AoC 42

Ashes of Chaos Chapter 42

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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos

By ACI100 

Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin

Chapter 25: Extreme Escalations Part II

January 11, 1993

The Great Hall 

8:47 AM

Harry’s eyes roamed once more over both the Slytherin table and the Great Hall at large. They’d been at breakfast for some time now. The post had arrived almost half an hour earlier, yet there was still no sign of Daphne.

She was never late. 

That wasn’t to say she was the brightest beam of sunshine every morning when forced to rise early — the joys of obligations pressed upon her by the necessity of education — but she was never late.

She was far too proper for that. 

The importance of being on time had probably been one of the very first things of significance she had ever been taught as a child. Even if that hadn’t been the case, Harry put a fair amount of stock in such things as historical precedence. He could never remember a time in which Daphne had been late to anything, let alone breakfast. When taking his exceptional memory into account, that meant it had never happened.

Which logically meant something about today was different, and not knowing exactly what had Harry on edge. Really, on edge was a fairly mild term to describe how he felt. His nerves were fried, and adrenaline was coursing through his veins. It was as if he were a hungry lion being poked and prodded by a stick, practically being dared to snap at anything within reach. That was the nearest comparable example he could think of when trying to articulate his current temperament.

What made the entire situation all the worse was that neither Tracey nor Pansy had seen her at all that morning. It was true that normally, this would be only slightly troubling. Daphne usually slept with minor, temporary wards around her bed anyway, wards she’d likely learned before ever attending Hogwarts. As abnormal as it may have been, it wouldn’t have been too troubling had she just slept in through her alarm and missed breakfast.

It would have been an oddity, and Harry’s paranoia would have doubtlessly been piqued, but he wouldn’t likely feel quite as worried as he did at present.

What made this situation so concerning was that there were no wards around her bed at all. Minutes earlier, he’d sent Pansy back to the dorm to check the bed itself. She had just returned, suddenly looking rather worried herself. Daphne hadn’t been there, and neither had the wards, which only made the list of possible places she could be all the smaller. 

Especially these days, with a supposed Heir of Slytherin and a possible monster looming in the many shadows of Hogwarts castle, hiding in their dark patches just out of sight until the moment was most opportune for them to strike.

They would have to report Daphne missing. 

There was no other way around it. And if she didn’t show up… Harry wasn’t exactly sure what he would do. 

Murder the Heir of Slytherin if he ever came across them. That much was obvious. If Daphne had indeed vanished, given what she’d caused at Malfoy manor less than two weeks prior, he knew who his first culprit would be.

But beyond that… Harry wasn’t sure.

He cherished all of his friends, but Daphne was probably his closest. She was the one whom he’d confided in, told things about himself he had still never uttered to any other. She had promised to be his compass, and in his current shaky state, he thought he would need that compass more than ever.

Yet part of him already knew what the professor’s search would turn up.

Harry had a bad feeling about all of this. If for no other reason than the fact the universe seemed to enjoy using him as its punching bag. It didn’t seem to need a reason, nor had it at all cared when he had done his best to stay clear of any drama this year.

Because why oh why would it just allow him a simple year at Hogwarts?

Naturally, that would have been much too easy.

That afternoon, in the staff room…

Sundays were the days typically enjoyed by much of the Hogwarts staff. There was never a day off per se, what with the hundreds of underaged witches and wizards residing in the castle at all hours of the day. Yet Sundays were the closest they came. Obviously, there were no classes on a Sunday, and most teachers used the day prior to get as much of their marking and whatnot done as possible.

Sunday was supposed to be the day they all did as little as possible. Sure, they would go on their obligatory rounds and the like, but to expect any of them to do anything beyond the bare minimum was an unrealistic expectation.

This was one of the reasons all of them were in such a terrible mood this particular Sunday afternoon.

Their day had been a lot of things, but relaxing most certainly wasn’t one of them.

Not with all of them frantically scouring every inch of the castle in search of a girl who now appeared to be the most recent victim of the Heir of Slytherin. The school had even gone into temporary lockdown while the teachers searched every nook and cranny they could find. The students were only to be let out of the common room after this meeting and, even then, many of the staff wondered exactly how long their student’s ability to wander freely would last.

Whoever or whatever was causing mysterious instances at Hogwarts, whether it be the Heir of Slytherin or not, had escalated things — that much was clear. It had been horrible enough when Mrs. Norris had been hung from a torch bracket. Worse still when three Gryffindors had vanished in five weeks.

But this was disastrous on a whole other level.

Colin Creevey had been a muggleborn boy. They’d reached out to his parents, but they could do little more than that. As terrible as the situation was, its implications were actually rather minor, if one looked at the situation clinically and objectively. 

Relatively, the same thing could be said for the disappearance of the Weasley twins. 

They were purebloods, which had certainly caused an unexpected stir, but the Weasleys weren’t overly powerful either, from a political point of view. They were also rather close to the Hogwarts Headmaster, who had vehemently promised the family that their twins would turn up and urged them not to look too deeply into the matter.

But this strike had been different.

Daphne Greengrass was no muggleborn. Nor was she the daughter of an Ancient House that had largely fallen out of favour over the past century. She was the heiress to one of the few remaining Founding Houses in Britain. That same family also just so happened to be one of the wealthiest and most influential families in the country, as well as co-leaders of one of the nation’s three major political factions.

This wasn’t to say that the staff valued Daphne Greengrass above the notorious Weasley twins, nor even the relatively unknown muggleborn boy with the mousy hair and obnoxious, muggle camera.

All of this was to say that — unlike the strikes that had come before it — this attack, or disappearance, or whatever it would end up being categorized as was going to have far-reaching implications; implications that stretched far beyond the walls of Hogwarts castle. Implications that would dwarf the unease that seemed to seep from every brick and being in the ancient boarding school. This wouldn’t just shake the castle. This would rock the country to its core, and who knew what the implications would be for the aforementioned castle itself.

The person who likely had the best idea was the person who, at that exact moment in time, strode solemnly through the staff room door, nodding once at the entirety of the staff collected before him as he took his seat at the head of the table and waited for the metaphorical pin to drop. 

He didn’t have to wait long. 

An outpouring of questions doused him, but Dumbledore simply stayed calm, allowing the tide to roll harmlessly off him as he waited for the frantic flock of professors to take his hint and fall silent. The only ones who hadn’t immediately pounced with questions were Professors Snape and Lockhart, and the former sneered openly at his peers as he waited for them to quiet. 

Only when all at the table had caught on to Dumbledore’s unspoken plea for silence did the venerable man speak at long last. The last time they had heard his voice so solemn had been the night of Samhain, nineteen-ninety-one. The night Terence Higgs met his end at the jaws of a monster whose presence in the school Dumbledore himself had authorized. That fact alone spoke to the importance of this moment, and even Lockhart — the only teacher present who hadn’t been present on that fateful night — knew exactly how high the stakes currently were.

“I doubt the need to impress upon you exactly how grave the situation at hand has become.” All around the table nodded. “After I leave this meeting, I shall need to inform Lord Greengrass of what has happened today. The ramifications of this correspondence will be cataclysmic in their scale. I very much expect a full, emergency meeting of the Wizengamot to be called as soon as the man can rally his allies, and there are a vast number of things that could stem from such a meeting.”

“Could they force our closure, Albus?” 

Albus looked upon his deputy with a frown. “They will doubtlessly push for this, at least until Heiress Greengrass has been recovered. They will doubtlessly push for a vast number of things, but that does not mean said things will come to fruition. What I do think possible is the request for a change in leadership.” 

A wave of unrest swept over the gathered professors. None of them were overly optimistic as is. The news that anybody could possibly be pushing for the greatest among them to be removed, in what was perhaps the school’s greatest time of need in Dumbledore’s time as headmaster, was more than a little bit troubling to all gathered. 

“But surely they can’t?” Professor Sprout asked worriedly. “Surely they must know what would happen if you were to leave the castle, Albus?”

“Oh, they certainly will not be successful. At least not in the short term. The Wizengamot, for all of its illusions of authority, does not have the power to assign professors, let alone headmasters. The ability to force my removal rests solely in the hands of the Hogwarts Board of Governors. While Lucius Malfoy will doubtlessly try to weaken the faith the board so generously puts in me, I doubt he will be overly successful. It is, however, a crack. Not immediately troubling, but prone to further weathering if the great storm continues. 

“I warn you not for what might happen in the coming days, but for what might happen in the coming months, for I fear we stand not near the crest of a long, steep hill we’ve already climbed; but at the foot of a most trying precipice, one that will doubtlessly be exceedingly difficult to scale.”

All of the teachers, minus Snape and Lockhart, looked grim. Most were also noticeably paler than usual.

“That is not to say,” Dumbledore continued, “that there will not be some changes in the short term. The Wizengamot does have certain legal powers, after all. I have little doubt they will do everything in their power to impose as much order upon the castle as they can in hopes that it will slow down the mysterious Heir of Slytherin.”

“You think the perpetrator to be who they claim to be?” It was Snape who spoke. His voice was thoughtful, hollow, and quiet.

“Oh, I have no doubt they are who they claim to be. How they are making students disappear in the dead of night, I do not know. Yet, I had no idea how students were being petrified fifty years ago, the last time an alleged Heir of Slytherin claimed to have opened Salazar’s fabled chamber. Alas, despite the differing circumstances, I am left to believe the same thing as fifty years ago. I doubt what is happening now would be possible if this person was not who they claimed.” He frowned deeply. “I also think, in light of the obvious secrets at their disposal, that putting a stop to this madness may not be possible any time soon.

“This is why I warn you, my friends. This is why I warn you to brace yourself for what is to come. As morbid as things may seem now, I have an ominous feeling they will worsen before they improve.” 

What Dumbledore didn’t say aloud was that the last time the Chamber of Secrets had been opened, it had only ever been closed because Emily Riddle had essentially taken pity on the lot of them. Sure, it had been the threat of the school closing that had forced her hand, but he doubted whether they would have ever managed to stop her.

It was a card he could play if need be. Threaten the closure of the school and wait to see if the attacks stopped once more.

But two things made that option too troubling to ever be allowed to happen.

One was that if Emily was responsible, she was more than likely acting through another. Harry Potter was his top suspect, but it could easily be some other child in the castle. If this was true, she might not be so merciful upon hearing that news. It might not bring her the same dread it had as a teen. On the contrary, it might prompt her to become more aggressive, which was potentially opportune, but it also had the prospect of being completely disastrous, especially when one didn’t even know how she was committing said atrocities.

That wasn’t even considering the fact that if she was inhabiting another’s body once more, the potential ramifications of closing the castle and letting her roam in the outside world could be cataclysmic.

The other, slightly less noble hesitation was more strategic.

The longer he kept the school open, the longer he allowed her to play her game. That was dangerous, but it also meant more time for her to make a mistake. More time for him to see whether any of his more… troubling suspicions were correct. 

Oh, and more time to possibly find the Chamber of Secrets and exactly what lurked within, of course, but Albus would much rather have some other suspicions of his confirmed if truth was to be told.

Their implications would stretch far further than the Scottish highlands if any of them were proven correct.

Meanwhile, in the Speaker’s Den…

Charlotte would have been taken aback by the majesty of the room around her had she not been just as tense as Blaise and Tracey, the only other two people present. Harry had let them in some time ago with the simple instruction to stay put. If Charlotte’s memory served her correctly, it was the first time Harry had ever issued any blunt orders in her presence. Nevertheless, the three of them had swiftly complied and Harry had vanished.

That had been quite some time ago.

The three of them were presently all waiting anxiously exactly where he’d left them. Charlotte would have been awed by the mere existence of this room, a room that was supposedly called the Speaker’s Den; one that she hadn’t known existed until earlier that day. Yet the surprise was overshadowed by the larger, much more significant news that had rocked her world earlier that day — her best friend had disappeared without a trace.

That was also only part of the reason why the three gathered Slytherins were tense. The other was that none of them had any idea how Harry would react.

Last year, he’d tried to ruin Malfoy’s reputation for landing Tracey in a vast number of detentions. Earlier this year, he had brutalized Malfoy in the middle of the common room for using the word “mudblood”. It wasn’t even that Harry lost control. He did do that sometimes while in the middle of his revenge, but the plotting was usually done with a relatively clear mind. It was just the fact that Harry could be a vindictive bastard when he wanted to be.

But when he did eventually lose control, like he had done in the middle of the Malfoy incident… it was a sight to behold.

It was highly possible they were about to see another instance of this. If that was indeed the case, they had good reason to be nervous. Not for themselves. Harry would never lash out at any of them, but they could only imagine what he could come up with, let alone how he might react.

There was another concern Charlotte had. One that she couldn’t confirm the validity of without knowing a lot more about things she currently only suspected about Harry. Things she had basically promised not to go investigating while in one of the dungeon’s abandoned classrooms when discussing Milicent Bulstrode and her possible connection to Mulciber and Jugson, as well as potentially older students. 

That thought caused anger to bubble inside her, but Charlotte eased it back down. There was no need for that now. She would take revenge on Mulciber and Jugson soon. The timing just hadn’t been right, in fact, it was currently worse than ever.

The wall connecting the hidden room to the rest of the dorms slowly slid aside. None of them could actually see Harry; a reality that drew the widening of all three present pairs of eyes, but they could hardly imagine it being anyone else. Sure enough, once the wall slid shut behind him, Harry himself seemed to materialize in front of all of them. 

Charlotte shivered. She’d seen that look in his eyes only twice before. Once had been seconds before he’d ruthlessly pounded Malfoy into the floor in front of the entirety of Slytherin House. The other time had been when he’d burst through the door just as Mulciber was about to butcher her with that damned, cursed blade.

Despite the morbid mood of the room, Tracey obviously couldn’t help but ask the first question that sprang to her lips. “Wow! You were invisible! How’d you do that?”

Harry waved the question aside, and Charlotte couldn’t help but notice how heavily and shallowly he was breathing. It was very unnatural, and it only raised her suspicions further, her hand drifting just a little bit closer to her wand.

“Ring, but it doesn’t matter.”

Tracey gawked. “I thought it only-“

“Not important, Tracey! Merlin! We have bigger problems right now.” 

Tracey shut her mouth quickly. Charlotte too was blown away by the implications of Harry’s jewelry being able to render him invisible. She, however, knew exactly how unwise it would be to speak at the present moment in time. 

That look was not one worn by any who should ever be trifled with.

“She’s actually gone.” His voice came out in little more than a whisper, but Charlotte couldn’t help but think he looked positively demented. Everything about his expression screamed mentally unstable, and she knew now with complete certainty what was about to happen.

“You d-don’t mean?” Tracey’s question was obvious, but she clearly couldn’t will herself to speak anything that might imply Daphne’s fate was sealed.

“I don’t know!” Harry slammed his fist hard on the table as these words escaped him. He sounded wounded and deranged and looked even worse. He started visibly shaking as his breathing sped up and his skin paled. His eyes visibly glazed over before they clamped shut and he collapsed to the floor, twitching madly as if he were seeing things none of the other three could see.

Tracey screamed his name, but Charlotte barely registered the sound. 

She was on her feet at once, wand drawn as she marched towards Harry. Zabini had clearly had the same idea, though instead of a wand, he was holding a familiar-looking vial of potion. Charlotte hadn’t even seen him withdraw it. She had no idea where he might have pulled it from, nor did she care.

“Don’t waste your time, Zabini.” She tried to push him out of the way as she spoke, but the much larger boy didn’t so much as budge.

“It’s a calming draught, Weitts. Don’t be so damn-“

“I’m not paranoid and I know exactly what it is! I’m not an idiot, Zabini, and just because I’m a first year does not mean you know more than me.” She could tell he was practically itching to bite back with something, but she never gave him the chance. 

“It isn’t just a normal panic attack. He’s been training in Occlumency. I’ve known that for ages. There’s a point during the creation of permanent Occlumency reflexes where the person’s ‘shields’ are unstable, since those ‘shields’ are only just trying to work more often than when the person calls on them.”

Clearly, she wasn’t the only one in the room conscious who had been trained in the Mind Arts. Zabini’s eyes had widened. “Fanculo!” Charlotte didn’t speak Italian, but she got the gist. “I’m an idiot! That’s how he’s been so controlled lately. The damned stage two subskill.”

“I wasn’t aware you were so well-educated when it came to the Mind Arts.”

“I have to keep a lot of secrets. Family business. You of all people should understand.”

“Oh, I do. Which is exactly why you’re going to get out of my way and let me fix this.”

“Weitts, the calming draught is the best option. We force it into him and once he calms down he can reconstruct his ‘shields.’ It will take time — maybe a week, but they’ll be back to where they are now by then.”

“Or, we get a Legilimens who actually knows how to reconstruct ‘shields’ to help him through the process and fix them in a few minutes. It would probably knock him unconscious, but it would be a much better solution.” 

If Tracey was hearing any of this, she didn’t comment on their proverbial sparring match. She was knelt over Harry, trying to gently rouse him from whatever panic attack had ensued.

A panic attack that was likely amplified tenfold by the fact that his ‘shields’ had suddenly and forcefully collapsed. 

Doubtlessly, he’d been doing his best to suppress all emotions pertaining to Daphne. Now, all of them would be crashing down upon him with amplified force, since the build-up would only worsen their effects. Not to mention anything else he’d been suppressing at the time. That plus a natural panic attack due to the situation… 

Charlotte shuddered internally.

Blaise scoffed as he ground his teeth together. “I’m aware of this, Weitts. But seeing as we don’t have a Legilimens just casually on hand-” Charlotte cleared her throat as she straightened, looking every bit the polished pureblood she’d been raised to be. 

Blaise just sighed. “Of course you’d be a Merlin forsaken Legilimens. Sure, why the hell not?” he muttered. “I’m guessing you know how to reconstruct basic ‘shields’ then?” She nodded and he reluctantly stepped aside. “Just… please don’t make a mistake.”

“Not planning on it,” were the last words Charlotte spoke to Blaise before she shoved Tracey out of the way, hard, and immobilized Harry with her wand. It was the only way. If he was twitching like a madman, this would be a whole lot more difficult.

Gently, Charlotte reached forward and pulled one of his eyelids open. She technically didn’t need eye contact, but for something she’d never actually attempted before… it was better safe than sorry.


Charlotte’s presence slid effortlessly into Harry’s mind. As she had suspected, his ‘shields’ had completely collapsed, and the rest of his Occlumency measures had gone with them. They could be reconstructed to the exact level they’d collapsed at fairly quickly and without much issue. Harry was just at a point where his “shields” were beginning to work around the clock as opposed to on command. This was a major step in one’s Occlumency progression, but it was also a particularly unstable one, at least in the beginning.

The upside of his shields being shattered was that she had no problem at all easing into his mind. Not that they would have troubled her much anyway, but the experience — though still unpleasant — would be far less unpleasant for Harry this way. She only hoped he’d forgive the intrusion into his mind. She was technically breaking her promise not to do just that, but it was with his health and safety in mind that said promise was being broken.

As soon as she did enter his mind, she had to firmly clamp down on her own Occlumency.

Merlin, that was a whirlwind of emotions. It was no wonder his Occlumency had collapsed. Emotional suppression was obviously something he’d only gotten the hang of rather recently, and if he had tried to suppress all of this…

Layers of panic were only the beginning. There was also fury, frustration, self-hatred, regret and, above all else — helplessness. Charlotte internally shuddered at the last emotion. Yes, he would be intimately familiar with it if this much of it was constantly bubbling at the forefront of his mind. To think she had once told him he wouldn’t understand.

Memories began to flash past her mind. She mentally cursed. She hadn’t meant to grasp that feeling of helplessness. She’d allowed her mind to roam onto it. Faster than she could withdraw, memories of Harry being immobilized by Calypso, locked up by his relatives, and other, smaller things flashed past her eyes. In this one instance, being a highly prodigious Natural Legilimens was actually to Charlotte’s detriment. It made letting go of that particular strand of thought before all of these images played out rather difficult, primarily because of the speed with which they flashed through her mind.

Before she could withdraw, one final memory flashed through her thoughts. A memory that very nearly made her lose focus completely. She didn’t see the whole memory, but she saw a small part of it.

Harry was in a chamber that was unfamiliar to Charlotte. The only obvious feature of the room was a large, ornate mirror in its centre, one Charlotte had never seen before. Off to the side, the Boy-Who-Lived appeared to be bound and helpless. And as Charlotte watched as Harry heard Professor Hurst retell all she had done last year, he too felt the same. As well as a number of the other emotions that dominated his mind at the current moment in time.

None of that, outside of the bit where Charlus Potter was bound and gagged, was what truly shocked Charlotte. 

The two revelations which shocked Charlotte were far more significant. 

She thanked Merlin for her own proficiency in Occlumency. 

If she hadn’t been able to suppress all emotion and completely clear her mind a mere second after the memories flashed through her consciousness, she’d have botched the whole operation right there, purely due to those thoughts.

Lady Voldemort was alive.

Or, at least, she had been during this confrontation. Seeing as both of the Potter twins were still alive, Charlotte supposed the current state of the Dark Lady could be questioned.

But the other revelation…

A prophecy.

One that supposedly spoke of a boy destined with the powers to vanquish the Dark Lady? One that Harry had apparently kept mostly in the back of his mind for the better part of the year, primarily because it wasn’t as if he could really do anything with the information.

Well, he might be able to, but not that he knew of.

This was all interesting, and the revelations were earth-shattering in their scale and reach, but Charlotte needed a clear mind right now. She shoved all of that into the deep recesses of her thoughts for later evaluation. For now, helping her friend was far more important.

She forced the emotions aside. She needed to deal with those first before she could gently guide his subconscious through the process of rebuilding his mental defences. 

That would require a more complex trick than Charlotte was comfortable with. She knew how to do it, but it wasn’t exactly something she’d practiced. Yet without it, this whole practice would be moot. There would be no way she would be able to focus on aiding his Occlumency if she were to be assaulted with this much raw emotion the entire time.

With whatever passed as the internal manifestation of a deep, centring breath, she began to push impressions into Harry’s mind. Not probes nor intrusions. Not even memories. She pushed emotions into his psyche. Emotions of trust, content, and the feeling of being in control.

Very slowly, his mind calmed. It wasn’t a fast process by any stretch, but eventually, the feelings Charlotte was projecting became the dominant ones in his mind and very slowly, she began the mental reconstruction of his Occlumency structure.

The process took several minutes. It needed to be handled very carefully. Charlotte basically had complete control of his mind at the moment. Well, not his mind, per se, but the parts of it which pertained to Occlumency. 

His actual brain functions were still very much beyond her. She was good, but not that good. 

This was both because his shields were down, as well as the fact that by now, he had technically succumbed to unconsciousness. 

Oh, and the positive flow of emotions she had fed into his psyche had basically been the equivalent of giving his subconscious a powerful dose of morphine.

The problem with being in majority control of another’s mental functions was that you had to handle it very carefully. A lot could go wrong if handled otherwise. Thank Merlin all Charlotte had to do was help reconstruct Occlumency shields. That was actually very basic, because it didn’t really require access to any of his mental functions. She was just guiding him through a simple, external process. If it had been any more complicated, she would have been of no use.

Eventually, the process was complete. It was at least done to the best of Charlotte’s abilities. When she finally pulled out of Harry’s mind, she had an absolutely horrific headache and was rather disoriented.

She tried to stand, but staggered. Blaise Zabini steadied her while she got her balance until she was able to stand a moment later. 

“How long was that?” she asked dazedly.

“About ten minutes,” Blaise answered.

Merlin, that had taken longer than it was supposed to, and it hadn’t even been that complex. However good her Legilimency was, she needed a lot more practice before trying to do anything like that again.

While lost in thought, she hadn’t noticed Blaise Zabini straightening importantly, but she did hear the next words he spoke. She’d never heard them before, but she could gauge their significance and infer their meaning just fine.

“I, Blaise Iago Zabini, 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.”

Charlotte’s eyes narrowed. “You can’t just impose-“ she stopped dead when she felt the familiar magics slide into place.

“I actually had no idea if I could. Harry’s done it a couple of times, but I wasn’t sure if that was… a unique ability of his. Apparently, it’s not.” He fixed her with a blank look. “Sorry, Weitts. It’s not that I don’t trust you, just that I don’t trust anybody. I don’t know what you saw in his mind, but I’m sure you probably saw things he’d much rather weren’t shared around. It was nothing personal, just a precaution.”

Charlotte inclined her head and said no more. She certainly didn’t say that for however paranoid Blaise Zabini and the rest of his family were, they likely had nothing on the House of Weitts. Something like that was common practice, as far as she was concerned.

Some time later, at Greengrass Manor…

Cyrus Greengrass was many things. 

Chief among them was a very well-modulated human being. He was, after all, a low fifth-level Occlumens. Even without the augmentation of Occlumency, Cyrus considered himself to be a remarkably calm and carefully controlled individual. He had a very hard time remembering the last time he was left sitting in the centre of a room with his emotions laid bare for the world to see.

That was all true, but none of it reflected his current state of being, nor his positively thunderstruck outward appearance.

When Celia had called him into the sitting room, leaving him no option for a rejection or a delay, she’d been frantic. 

This was what first tipped Cyrus off. 

Much like himself, she was usually a very well put together individual. Seeing her so obviously flustered had been his first indicator that something major was to come.

His next indicator was when he’d walked out to the sight of his youngest daughter, Astoria, crying as she sat snuggled close into Celia on the sofa. 

This was a change. 

Astoria had been a rather bubbly child, but she’d taken ruthlessly to Occlumency. That and rapid, natural maturation had changed her greatly. She was far quieter now and, above all else, far less expressive.

This was the second red flag.

He could have had twenty more red flags presented to him in the next fifteen seconds and it wouldn’t have mattered. No amount of warning could have prepared him for what came next. 

His daughter and heiress was missing.

Nobody at Hogwarts had any idea whether she was even alive, let alone where she might be or what condition she might be found in — if she was ever found, that was. The teachers and house elves alike had apparently spent much of that day scouring the castle for her. Dumbledore himself had spent every passing moment looking for her personally after he returned from the Wizengamot session that morning. A rather uneventful session that Cyrus had also been a part of.

This was not good.

Least of all with the over the top rumours centring around Hogwarts this year. He’d of course read the papers which potentially implicated Harry. Frankly, he didn’t believe it one bit. He trusted Daphne. She was an extremely observant young girl and, from his experience, a remarkable judge of character. He didn’t believe Harry Potter to be the Heir of Slytherin, or whoever was behind whatever the hell was going on in that castle. 

But something was definitely going on in that castle.

Cats showing up petrified and students disappearing at random? None of that was normal. Secretive as ever, Dumbledore had done his best to keep his cards close to his chest. The details that had leaked to the public were extremely limited. Cyrus thought there had to be more, but Albus Dumbledore was ensuring they didn’t leak.

That would no longer do.

Not now with his daughter and heiress being caught in the line of fire. It was time to get Dumbledore to spill what the hell was going on at Hogwarts, as well as force some outside intervention.

Daphne would be found.

He wouldn’t be taking no for an answer.

But for that to happen, pressure was going to need to be applied.

Serious political pressure.

For that, he needed to make some calls. 

Back at Hogwarts, in the Slytherin common room…

Charlotte most definitely felt miserable after her foray into Harry’s mind, but at least she was conscious. 

That was more than she could say for her friend. 

This was standard procedure. It had been expected, and he would likely be out for some time, but it didn’t make it any more pleasant. Tracey had levitated him into a bed in the centre of another room connected to the Speaker’s Den’s main parlour. One that had apparently gone unnoticed by Blaise and Tracey until now. Blaise had even reflected that he bet Harry had slept there on occasion without him ever realizing.

Again, this had been expected, and it caused little drama. The only part that did complicate matters was when Snape had decided to march into their common room and demand every single Slytherin student’s presence in the dormitory. 

It was fortunate that by then, they had already concluded their business in the Den and had been out in the common room already. 

They’d been forced to claim that Harry was very sick and asleep in his bed, with a temporary set of wards in place. There had been a rather worrying moment when one of the older students had offered to go and break said wards, but he’d quickly recoiled and recanted the offer when Grace shot him a withering glare.

Once that drama had been sorted, the common room descended into complete silence as Snape surveyed all of them, obviously choosing his words very carefully. Charlotte, Blaise and Tracey had no doubts as to what this would be about. 

“As some of you are already aware, and as I am sure the more astute of you have doubtlessly observed, there is one among your number who has been absent today.” 

If any other teacher were making the address, Charlotte didn’t doubt that there would have been a wave of muttering when they paused. Daphne was, after all, a rather prominent political figure, even despite her age. No matter if you’re eleven, seventeen, or anything in between, being the heiress of a Founding Twelve family, especially one who co-leads one of the three major political factions in the country will inevitably earn you a considerable amount of attention. It wasn’t terribly surprising that many in the common room seemed to know exactly who Snape was referencing.

Every last one of them also seemed to be acutely aware of exactly how serious the matter at hand was, for not a single soul even appeared to consider speaking.

“The staff, elves, and even the Headmaster have spent the entirety of the day scouring the castle for any signs of the missing student. Despite exhaustive efforts on our collective part, we have come up empty-handed.” He took another pause. “As I am sure most of you will be aware of by now, the missing student in question is Daphne Greengrass.” 

There actually was some muttering this time. Snape let it stretch on for five or so seconds, but no longer than that. 

“I very much doubt I need to remind any of you of Heiress Greengrass’s status in our world. In the same vein, I hope I do not need to elucidate as to the impact her disappearance will have on this castle and the way it is run. For the less perceptive among you, I will give a rather blunt prediction as to how the next number of days might unfold.

“The Neutral Faction will doubtlessly be calling an emergency meeting of the Wizengamot as soon as possible. At this meeting, the Greengrass’s family will demand anything they can which will potentially expedite the process of returning their daughter and heiress.” His lip curled. “Seeing as all efforts thus far have failed, I see no reason why a room full of politicians who enjoy perpetuating their importance will have any more success. 

“Therefore,” he continued, overriding the somewhat offended muttering of several more traditional clusters of students, “I anticipate very much that, in the absence of an initial victory, the Wizengamot will impose upon the castle to the best of the body’s ability. Doubtlessly, we will have strict protocols to follow, and I expect the body will push for the school’s temporary closure at the very least.”

This time, he allowed a considerable amount of muttering to stretch on for almost a full minute before he re-asserted himself and spoke once more. 

“This is a prediction that I am sure of. It is also one I hope we would all seek to avoid, and therefore I present each and every single one of you with a choice. If you have any suspicions as to what has transpired this year, I urge you to come forward. This may be your final chance to do so before irrevocable damage is wrought upon this castle.”

He phrased it in a way that made the action sound almost noble. If any heroic student thought they’d figured something out, they should come forward. His true meaning was obviously less glorified, though it was clear to any in the room with a brain. Which had obviously been the point, since nobody pulling the strings at Hogwarts this year could be anything but sharp.

If you are the Heir of Slytherin or know anything about them, this is your last chance to come forward. If you’re caught after this, you will have hell to pay.

Nobody so much as blinked.

Snape nodded curtly. “Very well. If any one of you comes to a… revelation, please come and see me immediately.” 

The absolute silence in the common room lasted about ten seconds — precisely the amount of time it took for their Head of House to leave. 

As soon as he was gone, complete and utter chaos took over the common room. Charlotte exchanged looks with Blaise and Tracy. She was intent on returning to the Speaker’s Den immediately until she felt a light brush against her mind.

The presence was familiar and after a mere moment of hesitation, Charlotte let it in, allowing the voice that sounded very much like Grace to speak softly in her head.

“Meet me in the room you use to train with Potter tonight at 8:00. Yes, I know you train with him. Don’t argue and don’t ask questions. Now isn’t the time. We have more important things to deal with than petty, teenage drama.”

That was a meeting Charlotte wasn’t particularly looking forward to, but she absently pushed her affirmative reply back across the connection her sister had already formed. Simultaneously, she made her way back towards the entrance of the Speaker’s Den, where Blaise and Tracey were waiting for her.

Not by choice, but because the room appeared to be locked. 

The password had been changed.

“Well,” Blaise said dryly, “I suppose we can assume he’s awake.”

“Leave him be,” Tracey said quietly. “He probably just wants to be alone right now.”

Blaise looked skeptical. “I don’t do well with this whole emotions thing, but are we sure that’s a good idea after… earlier.”

“I reconstructed his shields,” Charlotte reminded him. “I didn’t make a mistake. I don’t like it either, but I’m sure he’ll be fine, and it’s not as if we could get into the room anyway.” 

Like Tracey, she also just knew Harry would need to be alone. The two of them were rather alike and if she’d gone through a similar experience, especially if it had been in front of three of her closest friends, she very well might have locked herself up for days.

She only hoped he wasn’t doing anything self-destructive.

Later that night, in a room in the dungeons…

Grace Weitts was exceedingly busy.

Not only was she a seventh-year student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the Head Girl of said instituion, but her schedule outside of classes was enough to make most ministry employees cringe. 

First and foremost, she was preparing for the rather… unique job she would be taking on once she officially graduated from Hogwarts. It was a job that took a frankly absurd amount of preparation. 

Even that was far from all. 

On Sundays, Grace helped Harry to hone his abilities with Occlumency, whereas on Thursdays, they focused on combat magic. Wednesdays and Fridays were spent with her little sister. 

On Wednesday, Grace would help Charlotte further her practice in Legilimency. Really, all she was doing was sitting there and defending her mind. 

Charlotte had actually spent more time researching the offensive branch of the Mind Arts than Grace had. She gave feedback and whatnot, but Charlotte was mostly self-trained at this point. Grace may have been miles ahead of her in regards to Occlumency, but Charlotte was much further on in Legilimency. 

Which is why, on Fridays, Charlotte had actually been helping Grace learn Legilimency. Being taught by her younger sister was odd, but Charlotte was a prodigy in the art. Grace had almost completely neglected Legilimency until last July, relying completely on her natural ability. While Grace might still have been considered a prodigy by definition, she didn’t look like one in this instance when compared to her sister.

But when it suddenly became necessary that she master Legilimency, her hands had been tied. 

To her relief, she was progressing quite rapidly. If not for Charlotte’s own, freakish speed of improvement, Grace would have significantly closed the gap between them in the Mind Arts’ offensive half.

Today was a Sunday, which meant the two of them technically weren’t supposed to meet up at all. 

Plans had changed.

Harry had been a ghost since Daphne’s disappearance had been announced to the school. He had apparently been sick in bed at the time, but Grace didn’t believe any of it. She knew how he tended to react to volatile, emotional situations. She thought it altogether more likely that he was locked up somewhere, buried in his own thoughts. Possibly the room she’d seen Daphne, Tracey and Zabini exiting from last June. 

If her sister had covered for him, Grace was pretty sure she would have answers, and she was concerned. About Harry, about Daphne, about Charlotte, about all of them. Plus, if Harry wasn’t going to show, she thought that she and her sister might as well get some practice in.

Right on time, Charlotte slipped through the door, and Grace couldn’t help but notice how exhausted her little sister looked. “Is everything alright?” she asked.

Charlotte seemed to ponder how to respond as she took her seat. “Not really?” It sounded like more of a question than a statement.

Grace winced. “Sorry, that was a ridiculous question to ask given the circumstances.”

Charlotte shook her head as if to clear it. “I’m not going to have a breakdown or anything, but it’s… hard.” She looked up at her older sister with oddly vulnerable eyes. “Nothing is going to come of the Wizengamot meeting, is it? Nothing that might help get Daphne back?”

“I don’t really see how it could,” she admitted. “Not right away, at least. Maybe they’ll place a team of Aurors here, or something. I doubt it would matter. Headmasters and Headmistresses have supposedly tried to find this Chamber of Secrets for generations. Many of them were the greatest witches and wizards of their ages. If they didn’t find it, I don’t love the Auror’s chances.”

“What about catching the Heir of Slytherin? If it even is an Heir of Slytherin.”

“Oh, I definitely think it’s an Heir of Slytherin.” Grace’s statement sounded almost bitter. “That’s probably more likely than them finding the Chamber, but I’m still not sure if they will actually be able to find the heir or not. If they can’t…” she let her voice trail off; there was no need to finish.

“I just want her back.” 

Charlotte’s voice sounded rather small, and Grace rested a gentle hand on her sister’s shoulder. “She’ll be back, Charlotte.”

“But you just said-“

“Oh, even if the attacker gets away with it, I have no doubt she’ll be back. I doubt this Heir of Slytherin would just off the heiress of a Founding Twelve family. Aside from the fact that the Heir, whoever they may be, are probably traditionalists, there are far more useful things they could do with her given her standing.” Charlotte shivered. “Let’s stop talking about this,” Grace decided with a sigh. “It’s just upsetting you more. I’ll let you practice on me tonight, if you’re willing.”

They did indeed practice for some time, but Grace could tell almost immediately that Charlotte’s mind wasn’t in it. She seemed distracted, more than if she had just been worried about her friend, and Grace could do little more than wonder what else could possibly be on her baby sister’s mind. 

What could possibly be on a level of magnitude similar to Daphne Greengrass’s disappearance?

January 13, 1993

The Speaker’s Den

2:49 AM

Merlin, it had been a long day and a half.

By now, Harry had gone through so many states of emotion that he practically felt numb. From his state of suspicion and worry, to outright panic, to… whatever the hell had happened after that, to the myriad of emotions in the past twelve or so hours.

He’d felt mildly guilty for locking his friends out of the Speaker’s Den by changing the password, but he’d needed to be alone with his thoughts more than anything. He hadn’t even been sure how he’d felt, and he really had no desire to interact with anyone at that point in time.

There were also the vague memories he did think he had from when he’d been unconscious. A foreign presence in his mind. One he thought he recognized, though how he had no idea. 

A presence that had learned the truth about Voldemort’s continued survival. And possibly about the prophecy. 

He hadn’t thought much on the prophecy since June, actually. Voldemort had thought it had already been fulfilled. What she said certainly did seem to indicate just that, though he supposed there was always the possibility that she was wrong. Even if that was the case, he wasn’t entirely sure it mattered anymore. 

Dumbledore was a lot of things. In Harry’s opinion, a liar was definitely one of them. 

Yet he didn’t think the Headmaster had lied to him about Charlus being the Boy-Who-Lived. It wasn’t as if he knew enough of said magics to make an educated guess one way or the other, but it had somehow seemed quite genuine to Harry. And even if the prophecy somehow indicated him as opposition to Charlus, what could he really do? If fate itself had ordained it… 

That wasn’t to say he didn’t want to know. 

He most certainly did. 

He was, after all, a very curious person by nature. He was also a person who despised feeling helpless. That meant he hated the very existence of the prophecy, but perhaps knowing it would lessen those feelings? He supposed it would likely depend on the contents.

There was no good in pondering it. He had no idea how one even went about hearing a prophecy, and if Dumbledore had heard it and had any control whatsoever, Harry would never get anywhere near it in the first place. Obsessing over something of that nature was a waste of energy, so he hadn’t spent much time considering its existence at all.

But still… for somebody else to be aware of it was troubling. They had been in the Den, so perhaps Charlotte — if indeed it had been Charlotte — wouldn’t be able to speak of it? But he hadn’t been awake to invoke Salazar’s Sanction, so perhaps that was wishful thinking on his part. Blaise or Tracey might by now have memorized the wording, particularly if Blaise knew Occlumency, which Harry thought to be very likely. 

Perhaps he had been able to invoke it, but even then, Harry was unsure. 

He was a Parselmouth, and it was increasingly likely that the Potters had some sort of connection to the Hogwarts founder. Perhaps being fluent in the language of serpents wasn’t necessary. Perhaps the same could be said for having a direct connection to Slytherin. Perhaps being in the man’s house was enough, but perhaps it wasn’t. 

Harry had no idea. 

He would continue to have no idea unless Blaise or Tracey had tried and he asked them about it later.

Not that this was even the first time he’d thought of this today. He had spent the whole day locked up in the Den, thinking a vast array of things.

He was by now growing restless, and he knew sleep wouldn’t come. Even if it did, it would be so fragmented by his inevitable nightmares that Harry counted himself wholly uninterested in the endeavour. 

He knew wandering the school at this time of night was idiocy. What with an Heir of Slytherin lurking the halls who seemed not to care about blood or station. This fact seemed to be furiously glaring at him for his complete lack of regard, but he couldn’t will himself to care. Any more waiting around would drive him completely and utterly mental.

Part of him had to resist the urge to creep into his dormitory and kill Draco Malfoy on the spot. It seemed too coincidental that the Malfoy Heir had been sabotaged by Daphne less than two weeks ago and then the girl in question mysteriously vanished. It wasn’t impossible that Draco could have put her ploy together. Harry did doubt it, but it wasn’t impossible. Neither, he supposed, was Draco Malfoy being the Heir of Slytherin.

But he doubted it.

He very highly doubted it.

Draco didn’t seem nearly competent enough. He had surprised Harry with the Blinding Curse during their one-sided duel, but that was different. 

Knowing a vile curse and being able to get away with all of this weren’t in the same league when comparing their scale, nor their complexity. 

Malfoy also had no known connection to Slytherin. Pansy had checked. She’d been checking the family lineages of every Slytherin she could think of. Which, coincidentally, happened to be each and every single one of them. When it came to gossip, Pansy’s memory seemed to put even Harry’s to shame. It was just a shame it didn’t often extend onto other, more useful topics.

No, he really didn’t think the Heir of Slytherin was Draco Malfoy, though a small, terrible part of him still wanted to slit the boy’s throat in his sleep just on the off chance that he did have anything to do with hurting Daphne.

One thing was for certain as he crept his way towards the exit of the Speaker’s Den. Whomever the Heir of Slytherin was, they’d made it very personal, intentional or not. Harry didn’t give a shit how Gryffindor it was. They had attacked his closest friend. Staying out of trouble was now firmly off the table. He would be Slytherin about it. He would go about it in as low key and low risk a way as possible, but Harry was going to unmask the Heir of Slytherin.

And when he was done with them, it wouldn’t matter that they’d been unmasked. Whether their face was visible or not would be of no consequence, as the corpse would likely be battered past recognition. 

But that would come later.

For now, he had some questions for Emily Riddle.

January 14, 1993

The Wizengamot Chambers

9:00 AM

During most meetings, the ancient chambers of the Wizengamot were dominated by a mundane sense of monotony as the members of Magical Britain’s governing body prepared themselves for an inevitably predictable day of dry, repetitive procedures. It was very rare this wasn’t the case. On those rare occasions in question, most of them tended to be unscheduled, emergency gatherings of said governing body. Emergency meetings which had once practically been weekly, but were now extremely scarce, almost unheard of in the past number of years.

Yet it was on January fourteenth, nineteen-ninety-three when one of these meetings took place. It was on that same day that the nearly millennia-old chamber was humming with tension the likes of which the procession hadn’t seen in well over a decade. Perhaps not since the infamous Death Eater Trials. Perhaps not even since the first and most notorious — the trial and conviction of Sirius Black.

On this crisp, cloudy, January morning, with both the voters and visitors sections packed past capacity, that was exactly the kind of atmosphere that permeated the room. Every hair on everybody seemed to stand on end, and it was as if everyone in the room had been simultaneously subjected to a harsh electric shock, such was the tension visible in each and every body. 

Of said bodies, almost every single one of them, voters and visitors alike, were exchanging hushed words with those beside them. All of these low voices conjoined into something far more, giving the impression of a constant, droning herd of sheep currently occupying the facilities meant for the noblest members of Magical Britain.

Speaking of the greats among the crowd, one of them stood tall and proud, wearing his deep plum robes just like all other members of the Wizengamot. His long silver hair and beard obstructed part of his face, but those who looked closely enough and who’d witnessed the meeting in question would see that Albus Dumbledore looked every bit as grim as he had during the most notorious Death Eater trial more than eleven years earlier.

After letting the droning of the crowd persist for as long as he could feasibly get away with in an effort to collect himself to the best of his abilities, the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot slammed his gavel against the podium, drawing the collective attention of the room to him. 

“We must pass the opening of this emergency meeting of the Wizengamot. All in favour?” Every wand rose into the air, and Albus seemed to age a number of years as he prepared to open the meeting in question. “Very well; motion passed. Let the emergency Wizengamot meeting of January the fourteenth, nineteen-ninety-three commence.” 

All of a sudden, the courtroom was eerily quiet, though the tension in the air had far from receded. If anything, it had only grown as Dumbledore called the meeting to order, something most present would have thought impossible just minutes earlier.

“As this is an unscheduled gathering of this body, there is no standard business to take care of. Unless, of course, anyone present wishes to call any urgent matters to the Wizengamot’s attention?” 

Nobody did. 

Some had considered trying to push their own agendas at a meeting that would doubtlessly be so heavily publicized. But distracting from the meeting’s true purpose would not only be extremely disrespectful, but it would also very much risk making some very powerful enemies of the people who had called for the meeting in the first place. 

Dumbledore nodded. “In that case, we shall swiftly move onto the roll call, and then we shall begin.”

The roll call encompassed every family who sat on the Wizengamot. From the few Founding Twelve families remaining — each of whom had twenty votes to their family’s name — to mere houses who only had a single vote to utilize. 

If one was observing their first-ever Wizengamot meeting, they might think this an extremely corrupt system, especially with such an obvious disparity in political power. They would be completely correct, but any educated citizen would never ask such an ignorant question. Magical Britain was a nation built on corruption. Therefore, it should come as no surprise when the political system that is responsible for the running of said nation rests upon the most corrupt of foundations.

The Wizengamot was made up of a total of five-hundred and nine votes. Of the total, the Conservatives controlled two-hundred-and-thirty-three, whilst the Liberals controlled one-hundred-and-ninety-five. The Neutrals may have controlled the vast minority at only eighty-one votes, but in many ways, they were the most important of the three factions.

On most matters, the Conservatives and Liberals disagreed. The Conservatives may have controlled more votes, largely thanks to their faction controlling three Founding House’s seats, but if the Neutrals sided with the Liberals, the Conservatives would lose the vote. So, in most cases, whichever direction the Neutrals leaned was the winning direction. Except for the very rare instances when all members of a given party didn’t vote the same as their party mates. 

When the roll call had finally been completed, it was the smallest faction that drew the attention of the Chief Warlock. “As the faction responsible for hastily calling this emergency session, I think it wise to allow the Neutrals a chance to express what is on their minds. To the designated speaker of the Neutrals, I concede the chair.”

Once more, there was a brief rumbling of conversation, but it was snuffed out instantaneously when Lord Cyrus Greengrass stood to his feet. 

The man’s face was admirably blank, but those nearest could practically feel the intensity radiating off of him in waves. 

Not that everybody present couldn’t correctly assume exactly what this was about.

The previous morning, the Daily Prophet had published an article written by Rita Skeeter. An article that spoke of Daphne Greengrass’s sudden and unexplained disappearance. 

Skeeter had predicted a Wizengamot meeting to be called in the coming days, and the rather inventive journalist had, on this occasion, been correct. Nearly everybody in the vast room had read the article. Those who hadn’t had all at least heard of its contents, so it was no real surprise that Cyrus Greengrass effortlessly commanded the attention of the room at that moment in time.

“Lords, ladies, and esteemed visitors,” the man said smoothly. “It has come to my attention through the mishandling of my daughter’s safety by the institution in question that terrible things have been taking place this year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.” His voice may have been void of emotion, but every word had a decisiveness to it that was impossible to miss. “I’m sure many of you have read the colourful articles published by the Daily Prophet not only yesterday, but in the last number of months. I’m also sure that many of you, like me, thought they were nothing more than gossip.

“Well, my faction and I have called this meeting today in part to inform each and every single one of you that every event the articles have referenced has indeed happened. A supposed Heir of Slytherin is running rampant inside that castle. This criminal has now not only assaulted a cat and a young muggleborn boy, but two sons of an Ancient House, and now my daughter; the heiress of one of the few Founding Houses this country has left.

“My point isn’t to bring up blood in an effort to divide us. I bring it up to unite us. Blood and blood rights are one of the most divisive topics this court discusses, but I am here to tell you it is irrelevant to the matter at hand. Both muggleborns and purebloods have felt the wrath of whomever might be responsible for these disappearances. I tell you this in an effort to make one thing plain. These atrocities are a threat to everyone, regardless of blood. I urge you to consider our suggested action knowing that whatever your stance may be on blood, it isn’t relevant to the issue at hand.”

This time, the muttering was louder than ever. On almost any other occasion, if somebody had suggested to the Wizengamot to put what may very well be the most complex and controversial political issue in the country to the side, they would have been laughed out of the court.

But this wasn’t a normal occasion. 

It also helped that the speaker was one of the most politically powerful men in the country.

As such, the muttering wasn’t so astonished or furious as it was… assentive. 

From his spot on the podium, Dumbledore’s brow furrowed as the wrinkles on his face momentarily appeared to deepen. It was a bold tactic by Lord Greengrass. An obvious effort to rally and unite the entire Wizengamot. Which meant that something major was coming. Something that would prove to be controversial and incredibly impactful. 

“Our primary concerns are this,” Lord Greengrass continued. “Students have been disappearing at Hogwarts. This in and of itself is absolute insanity, something I’m sure nobody in this court would disagree with.” Judging by the expressions dotted all around the room, his statement rang true. “The staff have also utterly failed in apprehending the perpetrator, despite these incidents dating back almost three months and noticeably escalating in severity ever since.” The crowd muttered again. 

“Secondly, and even more troublingly, is the fact that we had to hear about it from a newspaper.” More muttering. “Our children are at risk of disappearance. Maybe even death, and we hear nothing? Those at Hogwarts seem not only unable to apprehend the culprit, but intent on burying the truth and failing to make us, the parents and governing body of Magical Britain, aware of the developments that affect us directly.” 

The muttering had swelled to outright, scandalized chatter by now, and Dumbledore felt dread well up in the pit of his stomach. 

Cyrus Greengrass wasn’t wrong. 

He failed to understand the rationale behind his decision of not releasing this information to the public, but he wasn’t wrong, and he very much expected that the Wizengamot was about to eat him alive for it.

 Eat him alive they did.

As procedure dictated after Cyrus ended his opening statements, the floor was opened to cross-examination. Much of it was directed at the Greengrass Lord, but a fair number were directed at Albus. 

Why was Hogwarts trying to pretend everything was perfectly under control? Why was the school even still open? That one made Dumbledore cringe. Were there any indications of who might be behind these atrocities? Was there any validity to the rumours circulating around the country about the Chamber of Secrets? Was the Boy-Who-Lived really a Parselmouth? 

Dumbledore had good answers for practically none of these questions, so he deflected them with the skill of a well-practiced politician. 

After what must have been over an hour, Dumbledore finally evaded the last question posed to him, and had asserted control over the proceedings once more. 

“If that is all?” Nobody indicated otherwise. “Good, good,” he said exhaustedly, turning back to where the Neutrals sat together, “well then, Lord Greengrass, you have made your concerns very evident. Is there… any suggested course of action you would like to put forth to the Wizengamot?”

“There is, Chief Warlock.” Lord Greengrass’s posture was ramrod straight. “After much discussion and deliberation prior to today’s meeting, myself and my faction would like to put forth a motion that, if passed, will see the immediate closure of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A closure that will remain in effect until all of the victims are found and recovered. During this closure, we would recommend a full sweep of the castle by the Aurors.”

Pandemonium broke loose all at once in the courtroom. 

Nobody even bothered muttering now. 

On the contrary, many of the voices had risen so drastically in volume that an equal number now had to shout in order to be heard. Dumbledore’s mind raced. He hadn’t honestly thought this proposition would arise. He had expected his place as Headmaster to be brought up, but this? The Neutrals were a lot of things, but drastic was not usually one of them. Many in their faction were also traditionalists, which made the proposal all the more surprising.

“I am not proposing a permanent closure of the school,” Cyrus Greengrass clarified. “I think it should reopen as soon as possible, but we cannot allow our children to live and learn in such a dangerous place. Not when some of them have already suffered unknown consequences as a result of the current climate within the castle- and the possible negligence of the castle’s staff.”

The chaos continued, even as Lord Greengrass spoke. It took a round of obnoxiously loud fireworks fired from the end of Dumbledore’s wand to bring the crowd to silence. 

“Do we have any who wish to make counter-arguments before the motion is posed?” 

He was hoping one of the Liberals would object on his behalf, but they all seemed to be sitting with hard, determined expressions and Albus instinctively knew that he couldn’t rouse them to his side, despite being their leader. If he tried, he would likely accomplish nothing but tarnishing his own reputation in the process.

But Hogwarts couldn’t close.

If Hogwarts closed, the culprit may never be found, which would be catastrophic. 

It was, in some way or another, an agent of Voldemort opening the Chamber of Secrets. The Headmaster had no doubt of this. He thought it likely a similar situation to last year, even. Voldemort being in possible control of a student or, less likely, a member of staff.

It was for this reason the castle couldn’t close.

If this were the case, at least Voldemort’s will was confined to the castle. If the school closed and she and her vessel were allowed to roam free, Albus feared what might happen. He had his suspicions about her survival. No matter how she had done it, he was sure there were ways in which she could return. Doing so at Hogwarts would be extremely difficult. Doing so under his nose at Hogwarts would be even more so. But left to roam free in the world… Voldemort’s ability to return suddenly became a lot less complex.

Moreover, it meant that they may never catch who was responsible. Not only would this mean no justice for the victims, but it would mean Voldemort’s servant kept their anonymity. In the hands of the Dark Lady, that was a weapon far more dangerous than any branch of magic.

All of this was why, for the first and only time in his life, Dumbledore felt a great swell of gratitude blossom within him when Lucius Malfoy stood to address the room at large.

“I don’t think anyone in this room disagrees with your noble premise, Lord Greengrass.” Everyone in the chamber could feel the “but” coming. “However, I think it is rather shortsighted to immediately close down Hogwarts. What of our children? What are they without a proper education? How can they be expected to smoothly integrate into wizarding society when they are of age? Surely, with stricter precautions in place and some more… diligence on the part of the Headmaster and professors of the institution in question, Hogwarts can stay open, at least for the time being.”

Many in the Conservative Faction were nodding along with Malfoy. Albus thought several Neutrals might have been convinced if not for the obvious ire emanating from one of their leaders. 

Obviously, none of them wanted to cross that.

“You would risk your own child, Malfoy?” Cyrus countered pointedly. “You would risk the lives of every single one of our children? You would rest our children’s lives on the back of a plan with no promise of success? We don’t know how they are vanishing in the first place. Without that information, what measures could possibly be put in place to ensure that all of the children are protected?”

Lucius had no counter, but Tiberius Nott did. “Is it even within the legal rights of the Wizengamot to close Hogwarts? Is that not an authority specifically designated to the Board of Governors.” 

All the eyes in the room looked towards Dumbledore. He had no desire to answer this question, but the choice was no longer in his hands. 

“The Wizengamot does have the authority to force a closure of the castle. It is ironically one of the few powers the body holds over the school. This law was set in place before the Hogwarts Board of Governors ever existed after several… questionable appointments in regards to the school’s leadership. The power has thus far never been exercised, but it is available for use at the Wizengamot’s discretion if need be.”

“I still respectfully think the closure of Hogwarts would be a massive, shortsighted mistake.” Malfoy said calmly. “Surely, there is another way?” He paused. “What of Aurors? Could a full lockdown not be in effect any time the children are not in classes? Could Aurors not patrol the halls? Could they not actively search for the Chamber of Secrets?”

Many Neutrals also seemed to agree with this course of action, even if it seemed as though Lord Greengrass, Regent Weitts and several others judged it as inadequate. 

If only it was that easy.

“I am afraid not, Lord Malfoy,” Dumbledore said heavily. “Via the Hogwarts Charter, no occupying force may be granted permission to enter the castle. This was a provision put in place by the founders themselves. One that has stood for over a thousand years.”

Amelia Bones raised her wand, and Dumbledore called for her to take the floor. 

She had recently been appointed as Head of the DMLE after the previous head, Rufus Scrimgeour, had retired on the solstice. Primarily due to his badly injured leg posing potential problems out in the field.

“But Headmaster,” the woman asked with narrowed eyes, “last year, an occupying force was permitted access to Hogwarts. My department sent two Aurors plus a detective to investigate the death of the then heir to the Ancient House of Higgs.” 

Rumblings spread across the room once more, but they were quickly muted when Dumbledore shook his head.

“I think you will find, Lady Bones, that three just so happens to be the largest party possible. It was the maximum number permitted by the founders. Any more than three is considered by the charter as an occupying force. You may also remember when Aurors Potter, Shacklebolt and Dawlish were dispatched to the castle last May? Again, the number was not coincidental.”

Questions were thrown around the courtroom like cheap trinkets for the next number of minutes, but the same one cropped up quite frequently. 

Why was this charter not publicly available?

“It is not publicly available,” Dumbledore said calmly once the noise level permitted him to speak at all, “for much the same reason that your family charters are not publicly available. Even without those provisions in place, the charter pre-dates the Wizengamot by decades.”

“But this is lunacy!” Lord Warrington said heatedly. “What if there was a massacre at Hogwarts? Nothing could be done about it? We would have to trust the professors to see to it?” 

The sentiment was echoed all throughout the hall and it took Dumbledore far longer to regain order this time. 

“The point of this meeting is not to bicker about charters written more than a thousand years ago. The goal of this session is to resolve the ongoing issues that were brought up at the session’s beginning. Speaking of, Lord Greengrass, I see you wish to make a counterpoint?”

The revelation of Hogwarts being completely cut off from outside intervention had not gone over well and Albus very much suspected that would be coming up again at one of the next meetings.

“Yes, Chief Warlock. With respect to our esteemed Aurors, I am personally not comfortable allowing the school to stay open knowing that only three of them could be on guard. The castle is vast, and no matter how talented they might be, three wizards could never cover all of it. And I reiterate, without knowing the nature of the threat, we can’t be sure a lockdown would be at all effective. With all of this in mind, I would like to officially put forth the motion for the temporary closure of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to vote.”

A general murmur of assent ran through the courtroom. Dumbledore deflated. This was it. He’d done everything he could, but what he could do was vastly limited by his political position, one that demanded complete and total neutrality when mediating. Now, the motion would be put forth and the vote would pass.

“Do we have… any final objections?” he asked dejectedly.

There was the clearing of a throat from the sidelines, catching all in the massive chamber off guard. They all looked in the direction of the noise and, to their immense surprise, it was the court scribe who had cleared their throat. 

“Yes, Mister…”

“P-P-Perkins, Chief Warlock Dumbledore, sir. Perkins.”

“Mister Perkins,” Dumbledore said tiredly, noticing how obviously unhappy the crowd was that a mere court scribe had been given permission to interrupt the meeting. “Did… you have an objection, Mister Perkins?” 

Dumbledore knew he couldn’t legally object. He didn’t have a Wizengamot seat, so it would hardly matter if he did. Nevertheless, he was willing to do just about anything to stall at the present moment in time.

“N-not an objection, Chief Warlock. I… I have a message that was passed onto the court earlier today in… in case something like this came up?”

The courtroom fell silent all at once. Whatever they had all expected, this wasn’t it. “A… message?” Dumbledore asked skeptically.

“Yes, sir,” the court scribe said with noticeable anxiety. When the room’s undivided attention rested upon the young, red-haired man in his mid-twenties, he closed his eyes and took a deep, readying breath. “A message from the Heir of Slytherin.”

The court erupted into disarray as soon as the words had left the young wizard’s mouth. 

For his part, Dumbledore’s jaw went slack for all of three seconds before he managed to reel in his shock once more. 

A message from the Heir of Slytherin? Emily had managed to get a message into the Wizengamot? 

This wasn’t good. 

This meant that she had been in contact with political allies. Important ones, at that. There was no way such a thing could have been accomplished otherwise. The clearance process alone would never have been successful. Worse still, they wouldn’t be able to question Perkins as to who had passed along the message and how they had done it. Anonymity in such matters was a fundamental right of any who put forth such messages and concerns. 

Dumbledore could tell all in the room, once settled, were listening with wrapped attention. It seemed he had little choice but to let the Heir of Slytherin deliver their message. 

“Very well, Mister Perkins. What message does the Heir of Slytherin have for us?”

In a slightly shaky voice, Mister Perkins spoke aloud. Spoke the most important words he’d ever spoken in his life. 

“Lords and Ladies of the Wizengamot, I feel no need to introduce myself, given the current circumstances. I do not merely write you with greetings, but a warning. The actions you could take against myself and my campaign are very limited. In fact, I see only one as a true threat, which is why I warn each and every single one of you. It is why I urge you all to heed my words, for I am many things, but a bluffer is not one of them.

“Daphne Greengrass is very much alive.” Dumbledore could practically feel a small amount of the tension drain from the room, and Cyrus Greengrass looked as if the sky had been lifted off his shoulders. 

Until the message continued. 

“As are Fred and George Weasley, as well as Colin Creevey. They are all alive. Unconscious, helpless, and I am able to do with them as I please, but alive nevertheless. Alas, that can change very quickly. 

“Heed my words and hear my warning, Lords, Ladies and spectators. If Hogwarts school is ordered closed, I shall ensure that none of these children are ever seen or heard from again. This is my first address to the Wizengamot as the Heir of Slytherin. Take it as you will.”

And just like that, all hell broke loose.

Author’s Endnote:

I am a bit nervous to see how the Wizengamot scene goes over, seeing as politics are always controversial. I rather enjoyed writing it though, and I think it ends the chapter on a suitably dramatic note.

Next chapter will feature the fallout from the last few days, as well as some other, interesting tidbits. There will be a time skip between the next chapter and the one after it, but it won’t be too long. The pace is about to drastically speed up though, since almost all of the pieces are in place by now.

Please read and review. 

PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, December 5th, 2020. Or you can read it right now by joining my Discord server via the link on my profile, or by supporting me on P*T*E*N

Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Asmodeus Stahl, Athena Hope, discodancepant, Isaaa and Sesc for their corrections/contributions this week.

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