hatred and fury built up inside him, he thrust his wand towards the dummies once more, letting out an animalistic cry of rage as he let his magic flow free and obliterate the target.
The duelling club was fast-approaching. He would show Harry there, in front of the entire school, the repercussions for his actions.
He swore it to himself.
An hour later, in the Speaker’s Den…
Harry had spent most of the day locked up in the Speaker’s Den. He had been very careful to ensure that Grace was nowhere in his vicinity as he had approached. He had been equally cautious to make sure his ring was actively concealing him. As he entered, he also reset the password. Now, instead of a simple yet personal phrase, it was protected by a Parseltongue password. This way, there was no threat of intruders, even if Grace managed to somehow work out the wards surrounding the place.
If she ever just came out and bluntly asked him about it, he wasn’t sure how he might respond. He trusted Grace, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was anybody being able to intrude on him at any time. This was his sanctuary, and that would no longer be true by definition if someone else could gain unfettered access to the hidden room.
After entering, Harry had allowed a rather content looking smile as his eyes roamed hungrily over the place. He had, for the most part, avoided this room since his return to Hogwarts more than three months ago. As soon as Grace had given him an indication that she might know more than he was comfortable with, Harry lost any and all interest in taking chances. Because of this, the room looked more appealing now than ever before. Momentarily, he even managed to forget the stress of his situation, and the danger he was now in as a result of another’s actions.
There was a part of him, a larger one than he would care to admit, that wanted to investigate. He assumed this was his Gryffindor streak. Given his family history, it was inevitable he would have one in some capacity. This part of him was screaming that the Heir of Slytherin had now blatantly framed him. It was screaming about how this was as good a reason as any to take retribution.
Thankfully, the part of him that had ensured he was sorted into Slytherin House was larger, and just as persistent. It ruthlessly crushed these bold claims with cold, hard logic.
He had intervened last year, and that had landed him back at the Dursleys. It might have been temporary, but he was still on the outs with his family.
Oh, and the whole issue that he almost died as a result of said intervention. Well, he supposed if she was to be believed, Voldemort had never had any intention of killing him. Whether that was true or not, he had absolutely no idea.
Thinking of that conversation, he remembered the prophecy which Voldemort had mentioned. The same prophecy that, days later, Dumbledore had avoided talking about as if it were a taboo. This wasn’t the first time the thought of the mysterious prophecy had crossed his mind. He would be lying if he didn’t admit to being curious. Voldemort seemed to believe it was fulfilled. Apparently, it spoke of a child with the power to vanquish her.
On that front, she had a point. She had indeed been vanquished. Her logic was sound. But the fact that Dumbledore had refused to even mention the prophecy when Harry had led him straight to it in their conversation was… troubling. Even if it only pertained directly to Charlus, there was a good chance that Harry would end up as collateral damage one way or the other.
As Blaise said, he really couldn’t catch a break.
He had pondered on the prophecy for some time, but when his mind had finally returned onto the issue of how it had gotten there, he sighed. Avoiding all this drama was really his best course of action. It was possible the heir had framed him, but Harry could hardly blame them. He doubted it was personal. He wasn’t really important enough in the grand scheme of things for it to be. He was just the most natural candidate to take the fall, all things considered. He didn’t like it, but it was hardly a good enough reason for him to risk his life in retribution.
These thoughts had grown rather depressing. Thinking in circles tended to be. He decided to take the opportunity to both distract his mind and to be productive. Standing to his feet, Harry made his way towards the bookshelves lining the main room of the Den.
It was tradition for anybody who found the Speaker’s Den to leave a book behind before they graduated Hogwarts. That was what Harry had managed to put together, at least. As such, there were a great number of tomes on a wide variety of topics . Last year, he hadn’t really dipped his feet into these shark-infested waters. Partially because most of the material was beyond him, and also because he had been focused heavily on his studies.
While the latter was still true, he thought that if there was any time to give himself a break, it was now. He was still going to look for something academic and practical. But he thought a break from things like schoolwork and working ahead in schoolwork, as well as from his studies in Ancient Runes and Arithmancy could be good for him.
For a long time, Harry was lost in manifestos of old. They were written in old English, hence the distinction. Some of them appeared to be from time periods close to the one that William Shakespeare had lived in. At least, the language used was very similar. Some were older. Some were very difficult for Harry to comprehend, but he mostly managed.
There were certain phrases in these manifests that stood out to him vividly. Some he had read before. The first, for example, was one he had read here last year in a different tome and taken to heart. Obviously, it wasn’t a unique phrase, but he thought it very true nonetheless.
Proper preparation prevents poor performance.
The second certainly wasn’t one he had read whilst in here. It was a phrase he had read in the first book he’d taken from the Restricted Section. The book that Lady Voldemort herself had urged him to take out.
There is no such thing as light and dark, or good and evil. Only power, and the intent with which it is wielded.
One made him pause, for it was rather reflective of his current struggles to master the emotional control granted by the first Occlumency subskill he had ever attempted to learn.
Emotion is the bane of cunning. It is the silent destroyer of ambition, for it does not strike loudly and harshly as the emotion may appear, but stealthily and from the shadows. It is a long, drawn-out death, one that the victim may never see coming.
It was, perhaps, a bit morbid, but it was a terrifying reality check nonetheless.
He had to master that subskill.
With that in mind, Harry spent an age combing the shelves for anything useful. It wasn’t exactly easy to search out specific topics. Especially not when many of the books were represented by blank, discreet covers. Many others were simply notebooks and not proper books at all.
After ages of searching, Harry picked up one of the newer entries, or so it seemed. It was still pristine. A bit dusty, but in perfect condition otherwise. He had avoided newer material for the most part thus far. Occlumency just seemed like an ancient art. But desperate times called for desperate measures. It wasn’t that Emily couldn’t help him. She was helping him a great deal, but he would take every advantage he could get.
This was his philosophy as he opened the book and looked down…
The pristinely perfect handwriting was all too familiar. It was the same handwriting he saw every time a message was sent to him in the enchanted journal.
It was Emily Riddle’s handwriting. He was sure of it.
What was just as shocking was the book’s contents.
To call it a book wasn’t really accurate. It was a journal; a notebook. One which seemed to be dedicated to the Mind Arts. Skimming through the book itself, he noted that there was more written about Occlumency than there was Legilimency. But there was certainly plenty about the latter as well.
Now, this… this could be a game-changer.
It was one thing to write Emily and ask her questions. It was another thing altogether to actually see not only her methods, but her in-depth philosophies and thought processes in regards to Occlumency written out in vivid detail right in front of him.
Yes, this was going to be a game-changer indeed.
Hardly believing his luck, but supposing the world had decided he needed a break at long last, Harry picked up the book and began to read.
Though it would later baffle him how such a thing was possible, by the time the duelling club met five days later, he would already have the subskill that had given him such problems for the better part of a month and a half somewhat mastered.
December 17, 1992
The Slytherin Common Room
At long last, the night had come that many in the ancient castle had been awaiting for the past month.
Tonight, the newly reformed Hogwarts Duelling Club would meet for the first time.
Harry wasn’t quite as excited as he had been the first night it had been revealed. Calypso had put it best. They duelled every week, this really wasn’t anything special. What he was excited for was to see how he compared to other students. In particular, those who were his senior, but perhaps not necessarily avid duellists. While his friends all seemed to be in varying states of eagerness,none of them were truly duellists. Granted, Charlotte had wanted to learn combat magic. She still did, but the two of them had decided it would be best to start that project soon after the fast-approaching holidays.
Out of Harry’s gathered friends, she was by far the one who looked most eager. Sinister, as well. Something Harry didn’t like seeing at the moment. It meant, in his estimation, that she was going to lead with the exact plan which would lead to disaster. A disaster that he would have to subvert before it happened.
As the group of them made to leave the common room, he placed a hand on Charlotte’s arm, stalling her exit. This surprised her greatly, which Harry really should have seen coming. It wasn’t exactly kept a secret how much he detested most forms of physical contact.
But ever since he’d learned emotional manipulation and control in the last few days, he had found that his distaste could be suppressed. When he’d first written Emily to explain that he had learned the subskill, she had been equal parts baffled, impressed, and amazed.
The night previous, in the Slytherin dorms…
Harry eagerly opened the journal and put his quill to the parchment. He had finally done it, and the accomplishment came with more pride than any before it which he could remember.
I’ve mastered emotional suppression and manipulation!
Well, maybe not mastered, but I can do it! I’m not sure if I would be able to pull it off in a high-pressure situation yet, but I’m sure that will come with practice and mental memory, like a lot of other things seem to.
The pause before the inevitable response was actually shorter than what Harry was accustomed to.
Have you now? That is… intriguing. The last time we talked, you did not seem to be any closer to that objective, and that discussion was fairly recent. May I ask what led to this… breakthrough before I discuss some necessary things for you to be aware of?
Harry bit his lower lip. Could he tell her? He had no idea how she would react to the news that he had found the writings of her teenage self. More important, how she would react to him finding the Speaker’s Den. It would likely give away that he was a Parselmouth, too. He wasn’t sure if the Den could even be found by those who did not speak the magical language. Possibly, but certainly not by a second year, no matter how far ahead in their coursework they might be. She would know immediately that he, like her, spoke the language of Slytherin.
That could be… problematic.
He trusted her, but not that much. He hadn’t even told Blaise, Daphne or Tracey about that ability yet. He couldn’t say he had any plans to do so soon, either. Perhaps if it was somehow necessary to solve a problem in the future, he would consider it. Aside from that, he was perfectly content with keeping an ability private that would more than likely lead to him being ostracized more than he already was.
Especially in the current climate, with a supposed Heir of Slytherin running around.
If said culprit really was the Heir of Slytherin, that would be one way for Harry to draw their attention. Even if their frame job hadn’t been personal, he imagined that, if he revealed himself as a Parselmouth, he would rise straight to the top of their interest list. It wouldn’t matter what colour his robes were, or how pure his blood was.
No, best not to tell his friends. By extension, he didn’t think telling Emily would be wise either. Unfortunately, he knew that whatever he was about to write would be a weak explanation. It probably wouldn’t be sufficient enough to fool her. Hopefully, she would just be polite enough not to ask further.
I’m not actually sure. I just sat down after class for the last few nights and pretty much spent all night working on it. I skived off most of my other obligations and eventually, it just clicked.
Even to him, it sounded weak. If that was the case, why had it taken him so long to do that? What changed so suddenly that allowed this to become possible? These were just some of the questions Emily could potentially ask him. Questions that he realistically had no answers for. To put it lightly, there were a myriad of issues surrounding his cover story. He hoped it would be sufficient. As long as she chose not to press him on it, the moment should pass. Emily seemed curious in general, but prying wasn’t her forte, from what Harry had observed.
Thankfully, the moment passed.
A bit unusual it would suddenly click so swiftly, but I am happy for you nonetheless. Now, I need to warn you about some of the risks associated with these abilities. The suppression of emotion in particular.
Harry frowned, but wrote something back to signify he was paying close attention.
Emotional suppression is a wonderfully powerful thing. Unfortunately, like most other things of a similar nature, it has its fair share of dangers. By example, one can permanently suppress any given emotion. For example, you could suppress your empathy for the rest of your life. I take it I don’t need to explain all of the potential problems that could cause? Not just in terms of empathy, but with emotions in general?
Yes, he could see why that could be problematic.
The most dangerous thing about this is that it isn’t always a conscious decision. Sometimes, in situations of great stress, an Occlumens, new Occlumens in particular, ends up doing so subconsciously. So, what I am telling you is that, in order to avoid that mishap, make sure to internalize very deeply after any experience that is particularly traumatic. If you find out that you have unintentionally suppressed an emotion permanently, or you think you have, write to me immediately.
Harry never failed to be amazed at just how powerful Occlumency truly was.
The other issue is less dramatic, but still of note.
When suppressing particularly strong emotions, again, usually after moments of intense stress or trauma, if they are suppressed for too long, days on end, for example, the emotions tend to build. This doesn’t happen on most occasions. The suppressed emotion has to be particularly strong for this to occur, but when it does build, you will eventually have to cease suppressing it and the outpouring is… unpleasant. It is the raw emotion magnified several times, and it often causes breakdowns in those who suffer it.
Harry winced. That was definitely something to note. It was exactly the kind of thing he could wind up doing.
Back in the present…
But there was no risk to suppressing things as minor as this. It was still something he had to consciously do, but it was nice to not reflexively tense every time somebody came too close to him, even if he still wasn’t fond of contact as a whole. That was something he really wouldn’t mind suppressing permanently, but he had no idea what kind of adverse effects it would have. It wasn’t something he had considered for more than a few, fleeting seconds.
Once Charlotte got over her surprise, she raised a brow. Harry projected what he wanted outwards and dropped his hand from her arm as she nodded curtly.
Minutes later, the two of them were locked in an abandoned classroom as most of the school surged towards the Great Hall, the room in which the night’s affairs were set to take place.
“What is it?” Charlotte asked him, obviously in a hurry to join the rest of the school.
“I know what you’re planning,” Harry told her bluntly.
Charlotte looked annoyed. “I’m sure you probably do. I don’t see what it has to do with anything though.”
“It will fail.”
Charlotte blinked. “What?”
“If you attack Mulciber and Jugson openly, you’re going to make even more enemies linked to the Conservatives. They will retaliate because unlike Malfoy, I don’t think public humiliation is going to be a strong motivator for either one of them. And when they do, they’re going to have more support than ever if you do this so publicly.”
A long pause stretched between them. Harry could practically see the gears turning inside Charlotte’s head. Eventually, she scowled. “I really hate it when you’re right sometimes.”
Harry’s lips twitched. “Don’t fight with emotion, Charlotte. Emotion is the bane of cunning and the destroyer of ambition.”
Charlotte scowled. “How would you do it then?”
“It’s your fight, Charlotte.” If he suggested a plan of action, she would never take it. It would feel to her as if he had helped too directly. Her pride would never allow it. “But generally, revenge isn’t something that should be broad. What works against one person might not work against another. It’s like I said, public humiliation was something that I knew would work against Malfoy. It’s something I doubt will work against the two you’re after, Mulciber in particular.
“Revenge is pointless if the person you act against can come back for their own. If you really want to make them pay for it, you’ll have to figure out something that will work specifically for them. Something that would change their outlook entirely. Something that, once you did it, would ensure that they never tried to take revenge on you again.”
Harry saw her eyes light up, and he knew he had succeeded in getting his point across. Also that he had managed to plant the seed while simultaneously leading Charlotte to believe it was her idea.
All in all, a success.
“And now that I know you’re not going to do anything stupid, let’s get to the Great Hall.”
Minutes later, in the Great Hall…
The uproarious chatter that permeated the air in the Great Hall was such that as Harry entered the vast room with Charlotte at his side, he was forcefully reminded of the atmosphere from the sorting ceremony. That was naturally a rather tense event, and it was, on paper, the most important event held at Hogwarts each and every year. With that in mind, it was fairly impressive to say that the atmosphere currently in the room was equally as tense and excited as anyone could ever remember.
When Harry and Charlotte took their spots among their group of friends, Daphne directed a curious glance in the pair’s direction. Harry shrugged, hopefully indicating it wasn’t important. Daphne’s eyes narrowed. Harry supposed that by now, she probably realized he didn’t do things in halves or for no reason. Almost anything that happened around him was of significant magnitude, whether he wanted it to be or not.
He also couldn’t help but notice that his friends closed ranks around him once he joined them. Cassius, Calypso and the Carrows were with them as well. They served as a sort of perimeter around the younger students.
Pansy had been right to assume that the disappearance of the Weasley twins would turn the school more firmly against him. He made no public appearances until Monday. Grace’s friend, Rhea, who had seen him in the common room was helpful enough to inform him of the location of the kitchens and how to enter them. That allowed him to avoid public meal times, and for the rest of the weekend, he had been locked up, studying Emily’s notes in the Den.
When he had been forced to return to the public eye on Monday, it had been a less than pleasant experience.
Before, he’d been hit in the back several times a day by minor jinxes and the like. More recently, he had been cursed quite vitally in the back several times, attacked more than that, and even challenged to several duels. After the first two days, Bletchley and Calypso had put their feet down and ever since, Harry had been escorted everywhere by either a member of the Quidditch team, the Carrows, or Calypso herself. Harry had winced for the two poor idiots from Gryffindor who had tried cursing him when Calypso had been his escort. They hadn’t left the hospital wing for more than a day.
It was her presence, Harry assumed, that discouraged many of his hateful onlookers from cursing him right in the middle of the hall. Harry was unperturbed. Well, that wasn’t true. He was naturally wary of the situation, but he controlled that emotion with Occlumency. Not suppressed it, just muted it, lessened it. He managed to portray the perfect visage of calm as he surveyed the slightly redecorated Great Hall.
All of the long tables had been pushed along the far wall and in their place, the hall’s centre was now dominated by a rather ostentatious looking golden stage. Only adding to the over-the-top nature of the entire setup was the absurd number of floating candles which lit the area. There had to be thousands of them! The stage might as well have sat in a pool of sunlight for how bright it was.
Peeling his eyes away from the spectacle, Harry turned towards his second year friends. “Any idea who’s running this?”
“Flitwick, maybe?” Daphne proposed. “He was a European Champion in duelling.”
“Definitely not Flitwick then,” Blaise disagreed. “That would make far too much sense.”
Harry’s lips twitched upwards, but he resisted the impulse to laugh. That was another thing that had become far easier with this subskill of Occlumency. Controlling his facial features was now completely trivial, with the exception of major shocks and the like.
“I heard,” Pansy started, lowering her voice to a whisper, “that it would be-“
But before she could finish, the answer became obvious.
Gilderoy Lockhart was strolling onto the stage, resplendent in robes of deep plum. The absurd amount of light cast down upon him by the luminous candles seemed to reflect blindingly off of his teeth, creating a blur, somewhat marring the otherwise perfect image. In stark juxtaposition to Lockhart, Snape strode up wearing his usual black. Lockhart smiled brightly at all of the students as he waved merrily. Snape, in contrast, just looked bored.
“Can you all see me?” Lockhart asked needlessly. Harry could have snorted aloud. If anyone couldn’t see him, they seriously needed an urgent check-up with Madam Pomfrey. When Lockhart had been assured they could all see and hear him, without the need of a Sonorus or other such amplification, he faced the hall, basking in the many stares fixed upon him.
Harry wondered whether his act at the beginning of the year hadn’t been more. He had no delusions that Lockhart had lied. He was certain the man had told the truth in the fact that the act had been a test, a diversion. Yet still, the way he seemed to revel in the attention made Harry wonder if that persona he had adopted might have been built on very real components of the man’s true character. Perhaps components he otherwise had to keep muted.
“Now, Professor Dumbledore has granted me permission to start this little dueling club to train you all in case you ever need to defend yourselves as I myself have done on countless occasions — for full details, see my published works.” He winked and flashed all of them a charismatic smile. This was normal of him. Even in their classes, for however competent he might be, he certainly did have a flair for the dramatics. Sometimes, Harry wondered exactly which parts of Lockhart were real and which were fake.
“Let me introduce my assistant, Professor Snape.” Snape gave a curt nod, but no more than that.
“He tells me he knows a tiny little bit about duelling himself, and has agreed to help me with a short demonstration before we begin.” At this, Harry’s eyes narrowed. Whatever anybody wanted to say about either Snape or Lockhart, nobody could downplay either man’s ability. Both of them were extremely skilled wizards, and presumably very proficient in duelling. Harry was quite interested to see how this would play out.
Of course, his hopes weren’t unrealistically high. More than likely, they would show a quick, choreographed demonstration and be done with it. But what he wouldn’t give to see those two go all out in a duel. He would be extremely curious to see how that duel would unfold. He also thought he would be mildly hopeful that Snape might finish Lockhart off. He’d caught the man following him several times this week- thanks to his ring- and he was getting more than a little bit tired of the man’s unwarranted, borderline obsessive suspicion.
Lockhart and Snape turned to face each other and bowed; at least, Lockhart did, with much twirling of his hands, whereas Snape jerked his head irritably.
Then they raised their wands like swords in front of them, and Lockhart gave all of them a borderline Binns-sequel lecture on duelling etiquette. In fairness, Harry had not been aware of any of it. While he had been looking into more practical forms of combat, until now, he hadn’t even really known the rules of duelling. Really, he still didn’t. According to Lockhart, the rules varied based on factors like location, age, level, etc.
Finally, Lockhart triggered some sort of magic which caused the duelling wards around the stage to start a silent countdown. Seconds later, a resounding, ancient-sounding gong rang out through the hall. Harry felt as if he had gone back in time and was about to witness not a duel between wizards in Britain, but a battle between gladiators in the famed Roman Colosseum.
The bright bolt of crimson magic rocketed from Snape’s wand at a ludicrous speed. Harry would bet his heirship that Snape had cast using Supplementary Occlumency.
Despite the speed he was facing, Lockhart appeared unfazed. In fact, Harry’s eyes widened at his next move. He didn’t try to dodge the spell at all. He leapt towards it, deflecting it at the last second. That was insanity! Lockhart had been in mid-air, in mid-lunge, and had still managed enough precision to deflect Snape’s own spell back at him.
That was skill.
Not only did he deflect Snape’s spell, but he sent a volley of four spells of his own towards Snape, all in quick succession and all before his feet hit the ground. Snape shielded, allowing the protection to absorb all spells without issue.
Lockhart was charging towards Snape at a sprint as he cast. Harry recognized the strategy. Voldemort had gone over it with him last year. It was standard procedure when you were facing an opponent who you knew to be more powerful than yourself. If you closed the distance and made it a chaotic, short-range battle where both parties were forced to trade spells in quick succession, the more powerful party would lose any opportunity to make the duel more complex.
Lockhart was obviously trying to do that now. He clearly anticipated Snape to dodge right, his left, for he actually leapt to that side, intent on intercepting him. To his dismay, Snape didn’t follow his script.
With a quick twist, he conjured a brick wall in place of his shield to absorb Lockhart’s Blasting Curse. It was blown to pieces and large bricks flew towards Snape, but none of them touched him. Harry recognized how; the Vestamenterum shield, the same blunt force shield Lockhart had taught them at the beginning of the year.
How ironic that Snape had turned it against him.
With a flourish, Snape banished the debris towards Lockhart, who looked surprised for about a second before he waved his own wand dramatically. Suddenly, the debris was no more. In its place was a furious flock of ravens, which streaked towards Snape with murderous intent.
Flaming arrows appeared from nowhere, shooting straight outwards from where Snape stood, efficiently slicing straight through Lockhart’s conjured birds and soaring towards the man himself. They were coming from both sides. Lockhart wouldn’t be able to dodge in time.
From nowhere, a dome of water rose around him, seeming to surge with the power of an ocean as the arrows neared it. Despite their numbers, all of them were harmlessly absorbed by the shield, though it did dispel a fair amount of steam into the air.
Yet contrary to looking annoyed, Snape looked victorious. With a wave of his wand, the water solidified and hardened until Lockhart was encased in a dome of rock.
Or, so they all thought.
There was a shimmer behind Snape, and Harry’s eyes sharpened. Lockhart must have stepped out of his water-based shield before it could be transfigured and made himself invisible without the need of magical artifacts. Harry was sure Snape would fall, but the man tensed seconds before Lockhart released his next volley of spells. He reacted just in time, in fact.
Harry assumed it was only through Legilimency of some kind that Snape knew Lockhart was behind him. He still thought for a moment that he would fall, for Harry hadn’t known that conjuring shields to completely encompass you from all sides was possible. That was something he would have to look into.
As it was, Snape’s hastily conjured dome of magical protection kept him unharmed and with a brief, mutual glance, the two professors decided to call their duel a draw. It had been more than adequate in terms of a demonstration, and Harry suspected that it had escalated further than either of them had planned for.
Their display had been indicative of the tone Lockhart wanted to set, and he’d succeeded.
Most everyone in the crowd was awed.
“Well,” Lockhart said with gusto, “that was suitably exhilarating!” Snape sneered. “My apologies, folks. That got a bit more out of hand than I’m sure either myself or Professor Snape expected. Nevertheless, I hope it was informative.”
Many of the students nodded, and Harry mentally added his agreement. It had been very informative.
“Dramatic as that may have been, we started well. An excellent idea to show them that, Professor Snape. We shall start with the Disarming Charm, shall we?”
For the next ten or so minutes, the whole hall went through the motions of learning the Disarming Charm. Once that had concluded, Lockhart showed all of them the basic Aegis Vocar shield. After he was satisfied with their progress, he decided to pair all of them off. As Harry eyed all of his friends, he knew all too well they wouldn’t be sticking to disarming and shielding.
They would be sparring, no doubt about it.
The same could be said for most of the hall, he imagined. The older students ,in particular, looked suitably bored now that the fireworks had long since concluded. Lockhart must have noticed this. Before all hell could inevitably break loose, he assured them that the next exercise would be organized sparring, so long as they could get through this one with no mishaps.
And so, they did.
Fifteen minutes later, Lockhart summoned all of them to stand in a large group before the stage. “As I promised,” he said proudly, “we’ll move onto sparring, next.” He smiled broadly. “But I couldn’t just let you duel your friend, could I?” An uneasy tension suddenly filled the room. “The point is to defend yourself. Particularly in light of our recent and… troubling circumstances. Now, in pairs!”
Lockhart and Snape began pairing all of them all up. They would duel their partners at least once and then switch opponents. Harry was paired with a third year Slytherin girl who had brown hair and hazel eyes. Her name was apparently Isabelle Caneiro. She was, according to Snape, one of the better Charms students in her year.
In other words, this was going to be interesting.
“When the gong sounds,” Lockhart said loudly once everybody had taken the appropriate stances opposite their designated partners, “the duels shall all commence!” Ringing silence filled the hall.
The gong sounded, and hundreds of spells fired at once.
Harry traded spells with Caneiro for about fifteen seconds before he realized that she was hopelessly outmatched. Her wand movements were fast and precise, and her spell casting was fluid and technically perfect, but she lacked experience in duelling, and it showed.
Ten or so seconds later, Harry had forced her to commit to an overly long, not-so-well-thought-out chain of spells. Exactly two seconds after she cast, he had sidestepped and batted her final spell right back towards her. She had been so surprised that she’d barely managed to dodge and when she had, it put her right in the path of his next stunner, and she saw no more.
Once he revived a rather cross, but somewhat awed-looking opponent, Harry observed the other duels going on around him.
Some of the outcomes were surprising.
Blaise had duelled Nott, but it apparently hadn’t gone well for Harry’s friend, who was urgently nursing a bleeding right arm. Tracey and Pansy were still duelling. Tracey’s wandwork was better than Pansy’s, but the latter knew more useful spells in a duel and neither of them had experience. Charlotte had, to Harry’s great intrigue, been paired up with Malfoy. Evidently, the first year had prevailed. Malfoy was lying bound and wandless at her feet.
The duel that was most interesting and surprising to Harry was Daphne’s. She was duelling Ares Black and to Harry’s extreme surprise, the duel wasn’t going well for Daphne. It wasn’t that Ares was talented, she was a Black and doubtlessly knew more questionable magic than most of the students from the first three years long before she had ever arrived at Hogwarts. But she was also a year younger than Daphne, who was one of the very best students in Harry’s year. Not a duellist, but still…
The duel was still ongoing but by this point, it was clear that Ares was humouring her. Finally, a rapidly cast chain of spells burst through Daphne’s Aegis Vocar shield and she was disarmed and knocked back to the floor. A minute or so later, Lockhart called stop and looked mildly troubled.
“That will do, that will do! Impressive displays from many of you but others took it… a bit further than we would have liked. This is sparring, my dear friends, not a championship tournament. I think we will duel differently in light of that… lack of restraint. Perhaps two students from each year at a time, up here on the stage. Let us start with the first years, shall we?”
A Ravenclaw and a Hufflepuff first year duelled very sloppily. The duel lasted all of forty seconds before the Ravenclaw girl with platinum blonde hair and odd, silvery eyes was declared the victor.
Then, the second years were up.
“Potter!” Snape called immediately, not even bothering to scan the crowd. When both Harry and Charlus looked towards him, he scrunched up his face. “Competent Potter,” he specified in a silky tone. Many in the hall from all years and houses not present in Harry’s potions classes laughed at the distinction as Harry ascended the steps up to the stage.
Snape looked quite smug. He may not have loved Harry, but he knew how talented he was. In his mind, this was about to reflect quite well on Slytherin House. “Your move, Gilderoy.” Snape sounded very much like a chess grandmaster who had just made a finishing move.
Lockhart smiled enigmatically back at him. “Competent Potter, huh? An interesting distinction, Severus. Let’s see if it holds up, shall we? Charlus Potter, come on up!” Harry’s eyes gleamed. A chance to show the entire school exactly how superior he was to his more famous twin. That was an idea he could get behind. Hell, it would probably even leak to the Prophet within the day.
When Charlus stalked up to the stage and stood opposite Harry, the young Slytherin found himself surprised at the look in his twin’s eye. He might have even been unnerved if not for his Occlumency and his own self-confidence. The boy who stood across from him didn’t just look confident. He looked resolute, determined and… vengeful, cruel, animalistic?
All of the above.
Not what Harry had expected to see from the Champion of the Light and the Gryffindor Golden Boy.
“Shall we make this one a best of three, Severus?” Lockhart proposed with an odd gleam in his eye.
Harry internally cursed, but forcefully clamped down on his mental control, keeping his face completely blank and indifferent. The man was trying to study him. Assess and evaluate him. Well, this was a pain. Suddenly, he had an intense feeling of deja vu. It was eerily similar to the encounter with his brother from the gala back in August.
Once more, he had to beat his brother for his own ego’s sake, but it wouldn’t do to show exactly how advanced he was.
Snape nodded curtly. “Very well.”
“Any final words from either of you?” Lockhart asked. Harry was quite sure that wasn’t standard duelling procedures. The man was really fishing for information now.
“Game over, Harry,” Charlus said in a voice not quite loud enough to carry to the audience. Harry suddenly realized what his brother was implying. He really did think him the Heir of Slytherin. And somehow, he thought this duel would put a stop to the attacks.
It was both so far off the mark and so pathetically naive that Harry could have laughed.
Instead, he settled for a roll of his eyes. “Let’s get this over with, shall we?”
“On the gong!” Lockhart prompted. Harry tensed his body as the hall took a collective breath.
Harry leapt to the side right away, reacting on instinct. Lucky he had, for several curses sailed through the space he had occupied a second or so earlier. A spell chain to open, huh? That was interesting. Quite a good one, too. The wand movements had been perfect and the casting had been fast — very fast. Accurate, too.
When Charlus’s next volley was strategically placed to lead Harry into yet another onslaught, his eyes narrowed. His brother was clearly more experienced than he’d suspected. This wasn’t going to be as easy as he thought. He had no doubt he could win, but whilst holding back…
Harry conjured an Aegis Vocar and forced the spell to move with him. He overcharged it, hoping that it would absorb Charlus’s next volley but it didn’t. He was forced to roll to the side and when he came back up to his feet, he was done playing defence.
With a slash of his wand, Harry fired a stunner towards Charlus at top speed. When the boy sidestepped, he let a volley of spells fly from his wand, forcing his mind and emotions into the perfect state so the magic flowed faster. Charlus was suitably shocked by how fast the magic flowed towards him and he lost his wand, obviously taken aback by the exceptional casting speed.
“Point, Harry Potter,” Lockhart declared, quickly setting up for the second round as he and Snape stepped out of the duelling wards once more after assuring both participants were in position for the second round.
This time, Harry sought to end things quickly. He sidestepped the opening volley again but decided to bat Charlus’s final spell back towards him, hoping to take him out the same way he had Isabelle Caneiro.
It was to no avail.
Charlus expertly rolled under the spell, coming back up to his feet and releasing a torrent of offensive spells to match Harry’s. Harry frowned as he just barely managed to dodge. He tried to direct Charlus’s movements with spellfire but the boy was wise to it, this time. After thirty more seconds of trading spells, Harry became fed up and decided to stop holding back.
He wiped his mind of all thought except for clear, precise intent, and a metaphorical storm of magic raced towards Charlus.
If not for Occlumency, Harry would have been shocked by Charlus’s ability to conjure that shield. As it was, he had already moved into position and from the side where his brother’s shield failed to cover him, Harry caught him with a well-placed Banishing Hex and sent him hurtling through the air. With a crackling sound and a bright flash of light, Charlus slammed hard into the duelling wards and was sent forcefully back into the arena, rolling with the momentum several times once he hit the ground.
Lockhart made to signal the end of the duel but before he could, Charlus was on his feet once more, enraged.
Harry’s Occlumency abandoned him as the white spell neared. How the fuck did his brother know that spell? Better yet, why the fuck was his light zealot of a brother casting a blinding curse which was categorized as dark?
This didn’t make any sense at all!
At the last possible second, Harry conjured a hasty Protego.
It held, but barely.
“Potter!” Lockhart bellowed. “Under the rules of-“
WHAT THE FUCK!?
Harry dove to the side, knowing from experience that a standard Protego sure as hell wasn’t going to stop that. Worse still, that had been aimed at his chest.
What the fuck was going on?
When he came back up to his feet, he batted Charlus’s stunner back towards him and let loose with a wave of magic, no longer holding back in the slightest. Lockhart and Snape were both hastily trying to lower the duelling wards, as Charlus had by now been obviously disqualified, but it wasn’t a fast process. Before they could, Charlus was sent flying into them once more, and the magical backlash sent both professors standing to their feet.
Charlus had bounced up at a shocking rate, but Harry hadn’t waited for him this time. He had cast as soon as his twin had landed back on the stage, knowing all too well that his brother wouldn’t give up that easily.
He had made that fact rather obvious already.
Having not the time to shield nor dodge, Charlus simply raised his wand and fired a spell right back at Harry, a warped look of hatred marring his bruised face. Evidently, he’d smashed it against the stage during one of his falls.
What worried Harry more than his brother’s appearance was the fact that he didn’t even recognize the boy’s next incantation.
Harry realized two things at the same time.
The first was that the closest thing he came to knowing what the incantation meant was that the Greek titan Iapetus had been known as “the Piercer”.
The second was that his and Charlus’s spells were on a direct collision course. He had only seen this happen once before- during Grace’s duel against Flint and Higgs in the common room.
And not knowing what spell his brother had fired off, he had no idea what the results might be should the spells meet.
Might they cancel each other out completely? Ricochet chaotically in random directions? His overpower Charlus’s? His twin’s overpower his?
It turned out that none of those happened.
What did happen was far more fantastical.
As the spells forcefully careened into one another, they did seem to cancel each other out, but not in the way Harry had expected.
The spells dissipated, but in their place was a brilliant bean of golden light, one that seemed to be composed of pure energy.
It was magic solidified, somehow forced into a physical form.
Harry’s natural ability with Legilimency may not have been as potent as Charlotte’s, but it was practically singing to him. If magic had been radiating off of the Mirror of Erised in waves, then it was crashing into him with the force of the entire ocean now.
The air practically smelled of it.
Moreover, this beam wasn’t the only one.
More golden strands seemed to stretch outwards from both his and his brother’s wand until the two of them found themselves enclosed not only by the duelling wards, but by a brilliant structure of pure, golden light.
A shimmering, ethereal dome of magic.
Harry could hear the voices of the onlookers, but they sounded quiet and far away. Vaguely, he registered that the professors had managed to take down the duelling wards and that both of them were now firing spells hopelessly into the dome-like structure that seemed to isolate both himself and Charlus.
Their spells were reflected back at them each and every time.
When Harry’s attention returned to the main beam of light, the one connecting his wand to that of his brother, he realized that smaller, more intricate beads had formed on the larger strand of light. They were slowly creeping towards the tip of his wand.
Intuitively, he somehow knew that this was some sort of test. A battle of wills, of sorts. He had no idea how the fact popped into his mind. It was as if magic itself had informed him of it.
He wouldn’t know until later, but that was exactly what had happened.
He couldn’t lose to Charlus. He wouldn’t lose to Charlus. Not in a duel, not in a magical showcase, not at Quidditch, not in this, not at anything!
He cleared his mind of all thought and crushed every single emotion but one.
Pure, utter defiance.
And slowly, ever so slowly, the beads of light began to creep back up towards the tip of Charlus’s wand.
Meanwhile, outside the magical phenomenon taking place in front of them, the Great Hall was pandemonium. Many of the students had tried to rush as close as they could to the centre of the stage. Snape and Lockhart were forcefully directing traffic. More accurately, Lockhart was keeping students as far away from the oddity as possible whilst Snape fired spell after spell at the golden dome to no avail.
“What the hell is going on?” Charlotte asked Grace, clinging onto her older sister’s arm as they crossed paths, using her other arm to take Daphne’s hand. Hopefully, her older sister, the Head Girl, would be able to get them closer than they would otherwise.
They had to know what was going on! They had to know what was happening to Harry!
“I don’t know!” Grace admitted, needing to shout in order to be heard over the chaos surrounding them on all sides. “I’ve never seen this before… never even heard of it.” She looked down at her little sister. “What do you feel, Charlotte? When focusing on it?”
Charlotte shivered. She had done that for all of three seconds before retracting her Legilimency. She could sense magic, even though it was a skill she was quite novice at, now. But this…
Breathing deeply, she closed her eyes, focusing on it once more. She wanted to withdraw immediately. It was so… wrong. So unnatural. It felt ominous, foreboding, and eternally powerful.
Nothing that felt like that should exist in this world. She was certain of that, if nothing else.
“It’s… unnatural. It feels like it shouldn’t be here.”
Daphne looked puzzled by that explanation but Grace nodded darkly, as if she had expected as much. “Stay here,” she told both of them firmly, drawing her wand and turning towards the structure.
Before she could cast, Snape evidently lost patience and decided to play what must have been his ace.
Unlike all other attempts, the odd bluish slash in the air did not simply disperse against the barrier surrounding the Potter twins.
It seemed to slice straight through the magic itself and the barrier wavered before, with an explosion of pure magic, it erupted outwards, and Charlotte felt completely weightless as her world was turned upside down.
Harry had been so sure he would win the battle of wills.
As soon as he had occluded, it swung drastically in his direction.
But then, on the brink of defeat, his brother had let out a primal snarl and, amazingly, the beads had begun to slowly slide back towards Harry. Just as they neared halfway, Harry focused harder. Harder than he had ever focused on anything in his entire life.
Before he could see the results, he was consumed by a feeling of weightlessness and then, with a gasp, all the air was forcefully extracted from his lungs as he collided hard with the nearest wall. Charlus had evidently done likewise, but Harry was the first to his feet and what he saw and felt made his eyes widen and his jaw unhinge.
The dome of magic was gone.
But the magic itself was not.
Now, it flowed around the room without any sort of structure at all. All of the occupants of the hall seemed to be climbing back to their feet. Obviously, they too had been thrown forcefully to the floor by whatever magical backlash had finally broken through the otherworldly barrier between the Potter twins and the rest of the school.
As for the magic… it was humming.
It gathered into a sort of cyclone in the middle of the hall and what appeared to be thick, golden dust began to spin faster and faster as it seemed to solidify. As the rate of its speed increased, so did the ominous air in the hall. An ethereal humming seemed to fill the ears of all present as the magic and power built and built. Suddenly, Harry was filled with irrational feelings to lash out at his brother, to ensure that their battle concluded. He crushed it ruthlessly with Occlumency but cried out a second later as Charlus’s Lacero grazed his arm and caused blood to pool.
Somebody who sounded like Daphne screamed, but it was lost in the worried murmurs that filled the hall. The feeling was growing more ominous by the second; and as the magic built and built, everybody felt dread close in on them. Snape tried another one of the curses which had failed the dome, but it had no effect. It was simply swept into the cyclone and only seemed to bolster whatever was about to happen next.
Just as the feeling of impending disaster mounted, there was a blinding flash of fire near the doors and heads turned to see Albus Dumbledore, standing just beyond the entrance of the hall and staring at the magical phenomenon in front of him with hard, blue eyes.
The twinkle was absent from those eyes.
For the first time since meeting the man whom Harry had grown to despise for his own, personal reasons, he thought that maybe, just maybe, there was some truth to the light’s propaganda that Albus Dumbledore had been the only man Lady Voldemort had ever feared.
Indeed, as Dumbledore’s wand rose in a vehement stance of war and his phoenix let out a cry that sounded fit for the battlefield, Harry wouldn’t have blamed her.
Harry didn’t recognize the incantation, but he suddenly felt his skin crawl as his Legilimency senses picked up whatever the fuck Dumbledore had just cast.
The world around the Headmaster seemed to blur and distort as if the air was bending into something different, something… more. A second later, green fire was everywhere, and the humming sensation all around them was suddenly filled by something even more sinister.
Evil, malevolent cackling.
Harry shivered. He wasn’t sure if it was just him, but he could practically feel raw hatred emanating from the concentrated mass of fire as it closed in on the cyclone of magic in the centre of the hall. Perhaps it was a matter of Legilimency attunement. If so, he could only imagine how Charlotte felt right about now.
The flames met the cyclone and the cackling grew louder as the ruthless, ethereal fire seemed to exalt in its consumption of the otherworldly magic that had permeated the hall just seconds earlier. After several moments, all in the hall could feel the presence of the cyclone receding and, with a mighty slash of his wand, Dumbledore sent the flames spiralling high before, all at once, they were snuffed out, leaving nothing but a ringing silence behind in their wake.
Before anybody could move, Harry felt magic aimed at his back. He whirled and dodged Charlus’s next spell.
He was so done with this shit after everything that had just happened.
If his brother wanted to play dirty, that was fine by him.
A ten-foot cobra lunged from Harry’s wand and eyed Charlus cruelly. Before it could advance further, Charlus’s mouth opened and the next thing out of it made everyone in the hall gasp.
So obviously, Priori Incantatem works differently in this story than it does in canon. It will be partially explained in the next chapter, and a more thorough explanation will come much later in the story. I promise it will make sense in time.
Next: The fallout of the Saviour’s most damning secret being revealed for the world to see. Plus, our favourite masked instructor makes another appearance, leaving complete and utter chaos in his wake.
Please read and review.
PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, October 31st, 2020.
Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Asmodeus Stahl and Athena Hope for their contributions/corrections this week.
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