Ashes of Chaos Chapter 47
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 30: The Falling of Pieces Part I
April 22, 1993
Harry tried to focus on his wand and will it to fly to him as he felt himself steadily floating down the corridor. Evidently, whoever had a hold of it was gripping it quite firmly. No matter how hard he tried to will it to him, it didn’t seem to want to obey.
If summoning the wand was impossible, breaking his bindings was another thing altogether. For all of three seconds, he debated activating the necklace from Grace, but he quickly dismissed that as well. It would do him no good. Even if they couldn’t see, he wasn’t going to be able to free himself. If anything, that might only give them a reason to stun him, which would make escaping all the more impossible.
He had no idea what Selwyn and his thugs wanted with him, but he knew it wouldn’t be good. The bastard had been all too willing to use that torture curse indiscriminately last year. He hadn’t seemed to have any compunctions in regards to doing completely immoral things, and that fact did not bode well for Harry, especially when his arrival wherever he was being taken seemed imminent.
Until the nearest torch bracket exploded.
For a moment, Harry thought it had been him who had done it. A bout of accidental magic which had caused the implement to explode outwards. He certainly felt the build up of restrained energy and the way it longed to lash out. It would have, but he forcefully carralled his emotions using Occlumency. His mind was, in spite of the terror pressing against his shields that he was very slowly allowing to leak through, mostly at ease. It was in a controlled enough state, at least, that magic was not going to be cast by him unless he clearly intended for it to happen.
And he certainly had not intended for the torch bracket to explode.
The torch was blown apart with it, and the fire contained within it shot out in all directions before, right in front Harry’s eyes, it swelled and began to swirl into a flaming tornado the likes of which he most certainly was not capable of conjuring.
The goons had dropped him now. One of them had fired a torrent of water towards the flaming cyclone, but the fire had engulfed it and still surged forwards. Two of them ran for it, leaving the third behind, who they had been helping along up to that point. He was the one with the broken leg, courtesy of Harry’s well-aimed Bone-Breaker from the initial confrontation.
They didn’t make it far.
Tendrils of the fire shot outwards from the cyclone, transforming into ropes not unlike the ones that bound Harry as they looped around the retreating assailants. Both of them fell quickly, and the fire behind Harry was extinguished all at once. A relief it was, too, for it had drawn rather close to him. Not quite enough to be a problem, but enough that he was pretty sure some of the hair on his arms had been burnt straight off.
With the fire went his ropes, and Harry let out a shaky, relieved breath as he clambered to his feet. It was a mark of how far his Occlumency had come that he was not reduced to a shaking mess like had been the case last year with the dragon incident. He was allowing all of the irrational feelings to seep through, just at the slowest possible rate he could get away with.
Before him stood a familiar figure in Slytherin robes, one with a gleaming badge upon her chest and a murderous look in her enchanting eyes. “What happened?” Grace asked without preamble, stepping forward and resting both hands on his shoulders, looking him over critically. “Are you hurt?”
“I’m… fine,” said Harry. “I wasn’t hit with anything long-lasting. I was jumped a ways back. I tried to duel but couldn’t hold them off. I dropped one of them with a Bone-Breaker and was going to activate the necklace, but I didn’t have enough time to stop casting.”
“Any particular motive for them attacking you?”
Harry bit his lip. “I… don’t think it was their idea.”
“Who?” It was obvious Grace knew that Harry at least suspected someone, and all subtlety was gone. She was officially done wasting time.
Apparently, Grace’s facade melted the second somebody she cared for was attacked. She was actually rather intimidating like this, and Harry was relieved he was on her side. He had no idea what he had done to invoke this strong of a protective reaction from her, but those were thoughts best had during much less serious occasions.
“Selwyn, I think,” Harry answered. “I think these are friends of his, and he would have a reason to go after me. He was… involved in the dragon incident last year.”
“Fuck,” hissed Grace, striding past the fallen figures without a word, walking at a pace more brisk than Harry had ever seen her walk before as she withdrew her wand. “Walk with me,” she commanded.
“Don’t you want to avoid—“
“Not the time, Harry. I would rather reveal a not-so-important secret than have you get jumped by Selwyn. Something about this seems… wrong. Like there’s more. One strike isn’t his style. Especially since he wasn’t even here to do it.”
That was when Harry came to his epiphany. “Oh,” he said quietly, “fuck.”
Grace’s stride lengthened as the grip she had on her wand became vice-like. “If he touched her—“
“I never even suspected Selwyn,” Harry said dazedly. “I didn’t think he would have had any reason to attack Charlotte. I was more worried about the younger years.”
“Selwyn and I have history,” Grace said vaguely. “I had hoped he would keep my sister out of it.”
They were coming up on the common room entrance now, and Grace practically spat the password. She ordered Harry behind her as she first stepped through the passage, waiting to cast a defensive spell at the first sign of an attack or ambush.
It never came.
What did come was a sight that immediately told both Grace and Harry that they had been too late to prevent what they most feared.
Bodies were splayed out on the furniture dotted all around the room. With the ghostly green light projected in through the black lake outside, it looked like the setting of a poorly funded horror movie.
“Accio Charlotte!” spat Grace, whirling all around the room in an effort to get a look at her sister.
Grace’s eyes practically shot sparks as she wove her wand through the air in intricate, complex patterns. Nothing seemed to happen, which actually appeared to satisfy her immensely.
“There doesn’t seem to be any wards in place that weren’t here before and as far as I can tell, we’re the only two people in the room who are awake. Let’s go look around. You take this side of the common room, I’ll take the other. If you spot anything out of the ordinary, call for me. An ambush still isn’t impossible.”
“Should one of us not watch the entrance.”
Grace spun on her heel and slashed her wand towards the stone wall that admitted any who spoke the password entrance to the common room.
Pure black energy leapt from Grace’s wand and slammed into the offending stone with the impact of a lightning strike. A barrier of the same energy seemed to rise around the wall, and Grace nodded in satisfaction. “Unless a Curse Breaker — or an extremely talented Auror — shows up, that ward is not getting bypassed.”
“I am taking it that is very illegal and that you won’t be teaching it to me.”
Grace actually took the time to roll her eyes as she marched towards the other end of the common room. “Seeing as I didn’t admonish you for using a Bone-Breaker, I would have thought my stance on illegal magic to be fairly obvious.”
She had a point.
They searched for only a minute before Harry found what they were looking for and signalled for Grace to join him. It was a simple piece of parchment on the lounge… but atop it was a wand that looked eerily similar to Harry’s. Similar enough that an odd chill ran down his spine.
“Bastard,” hissed Grace, practically vibrating with fury as she waved her wand over the parchment several times. Seemingly satisfied it wasn’t cursed, she picked it up and read it aloud. For however good Harry’s Occlumency might have been, Grace’s was much better. In her position, there was no way he could have read that note without lashing out at something nearby.
Grace’s voice did not so much as shake.
“It’s time to end this. You took something of mine and used it to ruin me. Now, I’ve taken something of yours, and it’s going to ruin you. Meet me in the abandoned classroom I’ve specified below. Instructions on how to get there are all written out for you. If you want your sister and Potter, you’ll show up. My friends and I have cast tripwire wards on the professor’s doors, so I’ll know if you go looking for them.
Come fast, Weitts. It’s a symbolic night according to the lunar calendar. One where virgin goddesses were once said to be at their strongest.”
Grace spun on her heel at once and withdrew her wand, clearly intent on marching straight down to the classroom and duelling Selwyn and his friends, no matter how many of them were present. For however cold and logical a person was, all logic could sometimes slip away when faced with a particularly perilous situation. Especially ones that pertained directly to those who you held most dear.
“Grace, no,” said Harry, grabbing her arm and doing his best to prevent her from going any further. “It’s a trap.”
“Of course it’s a trap. I will happily walk into a trap if it means getting my sister away from that sadist.”
“You don’t get it, Grace. They’ll be waiting for you, and they’re not going to let Charlotte go. This way, they’ll only have both of you, which is no good to anyone.”
He could tell she wanted to bite his head off, but her voice still sounded perfectly modulated, another mark of her impeccable self-control. “What do you propose then?”
Harry’s visage became stony. “Well, he’s expecting his friends to find me and bring me to him. That’s certainly a start, but I’m not entirely sure what good I’ll be against Merlin only knows how many upper years.”
A sound from nearby caught both of their attention. Several students were starting to unsteadily awaken from their slumber, and Harry suddenly realized the common room was no longer a place where they could discuss this. Obviously, Grace realized it too, for she took a vice-like grip on Harry’s arm and led him down the passageway leading to the boy’s dormitory. For a moment, he expected her to lead him into his own dorm. Perhaps as Head Girl, she was permitted access despite the difference in genders.
But she didn’t.
Instead, she led him to the end of the hall, where they stopped in front of the serpentine carving in the wall. “Time to put that secret room of yours to use, I think,” she said, causing Harry to go wide-eyed. When he showed obvious signs of hesitation, Grace actually sighed. “Harry, hiss at the damn wall. I know you can talk to snakes and we don’t have time for this.”
“I know you sent the snake to frame Malfoy at the gala during your first year. You had a motive and I saw you leave the ballroom not long before it happened. Serpensortia doesn’t work like it did there. I know Malfoy didn’t conjure it, yet the snake was docile to him. That should have been impossible, unless the caster was a Parselmouth. You also hesitated earlier this year in a duel when I conjured a snake, and you have access to a mysterious room that even I can’t figure out how to get into. When your brother hissed at the snake during the Duelling Club, it only confirmed my theory.” She seemed completely unfazed at the look of absolute awe that marred Harry’s features. “Now, hiss at the damn wall and open the door. We need a plan fast. I am not leaving my sister alone with that monster any longer than I have to.
With resigned reluctance, Harry turned to the wall. “Open.”
The wall slid aside.
Some time later, deeper in the dungeons…
Grace felt the wards before she reached the door. She debated working around them for but a second before rejecting the idea. Taking down or working around the wards would take time. Time was a luxury she had none of, at the moment. With a final glance over her shoulder at what appeared to be thin air, she slashed her wand at the door, blowing it inwards and off of its hinges. There were privacy wards cast all over the corridor. She wasn’t worried about waking anyone.
The door served as a shield, blocking the volley of spells that impacted against it, though it was little more than dust within seconds of absorbing the initial spellfire. Birds flowed from the end of Grace’s wand, transforming into various beasts and weapons as they neared their foes. Selwyn and Flint vapourized all of them with torrents of fire and as the other two seventh years fired curses towards Grace.
She evaded and tried to advance, which was when the next ward triggered.
Grace had just enough time to spot Charlotte, bound helplessly in ropes and hanging in a relative state of undress from the ceiling before she let out a scream as agony lanced up her body in ways she had never known before.
This had not been part of the plan.
Charlotte too would have screamed had she not been bound and gagged, but she thrashed helplessly around nevertheless.
Selwyn stepped forward, wand in hand and a triumphant expression on his face. “A wonder what a drop of your sister’s blood did when I tied it with some wards,” he noted. “It would have worked even better if it was yours, obviously, but it was close enough.” Selwyn raised his wand with a malicious gleam in his eye. “Now, to tie you up before the show begins.”
At that moment, a very different show began.
The room was instantly dark. All light seemed to be snuffed out in but a second, and Selwyn, Flint, Jugson and Rowle were suddenly scrambling to find left from right. Several of them tried to light their wands. Flint even tried to burn the darkness away. None of their attempts succeeded.
And then the hissing started.
It first came from a place near the door and was then answered all around the room. It sounded as though an army of snakes had been let into the room. Probably because that was exactly what had happened, as well as a few that had been silently conjured after so many months of practice with non-verbal spell casting.
At once, they struck.
The four assailants’ screams filled the room, only adding to the sinister cacophony of hissing as serpents of varying species attacked with vigour, intent on tearing them all to shreds on behalf of their master. The hissing and screaming was everywhere, reverberating off the walls as the snakes and their master hissed back and forth and their pretty cried out in panic. Some of those present thought the Heir of Slytherin had intervened. Even more so when the sound of bodies hitting the floor was suddenly present.
Suddenly, there was light in the room and it was everywhere. Not a normal light, but a blindingly bright green light that those present only realized to be some arcane form of fire when it started to do what the other spells had failed to. Slowly, it spread throughout the room, burning away the darkness and most of the snakes as it went until finally, the darkness had been cleared and all could see the source of their problems.
Harry Potter, holding what was unmistakably one of the runestones used to set up the blood ward Grace was trapped in while he stood dangerously near another.
Selwyn and Flint were the only two assailants standing. The others had been taken down by Harry’s snakes, both purchased and conjured.
A beat of silence lasted only a second before Harry through the runestones at the far wall, thus breaking the array. The ward flashed, but just managed to stay up.
Until Harry whirled and turned his wand on the nearest runestones, unleashing the most destructive blunt-force spell he knew. One he had learned not all that long ago.
With its link to the wards already weakened, the targeted runestones exploded into rubble, and the entire ward collapsed along with it.
“No!” hissed Selwyn, who made to aim his wand at Harry.
Flint was faster, and the words he spoke shocked the entire room into silence.
A jet of sickly green light leapt towards Harry, seeming eager and intent to end his life in one quick and decisive strike. Harry, with his back turned, couldn’t even see the light approaching, but he knew that incantation and he knew, with pure and utter terror, that he wouldn’t have enough time to dodge.
The air all around Harry blurred and visibly contorted, seeming to bend itself into a translucent barrier to stand against the otherwise unblockable evil of the Killing Curse.
The curse slammed into the barrier. It tore through with an earth-shattering CRACK, but the barrier posed just enough resistance for Harry to roll out of the way, allowing the touch of death to miss him by mere inches.
Harry was in awe as he spun to see Grace back on her feet with a look in her eyes that promised complete and total warfare. She hadn’t exactly blocked the Killing Curse, but she had slowed it down. Harry immediately remembered that spell was the same one she had used against Flint during the first duel he had ever witnessed. He also noticed that, like on that occasion, using it seemed to have taken a lot out of her. Her breathing was mildly laboured but it did not at all take away from the intimidating aura that hung around her. Least of all when the very air around her seemed to crackle with energy as she raised her wand to oppose Selwyn. Harry brought his own up and turned in the direction of Flint, even though he worried it might not be a winnable fight.
They all struck in unison.
Harry’s and Flint’s spells met in mid air. They seemed to both break apart on impact, sending a wave of heat emanating outwards from their point of collision. Harry lunged forward and struck next. He was much faster than Flint, so he managed to get a full, rapid chain of spells off before the older boy could do so much as move. Flint still didn’t fall, but a Gouging Curse did graze his shoulder in much the same way it had grazed Harry when Charlus had used it all those months ago at the duelling club.
Flint snarled and countered, causing Harry to leap aside and conjure several serpents. He hissed, which caused Flint to freeze and gave the serpents time to lunge. Flint only just managed to burn them all away before more were on their way and curses to follow. Flint growled in frustration as he slashed his wand outwards.
Flaming arrows sliced clean through the oncoming snakes as Flint lunged to the side to avoid Harry’s spellfire. He rolled, avoiding a follow-up volley and was back on his feet with a murderous glint in his dark eyes, ready to continue the duel he had vastly underestimated the difficulty of.
On the other side of the room, the very elements of the earth were locked in a battle for dominance as air and fire were set against each one another in what appeared to be reckless hate.
Selwyn’s unnatural green fire was billowing furiously as it seemed to try and burn the very air around it. The air that was firmly under Grace’s control twisted and contorted, trying to entrap the fire, subdue its destructive nature, and circumvent its malevolent intentions.
Grace and Selwyn battled just as fiercely as their elements. Both of them, being high-level Occlumens — though Grace was higher — had divided their mind into several streams of thought, each with the efficiency of a completely focused mind. For Selwyn, it was two streams of thought working coherently. One on duelling Grace, the other on maintaining control over the Greek Fire he had conjured. Grace had twice the amount of thought streams working simultaneously. One was focused on duelling Selwyn, one was focused and struggling to maintain the grasp she had on the very air around them, one was intently focused on Harry’s duel against Flint, intent on making a save if necessary, and one was focused on suppressing the pain she still suffered from as a result of the rather clever blood ward Selwyn had put together.
Grace batted Selwyn’s Gouging Curse back towards him. Clearly, this came as a shock to the sixth year. Grace could hardly blame him. The people capable of reliably deflecting a spell of that nature were very slim.
His hesitation gave her just long enough for a more elaborate wand movement. A whip of fire sprang from her wand and she lashed it towards Selwyn. With a desperate slash, he managed to sever it, sending fire cascading down all around them. His left trouser caught ablaze and he screamed and staggered.
That turned out to be his ultimate mistake.
His attention had slipped just long enough to lose control of his Greek Fire, and thereby allow Grace to completely envelop it in layers of air too thick for the flames to incinerate. With a monumental effort, the fire began to compress and compress, until…
Grace used the air to bend around the explosion and lessen its effect, but fire still sprayed here and there around the room, even if it was quickly snuffed out. The impact sent Selwyn sailing through the air and slamming hard against the wall, slumping to the floor in an unconscious heap.
With a deep sigh, Grace finally released her control over the air and turned to the other duel that was still ongoing.
Harry realized he was going to lose the duel several rapid exchanges after Flint had summoned flaming arrows. His first victory over Cassius had now come months ago. Harry could beat the talented fifth year just as often as Cassius could beat him, nowadays. He suspected Cassius could beat most of the sixth years, too, but Flint was a seventh year and a damn talented one, at that.
He had been mocked for scoring low in classes during Harry’s first year. Apparently, when he had decided to resign as Quidditch captain, he really had put the extra time to good use. Not that he had ever been anything but a talented duellist. The one class Flint had never struggled in was Defence Against the Dark Arts. During their duel, Harry suspected Flint had never lacked talent in any of the others. His focus had just been on other things.
That was all very unfortunate for Harry.
By the time an explosion of fire rocked the very floor he stood on, Harry was banged up. He had taken a Bludgeoner to the ribs and only just managed to not go down. He’d also been hit by several Cutting Curses and was bleeding from his arm, leg and cheek.
Harry dodged two spells fired in quick succession by Flint and batted away the third.
To his astonishment, his spell flew straight towards Flint and struck him square in the chest…
And did absolutely nothing, for that was not the real Marcus Flint.
The real Marcus Flint had cast the Doppelgänger Defence Charm just as Harry’s attention had been mildly subverted by the explosion of fire. The real Marcus Flint was standing behind him.
Harry wanted to scream as the Trauma Curse slammed into him. He wanted to tear the skin from his body, he wanted to rip his eyes from their sockets, he wanted to curl up in a fetal position and never get up.
But he did none of these things.
He did the last thing Marcus Flint, who had actually relaxed his stance after what he believed to be his victory, expected him to do.
He occluded harder than he had ever occluded before. With every fibre of his being, he forced his mind clear and ruthlessly crushed every single one of those feelings before spinning on his heel and slashing his wand towards the very surprised-looking Marcus Flint, whose eyes were wide with complete and total disbelief. In contrast, Harry’s seemed to be glowing out of his head, yet there was a dead sort of look behind them as a result of Flint’s last spell. The sight of somebody who had seen and felt too much.
The spell struck Flint in the sternum and he let out a horrible scream before collapsing to his knees. Before any more could come of it, a jet of red light hit him in the side of the head and he slumped to the floor.
Grace marched towards Harry with a blazing look in her eyes. “Harry, are you alright?”
He nodded slowly. “For now,” he answered hollowly.
She narrowed her eyes. “You’re occluding at maximum capacity right now, aren’t you?” He nodded. She sighed deeply. “You are coming with Charlotte and I.”
“Isn’t… that going to be a fairly personal—“
“I would rather you hear some things you shouldn’t than leave you alone after being hit with a full power Trauma Curse at point blank range.” Grace gave him a hard, defiant stare. “Do you know what else that curse is called less formally, Harry?” He shook his head. “The Suicide Curse.” He quickly shut his mouth. “You are going to come with the two of us and I am going to make sure that both you and Charlotte do nothing stupid tonight.”
He did not dare argue any further.
Later that night…
It turned out there was a designated suite of sorts for Head Boys and Girls. Seeing as Slytherin only housed a Head Girl there was a fair bit of room in the spacious suite-like place Grace led Harry and Charlotte. The latter had been painstakingly quiet for the duration of their walk back to the Slytherin common room, and Harry could see her shoulders shake every so often.
Grace had obviously noticed it too, for she simply held Charlotte for some time on her bed, which was very awkward for Harry to look on, especially when the younger Weitts sister finally let go of the vice-like grip she had held over her Occlumency and broke down in front of Harry for the first time.
It wasn’t something he was at all comfortable with, and he stood awkwardly off to the side while the two sisters talked and the emotionally charged night continued. Harry tried not to hear most of what was said, but his ears were annoyingly sharp and every time he tried to retreat into his own thoughts, things went to hell very quickly.
He heard about how Charlotte had spent the beginning portion of the year trying to prove how she was more than just Grace Weitts’s little sister. She had also apparently ascertained, or at least suspected, that Grace had asked Harry to watch over her, which only made her plan all the more necessary, in her opinion. To Charlotte, it had become about proving her worth to not just the house, but to her sister as well.
She explained how her blatant facade of overconfidence had been a mechanism to bait younger students into attacking her with the goal of turning them back and earning respect. What she had not anticipated was Selwyn sponsoring Mulciber and Jugson’s efforts, and thereby falling into a rather dangerous game. The absolute last thing she had expected was for Selwyn to personally involve himself in the matter, though Grace heavily took the blame for that, sounding more dejected than Harry had ever heard her.
Charlotte confessed to Grace all she had confessed to Harry back in the hospital wing in November, and Grace listened with obvious sadness. In the end, Charlotte had fallen asleep, finally succumbing to emotion. Grace had laid her on the bed with obvious sadness before glancing up towards Harry, gesturing for him to sit on the bed across from her.
“How are you feeling?” she asked as he hollowly took the seat.
He shrugged. He felt no pain; she had healed his cuts and the blunt impact of the Bludgeoner as soon as they had returned. She’d also snuck into the hospital wing and swiped a potion meant to relieve the after effects of the Cruciatus Curse for Charlotte.
“This is the part where you start letting it leak through,” Grace prompted when Harry didn’t answer.
He sighed and very slowly allowed the barest traces of the emotions brought on by the Trauma Curse to seep into his psyche.
He winced at once; it was not a pleasant experience.
Grace gave him an inquisitive look, but Harry only shook his head. “I’ll manage,” he said a bit dully. Grace looked sceptical, but Harry quickly switched the topic of conversation. “So, Selwyn, Flint, Jugson and Rowle will know I’m a Parselmouth now.”
“They will, but they won’t tell a soul.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “How can you be so sure of that?” Grace had left them just outside Snape’s door before setting off a firework in the hall and vanishing with the help of the Disillusionment Charm. By the time she had snuck into the hospital wing soon after, they had all been laying in beds and seemed to have been attended to.
“They used Unforgivables, Harry. The use of any of those spells against a fellow human being is enough for a life-time sentence in Azkaban. If they revealed you as a Parselmouth, they know that we would reveal they used Unforgivables. We have three witnesses and if I brought up the fact I nicked the Cruciatus relief potion in combination with Pomfrey doubtlessly realizing she was one short, it would be enough evidence for a memory. My family has more than enough money to fund the verification process and if they revealed that you were a Parselmouth as early as tomorrow, their wands wouldn’t stand up against Priori Incantato.”
That made a stunning amount of logical sense. He supposed it really shouldn’t have been stunning at all. Grace was, if nothing else, logical and cynical to a fault.
His thoughts were interrupted when a light hissing made itself known. He knew where it had come from at once. A few of the snakes had survived the duel in the abandoned classroom. One of the smaller, stealthier onces had slithered up his sleeve before his exit. Grace seemed to realize what was going on, for she nodded, prompting him to let it out and listen to what it had to say.
His blood ran cold.
“I had not the time to tell you before tonight, but I was in the common room of your kin and heard something of use.”
“What was it?” Harry hissed back urgently.
Even the snake seemed to hesitate. “He received a message. A message from this Heir of Slytherin.”
April 23, 1993
The Speaker’s Den
“So it’s not the Heir themselves attacking students, and there are two targets left before… something happens,” Blaise said thoughtfully upon Harry concluding his summary of what the snake had told him the night before. A night during which he had gotten absolutely no sleep.
There were still some very minor, lingering effects of the Trauma Curse, but they were mostly gone and not overly troubling by this point. Without the use of Occlumency, they would have been much more problematic.
“No,” said Harry. “It actually does seem to be this monster of Slytherin. Whatever it is, those spiders obviously fear it.”
They now knew all about the monstrous spiders and what they had said to Charlus.
Well, they had a general idea.
When Harry had brought up the fact they needed to work out what Charlus had learned, Blaise had suggested the idea of watching out for Charlus’s mail. It would likely arrive at breakfast, but it wouldn’t be impossible to copy the letter’s contents onto another piece of parchment, just very difficult.
That’s when Ares had presented an even better option.
A Switching Spell.
They would wait for Charlus’s mail to arrive and they would have letters drafted that the Boy-Who-Lived possibly could have received. Then, just as his owl set down the letter, they would cast a Switching Spell. Harry was the best out of all of them, so it had been him who had been tasked with learning the bit of fourth-year Transfiguration. It hadn’t actually been all that difficult, and they had been subtly doing it over a number of days until, finally, they struck gold.
A reply letter from Dumbledore. One reflecting on what Charlus had told him about the spiders suggesting the monster was a mortal enemy. Dumbledore hadn’t seemed to know what that enemy was, exactly, but he was apparently following a hunch and would write back to Charlus.
It had been the breakthrough they had needed.
“Acromantulas,” said Ares. “They’re called acromantulas.”
It had now been several months since Ares’s inclusion into their small group of friends. She had become generally less cold over those past few months, but only in private.
“Can you think of anything an acromantula would be afraid of?” asked Harry.
Ares thought for a moment but shook her head, obviously frustrated. “Not another creature, no. I don’t imagine they would like fire much, but I have a feeling whatever we’re dealing with doesn’t go around spouting fire.”
“It wouldn’t exactly be subtle,” Blaise agreed. “Whatever this thing is, it has a way of moving around undetected and can strike without a trace or a fight.”
“It might also petrify its victims,” Harry reminded. “Remember, Mrs. Norris was attacked on Samhain. There’s a good chance that whatever attacked her is what ended up attacking all of the others.”
“Well that’s a start, isn’t it?” asked Tracey hopefully.
Ares frowned. “How do you mean?”
“Well, we know where Mrs. Norris was attacked. Harry also thinks the twins were attacked there, right?”
“I’m almost sure of it,” Harry answered. His hand drifted slowly towards the Marauder’s Map in his pocket. As of yet, that was a secret he had not shared with his friends, though he acknowledged that fact might need to change soon. It just didn’t seem like the time to give out information of that sort. Not because he didn’t trust them, but information could be taken. He supposed he could impose the Sanction but even then, information could be acted on.
It was probably just paranoia, but Harry thought that, given the current set of circumstances, he was entitled to being a little bit paranoid.
“Well,” said Tracey, “if we know at least and maybe two attacks happened there, why don’t we investigate the scene? If two happened there, that seems like an odd coincidence. Even if only one happened there, it’s a start.”
“There are the Aurors to contend with,” Ares pointed out. “They go by there every so often, I would imagine. It wouldn’t make sense for them not to based on what you just said.”
“I… sort of have their general patrol schedule memorized,” Harry said a bit bashfully.
“Of course you do,” sighed Blaise with a roll of his eyes. “I really do resent that memory of yours, but I suppose this once, if it’s going to be useful, I’ll let it slide.”
“How generous of you,” Harry said dryly.
Blaise’s lips twitched. “Of course, my friend. I am a gentleman and a scholar, after all.”
“It’s a start,” said Ares, cutting across the two of them in much the same way Daphne had often done in the past. That thought made Harry’s heart strings tug. “We can start investigating that general area. I’m not sure if we should ever go one at a time, though. If whatever is attacking students is relying on stealth, it will be harder to get the jump on and take out two people before at least one of them can react.”
They all nodded. None of them could fault the logic.
It was, as Ares had said, a start.
May 15, 1993
An Abandoned Classroom
Harry dodged Flora’s Blinding Curse and countered with mesmerizing speed and ruthlessly efficiency. She conjured a wall of stone instead of shielding, and Harry seized the tactical error after ten long minutes of duelling.
It was the first time he had ever used the Blasting Curse in the presence of his four older training partners, so Flora was suitably taken aback when the wall of stone was blasted to smithereens and Harry banished enough of the debris back at her to occupy her wand while he snuck a wordless Expelliarmus in behind it. Non-verbal casting was another trick he had held off showing until now.
Until tonight, he had never beaten Flora. Whether he needed the element of surprise or not, he had been determined to change that.
And Merlin, did it feel good to change that. One small victory in a year of what felt like repetitive defeats.
Hestia was significantly more skillful than Flora, so he doubted he would be beating her this year. Calypso wasn’t even in the realm of possibility, but he was making significant progress.
He just hoped it would be enough when… whatever he could just feel was going to happen came to pass.
May 23, 1993
The Restricted Section
Charlus sighed in defeat for… he wasn’t sure how many nights in a row.
Ever since the incident with the Heir’s message, he had been possessed by a sense of urgency. Every single night since — being accompanied by Hermione on most of them — he snuck into the Restricted Section under his invisibility cloak and tried to find anything he could about what could possibly be happening to those who went missing.
He was sure that if anywhere in the school housed the information, it would be the Restricted Section. Nothing this evil could be held anywhere else, in his opinion.
Yet the search had thus far been fruitless.
Worse still, Charlus could not help but feel as if he was running out of time. As if something big was going to happen soon. Something big he would be unprepared for, and thus unable to stop.
It scared him more than anything else.
May 26, 1993
Somewhere on the Outskirts of Greece
It had been a long two and a half months ever since Albus Dumbledore had simultaneously stepped down and been removed as the Headmaster of Hogwarts. During those two months, he had travelled far and wide.
He had spent the entire year doing every bit of research he could on anything that could petrify its victims, yet could also move so stealthily around the school and possibly be commanded by a Parselmouth.
His research had yielded nothing.
If even he could not find the answers, that only meant one thing to Albus.
The answers weren’t meant to be found.
They were buried so deep in the recesses of history that none but the most determined and knowledgeable would be able to find them. Even then, they would never find anything at all if they did not look in the right places.
Albus knew where to look.
The most ancient of places were where witches and wizards had first learned to bend Chaos to their will. They were where much of magic as it was known today had been derived from. Much of what was done today with magic was simply less extreme cases of what magic was capable of doing on its own.
The ability to warp this force was both the best and worst thing that ever happened to humanity, but it provided Albus with a start.
He had known he would need to travel somewhere that was so deeply rooted in chaos that it couldn’t be completely erased from its history.
For the conclusion that Albus had come to was simple.
Whatever was happening at Hogwarts was undoubtedly a facet of Chaos Magic.
He had his suspicions now, after months of travel, but something didn’t line up. There was… a myth that fit most of his criteria but there was one, glaring hole in that theory.
One glaring hole that could potentially be patched.
He wasn’t entirely sure.
For that, he would need to find somebody who knew more about Chaos Magic than he did.
And he could only think of one person who fit that description.
Well, two, really, but only one who would know about this kind of Chaos Magic.
More particularly, the warping of Chaos Magic.
Now the game became one of patience once more while he waited for his ace in the hole to mature once more.
He would be of little use to him if he was still growing back his feathers, after all.
May 29, 1993
The Great Hall
Harry hadn’t been worried by Cassius not appearing at breakfast that Saturday morning. His friend was a heavy sleeper at the best of times, after all. It was not at all uncommon for him not to rise at this time of the morning.
He hadn’t been the least bit worried.
Until the letter arrived.
A simple letter, and one that, though Harry didn’t know it, was identical to the one Charlus would receive hours later.
The letter had a number of names with lines drawn straight through them
Except for one
Cat Creevey Weasleys Greengrass Moon Warrington
One more piece left to fall
The endgame is well and truly near now.
May 29th is the day the Chamber confrontation happened in canon, but it will happen a bit later here. I hope the large number of small time skips in the last few chapters hasn’t been too jarring. I know the pace has exponentially sped up, but that’s because I finally had all of my pieces on the board, even if you’re not seeing them all yet.
Before I sign off, if it isn’t obvious already, the basilisk works rather differently here than in canon. It is also much more obscure, hence why Dumbledore does not connect the dots immediately. Canonically, it made no sense that it wasn’t figured out way earlier. I actually have a reason why that doesn’t happen. If it isn’t yet obvious, it will be soon.
As always, follow, favourite and review.
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