Ashes of Chaos Chapter 40
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 23: Party Crashers
December 23, 1992
A Gas Station on the Way to Surrey
Marjorie Dursley had perhaps been having the worst holiday season she could ever remember. Not that she had ever really liked the holidays. In her opinion, they were a pathetic excuse for massive, corrupt corporations to become even wealthier, and for closet parents to spoil their insufferable children, most of whom didn’t deserve half of what they inevitably would be receiving in just two days’ time.
The fact that her mother had died during the holidays whilst her and Vernon had been teens.
Yet this season truly took the cake.
She’d never gotten on particularly well with her mother anyway, truth be told. Vernon, on the other hand, had been somebody who she had gotten on very well with since they were children. Marge Dursley did not cry. She was a strong, independent woman who would never dream of doing anything so undignifying. But when the tragic news of Vernon’s sudden passing had reached her… well, her eyes may have been a bit watery.
Now she was on her way to Surrey to meet up with her favourite (and only) nephew and his mother, Petunia. This had been planned for months. She came to Privet Drive every few Christmases, and had for years. She may have despised most children, but not Dudley. He had been raised well in her opinion, and he was a lovely boy who she couldn’t help but spoil, at least a little bit. What hadn’t been pre-planned was that now, while at Privet Drive, she would be attending Vernon’s funeral, to be held some time in the next week or two.
Currently, she was stopped for gas. It was a fairly long drive to Surrey, after all. She would normally have flown, but with Vernon dead and Petunia not having a license, it was really just easier to drive. Of course, she could take a cab, but lowering herself to such standards wasn’t something she would be caught dead doing.
All of that was to say that while stopped at this gas station off the main highway, Marge had wanted to grab herself some snacks for the way, and she’d taken a quick break to use the facilities while in the process.
This was all normal.
What wasn’t so normal was what happened next. As she exited the building and headed back out towards her vehicle, she couldn’t help but notice she was being tailed by a grey rat. In the middle of the bleeding winter, nonetheless. She tried to shoo it away, but it was having none of it. She climbed quickly into her vehicle, but the blasted thing followed her in before she could close the heavy door.
Marge didn’t scream, as she considered it beneath her to do so, but she did make a few wild swings for the thing before it scampered up into the passenger’s seat. Before she could swing again, her jaw nearly became detached from her face, as shock pulled it forcefully towards the floor.
Suddenly sitting beside her wasn’t a rat at all, but an averaging looking man with watery blue eyes. What was weirder was that, before she could get a word in, the man had an odd piece of wood pointed at her. And then, he said one, strange word, and Marge suddenly thought no more.
Forty-five minutes later, in the Headmaster’s office…
Yesterday, Harry had thought his luck to be absolutely miserable. Having to deal with Dumbledore twice in a week had been bad enough. Now, exactly a day later, Harry was wondering what he had done wrong in life to deserve two meetings with the Hogwarts Headmaster in twenty-four hours, let alone three in the past week. Seriously, there were few places on earth Harry would rather be, let alone with such a high degree of frequency.
He wondered, as he ascended the familiar spiral staircase once more, what it was that Dumbledore wanted with him this time. The previous day, the meeting had been set up so that the man could press Harry in regards to the Chamber of Secrets. It had actually turned into a shockingly candid and open conversation between the two of them, but it had still been a warning of sorts. Similar to the one that Lockhart had issued about a month ago, if a bit more subtle.
As far as Harry was aware, he hadn’t done anything in the past twenty-four hours that would be worthy of Dumbledore’s attention. Well, that wasn’t true, he’d done several things that the man would doubtlessly be more than a little bit interested in. He’d done nothing in the past day that Dumbledore knew about that would be of interest to the man.The difference was that the things he had done of interest, Dumbledore was blissfully unaware of, hence this meeting couldn’t have anything to do with them.
So it had to be something else from the past, and Harry couldn’t fathom why the man would demand his presence. Unless the old twat really was just that bored. Perhaps he realized exactly how much his presence grated on Harry and wanted to amuse himself by being a sadist. Harry personally didn’t think it his style, but he wouldn’t put it past him either.
When he entered the office, he knew immediately that wasn’t the case. The air was heavy with tension. Not as serious as the day Dumbledore had tried to authorize a search of his belongings, but heavy in a different sort of way. This meeting was clearly significant in some way, but Harry was just yet to realize exactly how that was the case.
“Good morning, Harry.”
“Do you have an idea why I may have called you to my office this morning?” Dumbledore’s lips twitched. “I am sure the fact grates on you, more so considering the relatively short amount of time since our last meeting.”
Yes, Harry certainly would consider twenty-four hours a relatively short amount of time. This man and his damn understatements. “No, sir. Not unless you want to talk about the same things as we did yesterday, but I think both of us realize that would be a pointless conversation.”
Dumbledore dipped his head in agreement. “It would be, yes. I am a rather busy man, and I did not call you into my office simply for the sake of annoying you. I may openly not trust you, but I do not outright dislike you, Harry. Even if I did, I would like to think of myself as a citizen of rather high moral standing, and above such petty actions.” Harry’s eye twitched, but he made no move to comment. What was the admittedly naive cliche his teachers had always preached in primary school? Treat others how you wanted to be treated? No, that wasn’t right. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all — yes, that was it.
Dumbledore obviously realized Harry’s lack of patience, for he decided to break the news quickly and cease his mindless meandering around the point. “There has been a rather significant development which involved you at least indirectly.”
Harry didn’t so much as bat an eye. Of course there was. His year of staying low key really had not been going to plan thus far. “Which is?”
“Last night, an acquaintance of mine discovered something rather… troubling. Something that I was not aware of prior to that point.” Dumbledore glanced at him intently, and Harry knew he was watching for any minute reaction. Whatever he was about to say next wasn’t going to be anything Harry could logically respect, and the old man was watching him like a hawk, trying to glean any slip-up the young Slytherin may make. Harry reinforced the control he now had over his emotions. Said slip-up wasn’t going to happen, no matter what Dumbledore chose to reveal next.
“Last night,” he began, “I was informed that your uncle, Vernon Dursley, was found dead in his car.”
Silence rang through the room. As he had promised himself, Harry’s face gave away nothing, aside from perhaps a minor widening of his eyes. Internally, his mind was reeling. There was a lot to digest in that loaded statement. How Vernon had died was the most obvious. He was certainly overweight and he wasn’t the most healthy man, but as far as Harry knew, there was nothing life threatening in play that might have posed him any problems.
Above all else, Harry had absolutely no idea how he felt about that. It circled back to his problem, that being that he was completely inept with emotions of any kind. He certainly had no love for Vernon Dursley. He wouldn’t be crying over his corpse, nor would he have attended his funeral- if hell had frozen over and he had somehow been invited, that is. Yet, he didn’t think he’d celebrate his Uncle’s death, either.
The man was a horrible person, Harry was sure of that. No decent human being abused a child. Especially not in the way Vernon had done, even going as far as to encourage his own son, Dudley, to join in on the “fun”.
Maybe he should have felt compassion for his cousin. It hadn’t really been Dudley’s fault, after all. He’d acted exactly how he had been raised to. He was nothing more than a byproduct of how he was raised. Rationally, Harry knew that, yet he couldn’t will himself to feel empathy for Dudley nor Petunia Dursley. He didn’t forgive them for anything, even if he had long ago decided he wouldn’t be making their downfall a priority. What he had told Daphne over a year ago still very much held true.
He had let go of any emotions pertaining to that family a very long time ago. He didn’t care what happened to them, one way or another.
He internalized all of this very quickly with the help of Occlumency and came to the realization that the fact hasn’t changed. The truth of the matter was the news meant nothing to him. He was never going back to Privet Drive. Steps had been taken to ensure it wouldn’t have happened anyway. He had no connection whatsoever to Vernon. They weren’t even technically related by blood. He didn’t care about the other two members of the Dursley family either, despite the fact that, in some capacity, his blood ran in their veins, and vice versa.
“I’m… not sure how I’m supposed to respond to that, sir,” Harry answered after a time.
Dumbledore looked pensive. “You don’t seem particularly upset by the fact.”
Harry just stared back at him hollowly. “I’m not going to pretend I’m something that I’m not, Headmaster. I’m not happy he’s dead, but I don’t really care much either.”
“The fact does not discomfort you? He was family, after all.”
“He was no family of mine.” It was a significant statement that was further exacerbated by the rather dark tone Harry used to state the sentence. “Nobody who treats me like that man did is family.” There was a long pause. “Surely you don’t think I’m responsible for this too?”
“I very highly doubt it,” Dumbledore admitted. “It is very possible that somebody may have acted on your behalf, whether they did so with or without you knowing I could not say. What troubles me more than anything is your lack of a reaction.”
“He made my life a living hell, sir. I could show you the scars if you really wanted.”
Dumbledore shook his head. “I believe you, Harry. I did my own investigations into the matter. That doesn’t change the fact that he was your family, your own flesh and blood.” Dumbledore took a long pause. “Do you know what, above all else, makes me uneasy when thinking about you?”
Against his better judgement, Harry suddenly found himself intensely interested in how Dumbledore might answer that question. “I have no idea, sir.”
“You remind me of another very strongly. They too were a prodigy among prodigies and had many accolades to their name. Their father died the summer between their fifth and sixth year, and the fact had as little effect on them, as the death of Vernon Dursley had on you.”
“I’m taking it you didn’t like this person very much.”
“This person grew into the monster that would one day terrorize Britain.”
Harry’s eyes widened despite all attempts to keep his expression neutral. “Voldemort? That’s who you’re talking about?”
Dumbledore raised a brow at the usage of the Dark Lady’s name, but he didn’t comment on it. “Incidentally, I am, yes.”
“You think I’m going to become the next Voldemort just because we had the same reaction to a somewhat similar event?”
“I do not think you are going to become the next Voldemort. That is not what I said, nor will the words ever leave my lips. I am simply making an interesting comparison to show why I am mildly distrustful of you, among other reasons. On its own, the fact wouldn’t be nearly enough, but compounded with other things, it does make an old man think.”
He fixed Harry with his blue-eyed stare. “And there is far more about you that reminds me of Lady Voldemort than your lack of empathy towards those of your own family. It would simply be unwise to inform you of these things, less you begin hiding them to the best of your abilities. Least of all now, when you are rapidly progressing as an Occlumens. I do congratulate you on your progress, in spite of any suspicions I may hold towards you, by the way. It is an impressive achievement for one so young to progress through the art, let alone at the rate I believe you to be improving at.” As he gestured to end the meeting, he got one final word in as Harry made for the door, nothing left to say to the old man who seemed to be set in his ways.
“Another comparison between the two of you, in fact…”
Later that afternoon, at Number 4, Privet Drive…
When Marge arrived at Privet Drive that night, the atmosphere was far more somber than anything Dudley Dursley had ever experienced. His father had been dead for less than forty-eight hours, and the boy wasn’t taking it well.
Neither was his mother, which was why he had persistently asked to be allowed to stay over at a friend’s. He’d been denied, primarily because Aunt Marge was coming over that night. She had indeed arrived, but Dudley couldn’t help but think something was… off about her.
Perhaps it was just the death of his father, her brother, that had thrown her off kilter, but she didn’t fawn over him the way she would normally do. Nor did she drink herself stupid the first night at dinner. That was particularly unfortunate, for that was usually when Dudley managed to convince her to make rather bold, rather expensive promises.
Hell, she had ever convinced his mother to send him off to bed early!
Dudley had no idea what the hell was going on, but he didn’t like it! Not even a little bit.
Meanwhile, in the Speaker’s Den…
“I had honestly wondered if you’d forgotten about this place,” Blaise remarked as the two of them took the chairs nearest the ostentatious throne situated at the head of the table.
Harry snorted. “How could I have ever forgotten about this place? Let’s just ignore my memory altogether.”
Blaise shrugged. “It’s been a while. We haven’t used it once this year.”
“That’s because I think Weitts knows about it.”
Blaise raised an eyebrow. “How?”
“I have no idea, which is sort of the problem. She shouldn’t be able to know the password or get in, but who knows. It’s Weitts; I wouldn’t put it past her.” He had actually been forced to change the password earlier that day before he could let Blaise in. He’d changed it to Parseltongue some time ago, but he could hardly hiss in front of one of his friends. That would draw questions and a lot of attention.
“So that’s why you’ve been avoiding it, is it? We did see her lurking around the entrance, but we thought she might have just picked up on some sort of magic.”
“I don’t think she knows exactly what’s here,” Harry mused. “The only time she hinted at it, she mentioned something along the lines of a hidden place. I think she knows there’s some kind of room here. Best I can tell, she hasn’t worked out a way to get in yet.”
Blaise looked thoughtful. “Is it possible for her to get in without the password? Or any other entrances?”
“No clue to both of those. If there are other entrances, I haven’t found them, but that doesn’t mean much. I haven’t explored the dungeons at all this year, really.” He suddenly realized what a lapse that was on his part. Truthfully, he hadn’t done much exploring at all since returning to the castle in September, despite knwing there was still much of the dungeons to uncover. They stretched deeper than the room he practiced in with Grace, and that wasn’t even mentioning the five or so branching corridors on the way that he had thus far ignored completely.
“She might not even need another entrance,” Blaise said reasonably. “I have no idea the kind of wards that are on this place, but do you think she could maybe break them.”
“I doubt it,” Harry said thoughtfully. “Any room that could force anybody inside of it to keep a secret, just because somebody says so, must have some very powerful magic attached to it. That and if the books have anything to say on the matter, this place is warded to the teeth. They don’t think any Headmaster who wasn’t a Slytherin has ever found it. At least not at the time most of them were left here.”
“Are these all journals or something?” Blaise gestured towards the shelves that surrounded the two
“A bit of everything. It seems like it was tradition for everybody who found this place to leave at least one book behind. Some left textbooks, some left journals, some left family tomes. I haven’t read most of it yet. Just the more interesting stuff that I can actually understand.”
Blaise nodded. “Alright, the possibility of being discovered seems like a decent reason to ignore this place for the year. I assume you’ll be using it more next year when Weitts is gone?”
“Probably. I’ve still been using it a bit. I have the ring, it’s not that hard for me to sneak in here using that.”
“But harder to sneak others in with you.”
Blaise nodded. “We might have to find a way around that at some point. Anyway, was there anything specific you dragged me in here for? I doubt you’d have bothered if you just wanted to play chess.”
“Beat you at chess, you mean?’
Blaise shrugged. “If you’d like.”
The two of them smirked at each other before Harry took on a more serious look. “Dumbledore thinks I’m the one opening the Chamber of Secrets.”
Blaise whistled. “Yup, that’s a pretty good reason for meeting in private.”
“I thought so.”
“You are just blessed with the most desirable luck in the world, aren’t you?”
“Wouldn’t give it up for anything,” Harry answered dryly.
Blaise leaned back languidly in his seat. Harry thought his Italian friend may be the most talented person he knew at conveying superiority through posture alone. Daphne and Charlotte were both quite good at it, but Blaise was really something else altogether. “Is he actually going to do anything about it?” he
Harry scowled. “Are you ready for this to get even more complicated?”
Blaise’s lips twitched. “Naturally.”
“Apparently, Charlus gave him some long story about how I’d been convincing him to learn dark magic, so it was obviously all my fault when he went about it the wrong way, which led to him snapping at the Duelling Club meeting. The bastard even damn near got me for owning an illegal book.”
Blaise looked thoughtful once more. “That’s… oddly specific.”
Harry frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Well, was it deliberate?”
“Of course it was! I never taught the git anything.”
“I meant the book. Trying to frame you for it.”
“Oh… it must have been. He gave a specific title and everything. Said I had a copy and gave one to him as well. The first part is actually true, even if the second part isn’t.”
Blaise’s eyes narrowed. “Well then, there is a very important question you need to ask yourself. I have no idea how you haven’t come to this already.”
Harry blinked. “What?”
Blaise rolled his eyes. “Don’t take this the wrong way. You’re an absolute genius, but you miss some very obvious things sometimes. I think it’s because you always look for the most complicated solution to things, but sometimes, it’s actually right in front of you the entire time.”
Reflecting on some of the more obvious things he’d missed while at Hogwarts (his brother being a Parselmouth, in particular) Harry thought that statement may have had some weight to it. “Okay, you’re probably right, but what exactly am I missing, oh wise one?”
“Have you ever asked yourself how the hell your brother knew you had that book?”
Harry actually smacked a hand to his forehead, muttering obscenities under his breath- and amusing his friend to no end in the process. “I am such an idiot!”
“No, you’re a genius who suffers from the same thing a lot of geniuses do. You overlook the simple, obvious facts because you’re more worried about looking deeper into everything.” Blaise paused. “So, do you have any idea how your brother could have even known you had that book?”
Vaguely, Harry had an idea, but wasn’t sure about the logistics. Pettigrew knew he had the book. To his knowledge, Pettigrew was the only one who knew he had the book. If he’d given Charlus the same book, it wouldn’t be too difficult to set up the ploy. But again, the issue of Charlus’s nobility muddied the waters. Harry blocked out all else with Occlumency as he focused hard on the situation at hand, examining it from every conceivable angle. As much as his twin obviously detested him, Harry thought him too morally rigid to outright frame him.
His eyes widened as a horrible possibility made itself present in his mind. “Whatever you just came up with,” Blaise said dryly, “it is not going to be pleasant, is it?”
“Pettigrew,” Harry muttered, his mind still trying to put everything together.
Blaise now looked even more intrigued. “He’s a friend of your father’s, isn’t he? Detective for the DMLE, or something?”
“As far as I know, yeah, but it’s the first one that might be important.”
“The only person who knows I had that book was Pettigrew. He was the one who gave it to me after the gala on my birthday. If he gave Charlus a copy, he could have set something up, but I doubt Charlus would have gone along with it.”
“So you think he did something to him? Altered his memories, or used the Imperius Curse, or blackmailed him, or something else?”
“I can’t think of any other way this makes sense.” It annoyed him greatly, that the solution he’d come to seemed so extreme. Yet it was the only thing that would have worked. “The thing I don’t get though is why. I mean, I’ve always gotten a weird feeling around Pettigrew, but this? This is a major thing to just go ahead and do. If he was going to do something like this, he would have needed a very good reason, right?”
“You would certainly think so,” Blaise agreed thoughtfully. “Getting you expelled from Hogwarts doesn’t really seem like a big enough prize though, does it?”
“Not on its own,” Harry mused thoughtfully. “But… if he could get me for a major offense…” His eyes widened once more. “Oh… fuck!” Blaise looked at him attentively, obviously awaiting exposition on whatever Harry had just deduced. “When all of that happened, plus the whole thing with the twins and my brother being outed as a Parselmouth, Dumbledore thought I was the heir. He was going to have my belongings searched and everything, try and find evidence.”
“You think Pettigrew might have been trying to frame you as the Heir of Slytherin?”
“It’s possible. He would at least have gotten me busted for everything in my trunk I’m not supposed to own.” Harry actually wondered how that would have worked. Nobody would have been able to enter his trunk, seeing as it was protected by a Parseltongue password. Though he supposed Aurors or Cursebreakers could have bypassed the wards.
“But why?” Blaise asked. “I mean, yes, it makes sense, but I still don’t see a motive. If he’s friends with your father, why would he want you expelled from Hogwarts?”
Harry could only think of one answer, and the very thought of it caused his stomach to contract and his pulse to quicken. “If I’m charged with a major offence, I can be disowned from the Potter family.”
Now, Blaise’s eyes widened. “And this whole Chamber of Secrets business would have a pretty good chance of being classed as a major offence.”
Suddenly, a jarring possibility made itself known, and Harry had to maintain a firm grip on his Occlumency to not let emotion show on his face. He did trust Blaise, and he had told him a great deal tonight, but this… Harry wasn’t sure about this.
“I… don’t know.”
Harry didn’t think he’d fooled Blaise, but his friend didn’t press. He knew Harry was a private person, and he had learned far more than he’d likely expected to that night.
“Do keep me informed if you come to any other realizations.”
“I will.” He hesitated. “Do you mind if I make sure none of this leaves the room?”
Blaise shook his head. “You would be an idiot not to,” he said bluntly. “Does it work with information that’s already been shared?
“If the books I read about it last year are right, then I think so. Don’t ask me how that works, because I have no idea.”
Blaise scratched his head. “I have no idea, but whatever it is, it is ridiculously illegal.”
“Does it matter?”
“Not even a little bit. Go on, my friend.”
Harry took a deep breath. “I, Harry James Potter, rising member of Salazar’s noble house, hereby call upon my newly forged connection with the greatest of the Hogwarts four and the legacy which he has left behind. In doing so, I hereby invoke Salazar’s Sanction upon the Speaker’s Den. As magic is my witness.” Both Harry and Blaise felt the magics settle in, and Harry felt the stress he hadn’t even realized he’d been experiencing lift.
That conversation had escalated much further than he had planned, but by Merlin it had been productive.
Terrifying in its implications, but productive nonetheless.
That night, back at Privet Drive…
Petunia Dursley was not a heavy sleeper. In her waking hours, she enjoyed few things more than eavesdropping on just about anybody possible. This meant that she was constantly alert and on edge at pretty much all times. This extended to her sleeping hours as well, which meant she was usually awoken fairly easily in the middle of the night.
Some time about twenty-four hours before the calendar would officially declare it Christmas Day in England, this was proven true when the slight creek of her bedroom door opening unexpectedly caused Petunia to stir, even if only a little.
Not that being awake was any advantage. Nor that it would save her, even if she were far more cognitive than she was at present.
Petunia knew very quickly that something was wrong, even before she noticed the figure moving swiftly towards her. She tried to get up but wasn’t fast enough. She was grabbed and easily wrestled back down into the bed, effortlessly pinned flat to its surface by the much larger figure who was now atop her, staring down with familiar eyes.
“Marge?” Petunia gasped, unable to comprehend what was happening. She struggled, but it was not to no avail. Petunia may have been tall, but she was very thin, and only about half the size of the woman who currently had her pinned her down. A woman who, with her immense size, likely would have given most men a run for their money.
Marge didn’t answer Petunia’s plea. Nor did she even truly hear it. She had only one thought, one objective to accomplish, and she quickly sought to do just that.
To the horror of Petunia, pinned helplessly underneath her, Marge wrapped her large, purple hands tightly around Petunia’s throat. Her stranglehold on the dying woman was so tight that her son, Dudley, never heard a thing. He would simply awake the next morning, on Christmas eve, no less, to find himself not only without a father, but without a mother as well.
If Marge thought her holiday season had been miserable, then Dudley’s had been truly catastrophic.
December 25, 1992
The Slytherin Common Room
As had been the case last year, Harry and Cassius awaited the Carrow twins in the common room near the fire. The only difference was that this year, Blaise joined them. As the three of them made idle chit chat while they waited for their female friends, Harry wondered exactly how Cassius, who would normally be described rather generously as a zombie on most mornings, managed to be so chipper on Christmas.
Perhaps the day truly was magical.
Eventually, the Carrow twins did enter the room, and the group collectively dug into their piles of presents.
Harry first opened the number of tokenry gifts from most of his classmates. This year, the Slytherin Quidditch team all sent him presents as well, which was a welcome surprise. Realistically, he knew he should have expected that. The problem was, when one was trained to expect the worst for ten out of their twelve years of life, doing just that was a rather difficult habit to break.
Once he’d gotten through all of these gifts, including a rather stunning watch of pure gold from the Malfoy family, one that seemed far too expensive for their current situation (at least if one didn’t consider the ongoing negotiations between Harry and Lucius), Harry got to the more interesting gifts.
Pansy sent Harry a quite frankly absurd number of well-designed, rather expensive looking wizarding clothes. Evidently, she had realized his wardrobe wasn’t exactly expansive and according to Hestia, the Parkinsons owned stakes in several major fashion companies. Speaking of the Carrows, they had once more come together on a gift. They’d purchased him a number of rune stones, something Harry was rather impressed with since they also weren’t cheap.
“You’ve been studying runes for months now,” Flora had pointed out. “If you’re not ready to use these yet, you better be soon.”
“But don’t set permanent ones,” Hestia advised. “If you set permanent wards inside of Hogwarts, Dumbledore will be alerted, since he’s master of the wards.”
Harry’s brow furrowed. “How does that work? Why do temporary wards not show up?”
“Because temporary wards don’t have to co-exist with the Hogwarts ones for a definite period of time,” Hestia explained. “Permanent ones do, so they’re viewed as a disruption. Not because they actually affect the Hogwarts wards in most cases, because they don’t. It’s just sort of a build in protection. Some of the more well-warded manors in the country probably have something similar.”
Harry glanced meaningfully from Hestia to Blaise. He wanted to ask a question, but Blaise technically wasn’t privy to the information. Hestia shrugged. “If you trust him, go ahead. If he goes and runs his mouth, it’s on you.”
“My lips are sealed,” Blaise promised.
“Didn’t you and Calypso set up permanent wards in the room we’re training in? You even needed my blood.”
“That… is an exception,” Hestia said carefully. “Let’s just say we had a lot of help from Calypso’s dad and leave it at that. There is… a very obscure weakness that her dad knew of and helped us to exploit. I doubt any Hogwarts student could have done it.” She hesitated. “Except maybe Weitts. I’m not sure what level she’s at, but she might have been able to, even though she definitely wouldn’t have known about the weakness to exploit it in the first place.”
That was rather cryptic, but interesting nonetheless.
The next gift he opened was Daphne’s and he couldn’t help but quirk a brow. “Hestia?” he asked carefully.
“Yes?” she answered with narrowed eyes.
“Any magic involving blood is illegal, right?”
“Very. It’s an entire branch of magic literally called blood magic. The entire practice has been banned outright.” She paused. “Except for signing magical contracts in blood. That’s just sort of deemed as necessary, so they overlook it.”
Yes, so this was definitely illegal.
It was a journal- not unlike the one that Voldemort had given him and which he mostly used to communicate with Emily. Though that was true, he only used the first page for that. All of the other pages could be used for notes, and more would add themselves as needed.
This notebook also had that function, though it required blood to open after Harry keyed it to his own.
Basically, nobody could get into it if they weren’t him.
He looked at the note and had to fight down a blush as sudden warmth rushed into his chest.
Like I told you after Samhain, you are a genius. I’ve seen you looking into arithmancy and runes. One day, I know you’re going to start creating your own spells. You’re too curious and clever not to. I also have no doubt those spells will be amazing. I know you though. You like your secrets; you’re a very private person and don’t trust easily.
That thought was what made me think of this as a gift, but it can be used for anything. Mind you, you need a drop of blood to open it every time, so maybe don’t use it for everything, but I thought it might come in handy.
Wow… that could be useful, even though he had the book from Voldemort, though Daphne didn’t know that. He wondered idly whether that one had protections on it as well so that only he could read it. Certainly nothing like this, but it had been Voldemort who’d enchanted it. Weakened by a less than ideal form or not, Harry would have expected something similar on the ring. Perhaps hers had just been so subtle he hadn’t even realized it existed.
After a few more gifts that weren’t quite as notable from various friends, Harry opened Blaise’s to find a rather glorious set of duelling robes. Also not a cheap purchase. “Cheers, mate!”
Blaise smiled knowingly. “I thought you might enjoy them.”
Daphne had obviously told her parents he was interested in runes. They had sent him several obscure books on the topic, plus top of the line carving equipment. Some temporary wards, like the one Harry used to detect if anyone was drawing near, could simply be traced out in the air and willed into action through magic. This only worked for the most basic of wards though, and they would only last for a very limited amount of time unless re-cast. If one wanted to cast more complex wards that were either permanent or longer-lasting, they would actually need to carve them into place.
Rune stones would also be needed if they wanted to be made permanent, but he just so happened to have some of those as well now.
Where he would practice that, he had no idea. Hogwarts apparently didn’t work, and he very much doubted the Weitts family- or whomever he ended up with in the summer- would let him practice setting permanent wards.
Speaking of, the Weitts family had sent him a rather advanced book on transfiguration. It seemed above his level at the moment, but the note attached encouraged him to give it a try and have patience. It promised results. Knowing the family that had come from, Harry would tentatively take their word for it and do just that. Charlotte had gone a similar route, though the book she sent was on Arithmancy. He suspected both books to be from the Weitts family library. Not family magic, but still rather humbling nevertheless that they would trust him with anything out of their collection. It caused the same feeling of warmth from earlier to resurface once more.
With two gifts left, Harry reached for the nearest one. It was from Calypso, and it too was quite obviously a book. He had expected a spell book. That was her style. What he saw instead intrigued and impressed him far more. The book actually seemed quite new, and it was written in an elegant script. Harry had a feeling it was a Rosier family book. Perhaps a copy of one, but still…
It apparently outlined, contrasted, and analyzed, the fighting styles of history’s most prominent magic users.
This… this was priceless, and Harry could hardly believe Calypso would send him anything of the sort. He wondered whether or not her father was aware that she had, but eventually decided that he really didn’t want to know.
Yet as amazing as her gift was, his final one topped it.
A splendid, golden chain uncoiled from the package and Harry almost gasped at its beauty. It was made mostly of gold, but a silver serpent was embroidered on the pendent, and its eyes, which stood out vividly, were clearly diamonds.
But its beauty wasn’t what entranced him.
That would be the note attached to it.
This isn’t just because I still feel guilty over the horrible Legilimency accident, but I do still feel like I owe you for that.
We should be more than even after this, I think.
This chain is enchanted with a one of a kind spell that is very secretive Weitts family magic. I can’t really explain how it works or how to cast it because of that, but I will explain what it does.
You will use a drop of your blood to activate its password feature, and then you will choose a password.
From that point on, the password will trigger an effect. When given, the chain will unleash an impenetrable darkness spell similar to Peruvian instant darkness powder. The darkness is complete and basically impenetrable, but you and only you will be able to see through it as clear as day.
You do need to have time to speak the password, so mid duel would be a bit tricky, but after being in your mind, I know better than anybody how you feel about being helpless. I felt like I owed you, and I hope this helps you avoid any situations where you feel that in the future, as I hope for our lessons.
Try not to get caught using this by anybody with authority, because that would be a nightmare.
I hope you enjoy your Christmas and I will see you on New Years.
All the best,
Harry wasn’t sure if Grace had enchanted this herself, but something told him she had. Especially seeing as it was Weitts family magic.
His perception of how talented Grace was changed instantly. He knew that she was good. A prodigy, even. But exactly how good was she?
Maybe she hadn’t topped the Dark Lady’s gift from exactly one year ago, but the not yet Hogwarts graduate had certainly given her a run for her money.
Later that day, in the out-of-order bathroom on the second floor…
“So,” Hermione was saying to Ron and Charlus, hidden away in the bathroom they had monopolized for much of the last month, “we all know the plan?”
The boys nodded. “You’ve got your hair already,” Charlus started. “Me and Ron still have to go and get ours from Crabbe and Goyle. Hide the bodies in a closet or something after they’re stunned, or bound, or whatever. Then, we come back here and get this show on the road.”
“Still think it would have worked better if we used your brother’s closer friends,” Ron grumbled.
“The only ones still here are either older students or Zabini,” Hermione said exasperatedly. It was an argument they’d had several times. “None of us would be able to overpower the older students, and Zabini hasn’t left Potter’s side for a second.”
“It’s the best we can do,” Charlus said resolutely, setting his jaw with determination. “We’ll have to make it work.”
Meanwhile, in the Slytherin common room…
Harry watched on as Blaise continued to lose tremendously to Hestia in a game of wizarding chess. It wasn’t that his friend was no good, he just picked the worst people to try and play against. Seriously, he never had a chance against Hestia.
“Any time now,” Blaise muttered as he waited for the older girl to make her next move. Hestia might have taken it as a challenge, but Harry understood his true meaning and nodded discreetly.
The common room entrance took that exact moment to open up, allowing the hulking figures of Crabbe and Goyle to waddle their way inside. Harry and Blaise exchanged brief glances as Malfoy’s two goons made their way towards Harry’s group of friends. Malfoy himself, who had been told to stay at Hogwarts by his father, mostly as a punishment for his poor judgement these last few months, was currently lounging in the dormitories. Either Crabbe and Goyle didn’t know that, or something else was going on.
Of course, Harry knew which of those two options the truth was.
“Evening Crabbe, Goyle,” Harry greeted coolly, looking back down to the mess of arithmancy he’d been working on while watching his younger friend get thrashed at chess by his older friend. The two boys grumbled some sort of greeting in return. “Malfoy is in the dorms if you’re looking for him.”
“We… wanted to ask you something?” Crabbe mumbled.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t think we were on great terms.”
The two boys exchanged looks, clearly confused at Harry’s attitude, and that was the moment Harry knew his intel was correct and that this really was happening.
“Did-did we do something to you?”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “Following Malfoy around like lost puppies might count as doing something to me. I haven’t exactly made it a secret how I feel about him.”
“This isn’t about Malfoy,” Goyle insisted.
The corners of Harry’s lips twitched. He knew that all too well already. “What is it about then, Goyle?”
“The-the Chamber of Secrets.” The entire group that was gathered around the three began to slowly hush, as Harry surveyed the two large boys who sat near him with perfect neutrality.
“So you two are some of the idiots who believe I’m the Heir of Slytherin?”
“We… we never said that-“
“You didn’t have to, Crabbe. You’re about as subtle as a bludgeoning curse. I can tell you that I haven’t done anything involving the Chamber of Secrets. I have no idea where it is, or how to open it, or if it even exists.” His eyes gleamed as he leaned forwards, and the two boys he stared down may have realized the other members of the little circle were tensing, if only they were a tad more perceptive. Or perhaps if they weren’t so focused on Harry and nobody else.
“But here’s a little tidbit. Apparently, the Chamber of Secrets was opened fifty years ago. A student actually died and somebody was expelled.”
“I have no idea. The records are probably out there, but I don’t really care.”’
“Not at all. After the events of last year, I’d prefer to stay out of this kind of drama, all things considered.” Harry scowled and his eyes flashed, causing both boys to lean backwards. “But I know you’re different and that you’ll want to go sticking your nose into trouble. Which is exactly why I thought I would be generous and help out a bit. Happy Christmas… little brother.”
Before either of them could move, Harry’s wand had shot into his hand and he swept it towards the both of them. The banishing charm that flew from it was powerful enough to send them both sailing through the air. So did the couch they’d sat on, but Hestia, who had also drawn her wand just like everyone around her, managed to divert its course so as to not crush the two imposters. They made to scramble to their feet, but they were suddenly flooded by magic as all of Harry’s friends unleashed a torrent of jinxes, hexes and even a few minor curses.
Harry stood and slowly marched his way towards them. The common room was empty aside from Harry’s older group of friends, plus Blaise and Ginny. Everybody currently present made up Slytherin’s entire roster at the moment, minus Blstrode- if one counted the two imposters as Crabbe and Goyle- as a result of the ongoing holidays. Harry stood over the two of them, looking down with furious eyes. Neither boy at his feet could move, but their eyes said it all. They were filled with terror and shock.
“First of all, Charlus, never try and spy on me ever again. Second of all, if you’re going to be stupid enough to try anyway, for sure don’t try and act as two people who I’m not super close with. Especially when you know almost nothing about them and can’t copy them if your life depends on it.” He paused, as if trying to remember something important. “Oh and that’s right, and if you’re going to brew an illegal potion, definitely don’t do it in a room that isn’t even warded.” Harry suspected that if whichever boy was Charlus could move his mouth, he would be gaping in shock.
December 19, 1992
“So let me get this straight,” Harry asked Pansy, eyes narrowed. “You saw Granger leaving the out-of-order bathroom on the second floor and thought she looked suspicious?” Pansy nodded, with the rest of the group’s attention fixed firmly upon both her and Harry. “So next time you saw her in that area,” Harry continued, “you discreetly followed her, noticed she went in again and tried to eavesdrop?” Another nod. “You noticed there was a privacy ward up so you got really suspicious. You left and came back later. Then, you found a potion you thought was Polyjuice, questioned the ghost of a girl named Myrtle, and was told that Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Charlus Potter were brewing that very potion in the toilet you found it in?” For a third time, Pansy nodded.
Harry rubbed at his temples. Sometimes, his brother’s idiocy was truly astonishing. “Okay, first question: how the hell does Granger even know how to brew that potion? I mean, it’s definitely her brewing it because the other two are idiots, but how? I’m pretty sure I’m better than her at potions and I only know how to brew it because of that book I took out of the Restricted Section last year with Hurst’s note. Moste Potente Potions I think it’s called.”
“She must have gotten a note too,” Tracey said reasonably.
“Yes, but how? Which teacher in their right mind would give a second year a pass?” Harry suddenly realized he had just inadvertently given his friends a perfect opportunity to press him about Hurst, but they didn’t take it. Clearly, they all realized they had more pressing things on their hands.
“Binns, apparently,” Pansy filled in. “Myrtle said Weasley asked the same thing. One day, after a history lesson, Hermione asked Binns if she could sign out some books from the Restricted Section to ‘further her knowledge’. Obviously, the idiot just signed the note without even realizing what the hell she was asking for.” Pansy scowled. “Not that he probably would have cared even if he had looked at it.”
“Okay,” Harry muttered, as he tapped his fingers restlessly on the table, “okay, so they have Polyjuice Potion, which lets them look like anybody they want to as long as they have their hair. Does anybody know which Slytherins are staying behind for the break? If they have any brains, they’ll use one of them.”
“You, Blaise, Crabbe, Goyle, Bulstrode, and Draco,” Pansy answered without missing a beat.
“Right… so Blaise, stick with me when outside the common room.” Blaise nodded, seeming to understand exactly where Harry’s mind was going. “That way, they’ll have to use Crabbe, Goyle and Bulstrode. We can just watch for any odd behaviour and jump on it.”
“Um,” Pansy cut in, “that might not be necessary.”
Harry narrowed his eyes. “And why is that?”
“Because they said exactly how and when they were planning to do it without even realizing Myrtle was listening in the stall beside them.”
This time, Harry actually slammed his head against the desk.
Merlin’s balls his twin was an idiot!
Back in the present…
“Oh, and last thing,” Harry said dryly, “if you know something is haunting that room, especially something that can go and run its mouth,don’t spill your entire goddamn plan.” Now, Charlus was looking frantic.
“What do we do with them?” Flora asked, looking rather cruelly down at the two helpless figures.
“Turn them into Snape,” Harry said without hesitating. “Anything else we do will backfire on me. Dumbledore already thinks I’m behind anything and everything wrong in the world right now. I don’t need to give him any more reasons to be suspicious.” Harry looked down at the closest figure to his feet, who just so happened to be Goyle. “But first, let’s find the other one, shall we?” Readying his mind and pulling the little bit of experience he had on the subject to the forefront, Harry pressed his wand against Goyle’s forehead with a visage in place that reflected pure, uninterrupted concentration.
If not for his practice with Grace, he would have jumped out of his skin. To put it lightly, the connection was far stronger with a wand than without. The first time Grace had allowed him to establish a connection with his wand during their only practice involving Legilimency, he had been shocked by how thoughts raced to him. He still had no ability to guide them or use any subtlety at all, but thankfully, his comment about finding the other one had forced a rather amusing image of a particularly furious Hermione Granger hiding in a stall to the forefront of Goyle’s, or rather, Ron’s mind.
Harry pulled out and had to try hard not to gasp. He pressed his hands to his temples as a rather sharp stab of pain coursed through his skull. All of his friends were looking at him strangely. The collective question was obvious.
Since when did you know Legilimency?
Harry ignored them, shaking his head in an effort to clear it before glancing up at Hestia. “Right. Granger is in the out-of-order bathroom on the second floor. Seeing as you’re actually — you know — a witch, can you go and get her?” Hestia nodded and marched swiftly from the common room, twirling her wand fluidly through her fingers. Harry then sent Blaise off to get Snape and sneered back down at his twin. “I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you this before, but your plans really suck.”
December 27, 1992
The Great Hall
Boy-Who-Lived Charged For Possession and Use of an Illegal Potion
By Rita Skeeter
“That woman does not pull punches,” Harry remarked as he glanced down at the bold headline flashing at the top of Hestia’s copy of the Daily Prophet.
“Not even a little bit,” Blaise returned with a smirk. “Much more entertaining when it’s not aimed at you, isn’t it?”
Charlus, Ron, and a still fur covered Hermione, had been frog marched up to the Headmaster’s office by Snape. Dumbledore somehow hadn’t expelled them. Harry had no idea how the man kept doing it, but he truly had a talent for getting his idiotic twin out of sketchy situations.
While they may not have been expelled, but they had all been punished severely. All three of them had detention on Saturday night every weekend until the end of the year. Charlus was off the Gryffindor Quidditch team for that same amount of time, and Hermione was banned from checking anything out of the library. Harry was sure she would find a way around it, but she was only supposed to use the library for purposes strictly related to her classes. As far as Harry knew, Ron Weasley hadn’t received a specialized punishment, but he would apparently be missing at least a month of school, since Molly Weasley was supposedly following through on her threat to pull him from Hogwarts from the beginning of the year once her and her husband returned from their trip to Egypt. That last part was according to Ginny.
Now that he’d read the prophet, Harry focused his attention on his own mail. It was marked with the emblem used by the Greengrass’s law firm, and Harry knew even before opening it that it had been sent by his solicitor, Veronica Tate.
The knife was sent off for evaluation immediately after you left my office. Lord Greengrass expedited the process, and the results have come back.
As you indicated, the blade is enchanted so that no means will heal cuts it makes. Another, darker enchantment is that the knife will not immediately kill its victims. It will trigger psychological damage, but the damage that will be done mentally is relative to the damage physically. A graze or shallow cut would likely only mean a horrible few weeks for the victim. A deep cut would likely mean they would eventually commit suicide. It is an extremely illegal, but extremely rare enchantment. It is also goblin-made, which, aside from outstanding durability, means that it has the unique ability to absorb any essence which would make it stronger.
All of this combined with the fact that it is an artifact that has existed for centuries, means that our estimate for its value is somewhere in the range of 6,000 galleons.
As for your other business…
Harry read the rest of the letter before sitting back in his chair. The enchanted knife was a useful item to have, no doubt. But he thought the galleons would likely be more useful to him. Especially if Pettigrew was planning to have him banished from the Potter family. On the off chance he somehow managed to succeed, Harry wanted to be prepared by the time that happened.
He had already planned on trying to make some money just in case something like that ever happened. The idea had been born from his terrifying encounter with Malfoy the year previous, but it had just risen much higher on his ever-growing list of priorities.
6,000 galleons was certainly a good start.
December 31, 1992
Harry stepped out of the fire with what he considered to be a considerable amount of grace. It felt nice to be back at Greengrass Manor. He wouldn’t quite call the place a home, but outside of Hogwarts- as well as Weitts Manor- it was certainly the closest thing he had to one. It was the place he’d gone to after he had been liberated from the Dursleys this last summer, after all.
He noticed that the Weitts and Greengrass families were rather preoccupied, so he chose to walk towards the corridor that he thought likely led to the ballroom. As he walked towards it, he noticed an additional member of the family he’d never seen before.
The man was clearly much older than any of the other Weitts family members. He was a couple of inches taller than Sigmund, and had white hair that Harry could imagine used to be platinum blonde, just like Adriana’s and Charlotte’s. His face was old and weathered, but he still looked to be in fairly good shape and like he had an admirable amount of exuberance for one his age. The eyes were the same as all the other members of his family. They couldn’t be missed nor mistaken.
“Happy New Year, Harry.”
Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. He had been so focused on the new man that he hadn’t even noticed Charlotte, dressed in a rather stunning white dress, come up behind him. “Merlin, Charlotte, don’t do that!”
She smirked. “We’ll just have to make sure you get good at Legilimency. That way, I won’t be able to sneak up on you like that.” Her smile widened. “Well, I know Occlumency so I will still be able to, but you get the idea.”
Harry sighed. “Yes, yes, I get the idea.” He looked from Charlotte to the man who was now shaking hands with Cornelius Fudge, Head of the Department of Magical Catastrophes. “Who’s that man, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“My grandfather,” Charlotte answered with obvious fondness. “He’s technically still the Lord of House Weitts, but my father handles most of it.”
“I’ve never seen him before today.”
“He doesn’t live in England, so that’s not surprising.”
“I would ask you where he lived, but I have a feeling you’re not allowed to say.”
Charlotte shrugged. “I’m certainly not allowed to give the information to people I don’t trust, but I can say it if I trust the person.”
Her lips twitched. “You assume I trust you?”
“You did come to me for lessons in combat magic.”
“Alright, touché, I guess. He lives in a castle in Germany.”
“Yes, Weitts Manor is only our second largest property.”
As the two of them neared the ballroom, Harry couldn’t help but wonder just how obscenely rich the Weitts family actually was. Six thousand galleons had sounded like a ton of money at the time. He knew it wasn’t in the grand scheme of things, but he suddenly wondered whether that House of Weitts would even bat an eye at such a small sum of money.
“He wants to meet you later,” Charlotte informed Harry as she led him to the longest, most central table. He assumed it would be where both the Weitts and Greengrass families would be sitting.
“I’m surprised I’m sitting here,” he mused after nodding in acknowledgement of Charlotte’s statement.
Charlotte looked at him sharply. “Why would you say that?”
“Well, I’m not a member of the Weitts or Greengrass families. My house is important, but probably not super important to either of your families, seeing as we’re Liberals and you’re both Neutrals. I understood it last year. The forsaken Potter heir steeped in mystery and all of that rubbish, but this year…”
“Not everything is a politically driven decision,” Charlotte pointed out. “You’re one of my best friends. Same goes for Daphne.”
“Yet I’m guessing Blaise isn’t going to be sitting here when he shows up in five or so minutes?”
Charlotte’s face blanked, an obvious sign to Harry that he’d caught her out. “No, he isn’t. He’s a friend, but not as close as you. You’ve actually spent time here over the summer. Not counting my actual family, Daphne, and Astoria, you’re probably the closest thing I have to family.”
That statement caused ample amounts of warmth to spread through him, and Harry had to fight down a blush. He struggled with compliments, let alone anything bordering on affection. He could suppress the feeling, obviously, but he had no desire to. It wasn’t unpleasant, just alien.
“And the other reason?” he prompted, knowing by her reaction that there was one.
She shrugged. “I already told you, Grandfather wants to meet you.”
Despite apparently wanting to meet him, Giaus Weitts said very little to Harry beyond a basic formality when he took his seat at the head of the table. That struck Harry as odd, too. This was Cyrus Greengrass’s house, yet the Lord of House Weitts took the head. Perhaps it was just that he was the oldest and most seasoned of the lords currently at the table, but Harry had the odd impression the same courtesy wouldn’t have been extended by the Weitts family if the circumstances were reversed.
The gala stretched on for some time whilst everybody ate. After a time, Lord Greengrass stood and gave a speech about the closing of one year and the opening of the next. Once his speech had concluded, the floor was opened for both dancing and politicking.
“Sticking with me again?” Harry asked Charlotte as Daphne (being the Greengrass Heiress and hostess of the event) found herself swamped at once.
Charlotte smiled. “Now you’re learning.”
The two of them walked laps around the ballroom for quite some time. All the while, Harry kept his eyes out for Lord Weitts, but the man never approached him. Perhaps he wasn’t as interested as Charlotte suspected, or perhaps she had simply used him as an excuse to justify his place at their table. He thought the latter option to be unlikely since he couldn’t see why else he would have been there, but he wasn’t about to discount the possibility altogether.
Harry found himself approached by a fair number of people involved in Quidditch. Apparently, outflying a rogue bludger, leading a death defying chase under a set of bleachers, and beating the prodigal Boy-Who-Lived earned one a fair bit of attention. It wasn’t as if they were offering a twelve-year-old boy a contract or any such nonsense, but he was congratulated rather jovially by some fairly large names in the sport. Hell, Joseph Parker was considered the best seeker in the world, and even he complimented Harry on his flying; even if he did seem a bit stuck up, in Harry’s opinion.
Some time later, the two of them found themselves joined by another. She was no doubt Daphne’s sister. She had the same sapphire blue eyes, though her hair was light brown instead of honey blonde and her features, though definitely still soft, were slightly more chiseled than Daphne’s.
“Astoria!” Charlotte hugged the youngest member of House Greengrass, obviously being rather familiar with her. This wasn’t exactly a surprise to Harry. He’d met her briefly after her family had liberated him from Privet Drive. Outside of that, he had only seen her for a few seconds around Greengrass Manor whenever he had flooed over during the summer, as well as even more briefly during his first ever, formal gala.
“How’s Hogwarts?” Astoria asked, sounding every bit as curious as Charlotte when she’d asked Daphne that same question exactly fourteen months earlier.
Charlotte gave a rather detailed answer, and the two of them were quickly caught up in conversation. As Harry began to space out, he felt a tap on his shoulder and turned quickly to see Grace standing before him. “How did you manage to get out of the madness, Heiress Weitts?” Harry put a deliberate amount of mocking formality into Grace’s title, which just made the older girl roll her eyes.
“A few polite excuses and some well-practiced smiles usually work well. I was wondering if you would care for a dance?”
Harry’s eyebrows knit together. Grace knew all too well his stance on physical contact of any kind. Let alone the fact that she had hardly ever touched him before. He let Daphne get away with it most of the time, but that was because she was as persistent as a niffler looking for gold, and by now, he was somewhat accustomed to it.
Obviously, Grace noticed his apprehension. “It’s not supposed to be comfortable,” she prefaced. “I know that you can suppress emotions now. I also know it’s harder to suppress things brought on by physical sensations , so it will be good practice. It’s also good publicity for you to be seen with me if you’re going to be spending time around the family in the next few years.”
Harry sighed theatrically before following her onto the dance floor as requested. “Why do you always have to be right?”
She laughed lightly. “I have a feeling your friends probably ask you the same question.”
“They do sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t ask it of you.”
“It doesn’t, but it probably means you know all of the answers I would give you as well as I do.”
Harry did indeed have to suppress the sensations he felt as well as his emotions for the first few steps of the dance, but it became easier as they moved. It was certainly nice to be able to partake in normal activities without being as stiff as a board. “Much better,” Grace said with a small smile. “You’re improving very quickly, you know.”
“I need to keep improving just as fast, if not faster.”
“You will. The stages might take longer as you move through them, but relatively speaking, you will.”
They danced for another minute or so before Harry spoke. Thanking people — yet another thing he despises and was utterly rubbish at. “Thanks for the chain, by the way. It was… the most impressive gift I got. Between the two of us, that is actually saying quite a bit.”
Grace gave him a rather knowing look. “I’m sure it is, and you’re welcome. I wasn’t actually sure whether I would be able to give it to you or not. There were some… logistical problems, not to mention how difficult it actually was to make.”
“You made it yourself?”
“In the time between arriving back home and Christmas?”
“Merlin, no. I’ve been working on it since November. I put more hours into it than I would care to admit, but I think it turned out well.”
“I can’t say I’ve had the chance to test it yet.”
“I would hope not. It’s been less than a week.”
“Any obvious limitations I should know about?”
Grace thought for a moment. “Not really. Theoretically, a skilled enough wizard could overpower it, but it would be a pain. The only thing I would warn you of is that it works better indoors than out. It covers a certain area. Outdoors, with more room to move, it’s obviously not going to work as well.”
Harry hadn’t actually thought about that, but it was a useful tidbit to have. “Thanks for the heads up.”
Near the end of their dance, Harry came out with a question that had been bothering him for reasons he could not entirely articulate. “Is your grandfather actually interested in me?”
Grace paused to consider the question. “Interested? Absolutely. I don’t think most people who have heard of you aren’t interested. I’m not sure you realize how incredible three O+’s in a year actually is. First year or not, it got you some attention. You’re also very good friends with Charlotte, and he knows the two of us at least spend a decent amount of time together. I had to get his permission just to make the chain for you at all.”
That was interesting. So at the very least Giaus Weitts thought him worthy of that. Or, perhaps, he thought it would just further in-debt Harry to their family. He wouldn’t be wrong if he thought the former, though Harry seriously hoped he had agreed with the former in mind, even if it was perhaps naive of him. Emily would certainly have said so.
When the dance had concluded, Harry politely excused himself for some air. He had suppressed all feelings and emotions successfully, but doing so was still rather exhausting . After a relatively short time, he found his way out onto a balcony that overlooked the long, snow covered lawns of Greengrass Manor.
The voice was not one Harry was familiar with. It was as cold as ice and as hard as steel and it instantly put him on edge. When he turned, the man standing before him was not one he had seen either.
“I am Lord Darren Mulciber.”
“A pleasure to meet you, sir.”
The man did not return his greeting. “You have something that belongs to me, Potter.”
“My dagger. It is an heirloom that has been in the Mucliber family for centuries. I demand it be returned to me immediately.”
“You can’t make that demand, Lord Mulciber.”
The man’s eyes flashed dangerously. “Can’t I, Potter?”
“No, you cannot. The dagger is highly illegal. You have no right to own it in the first place. Because of that, I highly doubt you’ve registered it as a possession, so you actually don’t have any rights to demand it back.” That was all information he’d received during his crash course with Veronica Tate. He had essentially just regurgitated what she had told him. It was all true, but Lord Mulciber did not look happy.
“Listen to me, boy,” he growled. “I know you stole that dagger from my son and heir. You will return it immediately or you will suffer the consequences.”
Harry suppressed all emotion from his face and stared passively back at Lord Mulciber. “Your son and heir was attacking my friend with that dagger and he deserves to be in Azkaban for it. I think the knife should be the last of your worries. And I doubt you’ll attack me or any such nonsense,” he said quickly before Mulciber could retort. “My family outranks yours and I’m the heir. Regardless of my brother being the ‘Boy-Who-Lived’, it wouldn’t be a good idea to attack me.” His eyes shone. “Especially not when the dagger is with my solicitor, at the moment.”
“You little bastard!” Mulciber snarled, hand creeping towards his wand.
“Language, Mulciber,” somebody else drawled condescendingly from behind the man. He whirled, obviously in a fury and eager to take out his pent up frustration on anybody in the vicinity. Then, the oddest thing happened. He glanced completely and obviously at the sight of the newcomer, who was a tall, familiar woman with dark features and heavily lidded eyes. Harry would have recognized her even if they hadn’t met over a year ago. Her daughter was a miniature version of her in terms of their appearance, for Merlin’s sake.
“Lady Black,” Mulciber muttered, quickly calming his tone and looking anywhere but at Bellatrix.
“Leave us, Mulciber. I would like a word with my cousin.” Mulciber did not look happy about it in the least, but he grudgingly left. Harry was pretty sure that wouldn’t be his last altercation with the man, but Bellatrix Black had at least spared him for the time being.
But the way Mulciber had backed down so suddenly…
He’d known Bellatrix Black was dangerous from the moment they had first met. Just how dangerous was she really, though, for a man like Mulciber to back down without any hesitation?
“Lady Black,” Harry greeted cautiously.
Bellatrix smiled a disarming smile. “None of that from you. The last time we met, I told you to call me Bellatrix or Bella. That hasn’t changed since.”
Harry bowed his head. “As you wish.” He paused. “Thank you for that, by the way. I do not think he was actually going to do anything, but I did not want to chance it either.” Of course, he had planned for that scenario. Grace’s chain would have gotten its first field test had Mulciber actually been foolish enough to attack him.
“You’re a very good judge of character,” Bellatrix told him with a small smile. “He wasn’t going to attack you, but he still should not have threatened an heir. Let alone one who outranks him.”
Harry shrugged. “I’m just happy nothing came of it.”
“Happy to be of service, Harry.” Harry noticed how, unlike most, she didn’t ask permission to use his first name. “May I ask you a question?”
“What is this dagger that Lord Mulciber is referring to?” Harry glanced hastily around, but Bellatrix merely laughed softly. “Silly Harry, there’s nobody around.” He wasn’t sure how she knew that since he was quite certain she hadn’t casted a Homenum Revelio, but she wasn’t about to call him out on it.
“That’s… a delicate matter.”
“I won’t tell,” Bellatrix practically purred. “Not a soul. I swear it to you.”
Harry hesitated. “Why do you ask, Bellatrix? Would you be interested in a dagger?”
Amusement danced in her eyes. “Maybe. Is the Potter Heir looking for some spare gold?”
“It… would be a little bit more than spare gold.”
Now, Bellatrix really did look interested. “Go on.”
Harry debated it for only a moment before deciding to go for it. She was the Lady of House Black. She didn’t strike him as a snitch. “The dagger is hundreds of years old, stops any cut it makes from being healed, is goblin-made and can cause long-term, psychological damage.”
Bellatrix’s eyes sparkled with something else now — desire.
“You asked if I was interested in a knife. I have a counter question to ask you.”
“Are you interested in selling me a knife?”
“That depends on how much you’re willing to pay for it.”
Bellatrix waved a hand dismissively. “I have the fortunes of houses Black and Lestrange at my fingertips. Money means nothing. Give me a price.”
Harry debated just how high of a number would be absurd. He decided to go big or go home. If he needed to backtrack, he could just play the ignorant twelve-year-old card. “Twelve thousand galleons.”
Harry blinked. “Um… really?”
Bellatrix smirked knowingly. “Don’t think you’ve pulled one over on me, Harry. I know all too well that knife is not worth twelve thousand galleons. If it’s worth more than five thousand, I am frankly impressed. But as I said, money means nothing to me. I have more of it than I could ever spend. I am simply helping out a member of the family, after all.” She stepped forward and extended her hand. “Of course, the paperwork will need to be filed, but do we have a deal? No re-negotiating?” Harry took her outstretched hand.
A minute or so later, Bellatrix had left, and he was left alone once more, staring out over the beautiful landscape stretching out around him.
“You are a popular man, Heir Potter.”
Or perhaps he wasn’t as alone as he had thought.
Giaus Weitts strode towards him, his simple black robes trimmed in grey seeming to flow in perfect synchrony with his movements. “Lord Weitts?”
“How… she said there was nobody here. I didn’t think there was a way of fooling the Homenum Revelio charm?”
“She never cast the Homenum Revelio charm, as I am sure you know. Some sorcerers are skillful enough to sense magic without need for revealing charms or Legilimency connections. Lady Black just so happens to be one of those people.” His lips twitched. “It just so happens that I am more skillful than her, and that I have a way of eluding such senses when I see fit to do so.”
“I… wasn’t aware that was possible.”
“It isn’t magic that will ever be taught at Hogwarts. It is available only to the exceptional and is something that can be taught only to an extent. Naturally, I expect you will be capable of it in a few years’ time.”
Lord Weitts looked at him for the first time and Harry nearly shivered. All of their eyes were damn identical! Charlotte, Grace, Adriana, Giaus. “I have wished to meet you for some time, Harry Potter. My granddaughters are both very close to you. They are both exceptional witches, not just in spirit but in magic as well. Yet the youngest of them speaks of you in such a high regard that it would seem you are in a league of your own. Even the elder of the two seems wholly convinced you will one day dwarf her academic accomplishments, various as they might be.”
“They’re both very talented, sir.”
“Indeed they are, which only makes it the more impressive the way they speak of you.” Harry didn’t really know how to respond to that. “I will be frank with you Harry Potter. I was not thrilled when I heard tales of you, nor when I learned that my youngest family member in particular was so closely acquainted with you.”
“You are no ordinary wizard, Harry Potter. We both know this, so do not insult my intelligence by denying it. You have progressed rapidly in Occlumency. You have done so at a rate that amazed even Grace, who is already one of the very best Occlumency practitioners in Britain. Yet you also display an aptitude for Legilimency. An affinity for one is rare. An affinity for both, while not completely unique, is almost unheard of. Compound that with your outstanding academic achievements and your display at your family’s gala in the summer — no, you are not an ordinary wizard. Not in the slightest.” Harry opened his mouth, but Giaus cut him off. “And do not speak ill of your showcase last summer. I know you were holding back.” That shut Harry up.
“Do you know why I am saying this? Do you know why I was initially unhappy with my family’s relationship with you?”
“You may not be one as of yet, but you will one day ascend far beyond the definition of a wizard. You will be a true mage. Do not tell me they are the same, for they are not. A wizard is one can who can wield magic. A mage is one who has mastered magic. Who bends the forces of reality around them with barely more than a thought. Albus Dumbledore is a mage, as is his one-time instructor, Nicholas Flamel. Gellert Grindelwald fell into this category as well, as did the Dark Lady who called herself Voldemort. There are one or two more, but these are the names you will recognize. The names that will have the most profound impact on you.
“You will one day join their ranks as long as you stay the course. I know this better than any. I have seen mages rise. Not just any mages either, but true, centennial sorcerers.”
“Sir, I… don’t know what that means?”
“To be called a centennial sorcerer means that you defined the century in which you were born. There is usually one of these being per century. The nineteenth was an exception. Both Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore would be categorized as such. Until recently, I believed England’s Dark Lady to be the defining sorceress of the twentieth century, but I suspect you will challenge her throne. Whether you oppose her or not does not matter. You and her are the Dumbledore and Grindelwald of this century. Not yet, but you will be.
“As I have said, I have seen two of these figures rise. Three, in a way. I watched from inside Germany as Gellert Grindelwald conquered much of Europe, gained unimaginable powers and dove into truly unspeakable magics. Magics which turned his own men against him in droves. I have seen Albus Dumbledore rise through the ranks of the ICW, though I am younger than he, and ascend to the position he is in now. And I have seen the rise and subsequent fall of Voldemort. I know what to look for. I know the signs of a mage and a centennial sorcerer better than any person alive aside from those names I have just mentioned. Aside from power, brilliance, achievements and all the rest, can you guess what Albus Dumbledore, Gellert Grindelwald, and the woman who called herself Lady Voldemort have in common?”
“No, sir.” Harry had a few guesses, but none he wished to voice aloud.
“These people all chase greatness. It is in their nature. In the process, the people around them are not only often abandoned, they are often caught up in whatever greatness said magical is pursuing. People around this level of magery do not often come out on the other side quite as well off as they went in.” Giaus gave Harry a hard look. “And that is if they come out at all — plenty do not.” Harry’s breath caught, but the man continued ruthlessly.
“Albus Dumbledore’s sister died as a result of his ambition and his ploys. To this day, his own brother cannot bear to speak with him, and would sit and watch on in amusement if Albus’s world came crashing down around him. Grindelwald’s apparent friends and allies were little more than pawns and test dummies. Even those who supported him eventually realized what he sought to do and abandoned him because of the monster he truly was. I will admit I know less of Lady Voldemort than I do the other two, but look what has become of those who supported her.”
“You’re afraid that same thing will happen to Grace and Charlotte,” Harry said at long last.
“What can I say to you that will make you believe otherwise?”
Giaus laughed. “How naive of you to ask such a question. The future is a funny thing, Harry Potter. Nobody can see the future, not even those among us who are possessed with the supposedly all-seeing inner eye. We can only see the possibilities said future may present. There is nothing you could tell me that would assure me that my family will be better off for knowing you. However, there are things you can do and say that may put my mind at ease. It is one of the reasons I agreed for my family to house you, after all.”
“To watch me?”
“And what did they think?”
“That you were a remarkable young boy who was perhaps a bit lost and not exactly sure of his place in the world.”
That had been a very honest answer. “I’m… not quite sure what you mean by not knowing my place in the world. I know it politically.”
“Yet another thing that sets the greats apart.” Giaus seemed to think for a moment. “Allow me to introduce another term to you. You are aware of what a Lord and Lady means in the political sense?”
“What is the difference then, Heir Potter, between a lord or lady of the Wizengamot compared to a lord or lady of the light, dark, or grey?”
“Everything you said earlier?”
“In part, yes. The Dark Lady is called such because she defined the ideologies of the dark faction. She defined an entire idea by working outside the scope of the Wizengamot as well as inside of it. The same can be said for Grindelwald, who was the last true Lord in the sense we are speaking of.”
“Is Dumbledore not a Lord?”
“He certainly borders on the title, but I would not consider him one. For one thing, Albus Dumbledore is not a Light Lord. For all of his preaching, Dumbledore is far more grey than he is light. His ideals and desires may be light, but his methods certainly are not. It is actions that define us. Not our thoughts. I know things about Albus Dumbledore that would make the poor, naive Liberals gawk in horror. No, Dumbledore does not define the light, as much as he wishes he did. He could be a lord if he so chose, but he has not. Grindelwald was the last true Lord, just as Voldemort was the last true Lady. Do you follow”
“Good, let me explain another thing that makes a true Lord or Lady. Their ambitions match their skill set. They strive for something outside the normal scope of a witch or wizard. This is oftentimes why they operate outside of the standard parameters society sets upon them. They have very set goals and oftentimes, they will stop at nothing to achieve them. Which, in turn, is what makes them so dangerous, regardless of the goals they chase. Though of course, some, like world domination, are far more dangerous than others.
“If you so choose when the time comes, you will be a Lord, Harry Potter. But a lord of what? The light, the dark, of the grey?”
“I… I don’t know, sir.”
Giaus nodded. “I thought not. In that case, I have two requests of you, young man. I do not need these done soon. The first of them, we will speak about this summer. If your answer satisfies me, it will do a great deal to dissuade my worry. The second of these things I do not expect you to achieve for some time. Though of course, if you do so earlier, or have any ideas on the front, I would love to hear them.”
Harry set his jaw. “What are they, sir?”
“The first of which is to study the light, the dark, and the grey. Not the propaganda. I would like you to dive into the history and philosophy behind each of them. This summer, I will ask you which ideals appeal to you the most. If you were to be a Lord, which of these domains would you lord over? And do not simply answer grey to appease me. I am interested in your honest answer. More than one is acceptable depending on the justifications you provide. Do you understand?” Again, Harry nodded.
“The second thing is for you to establish what it is you want in life. Do not simply answer to be the greatest wizard in the world. That is not a goal worthy of somebody with your potential. If you are going to be associated with my family, I will not see your potential warped in a way that will ruin us, but I will not see it squandered either. I do not need an answer for several years still, but think very deeply, Harry Potter. Think of what it is that defines you. Think of what it is you think should define the world. When you have thought about those two things, come to me with your dearest ambition. Not a small, sentimental, personal goal, but an achievement that would be truly worthy of a lord.
“Do those two things, Harry Potter, and we shall talk more openly than I have spoken with any in decades.”
Some time later, back in the ballroom of Greengrass Manor
For reasons he couldn’t entirely explain, Harry’s conversation with Giaus Weitts had shaken him to the core. Not because of anything the man had done or how he had acted. He had been polite, if blunt, but that was how Harry would have liked it. Just because he was a Slytherin didn’t mean he had to play word games with every single person he ever met. That would be ridiculous. He appreciated somebody who wasn’t afraid to get to the point and tell it to them like it was.
But the point was what has shaken him.
Everything Giaus said not only made sense, but it resonated with him. It was as if the older man could actually see the future. It felt as if by saying all of that, he was manifesting it into reality. And those questions… they were things Harry had never thought about. He had only ever thought of the light, the dark, and the grey as the Liberals, the Neutrals, and the Conservatives. Never in his life had he sat back and considered them as a philosophy. The closest he’d come to that was his stance on magic.
And that wasn’t even talking about his potential and stance in the world, let alone his life’s ambitions. Merlin, that had been a lot to digest.
Yet after all of that, the night’s events had not yet concluded.
“About time,” he muttered when Daphne finally joined himself and Charlotte. “You really have been busy, haven’t you?”
“You have no idea.” Those words sounded oddly significant for reasons Harry couldn’t decipher.
Not until about three seconds later, anyway.
There was a loud crash that drew the entire room’s attention. Draco Malfoy had flipped a table ladened with expensive looking desserts. His wand was in his hand, and he suddenly slashed it towards Lord Weitts.
Somebody caused a table to intercept the blinding curse Malfoy had fired in Lord Weitts’s direction but the room was suddenly full of gasps, shouts, and even expletives.
Malfoy had clearly snapped and he appeared unhinged. He sent tables tumbling with the knockback jinx, he threw chairs, and even hurled spells towards Lord Weitts. He was enraged.
It only took a few seconds for him to be stunned but in that short time, he had done plenty of damage. All eyes in the room suddenly turned to the Malfoy parents, who were looking on with utter horror.
Except one set of eyes, that was.
One calculating set of emerald orbs were peering at a specific heiress with a mix of suspicion and awe.
It appeared by the smirk on her face that Daphne had finally taken revenge on behalf of Tracey after fourteen plus months.
And by Merlin, had it been glorious!
If Harry’s stunts had damaged the boy’s reputation the year earlier, this had utterly ruined it!
I wonder how many of you forgot about Daphne’s revenge. I actually have records of a conversation with one of my betas from way back in April where we discussed a vague outline for this scene, so it has been planned for months.
A lot of philosophy in this chapter that needed to be said. I hope it didn’t read too dry. Same with the gift scene. Ugh! I hate writing gift scenes, but they are a necessary evil. They’re just so hard to make interesting. I always try to include internal monologue and dialogue to break up the monotonous list, so I hope I was successful on this occasion.
Please read and review.
Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Ashabel, Asmodeus Stahl and Athena Hope for their contributions/corrections this week!
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