Ashes of Chaos Chapter 44
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 27: Carefully Calculated Strikes Part II
February 14, 1993
The Great Hall
Harry almost gawked at the sight that lay before him as he entered the luridly painted Great Hall.
The walls were done in rather vivid attempts at subtle accents. Subtle, in this case, just so happened to be subtle in the same way getting hit over the head with a hammer was subtle.
In other words, not subtle at all.
So this likely meant it was designed by Dumbledore or somebody else on the staff who either wouldn’t know subtlety if it hit them over the head, or was too old or too self-important to care.
In addition to the walls being painted red, two sets of armour now stood guard outside the Great Hall, one on either side of its large entry doors…
Two suits of armour that weren’t made of armour at all.
This particular set of armoured defenders were instead made entirely out of white chocolate.
Harry presumed Dumbledore had done that. McGonagall surely could have, but he had a hard time believing the strict professor of Transfiguration would have a sense of humour that might lean in that direction. It seemed far more like something that Dumbledore would think up, and the Hogwarts Headmaster was doubtlessly capable of the feat.
Had Lockhart kept up his flamboyant persona from the beginning of the year, Harry would have easily categorized him in the same, eccentric boat as Dumbledore. Judging by what Lockhart had put forth since he took up his position among the other members of the illustrious Hogwarts staff, Harry didn’t think it was his style.
No matter who’d conjured the tacky excuses for decorations into being, Harry did not approve. However dumbstruck he looked, Blaise looked worse. Harry looked as if he’d perhaps been insulted by a rather clever one-liner. Blaise, on the other hand, looked as if somebody had just blasted his mother with the Killing Curse.
That was to say, not at all happy.
“Stai scherzando, cazzo!” Harry peered curiously at Blaise, raising a brow in question. His friend just waved him off. “Just letting whatever idiot put all this up know that I do not at all approve.”
Harry nodded intently. “You’ll hear no disagreement from me.”
The two of them took their usual seats towards the middle of the table, joining Tracy who had been at the table long enough to determine that — while Valentines day decorations may have been a fun idea — falling heart confetti made eating cereal rather cumbersome. By now, most of the school seemed to suspect Charlus as the Heir more than they did Harry, so he had lost his escorts. This left him able to move more freely through the castle. Or at least, it would have had it not been for the strict lockdown that was in effect any time students weren’t going from class to class, or on their way to and from meals that the castle’s elves were obligated to serve them. Charlotte was sitting with Laine and Ginny closer to the end of the table. Harry became almost immediately distracted by the owl that landed in front of him, for the daily mail chose that moment to surge into the hall, carried by a multi-coloured cloud of wings, talons and feathers.
Your plan is, to put it lightly, bold.
I am sure you knew this already. Ignoring the obvious risks associated with such a daring move, it could work. That is also speaking of the risks that have no association with legality.
Legally speaking, you are well within your rights to reveal the information you mentioned, as we discussed during the Yuletide break. However, revealing it this early does have its risks. It will lessen the impact of the information when the time comes to use it as a weapon in a legal sense, but I don’t think we shall need the shock factor to win the upcoming case. And revealing it now would certainly accomplish your ideal outcome. At least, it would greatly raise the chances of it happening, though it probably wouldn’t do so on its own. You did say you had something else planned in combination with this. If that something does come to fruition, please write to me as quickly as possible, so we can work everything into one carefully calculated strike that should hopefully accomplish your desired result.
Legally, you cannot suffer any repercussions from revealing this, as we previously discussed. It may be frowned upon by some of the more traditional individuals walking on these aisles, but given the atrocities you will be revealing, and their… nature, I have little doubt you will instantaneously gain back any favour you might have lost with them, and more so.
If you are going to go down this route, please do owl me once more when additional details are available.
“Good news?” Blaise asked, looking completely indifferent as he asked. Harry knew Blaise well enough by now to know that looking indifferent was often the most obvious indicator that he was profoundly interested in the exact thing he was faking disinterest in.
“Hard to say,” Harry answered carefully. “It’s the news I was hoping for, but that doesn’t mean everything will work out.”
“One of those operations, is it?”
“Who said anything about an operation?”
“Harry, my dear chap, I know you too well. If you’re this invested in mysterious owls from people who are probably far more important than you’re letting on, you have something planned. Something beautiful, more than likely.”
“If it goes well, it will be beautiful to me. Not sure how others will feel about it, but I can’t say I care much one way or the other.”
Blaise’s lips twitched. “Exactly the right attitude, my friend. As long as your plans work out, their opinions hardly matter.”
Harry looked thoughtful. “Whether it’ll work out or not, I have no idea. I hope so, though. I just need certain… parties to come through with what they’ve promised.”
As he said this, he glanced down the table to where a regal-looking girl sat with her dark hair and heavily lidded eyes, doing a stellar job of looking as if she cared nothing for anything in the world around her.
Harry met her eyes and she gave one, subtle nod.
The implications of which were obvious.
She had the information he was looking for.
Though as he would find out minutes later when a crumpled bit of parchment was slipped into his hand, the details were a bit… undecided.
I’ve got a lead on the Heir of Slytherin. A memory, actually. My great-uncle was a member of the Hogwarts Board of Governors the same year the Chamber of Secrets was last opened. Apparently, he sat in on the meeting of the supposed heir getting expelled. The memory has been passed down through my family since then. My mother seems willing to let you in on it — since you are technically family.
The issue is actually getting you to see the memory.
That requires a pensieve. My family has one, but the trouble will be getting you out to see it. With the lockdown, I’m not sure if the heirs and heiresses of ancient and noble houses still legally have rights to leave the castle. Dumbledore would definitely try and stop you, but we just need to work out whether or not he would actually have the right to stop you.
Once that’s worked out, assuming it goes well of course, you should be permitted a brief trip to my family’s home to see the memory.
After that, we should have a much better chance of taking down this Heir of Slytherin.
Harry still felt an odd twinge of distrust in regards to Ares Black, despite the fact the two of them had spent a great deal of time together in the past number of weeks — ever since Ares had cornered him on his way out of the common room.
Her motives had been sound.
According to Ares, she was no pureblood supremacist, but she along with the rest of her family, was very much a traditionalist. This Heir of Slytherin attacking Hogwarts students was going to negatively impact the perception of traditionalists all around the country.
Oh, and the heir had attacked the heiress to a Founding Twelve family.
In pureblood terms, that might as well have been high treason.
Still, something odd crept at the corners of Harry’s mind.
Something that warned him of the dangers associated with Ares Black.
Something that he hoped would be banished after he saw this memory.
A memory that would hopefully enable him to find and take revenge on the Heir of Slytherin.
February 17, 1993
A Room in the Dungeons
Grace shivered as Charlotte withdrew from her mind.
She could have blocked her, but it wouldn’t have been good practice.
For whatever reason, Charlotte was fixated on gaining proficiency in the implantation of emotions, impressions, and images, through the use of rather high-level Legilimency.
Forming the connection wasn’t the problem, which was why initially defending really wouldn’t have been the best way for Grace to help her younger sister learn. Charlotte needed to gain an intuitive feeling of exactly how it was done, as well as the necessary mental memory to make that desire a reality. It had taken some time to get the hang of, but now that Charlotte had a handle on the basic concept, the practice had gone splendidly and she had progressed at a rapid rate.
Grace was happy for her little sister.
This was a massive achievement for any Legilimens, and doing it at all was extremely difficult. Doing it at eleven… Grace wouldn’t have been at all surprised if she learned Charlotte was the youngest person ever to achieve it at all.
Yet despite all of that, Grace still had no idea what about the technique interested Charlotte so much. She hoped it was worth it, because having foreign things planted in one’s thoughts was not at all comfortable, and she had a rather ominous feeling about what exactly Charlotte might use it for in the future.
February 19, 1993
Merrymount – Family Support and Crisis Centre
Dudley Dursley had gone through a rather horrid number of months.
He was an absolute wreck and had hardly slept since he awoke Christmas morning to the morbidly ironic sight of his mother, lying motionless upon her bed. His aunt had fled, and she was suspected by the authorities as the murderer. Marge was found later that day, just like the woman she had apparently murdered, she had been found dead.
Losing his mother, father and aunt within the span of less than one-hundred hours had been a lot to take in. Especially for Dudley Dursley, who’d grown up spoiled rotten and largely sheltered from the horrors of the world by the seemingly impenetrable bubble of protection his mother had done her utmost best to raise him in.
If you would have asked Dudley if he were spoiled two months ago, he would have grown furious with such an outlandish insinuation. Now, eight-or-so weeks later, he was finally realizing exactly how fortunate he’d been for much of his life.
And worse, how unfortunate his cousin had been. At least while living under his family’s roof. Granted, Dudley would kill to be a wizard right about now, even if magic still scared the living daylights out of him. Maybe then, he could bring his family back. That had been how it had worked in all of those video games and cartoons, at least. Dark sorcerers raising zombies from the dead.
Dudley frowned at that. He didn’t want zombies, though. He wanted his parents back. He wondered whether or not doing such a thing was possible with the freakish force of nature that his cousin seemed to have at his disposal.
Thoughts of his cousin were depressing now.
Just about everything about Dudley Dursley’s life was depressing, nowadays.
The police officers had lightly questioned him after the events of Christmas Eve. When they had quickly concluded he had nothing to do with the apparent strangulation of Petunia, he’d been shipped off to an orphanage — one that was apparently best-suited for his current needs.
Merrymount – Family Support and Crisis Centre.
The orphanage wasn’t horrible.
Dudley couldn’t truly complain that he’d been treated poorly, or that he’d been underfed, or anything of the like. None of that had lessened the impact of his sudden shift of reality. He’d gone from the pampered son of a well-off family who spoiled him rotten, to just another kid in a mildly underfunded orphanage. They had everything they needed and the building was in good shape. None of this was a problem. In truth, there really weren’t any groundbreaking problems.
Dudley just desperately missed the life he’d become accustomed to.
He missed the endless amounts of time spent in front of the television. He missed the vast array of toys that were constantly at his disposal. He missed the practically nonexistent set of rules that had been lackadaisically enforced upon him. He yearned for the small mountain of gifts placed lovingly under the large Christmas tree that had dominated much of his family’s living room the last time he’d seen it.
But more than anything, he missed his parents.
Dudley was a very materialistically driven person.
He wasn’t the sharpest boy around, but he wasn’t stupid enough to not figure that out. He was well-aware of it, he just didn’t particularly care one way or the other.
Or at least, he hadn’t until now.
Now that he was bunking with another, older boy and sleeping on a battered, old mattress. Now that his meal plan left his stomach growling at most hours the day — as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks. Now that he wasn’t so much the leader of his gang of friends and followers as much as he was the new, intimidating kid that everybody avoided at all costs.
He hated it.
For the first time in his life, he even sympathized with his cousin.
He’d never done that before because, in all honesty, he’d never really thought much about it.
His parents — his father in particular — had always preached just how freakish and horrid Harry really was. When a message was drilled bluntly into your mind from the age of about two-years-old, that message tended to take; logic be damned. Especially when those drilling it fiercely into your mind were the two people you looked up to and admired more than anyone else in the world.
Now, he had some perspective.
He’d thought a lot about Harry over the past two-or-so months. Truly thought about him for the first time; with no trace of his parents’ rhetoric to stand in the way of his ability to see the truth clearly.
It was a terrifying sight.
For the first time, he truly saw how much his cousin had suffered. Both at the hands of his parents, as well as his suffering as a direct result of his — Dudley’s — own actions.
He saw that the way he was being treated now — which was slowly but surely stripping him of everything he’d ever known — was exactly how his cousin had been treated since he’d arrived on their doorstep all those years ago.
Except not quite.
The way his cousin had been treated was even worse, and that thought made him shudder.
Just as his thoughts became particularly dark, there came a knock on the door. He was alone in his shared bedroom at the moment. His roommate — a tall, lanky boy named Charlie — was out playing with friends in the snow.
Dudley wasn’t interested in joining them.
None of them wanted to play with him anyway.
The door slowly creaked open before Dudley had even provided verbal permission. One of the matrons stuck her head through the door. “You have a visitor, Dudley.”
Dudley blinked in bafflement. “I do?”
“Yes, you do. He’s… well, I’ll let him tell you.”
The matron stepped aside and back out of the way, allowing the other man to enter the room as she closed the door, putting him in the room with the stranger. He was perhaps the oddest man Dudley had ever seen, simply because he was so… discrete.
He wore a stylish grey suit and a light coloured tie, as well as dark dress pants. Aside from that, Dudley had a hard time discerning anything about him, one way or the other.
His build was… average.
Everything about it seemed to be exactly what Dudley thought an average person might look like. His face… his eyes just seemed to slide effortlessly over it without ever taking in a detail. It wasn’t even that he couldn’t remember it as much as his brain just couldn’t register it. Or perhaps it just couldn’t comprehend what it was seeing.
“Good afternoon, Mister Dursley.”
His voice was just like the rest of him. Dudley couldn’t describe it; it just sort of rolled over him. Despite its oddities, it did snap him out of his dumbstruck stupor. “Uh… hello?”
The man smiled. “I’ve heard you’ve been through a very long few months, Mister Dursley.”
Dudley’s face scrunched up. “I don’t need somebody to talk to about it.”
“Of course not,” the odd man said patiently. “That’s not what I’m here for, so there’s no need to worry about that. I’m not sure that would be my area of expertise. I wish it was though. Much more pleasant business, that. I wasn’t particularly happy when I was called to oversee this job, but sacrifices must be made, I suppose.”
“Who are you?” Dudley asked bluntly.
The man’s lips twitched. “For the sake of this meeting, Mister Dursley, my name is Mundane.”
Dudley’s face contorted, as if he were thinking very hard. He didn’t know what mundane meant, but it didn’t exactly seem like a name. More like some complicated word he hadn’t yet learned. “Odd name,” he commented.
The man chuckled. “Odd indeed. Not quite as odd as some of the things that have happened around you over the past number of months though, hm?”
Dudley paled. “W-w-what are you talking about?”
The man sighed. “There’s no need to be afraid, Mister Dursley. I won’t be doing you any harm. Nor will my partner. He’s… seeing to other things, at the moment.”
“Are you… one of them?”
“The… the… freaks who can cast magic!”
The man frowned. “A bit crude, but yes, I can cast magic.”
“What do you want? Did you k-kill them? Are you here to kill me too?”
“Mister Dursley, please calm down. I’ve already told you; we’re not here to do you any harm. If anything, we’re here to keep you safe.” He frowned deeply. “You and some very important secrets.”
“W-what are you going to do?”
“That depends on you, Mister Dursley. For now, we’re going to do the bare minimum. Usually, this would be very simple. We would wipe your memory of anything involving magic and be done with the whole thing.” Dudley’s skin lost even more colouration — if such a thing was even possible.
“That won’t work with you,” the man continued. Dudley opened his mouth to ask why it wouldn’t work, but decided about halfway through the motion he didn’t really want to know. Just the idea of having his memories erased made him feel ill. “Your cousin is a person of interest,” the man said anyway, as if reading his thoughts. “Not just for us, but others. Memory wipes aren’t perfect, Mister Dursley. They can be overcome, and we suspect certain individuals would overcome them if they felt the need. This would be a problem because the thing with memory charms is that if you’re good enough to detect them, it’s not that hard to actually do it. If… certain individuals found out you were under one, they would become dangerously curious.”
“So w-w-what are you g-going to do?”
“We are going to store your more directly traumatic memories away with the use of some relatively unknown magic. You will be keeping all of your memories of magic that aren’t directly related to the death of your parents. If we locked all of those away, it would give those same individuals reasons to be suspicious, just like the memory wipe.” He paused. “And anything involving this meeting, of course.
“Now, the other tricky thing here is that we can’t well take all of your memories about magic — for the reason I just said. I would be very surprised if somebody didn’t come poking around at some point. If they suddenly noticed ten years of missing memories, that would be a problem. Erasing that many memories is also never a clean job. The more you take from a person, the less of a person they are at all.
“In any case, by the time my colleague arrives, we will have eyes all over this building. Having been let in on the secrets of the magical world, it is now your responsibility to our government to maintain the International Statute of Secrecy. That is what keeps all wizards separate from all muggles. It’s a worldwide bill that forces wizards to hide their existence from muggles. We still don’t know how the initial worldwide memory wipe was done.
“Anyway, it is now your responsibility to maintain this, just as it is ours. This is the one thing we will be leaving you with from today’s meeting. An undeniable, unexplained obligation to maintain this statute. If you for some reason choose to fight and overcome this compulsion, we will have eyes all around you. If you speak of it, we will know.”
The lock on the door clicked and it creaked open right on cue, as if the finishing of this man’s statement had prompted it to open. Dudley, shocked into complete silence and feeling completely numb with terror, might have thought that might well have happened, since they had magic, but he was in no state to think such coherent thoughts.
The man who stepped into the room next had the same odd effect as Mundane. That is to say, Dudley couldn’t make out a single detail about them aside from the fact that they were male. Even then, Dudley could be mistaken, seeing as they were clearly using magic.
“Ah, yes, Mister Dursley, this is the colleague I told you about. Mister Dursley, meet MI11.” Dudley just looked even more confused now. That was an even odder name than Mundane. It sounded as if he were some James Bond wannabe.
“Now, Mister Dursley,” Mundane continued. “Here is how this will work.” The other man, MI11, reached a hand to the pocket of his robes and withdrew a vial of completely colourless liquid. “MI11 is going to use magic to isolate the memories we discussed. When this is done, I will administer this potion, which will lock away all pre-isolated memories. It is completely undetectable and is a department secret. Do you understand?”
“I… I don’t want to! Please, don’t—”
Mundane sighed sadly, a genuinely regretful expression plastered onto his discrete mask. “I’m truly sorry, Mister Dursley, but I’m afraid this isn’t an option.”
MI11 had slipped a long, dark piece of wood from his sleeve before Dudley could protest any further, and he went stiff with fear when it aimed directly at his forehead.
February 20, 1993
A Room in the Dungeons
Saturdays were the days Charlotte spent helping Harry learn Legilimency, while Harry taught her combat magic on Tuesdays. Largely, this was because Harry had his own combat training on Saturdays, which would take place in several hours with his older set of friends.
For now, he found himself rather exhausted.
Charlotte was a very good teacher, just like Grace. His teachers might have been different, but the subjects weren’t. Legilimency was more complicated, in many ways. There were so many variables, all of which, if possible, you were aiming to control and manipulate to your advantage.
Charlotte had concluded rather early in their practice that Harry was indeed a Natural Legilimens. Though, he had a much lesser affinity for Legilimency than Charlotte. His progression was apparently stellar, but it was hard to judge with Natural Legilimentes. They sort of just got to skip steps.
For one thing, using wandless Legilimency wasn’t supposed to be possible until one reached stage four of the art. The thing was, Harry could already sort of do that. If somebody had no Occlumency defences to speak of, he could glean their basic, surface thoughts through eye contact alone. One might think this automatically meant Harry was a level four Legilimens, but that wasn’t true either.
He was definitely beyond the first level.
By the end of stage one, it was expected that a Legilimens would be able to form a connection with another person’s mind and see the barest trace of surface thoughts and emotions.
Harry was well beyond this.
He had been for many years, which was exactly how he and Charlotte had confirmed their theory in regards to Natural Legilimency being an innate ability of his.
Stage two, on the other hand, was more about control as opposed to forming the connection. By the end of stage two, one would be capable of manipulating unguarded minds in such a way that you could actually see their memories. This was assuming they had no Occlumency to speak of and the ability — at this stage — would be very rudimentary, but it would exist.
Level three was an expansion of level two. It was the level where a Legilimens gained the admirable ability to sift through unguarded thoughts, and it was also the level in which they could consistently be counted upon to overpower rudimentary Occlumency defences.
After that, it got more… vague.
Level four, in many ways, was a repeat of level one, just wandlessly, while also honing the skills of mental manipulation. Levels five through seven… Harry honestly wasn’t sure. He hadn’t looked that far ahead. He suspected Charlotte was somewhere around stage five, though he’d never asked, and she’d never offered up the information.
This system didn’t work for Natural Legilimentes.
To use Harry as an example, he was capable of very basic wandless Legilimency. He could only glean very active surface thoughts, and anybody with an ounce of competency in Occlumency would never even notice his failed attempt to breach their mind unless they were extremely in tune with their mind, the attack would be so weak by comparison. Yet despite having an ability that was said to be more advanced, Harry was currently working through the level two material. Manipulating one’s mind into showing him specific images and memories was still beyond him, even if he was making tremendous progress.
He wasn’t sure which he preferred the aftereffects of — Occlumency or Legilimency. Both usually left him with headaches, but where Occlumency usually left him mentally exhausted; Legilimency, usually left him in a rather slow state of mind. He just didn’t feel as sharp. Oftentimes, he would feel something akin to being disoriented for hours. Charlotte told him this was natural for beginners. It even happened to her at times, when she tried something particularly advanced or spent an abnormally large amount of time in the thoughts of another.
Harry was so disoriented after their lesson that he almost didn’t catch Charlotte’s hollow, clinical warning. “I’m doing it soon.”
He shook his head slowly, as if to shake a dusting of cobwebs from his brain before he slowly began to comprehend what she’d just said. “Doing what soon?”
“You know, the plan.”
He didn’t know the plan at all, but he did at least know what she was talking about now.
Her strike on Mulciber and Jugson was drawing near.
It had been ages since their attack on Charlotte, but she’d been rather distracted by the fiasco at the Hogwarts Duelling Club’s one and only meeting, the holidays, and then, of course, Daphne’s rather tragic disappearance.
Just the thought of it made Harry’s gut clench.
His solicitor had been in a bit of a battle regarding the legality of him leaving the castle. While it was technically on lockdown, the wording was after curfew, that way the students could get to their classes. The problem with this wording was that, in Tate’s well-educated opinion, it left loopholes. Loopholes that they were trying to exploit. According to her last letter, she hoped to have the issue resolved by the end of the week. Though she also warned that after they abused this loophole there was a good chance the Wizengamot was going to make sure there was no chance of them doing so a second time.
That was fine by Harry.
He would just make his one and only absence from the castle for the near future count.
He had no plans of leaving again anyway. Not that such things as plans had ever stopped fate from toying with him before. He still fondly remembered the early portion of the year, when he’d still been under the naively false illusion that he would be able to avoid the chaos this year. All he wanted was a nice, quiet year.
Then this Heir of Slytherin bastard had to go and make things personal, and his cold war had begun.
“And you think it will work?” Charlotte nodded. “You won’t tell me if I ask, will you?” She shook her head. “Will you tell me after it’s over?” She hesitated, but eventually nodded. “Just tell me it’s well thought out, and that whatever it is, it will end it? Nothing that might give Mulciber or Jugson a chance to fire back at you.”
“It will end it,” Charlotte said in a rather firm tone of voice. “I doubt they’re going to want anything to do with me after this.”
Harry made a mental note to keep an eye on Charlotte for both the next few days, and after whatever revenge she had planned was enacted, whether it worked or not.
As if he needed anything else to occupy his time.
February 22, 1993
The Slytherin Common Room
Harry wasn’t sure what he thought of déjà vu.
There were a countless number of theories pertaining to it all around the globe. From what he could tell, the magical world didn’t seem to have any better explanation for it than the muggle world.
Well, not for true déjà vu, at least.
He knew exactly where this feeling came from, as he’d been in a remarkably similar situation the night Mulciber and Jugson had made their attempt to butcher Charlotte with the cursed dagger — which he’d now sold to Bellatrix Black — and drug her with the mysterious potion, which he still had locked away in his Parseltongue protected trunk.
Just like that night, he was thoroughly thrashing Blaise in a game of chess a few minutes after Charlotte had left the common room.
The only key difference was that this time, he could see that both Mulciber and Jugson were present, which was only natural considering the adjusted curfew had come into effect some time ago.
They were both in the common room, this time.
At least until Harry saw Mulciber glance from side to side several times before slinking predatorily out of the common room.
Harry’s heart rate quickened as his eyes narrowed. Either Charlotte had been set up again, which Harry highly doubted, or this was part of her plan.
How she’d managed to lure Mulciber out after curfew in times like these, he had no idea.
He did know one thing though.
If something went wrong, he would be ready.
He not only owed it to Charlotte, whether she liked it or not, but he’d promised Grace.
“Checkmate,” he said quietly, moving his knight into striking distance.
Blaise scoffed. “Only a check, dimwit.”
“I would beat you in two more turns and it’ll have to do for now.”
Harry could practically see Blaise’s ears perk up. “Ah, yes. Business to attend to, I see?”
Laine looked sharply up towards Harry. He’d seen and spoken to her a lot more since the castle had been put on lockdown. Primarily because he found it more difficult to slip off, so he was actually forced to spend more time with people.
He liked Laine, though.
Weasley as well.
She was still quiet at times, but certainly less than she had been months earlier and she had fire.
There were no doubts about that.
Laine tilted her head slightly towards the door, obviously asking a silent question.
Are you going after them?
Obviously, he hadn’t been the only one who’d noticed the similarity to months earlier.
Minutely, he nodded, right before taking a deep breath and fading straight out of existence, making his way out of the common room while completely invisible.
Twenty minutes later…
Alex Jugson had felt rather on edge all day.
He wasn’t exactly sure why.
He hadn’t had any particular reason to feel this way, it was just a deep-rooted intuition that he couldn’t shake.
His mounting sense of paranoia hadn’t been sated when his best friend, Derrick Mulciber, had left their common room about twenty minutes ago. What made him even more nervous was that Weitts wasn’t in the common room either.
Neither he nor Mulciber had forgotten the incident back in November when the two of them, with the help of an interested third party, had launched a strike against Weitts that was supposed to put the whole feud to bed. Even then, Alex had felt as though Mulciber and their aide had escalated things a bit far. He didn’t much like Weitts either, but doing something so drastic was a major risk. Especially when their target was a member of House Weitts, a family that was equally as dangerous as they were mysterious.
Both he and Mulciber knew that Charlotte Weitts hadn’t forgotten the incident. Nor had Harry Potter, who concerned Jugson far more than Charlotte. After watching him completely and effortlessly obliterate Draco the night of Samhain, Potter rose rather rapidly on his list of people not to fuck with under any circumstances.
There had also been the prospect of him being the Heir of Slytherin. But since Greengrass had vanished back in January, most of the school seemed to have removed Potter’s name from their list of prospects. Many of them were fixated on his more well-known twin, Charlus, but Jugson didn’t think that at all likely. He didn’t particularly think Slytherin Potter to be responsible either, but he thought him a whole lot more likely than the Boy-Who-Lived.
All of this to say that Harry Potter was somebody who Alex Jugson thought was dangerous.
Which was why when he saw the second-year Slytherin slip out of the common room just minutes after his best friend left, he felt his pulse quicken as his danger senses reached new levels of tingling.
That was when Alex Jugson was met with a split-second decision.
Leave the common room and go looking for Mulciber, hopefully in time to warn him of what screamed of an ambush?
Or stay in the safety of the common room and let events unfold?
The latter was definitely the more Slytherin answer.
It was the answer that he would have taken on most days.
In fact, it was the answer he would have taken that day, had he not felt an unnatural level of concern for his best friend.
A concern that had been swelling and swelling ever since earlier that day, when he’d felt and returned the bluish-silver eyed stare that had practically been boring a hole into him whilst he did his prep.
Ten minutes later…
For a time, Alex Jugson thought he might have actually been overthinking things. He checked classroom after classroom, but he never found Mulciber or Weitts.
He had been considering just returning to the common room, at that point. After all, he would be in serious trouble if he were to be caught out after the strictly-enforced curfew by one of the aurors or professors strolling through the halls.
But he didn’t return to the common room.
That same sense of paranoia that felt worryingly unlike him was persisting and he found himself still on the search until finally, it happened.
He instinctively knew he’d come to the right door before he even opened it.
It was the same classroom he and Mulciber had dragged Weitts into back in November. He should have known it would be this one. Poetic justice practically demanded it. Slipping his wand into his hand and readying it, Jugson pushed the door open… and immediately conjured a shield to block the number of spells that sailed towards him.
His shield crumbled almost immediately, forcing him to dive to the side. The power of Weitts’s spells was impressive. His shield should have certainly lasted much longer than it had. He scrambled back to his feet and tried valiantly to return fire, but the skirmish was over in seconds, and he found himself bound and wandless by its conclusion. He knew a few nasty curses, but he’d never been a duellist. Weitts was probably the best in their year. Well, her and Ares Black, at least. Either way, Jugson should have realized he had a chance, but he’d seen Mulciber’s motionless form, and he couldn’t help but feel a protective urge to lash out.
Perhaps he might have rethought things if he knew that, in addition to her own natural talent, Weitts had been practicing combat magic with Harry Potter for the past month and a half or so.
Before he knew it, Weitts had crouched over him, and her cool fingers had slipped under his chin, tilting his eyes up to meet hers. “I’ll make this a bit easier on you,” she hissed with heat in her voice. “You may be nothing but a follower, but I am still making damn sure this is the final strike.” Her wand was pressed to his temple before he could do as much as move, and his mind froze with horror as those signature eyes found him.
Jugson had never learned Occlumency, but he suddenly wished he had.
He knew what that spell did, even if he didn’t know a way around it. Most purebloods didn’t learn the art until they were at least thirteen or fourteen. Many never learned it at all, unless they were the heir or heiress of an important family. Or unless their family was particularly paranoid. Teaching Occlumency too young could be disastrous if you didn’t very much trust the person you were teaching to use the art responsibly. It was a great power, but one that could have disastrous consequences for the user if it were abused or mishandled. That mixed with the struggles of a developing mind turned most adults away from teaching their children at a young age, but Alex suddenly wished nothing more than knowing the mental defence.
Charlotte ripped effortlessly into his thoughts and he suddenly wanted to scream as pure and utter terror erupted in every corner of his mind. His worst fears surfaced, and the worst memories of his life started flashing past his eyes. He thought he really screamed that time, but couldn’t be sure. He was under the Full-Body-Bind so he wasn’t sure if he had. He shouldn’t have been able to but it sort of felt as though he’d screamed, and he certainly wanted to… oh, how he wanted to.
He also didn’t feel his bowels fail as a putrid stench filled the room.
He only knew two things.
Things that had gone from foreign to deeply-rooted in his mind in — to him, what felt like seconds, but what was actually almost five minutes.
All of his worst fears had come to life in the past number of minutes, and he had a new one.
Charlotte let out a deep exhale when she exited the room, finally releasing the hold she’d had on her nose to block out the horrid stench emanating from both boys.
This had been the final strike.
It was what Harry had told her all that time ago that had stuck.
It had to be decisive and on at least the same level as what they’d tried to do to her. At the same time, it had to leave no room for a counter-attack.
Charlotte had taken that to heart, quite literally constructing her carefully calculated strike around the idea of providing no avenue for return-fire.
After weeks of exhaustive practice with Grace, she had been confident enough to put her plan into motion.
It helped that she knew from passive intrusions that neither Mulciber nor Jugson knew any Occlumency. It practically made them sitting ducks, and it was a blatant weakness that Charlotte had immediately known could be exploited.
For the past week, Charlotte had been subtly pushing feelings of suspicion into Mulciber’s mind every time their eyes met. She wasn’t nearly as skillful in the practice without a wand as she was with one, but after numerous, persistent pushes, the message seemed to have sunk in.
Specifically, she had made Mulciber very suspicious of her, and she had been very careful to make sure he saw her exit the common room after curfew.
She’d known he would follow her, and she was waiting to ambush him.
He was a decent duellist, but nothing spectacular. After constantly getting outclassed by Harry, duelling Mulciber was easy. Compared to her slightly older friend, Mulciber practically felt as if he were moving in slow motion.
Once he’d fallen, wandless and bound, she’d executed the core of her plan.
Breaching his mind and finding out what he feared the most, then pulling up any memories she could find for those fears, before forcing them to play over and over again while amplifying the paranoia through Legilimency. The final touch was inserting a healthy amount of fear for herself and, above all else, the notion that a counter-strike would be a very bad idea.
When Jugson had entered the room some time later, she had simply repeated the process, though she had been very slightly less cruel. He was a follower, and Charlotte doubted he’d had any input on the prior events. That didn’t mean she held back, either. She just hadn’t overextended herself in quite the same way she had when it had come to Mulciber.
She was sure she had succeeded, though if either boy had known a shred of Occlumency, she probably wouldn’t have.
She presently found herself leaning against the wall, breathing a bit heavily.
That trick had been more taxing than she’d expected, and she felt so light at the feeling of freedom that had washed over her once revenge had been fulfilled that her limbs almost felt numb.
“We shouldn’t be out in the open like this. Curfew is enforced pretty harshly, these days.”
Charlotte would have jumped a foot into the air had she felt strong enough to do so, or if she hadn’t recognized the voice.
As it was, she let herself be guided into a nearby classroom by the boy who she was both teaching and learning from.
“If you helped me in any way,” was the first thing she said.
He shook his head, a small smile playing on his lips. “I didn’t, I promise. I’ll swear an oath if you’d like. This one seems black and white enough for it to work well.”
Charlotte shook her head. She could tell he was being honest.
Well, he was actually being partially honest, but she could just tell he wasn’t lying.
After all, he had nudged her in the right direction back in December when her plan had been far more shallow.
He had effectively led her to decide upon a plan he would approve of. She just didn’t realize that.
“No, it’s okay. I believe you.”
“Naturally,” he said with some amusement. “Care to tell me what you actually did?”
Charlotte hesitantly explained all she had done both to prepare and execute the plan. She was nervous how he would take it. She couldn’t explain why. It had worked, so his opinion after the fact shouldn’t have mattered to her, but it did.
To her utter relief, he graced her with a genuine smile when she had concluded.
“Well,” he’d said, “that accomplishes what it needed to, so I’m glad you can learn as well as you can teach.” He’d smirked at that. “Lucky you can do the former, too, because you are definitely teaching me that when I’m ready.”
February 28, 1993
The Headquarters of the Daily Prophet
“Ah, Heir Potter. I’ve been expecting you. Lucius did say you would be punctual, after all. Please do come in! An honour to meet you at last.”
Harry graced Rita Skeeter with a well-practiced smile. He couldn’t say he was particularly thrilled to meet her, but she could potentially be of great use. She could better fill this job than anyone in the country. Harry didn’t trust her as far as he could throw her, but she seemed all too willing to work with him, at least for now. Best to take full advantage of that luxury while it was still at his disposal.
“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Skeeter.”
“Oh, please, call me Rita.” Skeeter was practically simpering. Harry hadn’t told Lucius exactly what news he wanted to break to Skeeter. Just that it would put both James Potter and Albus Dumbledore in exceptionally hot water.
He felt a nearly unnoticeable pacing of guilt for the first, but savage pleasure at putting a dent in the facade of the second. James had actually treated him rather well this year. He’d even saved him from potential expulsion. At the very least, that search would have turned up a number of very unsavoury items Harry was more than happy not to get caught with. James really had been decent over the past few months. He’d even written Harry a number of times. They talked about small, mundane things in those bits of correspondence.
No matter how hard he tried though, Harry doubted James could ever make up for his past mistakes now.
They were just too impactful, and they numbered far too high.
Sending Harry to the Dursleys and completely abandoning him had been horrid.
For some reason, Harry had still felt compelled to give his father a second chance.
A second chance that he totally botched by breaking the most important promise he’d ever made to Harry. It also just so happened to be the only promise he’d ever made to Harry. If anything, Harry just thought that made it even worse.
Sending him back to the Dursleys was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
He doubted he would ever forgive his father, and he sure as hell hadn’t done so yet.
And Dumbledore… he could not care any less what happened to Dumbledore, so long as it was both unpleasant and unnecessarily drawn out.
It didn’t seem to matter what Harry had told Lucius. He must have correctly assumed it was something particularly juicy, for Skeeter was salivating more than a dog staring down a desired meal.
“Rita, then. Call me Harry, if you’d like.” It wasn’t something Harry was completely comfortable with, but alas, some sacrifices did have to be made.
Rita smiled widely. “Of course, Harry. Shall we get straight to business then?” Harry nodded solemnly and Rita unzipped a horridly garish handbag, pulling from it several pieces of parchment and a rather distinct quill.
Definitely not a Quick Quotes Quill, as Tate had been very adamant Skeeter would sign papers banning their use before she spoke with Harry at all.
“Now, Harry,” Rita said in a perfectly modulated voice that conveyed sympathy and understanding. “I heard from Lucius that you might have some… hard truths to tell me, today?”
Harry took a deep, centring breath, and the interview began.
That night, at Black Manor…
The portkey that took Harry to Black Manor deposited him directly in the entrance hall, much like Lucius Malfoy’s had done during Yuletide break.
He was not only greeted by a house elf — who promptly relieved him of his travelling cloak — but also by the lady of the house.
It was odd to be expected to speak so familiarly with somebody in her position. Especially when the two of them barely knew each other.
Her lips twitched. “It’s nice to see you as well, cousin. I wish we could speak more, but I have to be at a meeting to discuss the fallout from today’s Wizengamot meeting. I trust you can see yourself out? The main floo has one way access, so just pop over to the Three Broomsticks when you leave.”
“It’s no trouble,” Harry said smoothly as the two of them began to walk down a particularly dark corridor. Come to think of it, the manor in general had a very grim, ominous feel to it. “Anything interesting come up at today’s Wizengamot meeting?”
“A tidbit or two,” Bellatrix said amusedly, her voice slightly sing-song. “You did come up, so that was interesting.”
“They’re going to patch the loophole I used to leave the castle?”
“They are. The rights of heirs and heiresses to leave the castle will soon be repealed during times of official lockdown of the castle. The vote will happen next Sunday, but I doubt the bill will face much opposition.”
Harry nodded. “Anything else?”
“There have been proposals to repeal the section of the Hogwarts Charter that bans Aurors or other occupying forces from entering the castle. Modifying it, at the very least.”
The two of them had come to a large sitting room, and the pensieve was laid out on a mahogany table.
“Have you ever used a pensieve?” Bellatrix asked. Harry shook his head. “It’s simple. Just touch the liquid and it will pull you into a third-person viewing of the memory. The right memory is already primed and waiting.” She had an odd gleam in her eye as she spoke, but Harry ignored as he thanked her, watching the lady of House Black leave before he made his way to the pensieve and entered into the memory.
It was just as Ares had told him.
He landed in the familiar setting of the Headmaster’s office, though it looked very different.
Dumbledore was present, but he looked far younger, and Harry doubted this was his office at the time the memory took place. His hair and beard were still auburn, not the silver it would later become. His face was also less lined, and he just generally looked more exuberant.
Contrary to Dumbledore, the man who did sit behind the office’s main desk looked ancient and weathered. He looked even older than present-day Dumbledore did, and the forlorn expression on his face just made him look somehow older.
There were six others in the room.
Three of them appeared to be Ministry officials. That made sense if they were dealing with the Heir of Slytherin at the time, especially knowing via the Daily Prophet’s summary of the Wizengamot meeting of January the fourteenth that the highest number of officials that could be sent to Hogwarts was three.
Also in the room was a well-dressed man with perfectly controlled hair, high, regal-looking cheekbones and dark, grey eyes.
This was obviously Ares’s great uncle, Phineas Black. The most recent one, that was. Not the notorious Hogwarts Headmaster from the late nineteenth century.
The two other occupants of the room interested Harry more than anyone.
The first was instantly recognizable.
He looked to only be about thirteen or fourteen, but Rubeus Hagrid couldn’t exactly blend into a crowd, even at that age. He was already nearly seven feet tall and much bulkier than any grown man had the right to be.
Yet it was the girl that drew Harry’s attention and curiosity more than even Hagrid, who seemed remarkably out of place in this room.
She appeared to be several years older than Harry. Maybe sixteen or seventeen. An upper year, surely. The first things to strike Harry were her height and posture. She was unnaturally tall as is, and the way she stood straight with perfect, superior-looking posture made her seem even taller. It was her who Harry landed closest to, and the height difference between the two of them would have been quite amusing to an onlooker, despite the obvious discrepancy in age. She had to be at least six-feet tall, and Harry thought her a couple inches more than that. Unnatural for a woman, but not freakishly so. It went naturally with her posture, and Harry oddly couldn’t picture her any other way. The two factors blended together perfectly, and they only added to the quiet air of power she seemed to exude.
Adding to the royal image was her pale, perfect skin, soft, regal features and dark, intense eyes.
She wore Slytherin robes, and Harry immediately spotted the prefect’s badge shining proudly upon them.
What happened next baffled Harry.
“I’m sorry, Rubeus,” the old man behind the desk said heavily. Referring to his memory of the past headmasters, Harry realized this must be Armando Dippet. According to Hogwarts, A History, the man had been the Headmaster who’d preceded Dumbledore. He had apparently lived more than three-hundred years.
“I didn’t!” Hagrid moaned. “I’d never!”
“Are you saying one of my prefects is lying, boy?” Dippet’s voice was suddenly sharp, and Hagrid looked exactly as if that was what he’d meant to say.
“I would never!” Hagrid said again, and Dippet’s eyes suddenly turned to the tall Slytherin girl wearing the prefect’s badge.
She just shrugged helplessly. “I only know what I saw, sir. I could be wrong. I’m not perfect. I just thought it would be irresponsible of me not to bring what I spotted to your attention.”
“You did well, Miss Riddle.” Harry’s jaw fell open when Dippet addressed the girl, and his eyes were now drinking in every inch of her form.
This was Emily Riddle.
It had to be. The timeline checked out perfectly. She’d attended Hogwarts at the time the chamber had been opened. This was a Slytherin prefect with her surname. It could be nobody else.
But that meant…
Emily Riddle was a Parselmouth.
She had been at Hogwarts at the same time that the Chamber of Secrets had been opened, and Harry frankly doubted Hagrid was capable of such things as he watched the proceedings.
Which meant either two things.
Harry’s secret tutor had either made a royal mistake and there was either another Parselmouth at Hogwarts at that time, or one really didn’t need the ability to enter the Chamber of Secrets, which Harry doubted.
Or, his mysterious penpal had been the Heir of Slytherin and had gotten away with it.
He instinctively knew the second was true.
She was a genius. He knew that very well from first-hand experience. He had no doubts at all she could have gotten away with it, especially considering she seemed to have Dippet eating desperately out of the palm of her hand.
This was bad.
This was really bad.
March 7, 1993
The Great Hall
The Hidden Horrors of the Hogwarts Headmaster and the Blatant Abuses of Power He Doesn’t Want You To Know About!
By Rita Skeeter
A number of days ago, I had the pleasure to sit down and interview a remarkable young man. A man who has achieved much in his young life. Somebody who has succeeded in spite of the odds never seeming to be in his favour. This conversation shed some rather disturbing light on two rather esteemed members of our society, but it took me a few days to comprehend exactly what I’d heard.
But now, we are here.
On the final day of February, I sat down with Harry Potter. You might recognize the surname, after all, it is one of the Ancient and Most Noble Houses that help govern our nation. If you are less politically-inclined, you might also recognize it as the surname of one Charlus Potter, otherwise known as the Boy-Who-Lived. This interview was one I have been wanting to conduct for some time. There are, after all, numerous questions surrounding Harry Potter.
Like, for instance, why many in our world never heard his name until he was eleven-years-old — when he turned up at Hogwarts and shattered the Potter tradition by joining the ranks of Slytherin House.
The answer to this question was rather shocking.
“It’s really quite confusing,” Harry told me, looking particularly downcast at the choice of topic. “I never remember being sent to my aunt and uncle’s. I know it was right after She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named attacked my family. I spoke to my father about it a couple of months into my first year, and he said he couldn’t handle the pressure of raising me alongside the Boy-Who-Lived.”
I, for one, found that justification to be odd.
James Potter, esteemed Senior Auror, generous philanthropist, and paragon of Gryffindor House unable to deal with the stress of raising two sons?
Yet my dear readers, the plot thickens.
My next question, naturally, was to ask young Harry what he thought of the arrangement. The look on his face said it all, but I won’t make you take my word for it. Instead, you can take young Harry’s.
“I don’t know why he did it, but it wasn’t a good home to grow up in. My aunt and uncle passed away pretty recently. I can honestly say that I don’t feel good about that, but when I heard the news a small part of me was relieved I’ll never have to go back.”
When gently prodded further, Harry told me, in bits and pieces, of some of the atrocities that were committed in that home. This boy, the heir to an Ancient and Most Noble House, was forced to slave away like a house elf for his muggle relatives. And if he performed tasks with anything less than house-elf-esque efficiency, he was punished very harshly.
Physically punished, on a number of occasions.
But there’s more.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that the Heir Potter was raised in an abusive muggle home, it gets even worse. He told this fact to Lord Potter, who promised his son and heir vehemently he would never return.
Until another piece entered the equation.
“It was all going well until Headmaster Dumbledore got involved,” Harry told me carefully. “My father had promised to never send me back. He looked upset that I even thought it was a possibility. At the end of the year, I was called to Dumbledore’s office, and I was told I was returning there. I had no say in the matter.
“I tried to argue. I tried to tell him what they’d done, but he wouldn’t listen. He said it was necessary. There are — or were, I’m not sure — powerful wards on the home that I never knew existed. He said the wards were forged straight from the power of my mother’s sacrifice, whatever that means.”
This was quite vague, so I decided to take the wording to several experts.
All the curse breakers I asked seemed to come to the same conclusion.
Albus Dumbledore could not possibly be speaking of anything aside from blood wards.
As we all know, blood magic of any kind is extremely illegal. It has been for more than two centuries.
What is also illegal, is the mishandling of an heir. The lord of a house is obligated to ensure the heir’s safety to the best of their ability, something James Potter has failed to do. And if Albus Dumbledore played a role in this, he too may be guilty as a third party — in addition to his possible tampering in highly-illegal branches of magic.
The article continued from there, but Harry had read enough.
It was exactly what he’d needed it to be, and he could feel Dumbledore’s intense stare on the back of his head.
He did not meet it.
The bastard didn’t deserve any more of his attention.
Since that day out of Hogwarts, visiting both Diagon Alley and Black Manor, Harry’s mind had been restless as it milled over a great number of things.
One of them was the possibility that Emily Riddle had been the Heir of Slytherin.
He was going down that rabbit hole once more, searching for information on the one-time Head Girl who seemed to have vanished off the face of the planet.
He had also stopped writing to her.
If she had been opening the chamber in her time, Harry couldn’t trust her.
Not when it meant that she, or at least somebody associated with her, had been responsible for the disappearance of his best friend.
He also didn’t fail to notice the obvious coincidence that Emily Riddle, his top suspect for the title of Heir of Slytherin started writing to him the summer before the Chamber of Secrets had apparently been opened once again.
That had been his primary focus over much of the past week, but another thought filled him with just as much dread.
It was a carefully calculated strike, one that would hopefully remove Dumbledore from his position of power long enough for Harry to do some proper investigating without the old man’s eyes fixed constantly upon him.
On the other hand, it meant that now, everybody who was anybody in Magical Britain now knew facts about him that he’d originally planned to never share.
He hated it more than anything, but some sacrifices did, unfortunately, have to be made.
As Dumbledore might have put it — it was for the greater good.
March 12, 1993
The Grounds of Hogwarts
Sneaking out of Hogwarts during a heavily enforced lockdown had been… surprising easy, to be honest.
The castle was so vast that the professors and Aurors couldn’t possibly cover everywhere at once. That mixed with his silenced shoes, stealth ring and overall proficiency in sneaking around meant that Harry made his way out to the Hogwarts gates rather easily.
Where he promptly met up with a well-dressed and extremely smug-looking Lucius Malfoy.
“Heir Potter, such a pleasure to see you.”
“You seem to be in a good mood, sir.”
Lucius chuckled as they began to stride purposefully in the direction of Hagrid’s hut. “Never better, my dear boy. Never better.”
Earlier that morning, in the Great Hall…
Last night, the Hogwarts Board of Governors met and I presented the evidence you put forth to the Daily Prophet, as well as the memory you sent to me regarding Dumbledore’s mishandling of the Rubeus Hagrid situation. Of course, the memory would be a bit murky in a court of law, but it suits our purposes just fine.
The board voted unanimously to remove Dumbledore from his position of power, and I will arrive at Hogwarts tonight to inform him of the board’s decision.
Seeing as this was all your rather splendid idea, I thought you may wish to be there to see it.
If you would like to meet me at the front gates at nine o’clock tonight, I can assure you not only that you will be unpunished for breaking curfew, but also that you shall see your dominos fall.
It is always rather satisfying to bear witness to, from one Slytherin to another.
Lord of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Malfoy
Back in the present…
“Funny coincidence, that,” Harry said, fighting the shit-eating grin that was doing its best to make itself seen. “I’m doing quite well tonight, myself.”
Lucius’s lips twitched as they came to stand outside of Hagrid’s front door. “Naturally.”
All sounds from inside the building ceased as soon as Lucius knocked on the door. About ten seconds later, the door swung gently open, revealing the rather stony countenance of Albus Dumbledore.
“Good evening, Dumbledore,” Lucius said silkily. “I believe I have something you might be interested in. It is actually rather urgent business. May I come in?” Dumbledore nodded and Lucius stepped across the threshold. Harry made to follow, but he found the Chief Warlock impeding his path.
“What are you doing out so late, Harry? Curfew has been in effect for some time now. These are not the times for shameless rule flouncing, I am afraid. Please return to your common room immediately. I shall inform Severus to have a more formal word with you tomorrow.”
Harry glanced towards Lucius, asking a silent question that the man affirmatively answered with a nod. “Respectfully, Chief Warlock, you don’t have the authority to say something like that.”
The air seemed to drain from the hut when Harry said that. All were deadly still except for Hagrid, who reared as if he’d been struck. “‘ang on!” he protested. “He’s the ruddy ‘eadmaster, Potter! Whatcha mean he ain’t got no author-“
“I think you will find, Mr. Hagrid,” Lucius interjected smoothly, “that Albus Dumbledore is the Headmaster of Hogwarts no longer.” With a flourish, Lord Malfoy removed a long roll of parchment from his robes and laid it down on the kitchen table. “An official notice of dismissal from the Hogwarts Board of Governors. I think you will find that all twelve signatures have been given.”
Hagrid leapt to his feet, his shaggy black head grazing the ceiling.
“An’ how many did yeh have ter threaten an’ blackmail before they agreed, Malfoy, eh?” he roared.
“Dear, dear, you know, that temper of yours will lead you into trouble one of these days, Hagrid,” Lord Malfoy drawled. “I would advise you not to shout at the Azkaban guards like that. They won’t like it at all.”
“Yeh can’ take Dumbledore!” yelled Hagrid, making Fang the boarhound cower and whimper in his basket. “Take him away, an’ the muggleborns won’ stand a chance! There’ll be killin’ next!”
“Calm yourself, Hagrid,” said Dumbledore sharply.
“You’re making a mistake, Malfoy.” Harry had barely noticed the other man in the room. Barty Crouch Sr. — the Minister for Magic. “If Dumbledore is no longer in this castle, the investigation loses a major asset. One that it frankly can’t afford to lose.”
“With respect, Minister Crouch, the investigation will have to manage. The board’s decision is unanimous, and it will not be rescinded.”
Hagrid looked as if he would argue again. Crouch did as well, for that matter.
Dumbledore’s voice cut across both of them, and both men fell silent. For his part, Dumbledore was staring pensively into Lucius’s cold grey eyes with an expression that suggested he was completely unfazed by the events unfolding before him.
“If the governors want my removal, Lucius, I shall of course step aside.”
“No!” growled Hagrid.
Dumbledore had not taken his bright blue eyes off of Lucius Malfoy’s cold grey ones.
“However,” said Dumbledore, speaking very slowly and clearly so that none of them could miss a word, “you will find that I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me. You will also find that help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”
For a second, Harry was almost sure Dumbledore’s eyes flickered toward the corner. Those words were far too meaningful, and he doubted very much that Dumbledore was speaking to him. He also didn’t fail to notice the two extra teacups on the table, and he suddenly put the dots together.
Granger and Charlus were hidden in that corner, likely under his brother’s invisibility cloak.
“Admirable sentiments,” said Malfoy, bowing. “We shall all miss your — er — highly individual way of running things, Dumbledore, and only hope that your successor will manage to prevent any — ah — killins.”
He strode to the cabin door, opened it, and bowed Dumbledore out. Crouch, fiddling with his uniform moustache, waited for Hagrid to go ahead of him, but Hagrid stood his ground, took a deep breath, and said carefully, “If anyone wanted ter find out some stuff, all they’d have ter do would be ter follow the spiders. That’d lead ’em right! That’s all I’m sayin’.”
Harry knew at once that both Charlus and Granger would be taking that cue.
He wanted to do likewise.
He wanted to so badly, but knew he couldn’t.
Any time he’d allowed his natural curiosity to overtake him, he’d been led into traps and situations he should have never found himself in.
He had won this night already. It was best not to press his advantage.
There were other avenues he could walk down that would all lead him to the same end goal.
Unmasking the Heir of Slytherin.
A goal that was now less complex with Dumbledore out of the castle.
It would be one less set of eyes watching over him every passing moment of the day.
Now, the true hunt could begin.
Some portions near the end of this chapter were taken directly from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It goes without saying I own none of them.
As you can see, the pace is picking up, and this event happened about two months earlier than it did in canon due to Harry’s intervention. It also sets up other, coming events that I can’t quite say yet.
Let’s just say this isn’t going to play out the way it did in the novels, even if this bit might have looked similar.
Don’t believe me?
Keep reading to be proven wrong!
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