Ashes of Chaos Chapter 38
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 21: Dangerous Duels & Deadly Drama Part III
December 17, 1992
The Great Hall
It took Harry several seconds to realize why the Great Hall was gaping at his twin, and several more to realize why the silence was perhaps more absolute than that from moments earlier, which had accompanied the mystifying, magical wonders of the duel. After a moment, his brain put two and two together and his eyes widened.
Charlus was a Parselmouth!
Unlike the rest of the hall, that wasn’t what had Harry reeling. It was the fact that until now, he’d never even considered that such a thing was possible.
Of course, his brother would be a Parselmouth! It was a hereditary ability, after all. If Harry possessed it, so would Charlus.
Yet somehow, those dots had never connected inside Harry’s mind.
The implications of this revelation were nearly infinite.
It confirmed that somehow, the Potters were connected to Slytherin, despite everything Nature’s Nobility said against the fact, as well as the book Tracey had gifted him which covered his family history in greater detail. It also let Harry discover that he was no longer the only Parselmouth in the school, even if this Heir of Slytherin was bluffing.
But there were more major implications as well.
The first of which almost made Harry smirk. If the school was truly as petty as he suspected it to be, he wondered whether he would still be the prime suspect in the hunt to find the supposed Heir of Slytherin. Of course, anybody with a brain would realize that if Charlus Potter was a Parselmouth, Harry Potter should be one too. Yet the wizarding world didn’t exactly seem to be gifted with logic, so it was very possible that whatever controlled karma had just given his brother a large metaphorical middle finger.
Granted, this would probably confirm to the Gryffindors that Harry was the Heir of Slytherin, in their eyes. He might actually need to fear for his life in the halls, so there was that.
The Gryffindors would most likely still suspect him and whatever his personal thoughts about Lockhart, the man had brains. He was going to put the hereditary dots together and Harry very highly doubted his suspicion would shift. It would likely only intensify.
Yet as much as that seemed major in the short term, there was one implication that was potentially far more significant.
He and Charlus had both fled to the scene of the first attack.
Charlus had said something about following a commotion. If Harry had been in his place, that was probably the exact excuse he would have come up with. Was it possible that Charlus had heard the voice as well? Was it possible that the voice was not so disembodied after all?
If so, then he had a feeling that he knew the identity of whatever monster supposedly lurked within the hidden Chamber of Secrets. Not exactly, mind you, but if that had indeed been what had pulled Charlus to the scene of the crime, then he was willing to bet a fair bit of money that the voice’s source was a snake of some kind.
Coincidences were often just events that were too convoluted to see through, after all. That was another quote from one of the older, more personal tomes left behind in the Speaker’s Den.
Well, that’s what it would be in more modern English, anyway.
But those were deep, meaningful thoughts that were better had later. For now, he needed to look surprised. If he wanted to have those sorts of thoughts, they should be directed towards exactly how he could potentially spin this situation to throw the less logical population of Hogwarts off of his trail. For now, surely a great deal of them would suspect him of being a Parselmouth too.
Speaking of which…
The snake had frozen as soon as Parseltongue left his twin’s lips. Of course, Harry was only assuming it to be Parseltongue. To him, it had sounded like perfectly normal English. But judging by the shocked, horrified reactions of those around him, he was certain that he was right. The good thing about this was that it may well teach his brother a lesson and, in addition, Harry wasn’t going to get in serious trouble for his conjured serpent taking a bite out of his tosser of a twin.
The bad thing was that now that said snake couldn’t attack its primary target, it reared around, looking for the next person in line who could suffer at its hands.
And its eyes found Harry.
Silently, he reflected on how often he had thought that tonight. Far too often, but it was just so apt on every occasion. It was truly just one of those nights.
The snake tensed and reared back, poised and ready to strike. Harry’s heart skipped a beat. He made a split-second decision to do nothing. He would never be able to raise his wand in time, and revealing himself to be a Parselmouth as well would be utterly disastrous. Not that he was fond of the idea of getting bitten by a snake, but at least here, in front of the entire school, he was pretty sure somebody would heal him swiftly before too much damage could be done.
Or better yet, stop the snake from striking him at all.
He caught motion out of the corner of his eye just as the snake was blasted up into the air. With the threat removed from his general vicinity, Harry glanced around and realized that it had been Grace who had stepped forward and banished the snake. When the thing landed and hissed, she swished her wand in a fluid motion, and the serpent vanished.
Once more, the hall fell silent.
Harry fumed as his eyes rested on Dumbledore. Perhaps the man had not meant for Harry to get bitten, but he hadn’t raised his wand to stop it from happening either. Granted, the Headmaster looked so surprised at the whole thing that he actually may have just been spaced out completely.
Or he could have been occluding the entire time. That option was equally possible.
Everybody in the hall seemed to wait for the metaphorical bomb to go off.
Before it could, Granger and Weasley rushed forward and began to guide Harry’s dazed-looking brother swiftly out of the room. Lockhart’s eyes seemed to narrow on the boy. Harry thought he was going to call after him, probably to inform him he had hell to pay for using illegal magic during a duel. Before he could, Dumbledore rested a hand on Lockhart’s shoulder and gave a minute shake of his head. Harry would have fumed that Charlus was getting off, but he didn’t actually think he was. The gesture didn’t seem like a rejection, just procrastination.
Dumbledore was going to sort it out in his own way. Just not now.
Just as the hall started muttering, Harry felt an arm wrap protectively around him and he was suddenly pulled right up against another, taller body. For a split second, he tensed, but crushed the feeling of unease with Occlumency, glancing to the side and up into Grace’s bluish silver eyes.
“We’re leaving. No questions, just go.”
With her arm still draped around his shoulders, Grace began to lead Harry towards the hall’s exit, walking at a very brisk pace. Rhea tailed them, as did several other of Grace’s friends. Harry couldn’t help but notice that every single one of them had their wands drawn. None of them held those implements in a position to quickly use them, but it was obvious to any who knew what to look for that all of them were tense and ready to react on a moment’s notice. Grace held her own wand in the hand that was not attached to the arm wrapped around her young protégé.
The muttering rose as they neared the exit, but before it could amount to an unreasonable degree, they had already left the hall. Grace did not release her grip on Harry, and he suddenly realized why. They weren’t the only ones exiting the hall. If Grace kept Harry close to her, it would be nearly impossible for anybody to curse him, which was clearly something she thought of as a very real possibility.
Footsteps began to make themselves present, closing fast. Rhea’s wand was the first to turn as Harry glanced over his left shoulder to see Cassius, Calypso and the Carrows in hot pursuit. They too had their wands drawn and their visages were pensive. Behind them, it was a clustered, chaotic throng of students who were pushing towards the doors. Harry suspected his younger set of friends were likely trapped somewhere amid the herd.
“We’re coming with you,” Calypso insisted. Her voice was as hard as steel as she stared Rhea down. It was apparent to all present that the Rosier Heiress would use force to get her wish if need be. Grace glanced briefly towards Harry before looking over her shoulder. Harry nodded once, signalling his acceptance of her wish.
“Let them,” Grace told Rhea and her friends. The sixth-year Prefect lowered her wand reluctantly, allowing the four fifth-year Slytherins to follow them off to wherever Grace was leading them.
Moments later, in the out-of-order bathroom on the second floor…
“What?” Charlus asked loudly. He was extremely confused. Everything that had just happened was such a blur. Vaguely, memories started coming back to him. Memories detailing exactly which spells he’d used in the second round of his duel with Harry.
That must be why his friends had hastily whisked him out of the Great Hall. Perhaps they feared the Slytherins’ retribution. Not that he had actually managed to hit Harry with any of those curses, except for a Lacero that had grazed him.
Merlin, his twin was good.
Like… really good.
He had beaten Alicia in the first, more open round. It had been a fairly close duel, but still. She was a third-year and a fairly talented one at that. Yet against his brother, he had mounted almost no offence at all. Even when he had dipped into his darker set of tricks.
Why had he done that?
What the hell had made him think that was a good idea?
He just remembered raising his wand and trying to select his next spell, knowing that all others before had failed him. It was almost… instinctive. And once he cast the first spell… he had been so angry. Rage had consumed him, but it had felt so good to throw those curses around, even when they weren’t landing. Though then again, Harry’s constant evasion of said curses had only fuelled his rage further. Which, in turn, had only led the reddish haze to grow thicker and for his morally unacceptable spells to flow more freely.
Oh, Merlin, he had really botched this one! To think, everybody had thought the flying car had been bad…
“When the hell were you going to tell us?”
Charlus blinked. That had not been the first question he had been expecting Ron to ask. Where did you learn those curses? What were you thinking? What is wrong with you? All of the above would have been expected questions, even if he would have been utterly incapable of producing an acceptable answer for any of them. But that…
“Yes, tell us!”
“Tell you what, exactly?”
“That you’re a bloody Parselmouth!”
“That I’m… huh?”
“The snake! You… you commanded it, didn’t you?” Hermione asked timidly.
“I… I only told it to stop?”
“Oh, is that what you said to it?”
“What do you mean? You heard me! I said it in front of the whole hall!” Both of his friends shook their heads.
“Charlus,” Hermione said after taking a deep, heavy breath, “we didn’t hear anything you said. We just heard you speaking Parseltongue. To us, it just sounded like a bunch of incomprehensible hissing.”
Charlus’s mind blanked. “You-you’re not having me on, are you?”
Both of his friends shook their heads once more.
What the hell was going on? He couldn’t be a Parselmouth, could he? Surely, he would have known if he were a Parselmouth. He would have known years ago. Hell, to be a Parselmouth, he would have had to be related to Slytherin, but…
“That’s impossible,” he said smartly. “The Potters have no relation to Slytherin. The only way anybody can speak to snakes is if they have the trait in their bloodline.”
“How do you know you’re not related to Slytherin?” Hermione‘s question was asked very carefully. “The Potters have been in Britain for more than a thousand years. How do you know that somewhere down the line, there wasn’t an affair or something? If it was an affair, something that would have been disgraceful, then naturally it would never have been recorded.”
Charlus opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again and tried to argue.
No words came out.
He looked to Ron imploringly. Ron looked sheepish. “You were speaking it, mate,” he said apologetically. “We all heard you, clear as day. We had no idea what you even said to it.”
“But… obviously I was telling it to stop!”
His two friends exchanged looks. “Plenty of people thought you were sending it after your brother,” Hermione admitted. Charlus’s eyes widened in horror. The worst part was after he had thrown around such malevolent magic so carelessly, he could hardly blame anybody for making that assumption, even if it wasn’t true.
Wow… this had not gone to plan.
So much for showing up his brother.
Wait a minute… his brother!
Charlus’s eyes widened. “Harry!”
Both of his friends looked confused. “Er… what about him?”
“If I’m a Parselmouth, he’s also a Parselmouth!”
Hermione’s eyes bugged out. “Which means…” she started.
“That he really is the Heir of Slytherin!” Charlus finished, nodding viciously.
Hermione hesitated. “Well, it does make sense that anybody who may be opening the Chamber of Secrets would be able to speak to snakes. And… the odds of three Parselmouths at Hogwarts aren’t very high.”
“And you’re obviously not doing it,” Ron said emphatically. Charlus realized in that moment that neither Ron nor Hermione had recognized any of the magic he had thrown towards Harry. Obviously, they had seen the effects of the Lacero curse, but that had been a graze, so it probably hadn’t looked too awful. He didn’t look nearly as bad to them as he should have.
He could come clean, but they were on a much more productive line of thought, so he said nothing to divert said path. It was far better for Charlus to allow Hermione to begin plotting how exactly they would infiltrate the Slytherin common room using Polyjuice Potion than to let her and Ron question him on exactly what kind of magic he’d been using.
That was a conversation he would much rather save for a later date. Or preferably, not have at all, for that matter. He still had not entirely worked out for himself why he’d thrown that sort of magic around, and it was troubling him deeply for reasons he couldn’t intelligently articulate.
Meanwhile, in an abandoned classroom…
Harry, Grace and the others got to an abandoned classroom before anybody, he included, realized how much blood was seeping from his arm.
“Merlin, Harry,” Cassius breathed, looking wide-eyed at his young friend. Harry, finally being released by Grace, glanced down at his side and paled.
The right side of his robes was soaked with blood, and the cut on his arm was very deep, although the Lacero curse had only grazed him.
Calypso rushed forward in an instant, wand in hand. Before she could reach him, Grace stepped between them, raising her own wand and shooting a look towards the younger Prefect. Calypso clearly wanted to protest, probably to put in that she knew how to heal the damage, but Grace was having none of it.
The Head Girl traced her wand slowly and intricately through the air directly above Harry’s cut and muttered in a language that he didn’t know. It definitely wasn’t Latin, nor was it Greek or anything similar. If he had to bet, he would guess German, but it wasn’t a language he was at all familiar with, so he was pulling at strings.
To the utter astonishment of all present, whatever Grace was muttering worked flawlessly. The effects of her spell was an odd, silver haze that seemed to flow into his cut. It hurt like hell. Harry sucked in a sharp breath and his knees almost gave out, but Grace steadied him with an arm around his waist. A second later, when he looked down at where the cut had been, it was gone.
That was new.
Calypso had healed the damage caused by Lacero before. On those instances during their duels, any time the spell was cast, it was done so with a deliberate lack of true intent behind it. Because of this, the results were always less damaging than what Harry had just experienced. Yet even with that in mind, it always took Calypso at least two, most often three passes over the cut with the same incantation to heal it.
Grace had done so with one incantation. With one spell.
Even Calypso looked awestruck. Judging by the brief-expression of pure incredulity on her face, that wasn’t supposed to be possible, at least not based on what she knew.
Harry’s respect for Grace grew even more. Calypso had put a large amount of time into healing. Those who frequently learned questionable forms of combat magic needed to, if they ever planned on casting said magic. Yet even Calypso’s ability paled in comparison to Grace’s. And as far as Harry knew, Grace’s career path wasn’t that of a healer. Admittedly, he had absolutely no idea what she was planning to do after this year, but he somehow couldn’t picture the brilliant heiress of House Weitts slaving away at Saint Mungo’s for the majority of her life.
Her presumed lack of specialization in the field of healing only made the feat more impressive. Hell, even the Carrows looked surprised.
Grace’s wand didn’t stop after healing Harry’s cut. She spun on her heel and aimed at the door, weaving her wand through the air like quicksilver, drawing tight, intricate runes so fast that Harry’s eyes could barely track the wand movements. Whatever she was doing, she had done it before, and not just once or twice.
When she had finished her own wards, Calypso shot her a questioning glance before looking at the door. Grace shrugged. “You can add wards if you’d like, but it’s completely unnecessary. Nobody will find this room unless I want them to.” Calypso wordlessly cast what Harry knew to be Muffliato despite Grace’s proclamation. When she had concluded, Grace turned to Harry. She looked perfectly calm, but there was an intensity in her eyes.
“Potter, I need you to answer me honestly. Are you or are you not the Heir of Slytherin?”
Harry’s eyes widened. “W-what?”
“Answer the question.”
“No… I’m not the Heir.”
Grace nodded. “I didn’t think so, but I had to check. With your brother being a Parselmouth-“
“I don’t know how he can speak to snakes,” Harry said, forcing complete confusion to the forefront of his mind. Damn, he loved Occlumency. Hopefully, by pleading ignorance, Grace would provide him with a plausible set of circumstances he could begin regurgitating to all who would listen. Hopefully, the reason would be easy enough to believe as to imply that Harry couldn’t be the Heir of Slytherin. “I’m certainly not a Parselmouth.”
There was an instant of time so short that Harry almost missed it. An instant in which Harry thought he saw… something in the Weitts heiress’s posture. A heartbeat later, he was sure he had imagined it.
“Is that possible?” Rhea asked slowly. “To be a Parselmouth and your brother not to be? Or, in this case, vice-versa?”
Everybody stared at Grace. Her face was blank but her eyes were churning. Harry could practically see the gears grinding as she thought at top speed. “I suppose it is probably possible. Parseltongue is a hereditary trait, just like… say, Metamorphmagery. The latter trait is notorious for skipping countless generations, not just individual cases. I suppose it’s possible that Parseltongue could be similar. I honestly have no idea. We know so little about Parselmagic that it’s impossible to say for sure. The known descendants of Slytherin seemed to have advertised that Parseltongue is always a trait possessed by Slytherin’s line, but that could be propaganda.”
“What I don’t understand,” Calypso said carefully, “is that the Potters have no recorded relation to Slytherin.”
“Don’t be naive, Rosier,” Grace chided. “The Potters are a family that has been notoriously Liberal for centuries. Admitting a connection to Slytherin, given the connotations of his line, would be highly politically damaging at best. Since the rise of the Dark Lady, it would be far worse.”
“I’m not denying that they would like to hide it. What I’m confused about is how they could keep a secret like that under wraps. That seems like something that would be certain to leak out at some point.”
“Magic is truly a wonderful thing,” Grace answered softly. “If major secrets are meant to be kept, magic can allow one to do it, as long as somebody knows how it needs to be shaped to do so. Magic is nearly a limitless force. That’s what most people fail to understand. If a family as old, well off and traditionally skilled as the Potters wanted to hide a damning secret, I don’t doubt that they would accomplish that goal with little drama.”
All in the room were quiet following the conclusion of Grace’s rather ominous proclamation. Harry’s mind was whirling, trying to fit all the pieces together. As the Potter Heir, he wondered if it was something he could actually look into. Given his shaky relationship with his father and the fact that he was spending the holidays at Hogwarts, he doubted it.
“But that’s not important,” Grace was saying. “What is important is that now, Potter is going to be suspected more than ever as the Heir of Slytherin. The majority of the student body is going to assume that he can speak it. There will be those who assume the Gryffindor Potter is guilty, but thanks to our house’s shining reputation and the Boy-Who-Lived’s sparkling one, I would wager that the majority of the school will still be steadfast against our Potter. And now, with what they will view to be confirmation, the Gryffindors, in particular, might actually turn into dangerous enemies.
“With that in mind, I am trusting everybody in this room to make sure that Potter does not leave the common room alone.”
“We’ve been doing that already,” Cassius filled in. “Us here and the rest of the Quidditch team.”
Grace nodded curtly. “Good, continue doing that, but know you’ll have more help from us now.” She gestured from herself, to Rhea, to her other two friends in the room. Harry thought them more followers than friends, but it was only an assumption, really.
He wasn’t sure how much he liked this escort business. It made doing anything productive a right pain. It was nearly impossible to sneak out to the abandoned classroom in the morning to practice, and he couldn’t frequent the library easily either. That wasn’t even to speak of his lessons with Grace. He supposed she could escort him herself, but that was likely to raise alarm bells the two of them had valiantly tried and so far succeeded in keeping quiet.
He supposed that sneaking out after curfew was an option. He could only get so much done at that time of night though. It was a start, a temporary solution. Hopefully, whoever was responsible for the disappearances was either apprehended soon, or made some move that proved Harry’s innocence.
Either that, or he was going to somehow learn how to stay invisible for longer than his ring would allow him to. It wasn’t magic he had looked into, simply for the fact that he knew it would be well above his level.
After some more details were hammered out, everybody began to exit the room. Harry did not need to wait for Grace’s subtle gesture. He had already known she was intending to speak privately with him. He just knew her well enough by now to have known it was coming. He also had a distinct impression, if their wary looks were anything to go by, that his fifth-year friends would be waiting right outside the door. He was sure that Grace was also aware of this but if she was, it clearly didn’t bother her.
As soon as the door closed, she turned towards Harry. “You don’t have any idea how your family could have any links to Slytherin, do you?”
He shook his head. Unlike the bit about his own Parseltongue ability, he didn’t have to lie at all this time. “No idea. I’ve vaguely raced our history back. We’ve been in Britain since the ninth century, but there’s no link to Slytherin that’s ever been recorded.”
Grace nodded. “I thought not, but I also thought it best to make sure.” She pierced him with a penetrating stare. “I need you to answer my next question honestly.” Harry nodded reluctantly. “How did you get a handle on emotional suppression and control so quickly? You didn’t seem that close last Sunday, yet you have a strong handle on it now. It’s not mastered, but it is freely at your disposal.” Her face stayed stony. “This isn’t the first time you’ve done something that should be theoretically impossible with the Mind Arts.”
That question was problematic.
The honest answer was he had no idea. Reading Emily’s notes, he supposed? Even that didn’t make sense, as most of what he had read on the topic had been things he’d known already. Admittedly, seeing them all in front of him at once had helped but it was… odd. They had all just sort of… clicked and came together in his mind. All of a sudden, it was as if he had always known how to do it.
“I don’t know.”
Grace’s eyes narrowed. “Elaborate.”
He bit his lip. “I actually don’t know. My readings just all sort of… came together. It all just suddenly made sense.”
Grace stared back at him. “I’m going to be frank with you, Harry. I don’t believe you. Not even a little bit.” His blood ran cold. “You’re a very good student in Occlumency. Perhaps even teetering on prodigious. But Charlotte and I both have a stronger affinity to our chosen sectors of mind magic than you do to yours. And neither of us had information just click into place. Nor did we master stage one of Occlumency in half a year — without formal instruction for most of that.
“I don’t know who else is teaching you Occlumency or how else you’re learning. A book seems most likely to me, based on circumstances, but I don’t see how any book could teach such an intuitive subject so well.” Harry’s heart was racing but he kept his emotions buried and his face blank. “I’m not going to press you on the matter. All I want you to tell me is that whatever method you’re using, you trust it. Not only its competence, but you trust that it is in no way, shape or form manipulating you, influencing you, or causing you anything negative in any way whatsoever.”
Harry had to think about that. Emily hadn’t done anything to him that he would consider negative. It was technically possible that she was manipulating him with her explanation of dark magic, but he doubted that was the case. Aside from that, she had been nothing but honest with him, best he could tell. She also let him be the instigator of most of their conversations. That in and of itself screamed of openness, and Harry liked to think he would have at least had some sense of unease if he was being manipulated. He certainly didn’t trust Emily unconditionally, hence why he was still going to ask Grace about the Dark Arts, but he trusted her enough to affirmatively answer this question.
He also supposed he could ask Grace about the Dark Arts now, but given that as a segway, it would likely only make her more suspicious, that was better left for a later date.
“I trust my source of information. I am as sure as I can be that I’m not being influenced or manipulated.”
There was a long pause in which Grace seemed to pierce him with her stare once more. He felt no Legilimency probe, not that she couldn’t have snuck a subtle one in without him knowing if she wanted to. Despite that, he was sure she was not using Legilimency, but it did sort of feel that way, what with the manner with which she was looking at him.
“That’s good enough for now,” Grace decided. “If that changes, you will come to me immediately. Agreed?” Harry nodded. It was odd. Grace could have an ulterior motive. She was one of the few people who could blatantly lie to him and get away with it if she wanted to based on her level of prowess in Occlumency, but he somehow didn’t think that to be the case. This entire conversation didn’t scream of plots and planning. It had until the others had left, but since they had been alone together, Harry and Grace’s discussion had felt more like a genuine one. One a concerned older sister might have with their younger brother.
Wow, that was an odd thought. Not that he ever thought Grace would look at him like that. She was probably just so used to speaking that way to Charlotte that was how it came across. Still, even if it wasn’t applicable, that was a very strange thought to Harry.
“I do have a warning for you,” Grace’s voice was suddenly as serious as Harry had ever heard it.
“Yes, and a request. They go hand in hand.” She paused. “Dumbledore is going to ask you about this. There is no way he won’t. That man’s mind is currently working at a million miles an hour, trying to work out what is all going on.” She paused again. “If you have anything to hide, use whatever method you learned to get a grasp of that subskill. But try applying it to Active Occlumency. Theoretically, it should be impossible. It should only be able to be learned with an active partner, so unless that’s how you’re learning, which I doubt, it should make no difference. Then again, as I have said, you’ve already done things with the Mind Arts that shouldn’t be possible at all.
“So if you can identify this method, I would use it again. By now, Dumbledore will be getting desperate, and this does not look good for you. What with the Weasley twins conveniently vanishing, followed by this confirming in many people’s minds that you’re a Parselmouth. I doubt Dumbledore is going to miss his chance to… press you on the matter if you know what I mean.”
Harry’s eyes widened. She thought Dumbledore might legilimize him?
How the hell was he supposed to prevent that. Avoiding eye contact like the plague, he supposed. Then, he remembered something else. “Grace?”
“Charlotte knows something about Lockhart. Or, in her words, she knows of circumstances that lead her to suspect things about Lockhart. Is it safe to assume you’re in the same boat?”
Grace seemed to choose her next words very carefully. “It would be a safe assumption for you to make based on the information you have, yes.”
“I’m not prying, but Lockhart has been the main supporter of the theory that I’m the Heir. Do you have any idea if he might know Legilimency? Because if he does, he’s definitely going to try and use it now.”
Grace thought about it, looking as though she were doing so with great intensity. “I can tell you that I’m quite certain Gilderoy Lockhart didn’t know Occlumency or Legilimency when he left Britain to start travelling in 1979. Now, I’m quite sure he at least knows the former.”
“According to your sister, he does.”
Grace nodded. “She would know better than me. Anyway, if he’s learned the former, it’s not impossible that he has learned the latter, even though practitioners of Legilimency are definitely rarer than those of Occlumency. If I were you, I would prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
Proper preparation prevents poor performance. The quote replayed once more in Harry’s mind and he nodded. “Thanks, Grace.”
She smiled. “Any time, Harry. One more thing.” He looked curiously up at her as she stepped closer to him. She rested both hands on his shoulders and looked down at him intently. “Just be careful, okay?”
He nodded. “I almost always try to be. It just doesn’t usually work.”
Later that night, in the Speaker’s Den…
Harry’s conversation with Blaise, Daphne and Tracey had been held privately and concluded promptly. In short, he had told them all he was not the Heir of Slytherin, had untruthfully assured them he could not speak to snakes, promised them that he was okay and that he was not going to do anything stupid, and then rushed off to the Speaker’s Den.
That was where he resided now, with both the journal connected to Emily Riddle’s and the woman’s old, personal journals laid out in front of him. For now, he chose to pay the live journal his attention. There would be time to experiment with the older material later. He really didn’t think there had been a trick to it. He was fairly sure he’d just gotten exceptionally lucky and that was that.
What he was more curious about was what the hell had happened? How did his brother know that kind of magic? What could have possibly made the Boy-Who-Lived resort to it, and what in the name of Merlin had all that mysterious, magical nonsense been about. And those flames that Dumbledore had conjured…
He was pretty sure Emily Riddle would have no answers for anything regarding his brother. Consequently and fairly obviously, he had no plans to ask her about him. But the more magic-based questions? If anybody he knew could answer them, she was quite literally at the top of that list. If she couldn’t provide him with the answers, he would probably never find them.
I’ve had possibly the craziest night of my entire life. I am completely baffled and wondered if I could ask you some questions that I somehow think are ridiculously obscure and even more complicated?
It was as if Emily could sense the haste and panic with which he wrote. Her response was practically instantaneous and if Harry had feared his warning about complexity might scare her off, he was sorely mistaken.
For what must be the hundredth time by now, you never need my permission to ask a question. When have I ever denied you information? Of course, I will answer your questions. Firstly though, I would like to know what has you so wound up.
Harry took a meaningful period of time explaining to Emily exactly what had happened up until the conclusion of his duel with Charlus. He left no detail out. No movement, no thought, no curse. He even told her how odd it was for his brother, the would-be paragon of light to be throwing around “dark” curses as if they were some cheap, poorly built muggle contraption that was fifty percent off.
Do you know how he learned of these spells? Or when exactly?
Neither. I would assume he learned them since the end of last year. We…
Shit! That had been close. Harry had almost just admitted he and Charlus had been in a life-threatening situation at the end of their first year. Today had really taken its toll on him, apparently. Obviously, he was off his game. He clamped down particularly hard on his Occlumency before putting his quill to the parchment once more, but with a higher degree of caution this time around.
We got into a… stressful situation at the end of our first year. Let’s just say he had more reason then to throw around dark spells than he did now, but he didn’t use them then.
Emily’s response was slower this time. That is fairly well thought out, yes. Without all the necessary context, it is hard for me to say, but I would tend to agree with that assessment based on the admittedly limited amount of information I have. I asked because plenty of people learn the Dark Arts the wrong way.
What do you mean, the wrong way?
We spoke some time ago about the myth that is dark magic addiction. I explained to you that primarily, this myth exists based on a misconception. Can you remember what that misconception was?
Of course, Harry remembered. It’s powerful magic that is addicting, not dark magic.
Indeed, that is correct. But I also spoke to you of one exception in which magic commonly referred to as dark could be addictive. Can you remember that instance?
Harry actually had to think about it. Not because his memory was failing him, but because Emily had never said it in language that plain. It had been there, but deciphering that precise meaning required some reading between the lines on his part.
You said that if you couldn’t conjure up the proper intent and chose to cast on raw emotion, it could cause problems.
Correct. This is not an issue with magic commonly referred to as being dark, but with esoteric magic in general. I am assuming you will have no trouble in telling me what esoteric magic is?
Harry almost sighed. Emily did love testing him. It was partially why she was such a great teacher, in Harry’s opinion. Esoteric magic is any spell that requires emotional fuel to cast as well as intent.
Mostly correct, though it does not technically need to be a spell. Things like rituals can also fall into this categorization.
Harry frowned. I… didn’t expect you to bring rituals up when writing to a twelve-year-old.
He could practically feel the amusement dripping from every line of her response. You are not like any twelve-year-old I have ever met.
Harry smiled in spite of himself. Touché.
Emily’s next reply was prompt once more. Back on topic. The problem is not necessarily with dark magic, but with esoteric magic. Anything that requires raw emotion to cast, especially when, in instances of casting powerful magic- which is almost always the case when said magic is esoteric- is intrinsically addicting. It is so by nature. If your brother has learned to cast by using raw emotion as a catalyst, that would explain it. It would particularly explain why he completely lost control after the first questionable spell.
If he has been practicing this way for all these months, it is simply conditioning. I have spoken of magical memory on numerous occasions. It is a powerful force and one to be respected. It extends to the mind, as well. When he casts the first spell, his mind instinctively knows what is to come based on his prior training. It has simply become a mental cue, of sorts. So, it is already producing the emotion it thinks necessary for his next spell. Which, in turn, would only spiral with said addiction. It would only be exacerbated further by the high stress of the situation and the fact that whilst duelling you, he was likely quite frustrated.
That… was shockingly logical and made perfect sense on every level.
So the question now became, what idiot would teach the Boy-Who-Lived to cast magic like that with raw emotion?
Again, Emily continued, this is a fundamental component of esoteric magic. The boggart-banishing charm is one that I would suspect you know of. If a person were to cast that often enough with no mental monitoring, they would become naturally infatuated with the charm. The same goes for the cheering charm. That is actually one of the reasons you are explicitly told not only to not have it cast upon you often, but to rarely cast it yourself.
Harry was still nodding along. There were gaping holes in the story that he just couldn’t fill as a result of missing context he may never be made privy to, but it seemed the most likely solution to him. It made perfect sense, as did most things Emily ever spelled out. She was perpetually insightful, that was for sure. On that note…
That makes sense, but that whole incident wasn’t actually the most baffling that happened tonight.
Harry could practically see Emily’s eyebrow raise despite the fact he had no idea what she might look like. Oh? Now you have me truly interested. The events, you have written about already are intensely intriguing. I am curious to know what, in your estimation, is even more puzzling?
Harry did the best he could to describe what had happened when Charlus’s spell had collided with his own. From the beam of golden light connecting their two wands to the odd, ethereal enclosure which had served as their makeshift prison, to the odd way that Harry had intuitively known what to do in the battle of wills despite being completely baffled as to what was going on. He told as far as Snape breaking the connection. At that point, he stopped and waited for her answer.
It was a much longer wait than usual, and it somehow felt ominous.
I confess that I have only ever heard myths of such things happening. This… is magic that I should not name. It is magic that is hitherto unknown. Magic that has not been lost as much as it has been buried by those who control the world. It is magic that is dangerous on a level that not even the Unforgivable Curses could ever hope to match.
But you know about it?
Her reply felt hesitant. I do, yes. As I said, I have spent much of my life dedicated to furthering my own understanding of magic. One could say I am less than fond of restraints put on the thing itself, particularly in regards to what a person can and cannot learn. Hence, I have never been one for following such restrictions.
So… will you explain it to me? Harry asked hopefully.
I can explain the specific instance, I suppose. But you cannot repeat a word of this to anyone. This is perhaps the least sinister incarnation that this lost branch of magic has to offer, but it is a gateway to far more terrible things. Things that people in your country would disappear in the middle of the night simply for knowing about.
Harry’s eyes widened. What hellish kind of magic could be so dangerous that people would be silenced simply for knowing about it? What on earth was he getting himself into?
What happened tonight goes by several names. The most accepted of these, many centuries ago, was Priori Incantatem.
Harry blinked. Is it a coincidence that it sounds so similar to Priori Incantato?
Not at all.
Harry nodded, writing for Emily to go on.
This is… difficult to explain without telling you things you are far safer not knowing. However, I do not see any way of explaining this without at least revealing what this branch of magic is called and revealing at least a minimal bit about it. I am going to give you the option to stop me now. Once I tell you this, it is a secret you must guard against even your closest of friends. You cannot tell a living soul you know the name of such magic, let alone any of how it works. For your own safety and for that of those around you, I implore you to keep what I am about to say to yourself.
Harry could practically feel the temperature in the room drop by ten degrees. The light seemed to dim despite the vividly painted walls and the place which he had always thought of as a sanctuary suddenly felt far less welcoming. It was no longer a safe haven, but an open podium on which he would stand and be judged by whatever force was making the air around him seemingly tingle with tension, with danger, and with intense foreboding.
Stubbornly suppressing all emotion that threatened to rise to the surface, Harry wrote his next message with an admirably steady hand. I promise I won’t tell a soul.
A long pause, and then…
The best way to describe Priori Incantatem would be to call it a magical phenomenon. This is true for every bit of phenomenon within this ancient and dangerous branch of magic.
What is the subject, or branch, or whatever it is called?
Chaos Magic. Just those two words seemed to whisper sinisterly in Harry’s mind, and he actually shivered as he felt some sort of cold impression as it seemed to touch his very soul, sending a tremendous tremor of trepidation through his body. Clamping down on his emotional control once more, Harry focused back on the journal, in which more words were written now.
Magic not of this realm. I will not get into details about Chaos Magic. I am sorry, but I resolutely refuse. Suffice to say that magic is a force that lives all around us, and that force is what we draw upon for spells, wards, rituals and the like. Chaos Magic differs because the magic is fundamentally different. It is being drawn from a different source altogether and the force does not act in the same way. It is magic borne of chaos and impossibilities. It is, in many ways, how the magic we know of today came to be.
Harry frowned. I understand if you can’t tell me this, but if it helped to create magic how we know it, then why is it so taboo?
Because, Harry, the problem came when we humans learned to control magic. Chaos Magic is not meant to be warped and controlled. When that became a possibility, if admittedly not a likely one, it was a near-apocalyptic problem.
He could actually sort of understand why. The magic that had filled the Great Hall both during and after Priori Incantatem was in effect truly did feel otherworldly. It felt immensely powerful and seemed to dwarf all else in the room. If that sort of magic could even be partially controlled by those with nefarious plots in mind… yes, he could see how that could be problematic. Possibly even apocalyptic.
The reason the names Priori Incantatem and Priori Incantato are so similar is because the prior gave wizards the idea to create the latter.
That was quite perplexing. How did they come up with that? Harry wrote in question. They’re nothing alike.
They are more alike than you realize. Your scenario was exceptional, even in the case of Priori Incantatem. All legends about the event indicate that it takes place when two wizards duel with implements containing brother cores. In your instance, this means whatever core your wand possesses is linked to that of your brother. So, say, if you had a phoenix tail feather as your core, this means your brother would have a feather from the tail of that same phoenix.
Harry thought about that. The probability of such a thing happening seemed incredibly small. He had only ever heard of one phoenix, and that was the one that currently resided in the very castle that he currently occupied. Yet if what Emily was saying was the truth, then that must be the case.
Odd though, for he very much doubted Charlus had purchased his wand in Knockturn Alley.
Very strange indeed.
In any case, Emily continued, in any legends that I have read about Priori Incantatem, the conclusion of the battle of wills always ends when one combatant forces the smaller beads of light to make contact with the other’s wand. In the short term, this triggers the loser’s wand to regurgitate the spells it has most recently cast. In the long term, there are… other, more complex effects. For the scope of this explanation, what is important to know is that the victor gains an eternal advantage over the opponent that fell to his will.
In many ways, Priori Incantatem happens because of an impossibility. Brother cores are intrinsically linked to one another. By their nature, they are meant to work in harmony with one another, and will optimally perform when that scenario is the reality. They are extremely reluctant to fight one another, so they seek to end the conflict in the most decisive yet least destructive way possible. By forcing the battle of wills upon the two combatants, it is magic’s way of seeking resolution. To magic, the victor of the battle is the one most worthy to wield said cores, hence, they will now have an eternal advantage over their adversary.
Possibly, this is also magic’s intervention. The ancient Greeks theorized that this was magic’s way of discouraging the loser of said battle to try again, thus hopefully avoiding future conflicts. I personally do not think it that complex. Magic is all about balance at its core. There is always give and take with magic. It takes your free will for a time and locks you in a battle that will have long-lasting consequences. Because of this, I think magic is simply rewarding the victor for winning the battle as a way of maintaining the balance I spoke of. The take was forcing the battle and the give is the result. This is just my theory and it could be wrong, but it does make sense to me.
That was a lot of information to take in. Harry could see how wizards may have seen the natural occurrence of one’s wand replaying its acts and sought to artificially make that same thing happen on a lesser scale. It was actually rather clever. Yet, he and Charlus hadn’t reached the point of resolution.
What do you think happened with Charlus and me then? We never got to that point. The barrier or whatever you want to call it was broken. The connection went down with it.
I can only guess, Emily admitted, for as I said, there are no instances I have ever read that speak of such things happening. For that matter, I would be intensely curious to see what spell broke the effect. I would not have thought it possible without using means that would have been very obvious. The only means I can think of that would likely have broken the connection are such that you would be specifically aware of how the connection was broken.
Harry shuddered. He was sure that she was at least in part referring to whatever the hell Dumbledore had conjured to combat the angrily churning cyclone of magic that was set to tear through the Great Hall as if it were a tornado in the heart of Death Valley.
So, you think magic trying to force a resolution is why I suddenly felt like I needed to fight Charlus? I actually had to occlude in order to block it.
That is a very insightful theory, Harry. Well done! Harry felt his cheeks flush and didn’t bother suppressing it since he was alone. Praise in written form felt nearly as alien as it did in person. Yes, I think that is likely what happened. The surge of magic in the hall you described was probably the remaining ambient magic unsure of what to do next.
Harry hesitated, unsure if he actually wanted his next question answered. Part of him thought it was probably better left a mystery but damn his natural curiosity. What do you think would have happened if it would have been allowed to form?
I have no idea, Emily admitted for possibly the first time ever. Magic of this source, manner and magnitude is impossible to predict. In part, I think it would have sought a way to force your hand in facing your twin once more, even in spite of your Occlumency. Doubtlessly, it would have sought repayment from whoever managed to break the initial connection. Beyond that, I am unsure.
How exactly was the magic dispelled when it turned… chaotic? You never did get as far as explaining the specifics, just that it was taken care of. I can only think of one spell that would work, but I hesitate to imagine any would use it in a school. Specifically when considering that I am quite certain only one living person within that school knows how to cast it.
Harry paused, wondering how best to even put into words what he happened in the hall. Without affirmation, he was quite sure that whatever Dumbledore had done fell into this categorization of Chaos Magic. Just as certainly, he knew that the magic employed was far more dangerous than that of Priori Incantatem. The difference, at least in their situation, was that Dumbledore had possessed control over whatever monstrous manifestation of magic he had conjured.
It took Harry some time to work out how exactly to explain the phenomenon beyond the obvious visual cues. Billowing green flames, the odd, distortion in the air as if the very world had been opened to something more, and the way the fire had consumed the ambient magic churning in the air. What was more difficult to explain was the unmistakable feeling of utter malevolence, as well as the unnatural feelings of hatred and fury that arose simply by standing near the fire. Not to mention the irrational dread the flames spread effortlessly throughout the room in a way that not even the surging, ominous magic before it had managed.
After quite a time and several attempts, Harry was fairly sure he’d done an adequate job of explaining to Emily exactly what had transpired. There had been a brief moment in time when he debated not telling her at all. It seemed sensitive information to put it kindly. On the other hand, he very much doubted Emily would do anything with the information that would negatively affect him. Plus, she had told him about this Chaos Magic, which was apparently a massive risk to take.
The time waiting for Emily’s response was longer than Harry had ever waited before. It was blatantly obvious that she was choosing her next words with the utmost caution.
It is as I suspected and feared. I will not speak the name of that spell, even if you heard it cast aloud. It is an evil far beyond Priori Incantatem because it is one of the instances I spoke of earlier that caused the branch of magic to be buried deep within the belly of history. It is a wizard controlling this branch of magic to do things that should not be possible within this world. Albus Dumbledore is quite probably the only person alive who could cast that spell and not disappear in the middle of the night for committing said action. He is also one of probably only three people in the world who knows how to cast that spell.
Your best course of action is to forget all about that spell, Harry. Do not think about it or its incantation. It is not magic to be trifled with.
Please do not go looking into Chaos Magic. For one thing, it is an utter waste of time. I very highly doubt there is a book in England that would even speak of the myths pertaining to said magic, let alone the thing itself. And, above all else, pursuing that avenue is a long, twisty and treacherous road, one that metaphorically looks over the edge of a very large cliff. There have been rare individuals who have tried to traverse this road, but almost all of them have fallen prey to the dangers and toppled off the edge, never to return.
Harry could not help but feel his heart flutter. Emily had never spoken of magic with anything but utter reverence. Now, she spoke of this Chaos Magic as if its very use would be the destruction of all things.
That alone put Harry on edge.
He would keep his word. He would tell nobody of this, nor would he go looking into secrets clearly best left undiscovered.
But he would not soon be forgetting the raging power of Fiendfyre, nor the enchantingly ethereal hum of Priori Incantatem. Even if he could, there was a part of him that never wanted to forget that power.
Meanwhile, back in the bathroom on the second floor…
Now alone in the bathroom and hidden safely away from the potentially prying stares of his two best friends, Charlus shook madly as he rubbed his hands all over his face, trying to make heads or tails of what had happened earlier that day.
It was a blur, a haze of red in his memories that he had no hope of deciphering. He could not remember thinking, let alone justifying nor barely even acting. It was as if something external had seized forceful control over his mind the moment he had cast the first dark curse towards his brother.
Charlus shook even more. The thought that somehow, someway, he was being pulled down a slippery slope that could lead him into the pit of darkness scared Charlus more than anything else in the world. Yet, he couldn’t deny that lately, he had been utterly miserable, fed up with the world and clearly morally questionable when push came to shove.
He took a long, shaky breath. He needed to get to the bottom of this, and there was only one way he knew how.
Well, one reliable way, anyway. He could ask his father, but he practically blanched at the very thought. What would his father, Lord Potter, Senior Auror and high-up member of the Liberal Faction think of his son’s potential descent into darkness?
No, that was not a conversation Charlus would be willingly entering himself into.
But he knew somebody whom he trusted nearly as much as his father. A man who had never let him down and a man who he highly doubted would be judging him for whatever was plaguing him.
It was to him who Charlus needed to reach out.
December 18, 1992
The Great Hall
The Boy-Who-Lived Shows Shades of Darkness as the Hogwarts Duelling Club Descends Into Dangerous, Deadly Chaos!
By Rita Skeeter
“Charming,” Harry commented dryly as Daphne turned her morning edition of the Daily Prophet so he and the rest on his side of the table could see it.
“She works fast,” Tracey observed.
Harry’s outward countenance didn’t change, but that comment struck true. She did work fast. Unnaturally fast, it would seem. The incidents which she was doubtlessly writing about had taken place barely twelve hours ago, yet she had evidently heard about them in time to publish an article for the very next morning.
That should not have been possible.
… at all.
Even if Skeeter had sources within the castle, which she obviously did, there was no way communication should have been that fast. An owl could certainly have reached Rita overnight, but certainly not in time for the publishing process to take place promptly enough to distribute the morning edition of the paper in time.
Harry really needed to look into methods of magical communication. There were obviously owl post and the floo, but neither option would have worked in this instance. Owl post would have been much too slow, and no student had access to the floo network within Hogwarts. Not unless the common room fires could be used, but even then, doing that discreetly sounded nearly impossible.
The only other method of contact Harry knew of was the instantaneous messaging system he enjoyed utilizing to contact Emily. With a pause, he thought back to how he and Charlus had those parchments too. Well, Charlus had left his at home and obviously never asked for it to be sent back, but if that was the case, they clearly existed. Then again, in one instance, the connection had been set up by Voldemort, and the other by Dumbledore. Neither magical was exactly the norm. It was possible that setting something like that up was exceptionally difficult.
“Daphne,” Harry asked, following that same train of thought, “do you know of any ways somebody could instantantly contact another person out of the castle? A plausible way, that is?”
Daphne thought about it, tapping her finger on the table. “There are two-way communication charms that can be applied to things like books. They would work. If you’re trying to figure out how Skeeter is doing it, that could maybe be it.”
“How difficult are these books to get ahold of? Or how difficult are these charms to cast?”
She thought about that for a moment. “The books’ legality is… a grey area. They’re not illegal to own, but they’re not exactly legal to sell. You can definitely get them if you have the right connections, but it would probably cost an arm and a leg because of the risks involved for the seller.”
Harry nodded, indicating that he was following along. “And the charm?”
“I’m not actually sure, but I’m assuming it’s very difficult, or else everybody would probably have one.”
That was Harry’s line of thought as well. From the sounds of it, one did not need the skill of Dumbledore or Voldemort to cast it, but it didn’t sound as if it could easily be done by your everyday witch or wizard, either. Possibly, Skeeter was that skilled, but Harry doubted it. If she was, he saw no reason why she would be a writer for a newspaper when there would inevitably be far more lucrative avenues for her to explore if she truly was that skillful.
Of course, she could have had somebody else enchant it for her, but then how would she have afforded it? He didn’t imagine that being a writer for the Prophet forked out a salary high enough to purchase something like that.
Yet, he could think of no other answer, even as he read the article in question, frowning disdainfully at the last paragraph, in which Skeeter tied it back, in part, to him. If Charlus was a Parselmouth and he was caught at the scene of the crime, it obviously meant either both twins were guilty, or Harry was guilty, right?
It was certainly the outlook the school had. Harry had been escorted by his older and younger set of friends this morning, plus Derrick and Bole. It was the first time he’d left the common room since last night’s incident, and they wanted to be especially careful as they gauged the school’s general reaction.
It was less than positive.
As Harry mulled over these thoughts, he failed to notice a tawny owl flying low over the furthest table from where he sat, the one draped in a crimson tablecloth.
This meant that he also failed to notice the way the bird landed in front of Charlus and how the boy took on a look of utter relief upon reading it. And then, how another letter found itself in front of him. This letter, in contrast to the first, caused the Boy-Who-Lived to pale dramatically.
Several hours later, on the third floor…
Charlus had never been so nervous for a simple meeting. He supposed that in a sense, this meeting was anything but simple. In another, he was meeting with a man with whom he was intimately familiar with. He very much doubted the problem on their hands was simple. He just hoped that his godfather would have an elegant, simple solution to the problem.
Charlus had hastily sent a letter off to Peter in hopes that he would get it as soon as possible. He would have mailed his father, but he was unsure and unwilling to find out how the man would have reacted to his son casting dark magic. It wasn’t as if he wouldn’t tell him. He fully planned to do just that eventually, but it would ideally be after he spoke with Peter on the matter and perhaps gained at least a small bit of understanding in regards to what exactly had happened.
Through some brilliant stroke of luck, Peter had apparently been in Hogsmeade last night. This meant that Charlus’s owl found him promptly, and Peter had returned a letter that very morning at breakfast. The letter had instructed Charlus to meet him in a hidden passage the boy had not known existed. Thankfully, Peter had provided him with specific instructions as to how said passage could be accessed.
Less thankfully, that hadn’t been Charlus’s only bit of correspondence. He had also been visited by one of the school’s owls. It carried a letter with familiar, looping handwriting. Charlus had immediately recognized the letter as courtesy of the Hogwarts Headmaster. The letter was polite but firm. Charlus would meet with Dumbledore at 3:00 PM in his office. The Gryffindors had Friday afternoons off from classes, so this worked out well on paper.
Thank Merlin Charlus was going to be able to meet Peter beforehand. Hopefully, he would at least be armed with and ready to provide Dumbledore with an answer more adequate than “I don’t know, sir.”
Charlus came to a sudden halt in front of an odd statue of a one-eyed, hump-backed witch. After glancing around to ensure that he was indeed alone, he removed his wand and tapped the witch’s hump in an oddly significant motion.
Suddenly, Charlus could see exactly which passage his godfather had spoken of and within seconds, he was inside, allowing the Hogwarts end of the said passage to close behind him. He glanced around but didn’t initially spot Peter. That was until a greyish rat on the passage’s floor began to transform as Wormtail, (the affectionately created alias for Peter’s Animagus form) morphed into the DMLE’s current most decorated detective.
“Uncle Pete!” Charlus surged forward and wrapping his arms around the man, burrowing his head into his shoulder as his body began to shake with equal parts terror and relief.
“Hey, sport, calm down, alright. Everything is going to be okay, I promise.” Peter rubbed the boy’s back soothingly until Charlus finally trusted himself to put some distance between them. “Obviously I got your letter, but I want to hear it from you. Tell me again exactly what happened last night. Not just what happened, but how you felt during all of it.”
Charlus told him. He told him about his duel with Katie in the first round and how he had been so proud of the way he’d bested the older girl. He told him about the first round of his duel with Harry. How surprised he had been at his brother’s prodigious skill and how overwhelmed he’d felt when Harry had begun casting faster than Charlus thought possible for any their age. Then, the interesting part of the story arose, and Charlus explained how his mounting frustration and surging anger had gotten the best of him. He explained how the mere sight of Harry had driven him to fury for reasons he could not entirely articulate beyond the fact that he suspected his brother guilty of attacking his best friend’s twin brothers.
Finally, he explained how after the first dark spell he cast, he had completely lost himself to the furious haze of red that had suddenly become his reality, and of the magical happenings that followed. How his wand had connected with Harry’s. How, even after it had broken, he felt some sort of compulsion too powerful to ignore that seemed to dictate he continue the battle with his brother. He even told the man about the odd, green fire Professor Dumbledore had conjured.
As soon as he spoke of Dumbledore, Charlus’s anxiety mounted once more. “And I have to meet with him, Uncle Pete! At 3:00 PM! Less than three hours from now and I have no idea what to tell him! I did do all of that, the whole school saw me. It’s not like I can lie about it. I did use dark magic and I’ll have to admit it. I’m going to be expelled and I’m afraid I’m going dark.”
The boy unknowingly made puppy eyes as he looked up at his rather pensive godfather. “Can you help me, Uncle Pete? Am I going dark? Am I going to be expelled? What’s going on? You-you’ve never failed me before, so I thought… I thought I should owl you.”
For a full minute, Peter didn’t answer. After that time had elapsed he closed his eyes and let out a deep, heaving sigh. “You’re not going to be expelled, Charlus,” he assured his godson in a very tired sounding voice. “I… don’t entirely know what’s going on, but I’m going to find out in one moment.” The man paused. “I do have to apologize for one thing though.” He bit his lip. “Two things, actually.”
Charlus looked nervous. “What is it, Uncle Pete?”
“The first is that I have failed you. You just don’t realize it yet.” He hesitated, feeling very real pain rise at the look of shocked confusion that now marred his godson’s face. “The second is for what’s about to happen.”
A sudden flash of red light lit up the otherwise dark passage and with a dull thump, Charlus’s limp body hit the floor.
From a corner where he’d lurked for the entirety of the previous interaction, a figure shimmered into existence as he cancelled his disillusionment charm. Of course, there had been a brief shimmer in the air when he moved to stun Charlus, but the vivid red light against the otherwise dark background had almost been blinding to Peter’s eyes, accustomed as they had become to the gloomy lighting of the passage. Because of this, Peter had missed the initial shimmer.
The figure who now marched towards Peter and the fallen Boy-Who-Lived wore a long, grey, hooded cloak. One with a hood that somehow managed to cast his face into shadow, even if you were to look directly through its opening. As he neared the two other occupants of the passageway, the man known as Mr. Bellona reached up and lowered his hood, allowing his golden blond hair to cascade from its prison once more as his blue eyes shone malevolently.
“You’re… sure that you can do this safely, aren’t you?” Peter asked the now unmasked former member of Lady Voldemort’s inner circle.
Evan Rosier smiled thinly at Peter as he knelt in front of Charlus Potter, removing a long, dark wand from his cloak and pressing it gently right in between the boy’s eyes. “Do not doubt me, Pettigrew. If I am not capable of something, I shall say it as it is.” Then, he turned his attention back to the stunned Potter in front of him.
Memories and emotions flew through Rosier’s mind at top speed. The boy had no Occlumency shields to speak of, so the process was positively trivial. Within minutes, he’d extracted everything he needed to know from the past number of months and when he next stood to his feet, he wore a very calculating expression. “You misjudged the boy, Pettigrew.”
“I see that even without Legilimency,” Peter said dryly. “I thought he was more like James. I didn’t expect the magic to corrupt him. You did teach him to cast with emotions, right?”
“Of course I did. What neither of us foresaw was the boy actually succeeding whilst handicapped. He did manage the Lacero curse back in August, but I had thought it a one-time occurrence. I was wrong. He has been effectively casting these curses with the catalysts of hatred and fury for the past number of months.”
“So that’s why he snapped on his brother?”
Rosier’s lips twisted into something that indicated he was cruelly amused. “Partially, yes. Though it is deeper than that, I’m afraid. You see, the reason the foolish boy snapped in the presence of his twin was that he was using every negative feeling he had towards said twin as his focus. This meant that in the presence of his brother, his mind was naturally wired to react this way already. And once you learn to cast on hate and fury, your body recognizes that. Once he cast the first spell, the emotion was already conjured. His brain expected more spells to come. This, combined with his shortsighted focal point meant that, in the presence of his brother, he was akin to a boiling cauldron of mishandled Felix Felicis.”
Peter winced. He had been quite good in Potions and mishandling that particular draft would have… explosive consequences. “An… interesting analogy.”
“I thought it quite apt.”
Peter sighed. “I thought he would be more like James and Sirius. I thought that if you didn’t actually show him the most efficient way to cast, he wouldn’t be able to cast it.”
“And you were then hoping, like your group of delinquents, he would become curious enough to delve into the Dark Arts for himself. At which point, he would begin to realize that they are not as terrible as the bigoted zealots around him would have he and his friends believe.”
Peter nodded. “It wouldn’t have brought him into our Mistress’s arms, but it would have been a start at weakening Dumbledore’s hold on him.”
“Fortunately, you admitted even back in the summer that might not work. Which is why we had plan B. Which, in contrast, has played out quite beautifully thus far in ways we could not have possibly foreseen.”
Rosier’s smile turned predatory. “Oh yes, it has indeed, my old friend. Charlus Potter has pushed his twin so far over the past number of months that I daresay their relationship may be irrevocably shattered. I suppose it is possible that they could make up once more, but last time, his brother was visibly more reluctant to do so as opposed to last year. Next time, I don’t think he will be so agreeable at all.”
“Which,” Peter continued with a small smile, “hopefully pushes him further towards our cause.”
“This means that House Potter is one step closer to one day being controlled by the Dark Lady.”
Peter nodded thoughtfully. “So, the question is how do we spin this?”
“I would have thought that to be obvious.”
“In a way that benefits our new primary objective. After all, the Boy-Who-Lived will doubtlessly be asked where he learned such heinous magic, and it is of no loss to us if his twin no longer resides within Hogwarts. Durmstrang or such other institutions would welcome him despite the offence.”
“And if he does or doesn’t, it isn’t very relevant either way. He’ll blame Charlus for lying through his teeth even if he somehow gets off.”
“Which only benefits our cause.”
Peter sighed. “Just… only mess about with what you have to, please.”
Mr. Bellona’s lips twitched. “Of course, old friend.” His wand once more aimed at Charlus’s forehead.
Sometime later, in the Slytherin common room…
With the week’s classes in the books, Harry and his friends had retired to the Slytherin common room. Harry had debated doing something more productive with his time, but they didn’t have long before dinner. By the time he really got into whatever project he chose to work on, he would have to abandon it for the time being anyway. Currently, he was sat beside Tracey, watching Blaise and Daphne’s rather tense game of chess while he simultaneously continued carefully practicing the warping and manipulating of emotions.
So lost he was in the process that he might not have even noticed the common room’s entrance open up and admit a tall figure adorned, as always, in black robes. The only thing that did tip him off was the sudden shift in the common room’s atmosphere. There was something different about their Head of House. He was tense, almost anxious. It was most unlike him.
“Potter, with me, now!”
Harry blinked. That tone of voice was far too harsh for the situation at hand. To his knowledge, he had done nothing egregious. Nothing even bordering on egregious, as far as he could tell. His friends were shooting him concerned looks but he could only shrug his shoulders in return. The common room’s collective attention was fixed upon him as he walked politely towards Snape and followed the man out of the common room. Though the entrance blocked all sounds both ways, Harry could practically hear the muttering erupt behind them as soon as they made their exit.
His name would be the centre of the Hogwarts rumour mill tonight.
“Where are we going, sir?”
Snape did not so much as look back at him. He just continued his brutally brisk pace. The man was in a hurry. “The Headmaster has requested your presence.”
Harry furrowed his brow. This was a meeting he was not looking forward to. Any time he was in a room with Dumbledore, he wanted to kill the old goat. This time, he would at least be able to suppress those emotions and navigate through this encounter with logic and what he hoped would be precision, but he had another disadvantage to contend with.
“Sir,” Harry asked carefully, “do you know why the Headmaster wants to speak with me?”
For the first time, Snape glanced back at him, though he still didn’t break stride. “He wishes to speak with you about potentially grievous offences you have committed. Offences that are linked to your brother.”
Now, Harry was even more confused. He had never done anything to Charlus. Well, he’d beaten him in a duel if that counted. Or had he? Had the Priori Incantatem rendered the rest of the duel moot? He supposed it hardly mattered. He would have won said duel if it had continued. He also supposed he had already won by disqualification, but Harry didn’t count that.
He wanted to ask more questions, but he could tell that Snape was not in the mood to answer them. So he followed the man up towards the familiar-looking stone gargoyle in silence.
The gargoyle leapt aside and before Harry knew it, he was led into the Headmaster’s office. Snape didn’t leave the room. Instead, he stood quite close to the door, gesturing for Harry to take his seat across from Dumbledore. Right before doing just that, Harry clamped down on his Occlumency, hard. He’d read a great deal about Emily’s past philosophies on the art of Active Occlumency. Not that he thought it would do him any good, but Grace had told him to try. At the moment, he was more concerned with maintaining his Passive Occlumency. His emotions could very easily slip out of control during this meeting otherwise.
They still technically could, he supposed. If one got a nasty enough shock, they could easily lose their grip on their emotions, especially as a novice. Obviously, the more practiced one was in a subskill, the more firm their grip on said subskill would be. Even with this in mind, the chances of that unfortunate incident taking place were far lower than they would be otherwise.
“Good afternoon, Master Potter.”
“Good afternoon, Headmaster,” Harry responded politely, forcing his face into one of interest and politeness to match his voice.
Dumbledore seemed to study him very carefully. “Where is it you were staying during the summer, Harry?”
Harry frowned. “I can’t tell you that, sir.”
“Why is that, exactly? Is there magic in place which prevents you from doing so?”
“No, it just wouldn’t be in my best interests.” As soon as he had said it, Harry knew he had somehow slipped up. He wasn’t entirely sure how, but he knew he had. It was that damn sparkle in Dumbledore’s eyes. His facial expression didn’t change, but that odd light shining behind his glasses gave it away. It was as if he had just won some minor victory, and the fact made Harry intensely uncomfortable.
“That is unfortunate, Harry. I feel that if you could tell me, it would put you in a much better position. As of now, that answer only validates rather… troubling claims made about you earlier today.”
Harry was really sick of being confused. He had to suppress his impatience and annoyance and keep his face blank. “Claims, sir?”
“Indeed.” Dumbledore sat back, seeming to study him very intently. “After the… incident that took place at last night’s meeting of the Hogwarts Duelling Club, I sought to find myself some answers. I found it peculiar the way your twin reacted during your duel. Very much so, in fact. Just as troubling, I wanted to know where he had learned some of those spells. The latter one he fired, in particular, cannot be found in any books that a child has a right to own.” The last spell was the only one that Harry hadn’t known, so he couldn’t really say one way or the other, but he would take Dumbledore’s word for it. Somehow, he did not like the direction in which this conversation was heading.
“On account of these concerns, I spoke with Charlus earlier today. I wanted to gain some insight into both of these matters.”
“I did. The results were… troubling.” A brief pause stretched between them before finally, Dumbledore broke the news. “According to Charlus, you and he met up many times over the summer. During these meetings, Charlus seems to be under the belief that the two of you spoke at great lengths regarding rather sensitive topics. One that arose was dark magic. Dark magic that you agreed to show him.”
Harry’s mind blanked. That made no sense. The only time he’d ever met up with Charlus was during the Potter’s gala, and even that hadn’t been voluntary on his part. What the hell was his brother playing at? Was he that certain that Harry was the Heir of Slytherin? Was this his twin’s way of trying to seek justice? To frame him for a crime he didn’t commit?
Harry felt his heart beat faster but ruthlessly forced down all emotions for the time being. He could not lose his head right now. If he did… he was fucked! He would say something implicating and because of the sheer idiocy of magical law, there was actually a chance he could lose a case.
This was bad.
“I never met up with my brother over the summer, Headmaster. The only time I saw him was at the gala on our birthday. I’ve only spoken with him once since our argument last June. He hasn’t been pleased with me ever since.”
Dumbledore sighed heavily. “Harry, you must see how this looks. You have now been directly implicated in two crimes in the past month and a half. On one hand, we have a vehement account coming from a supposed eye witness. In regards to the other, we have circumstances that seem to implicate you even more directly.”
“I had nothing to do with the Weasley twins.” Harry hated himself for the outburst but couldn’t stop it. He knew that’s where Dumbledore’s mind had ventured and he could not allow that line of thinking to continue much further.
Yes, he could see how bad this looked. Implicated in two crimes, and one could potentially tie into the other if somebody looked deep enough and reached far enough.
Dumbledore steepled his fingers. “Where were you on the night of the Weasley’s disappearance?”
“In my dorm.”
“Are there any who could vouch for this?”
The answer was a resounding no. He had been the last to bed and the first awake. He suspected that Blaise would still vouch for him if the topic arose though.
“And, would his memories of the night’s affairs hold up?”
“I didn’t think pensieves were admissible in court, Headmaster.”
“In circumstances where there is enough evidence to directly implicate a party to a major crime, as deemed so by the Wizengamot, a pensieve can be used in a court of law. It is a trying process that involves the verification of the memory’s authenticity and is obscenely expensive, but it is doable. In an instance like this, I am sure the money would be of no issue.”
Okay, this was getting really bad. Now, he had been caught lying if Dumbledore tried to use that memory. If that memory proved Harry was a liar, it was very possible the court wouldn’t even accept any counter memories of his own.
He also wouldn’t be able to fund that process unless his father helped him. Which, in the current instance, was something he wouldn’t bet on.
“There is also this.” Dumbledore opened a drawer and removed a book from inside. For a split second, Harry didn’t recognize it, then realization flashed in his eyes and soul. And only one thought was racing through his mind.
The book’s cover read Descent Into Darkness: A Beginner’s Guide to the Dark Arts. It was the same book as one of the two that Pettigrew had given him after the gala. Whether that was a coincidence or not, Harry didn’t know, nor did he much care at the moment. He had more pressing matters on his hands.
“You recognize it, Harry?” He didn’t answer. He wasn’t about to give away anything he had to. Dumbledore looked tired. “I will be authorizing a search of your possessions if you refrain from answering my question.”
“You can’t!” Harry said at once. “You can’t authorize searches of heirs to families on the Wizengamot.”
Dumbledore looked surprised. “You have adapted well to the world, but I think you need a book that details the exceptions to laws. If the heir or heiress in question is linked to a crime, the Headmaster may request permission from the lord or lady of whatever house the heir belongs to. If they deem the evidence substantial, he or she may authorize a search.”
Oh, he was so fucked! So, undeniably fucked! He was linked to not only one, but two crimes. This book alone in conjunction with Charlus’s story was evidence enough. It wouldn’t matter if he was actually innocent.
And if what Harry had been told about powerful magic was true, this wasn’t good. Naturally, Charlus would have a high probability of casting with emotions if he hadn’t been taught properly, which Harry assumed was exactly what had happened. And if he had just been given books on the topic from his twelve-year-old brother… There was so much logic lined up against him, it was ridiculous.
Harry could reveal that he had been at Weitts Manor for the summer, but that a whole myriad of problems attached to it. James could press charges against them, for one thing. It would put them under Dumbledore’s watchful eye, for another. Daphne said he stayed clear of them, but she could always be wrong.
This was not looking good.
“If this search turns up evidence in regards to both or either crime,” Dumbledore said heavily, “I shall have to expel you. After that, it would be up to any other affected parties to press charges if they wished. I’m sorry, Harry, but I must fulfill my duty as Headmaster and look into this matter with diligence.”
Harry’s mind was blank. He couldn’t think. No response would get him out of this. His prior logical thoughts had failed him as the same, horrible fear from last year gripped him. The same, horrible fear that had accompanied him being ambushed by Malfoy, Macnair, Nott and Selwyn.
The desk in front of him began to shake as he could feel the air around him begin to churn with some invisible force. His eyes widened and he clamped down hard on his Occlumency. The last thing he wanted was some disastrous incident of accidental magic as a result of his panic in Dumbledore’s office. Wouldn’t that just be the nail in the coffin? The Headmaster looked intrigued but not particularly worried. In fact, his face was almost completely pensive. Once Harry had, with some trouble, pulled his emotions back under control, Dumbledore asked him one, final question.
“Before this happens, is there anything you would like to tell me? Anything at all?”
Harry struggled with indecision for only about three seconds before the door slammed open, almost, very nearly hitting his Head of House, who still stood near it. There, in the doorway was a disheveled, panicked and out-of-breath looking James Potter.
Harry could have sworn out loud.
But then, James Potter spoke the last words he expected to hear out of the man’s mouth, though he spoke them through long, gasping breaths as if he had run here from afar.
“It’s… not… Harry! He’s innocent!”
Harry’s eyes widened.
What the fuck was going on today?
Earlier that day…
James had been in the middle of a very monotonous day of paperwork when the missive had found him. Charlus was being interrogated by the Headmaster. Or at least, he would be very soon. That had disturbed James greatly, specifically after the events he had read about that morning in the Daily Prophet. If there was anybody he trusted to get to the bottom of what had happened though, it was Dumbledore. The man would surely sort it out.
But then, hours later, James had received yet another missive, and this one was even more concerning.
Charlus had apparently confessed that Harry had been teaching him dark magic. There was even a book- the title of which Dumbledore had listed on the missive- which had been sent straight through the man’s floo to the Ministry of Magic. After all, Dumbledore knew how to enchant parchments in the same way that was used to deliver messages each and every day at the Ministry.
James’s heart had pounded out of his chest. He knew this couldn’t be true, he just knew it. He had watched his two sons intently the day of the Potter gala. Harry had been aloof towards Charlus, and Charlus outright cold towards his twin. There was no chance they were on terms that friendly. James couldn’t speak for Harry, but Charlus was not that good of an actor.
There were other inconsistencies, as well. Inconsistencies that, as an Auror, James had been trained for many years to spot.
Like, by example, the fact that Charlus hadn’t taken the parchment to school. If he was learning from Harry, that would have been the perfect way to do it.
No, it wasn’t possible, there were too many inconsistencies. It didn’t add up.
Whether Harry was the Heir of Slytherin or not was another matter altogether. For now, James had to believe it wasn’t true.
After learning about Harry’s childhood in detail, if he were to be ostracized any further from the Potter family, the bridge would be one that could never be mended.
James had to fix this.
Back in the present…
Dumbledore stared at James. If not for Occlumency, Harry would have gaped openly at his father. Seriously, what was going on today? When had his father ever supported him in anything? Let alone against Dumbledore, whom the man had been all too happy to roll over for last June.
“James,” Dumbledore said slowly, “there is evidence to the-“
“Harry never gave Charlus that book.” Now, Harry’s eyes did widen. Thankfully, Dumbledore was too focused on James to notice. It was true, but James didn’t know that. He couldn’t possibly have known that. Which meant, he was willing to lie to Dumbledore.
“I know it may seem hard to believe, James, but don’t you think a search of Harry’s things is warranted? We can never be too sure, after all.”
“You would find it,” James answered. “I gave it to him. I gave it to both of them.”
Harry covertly pinched himself under the desk as he managed to suppress only most of his outright astonishment. If the sharp pain was anything to judge by, he wasn’t dreaming. He still wasn’t entirely convinced of that. James Potter was lying for him! Actually lying blatantly to Dumbledore’s face for him!
What the fuck was going on?
Dumbledore frowned. “Charlus seemed to indicate otherwise.”
“Of course he did! I told him to never tell anybody where he got that book. If things went downhill with it, I told him to come up with anything he could. I commanded it as Lord Potter” James scowled. “I probably should have said anything he could that didn’t falsely implicate a member of the family.” Harry couldn’t believe this. He just couldn’t. It was too much. His brain was going to overload.
Dumbledore stared back at James. Without the search, he wouldn’t have enough evidence to implicate Harry as the Heir of Slytherin. And if James backed him on the incident involving Charlus, there was virtually nothing the Headmaster could do about it.
Harry knew with certainty that Dumbledore knew as well as he did that his father was lying. Yet, he couldn’t call him on it. If he did, that would open a whole other can of political worms that the Chief Warlock clearly wanted to keep closed.
Dumbledore nodded curtly. “Very well, James.” He turned to Harry. “I apologize deeply for my apparently false assumptions, Harry. I trust your brother greatly and therefore take his word very seriously. You have my sincerest apologies for the… incident.” Harry’s heart was still beating a million miles a minute and he did not dare let go of the vice-like grip he had on his emotions but he knew one thing for certain.
James Potter had just bailed him out of potential expulsion from Hogwarts, and he could not be happier or more confused at that moment in time.
December 21, 1992
The Entrance Hall
The remaining days before the holidays were uneventful. Harry spent most of them in his common room, intent on avoiding the intense scorn of the rest of the school. He only left the common room after curfew, when he would sneak down to his room in the dungeons to practice magic, or sneak into the Speaker’s Den to read the multitude of intriguing texts within. He wasn’t actually sure if the room would let him take books outside of its walls and thus far, he had yet to try.
Currently, it was Monday, December 21st. In other words, it was the day all of his friends, minus Cassius, the Carrows and Blaise would be returning home for the winter break. Just like last year, it was depressing to watch them all go, but as Blaise put it right before they walked back to the common room, “Think of it this way. You have me this year. And now, at least there aren’t hundreds of students trying to curse you everywhere you go. Now, there will only be a dozen or so.”
That night, in a London pub…
Vernon Dursley was drunk out of his mind.
He didn’t drink all that often, but when he did, he made those occasions worth it.
This was one such instance. His last day of work had been completed before the holidays, and he was out drinking with a few of the other high-ups from Grunnings. This was even rarer, though it happened on occasion. It had been a stressful last quarter to the year, and all of them were just relieved that it was over.
By the time the night drew near to a close, Vernon found himself alone as he stumbled out of the pub and towards his vehicle. On one level, Vernon knew how wrong and irresponsible it was of him to drive home after being so inebriated. On another, he wasn’t too worried about it. There would be little traffic at this God-forsaken time of night, and he always drove home from these gatherings.
He would be perfectly fine.
That was what he thought until he opened the door to his sparklingly clean vehicle and slid into the driver’s seat with some difficulty. Once that had been accomplished, he realized, to his shock and confusion, that he wasn’t alone.
A feminine figure sat in the passenger’s seat, gazing at him impassively. Vernon didn’t recognize her. “Who the ruddy hell are you?”
Her smile was so cold, it could have frozen fire. The stereotype may have been that a woman should avoid drunk men in the dark at night but suddenly, it was Vernon who somehow felt as if he were the vulnerable one in this situation.
A feeling that only intensified when the figure drew a long, terribly familiar stick of wood from their sleeve.
“Just taking payment for a friend, Mr. Dursley.” In the final moments of his life, the last thing Vernon would remember seeing were bluish silver eyes.
Dun, dun dun!
For those who called for the Dursley’s blood… here you go. Whether more will follow remains to be seen on your end.
One thing I would like to clear up is that I have obviously made conscious changes to Fiendfyre. Very few people will ever learn details about the spell in AoC, let alone how to actually cast it. This is because, if you can’t tell, it’s sort of a big deal in this story. That and the fact that I can’t stand stories where everybody can just idly cast Fiendfyre. Looking at you JKR, never introduce such a world breaking weapon and then have an incompetent side character wield it. I know he lost control of it, but that’s hardly the point.
Please read and review.
Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Athena Hope, (others). for their contributions/corrections this week!
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