Ashes of Chaos Chapter 48
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 31: The Falling of Pieces, Part II
May 29, 1993
The Department of Mysteries
Deep in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic, another body operated mostly of their own accord. At present, the body was in a state of mild disarray as they pieced together the mystery of exactly what was going on at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
“Six students have gone missing,” said Soul. His posture looked as though he might be eyeing his other counterparts with a look that made his statement seem all the more obvious, but his eyes and face were impossible to discern. “It fairly clear that this Heir of Slytherin is setting up for a ritual, of sorts. Otherwise, I don’t see what they would be doing. It’s obvious it’s not targeting muggleborns, as only one of the students who vanished was anything but a pureblood. And it’s also evident they’re waiting for something before acting on what is likely their final plan. They’re planning to act when they’ve taken a seventh student.”
“That does seem likely,” Blood answered diplomatically. “The problem with this hypothesis is that it isn’t overly useful to us. To say the Heir is planning a ritual that requires seven bodies doesn’t exactly narrow things down. It could be a sacrificial ritual, or a blood ritual, or something different. Even within those branches, there are more rituals than we likely even know of.”
“It is impossible to discern what this Heir is planning to do with the bodies if we don’t know their end goal,” pointed out Mind. “Without an end goal, we simply don’t have enough information to make any reasonable assumptions.”
“We must act,” said Soul. “It doesn’t matter what ritual they’re planning. It seems fairly obvious to me that they’re planning a ritual, of some sort. Any ritual that they’re optimizing via magical numbers that involve humans is trouble. No matter its nature, it’s something we can’t stand by and let happen.”
“I agree,” said Blood, “but the problem is acting. Acting without all of the necessary information would be foolish and could cost us dearly.”
“Which is why we don’t act immediately,” Mind put in reasonably. “We conduct more direct investigations into the matter and gain the knowledge of exactly what is going on at that school.”
“The problem is we can’t gain access to the school,” pointed out Records. “The Hogwarts charter is very specific. If any more than three occupying witches or wizards enter the castle, we will violate that charter. I think it’s probably a safe assumption to say the wards are, at least, somewhat tied to and governed by the charter. I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I am personally uninterested in seeing what happens when the Hogwarts wards sense a violation of that nature.”
“The solution seems quite simple to me,” spoke up Saul Croaker — the only one in the vast room with a known name. None of the others knew the identities of who they were working with.
“We’re all ears, Croaker.”
“We simply order the withdrawal of these Aurors and send our own teams of operatives into the castle. The Aurors have been in that castle for months and have been wholly unsuccessful. I think it time we have a crack at this fiasco, personally.”
“That’s a wonderful theory,” said Soul, “but how exactly are you going to rescind and modify a decision made by the Minister himself?”
Croaker smiled thinly. “That’s quite easy, Soul. We might not have yet discerned how the Heir is making students disappear in the middle of the night, but I think it’s safe to assume nobody else has either. With that in mind, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to state that it’s the result of… hidden magics that only the Unspeakables are aware of.”
“There is no direct evidence that Chaos Magic is involved,” pointed out Records.
Croaker chuckled. “Ah, Records, your moral compass and obsession with order is endearing, if nothing else. We don’t need evidence. We are the Unspeakables and the opposition to this horrid monstrosity of magic. We need no proof. Not when the people we need to convince have next to no knowledge of what we will be speaking about.”
Very slowly, the very select few heads of some of the Department of Mysteries’ branch heads nodded in agreement.
That night, in the Speaker’s Den…
For what was far from the first time this year, Harry had had a very long day. Most days this year honestly seemed like very long days, to Harry, but this had been one of the worst.
The Heir of Slytherin had not been bluffing.
Cassius had disappeared, making him the second of Harry’s friends to mysteriously disappear. Harry was sure that wasn’t a coincidence, which, to him, meant the Heir had become aware of his meddling. Daphne had likely been targeted for political reasons, to cause great political unrest. That most certainly wasn’t the case with Cassius. His family wasn’t important enough to cause that amount of distress in the magical world, so the Heir’s reasons for targeting him had to be on a lesser scale.
Harry had made significant progress over the past number of months, even if he worried he might not be able to unmask the culprit by the end of the school year. Time was ticking down, after all. There was less than a month left until they would all board the Hogwarts Express back to London. Regardless, he had come far. Not only learning of who the Heir was — if not who might be doing their bidding — but also making small steps towards figuring out what exactly was attacking students, as well as several other revelations.
It stood to reason that if the Heir of Slytherin had somehow become aware of any of that, they would be at least a little bit worried. Perhaps lashing out at Cassius was a warning of sorts to Harry and his group of friends. A warning that if they got too close, the Heir was more than willing to strike back.
He wasn’t entirely certain, but he knew then the disappearance of another of his friends had really ruined his day. It had not been quite as traumatic as when Daphne had vanished in the night, but it certainly wasn’t pleasant. Cassius was one of Harry’s best friends, and he filled a void that most of the others didn’t. He loved Daphne, Tracey, Charlotte and even Pansy, but it was different. Blaise and Cassius were friends differently. They acted in ways the others didn’t. They were the more jovial bunch when they allowed their facades to slip, and Harry enjoyed their company greatly. Cassius in particular was quite good at not being completely serious twenty-four-seven. It was a quality many of the others — Harry included, possibly chief amongst them, even — lacked. It was often a breath of fresh air, and it had been snuffed out as though it were but a miniature flame stomped into quiet submission.
One way or the other, the Heir had made things personal once more, and Harry suspected their motivation was striking back at him and his friends specifically.
This led to a rather horrifying epiphany.
There were things he needed to tell his friends.
Much as he valued privacy and security above most things, he could not allow any more of his friends to be hurt. To avoid that, there were things they needed to know. Weapons they could utilize.
That night in the Speaker’s Den, Harry told them all about his ring and necklace. Blaise, Tracey and Charlotte had already known about the former — with Charlotte knowing about both articles of jewelry — but Ares and Pansy hadn’t.
A something that none of them had known about and Harry had revealed was the Marauder’s Map.
As of late, their group had taken to patrolling some of the more suspicious areas of the castle when they knew they could get away with it. In particular, the second floor, near the hospital and throughout the dungeons. Mrs. Norris and the twins, most likely, had fallen on the second floor, Colin Creevey on his way to the hospital wing, and the dungeons… well, a great number of shady things happened in the dungeons. Harry knew this better than perhaps any other Hogwarts students who had attended the school in many years. They were also dealing with an Heir of Slytherin, so it made a certain amount of logical sense for them to be operating out of the dungeons. At the very least, none of them would have been at all surprised if this person was partial towards the dungeons. Even if they couldn’t catch them in the act, any bit of suspicious activity would be appreciated. Anything for them to latch onto would be a thousand times better than what they had right now.
They needed a lead, and if finding that lead meant divulging information, then Harry was willing to do it.
There was very little he wouldn’t do to keep his friends safe.
As the Sorting Hat had said almost two years prior, he would be loyal to a fault. Just to a very select group of people. Truer words, at least in regards to Harry, had never been spoken.
And even if that wasn’t true, he was a very obsessive person.
As of late, his entire being had been fixated and obsessed with the Heir of Slytherin, and his vengeful wrath was bubbling and waiting to be unleashed.
As soon as they had a lead, he would strike.
He was willing to do just about anything to unmask the Heir of Slytherin.
May 30, 1993
A Room in the Dungeons
Harry grimaced as Grace withdrew from his mind. Ever since progressing to stage three in Occlumency, her attacks had become mildly more subtle and a whole lot more potent. He was often left with splitting headaches after their sessions, the likes of which he hadn’t had in some time. The worst part was that, as a result of the ongoing curfew, it wasn’t exactly as though he could sneak to the hospital wing and ask for a potion to relieve him of his discomfort. Hardly the end of the world, but certainly annoying.
A necessary evil though, and Harry was more than willing to put up with it if it meant improvement. By the end of stage three, it would be expected that his shields repel all but the most skillful practitioners of Legilimency. This was going to be a massive boon to his mental defences for obvious reasons. The problem with magic was that, as Emily had alluded to before, it was centred in balance. For Harry to add such a massive defensive tool to his steadily growing arsenal, he was going to need to put in a whole lot of work and deal with a considerable amount of discomfort.
“Your improvements are still on track,” said Grace, drawing Harry out of his philosophical reminiscences on the natural balance of magic. “Impressive considering… everything going on.”
“I’ve been distracted, but not in lessons. I’m usually pretty good at keeping my focus, even though it does get hard, at times.”
“Well, since you seem to actually enjoy being lectured on this sort of thing, care to learn about the first subskill that is now technically available to you in stage three?” Harry perked up and nodded swiftly. “I should warn you before I mention it is extremely useful, but this is not something you will be developing quickly. If you thought it was a task to master emotional suppression, and then even more so to use healthily, you’re not going to like how long this takes to learn. I would be impressed but not surprised if you managed it before Halloween.”
“What is it?”
“It’s most commonly referred to as thought streams,” said Grace.
Harry blinked. “That’s it? But… that isn’t that special, is it? I can have multiple trains of thought going on at once.”
Grace’s lips twitched. “It’s a lot more complicated than that, Harry. By thought streams, I mean you are quite literally opening and utilizing a separate stream of thought to its fullest potential. This stream of thought can easily work independently of any others you have, or combine with others to increase the rate of efficiency with which you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing. The biggest difference is that every single stream of thought you open has access to the maximum amount of brainpower you can access on a normal basis.”
That swiftly silenced any notions Harry had about this being a somewhat mundane ability. That really should not have been possible at all. It was apparently as Grace had said.
“I’m taking it there are risks with this, just like with emotional suppression?”
Grace’s eyes danced with something that rested somewhere on the spectrum between pride and amusement. “Now you’re learning. Anything like this has its drawbacks. Most people never learn to open even one additional thought stream. Of the few people who manage that, very few ever open more than one extra. After that… it’s scarcely heard of.”
“Hypothetically,” Harry began carefully, “how many thought streams could a person open?”
“It’s believed that seven would be the highest a human could open before the consequences became permanent and extremely damaging.” She hesitated. “There was at least one wizard who claimed to have opened more than seven, but most people dismiss the claim immediately. The Unspeakables even released a paper on it decades ago. They debunked any claim he had and essentially proved it shouldn’t be at all possible.”
“Who was this wizard?” Harry asked with mounting curiosity.
“Grindelwald,” said Grace. “He claimed to have opened twenty-one.”
Harry’s eyes practically bugged out. “T-twenty-one?! Wouldn’t that literally be using twenty-one times his normal brain capacity?”
“It would, but again, remember that none have ever supported this claim. The best magical minds of the age have all universally dismissed it as impossible and propaganda. It was something he said while at the height of his powers before he was defeated by Dumbledore. It was likely said to gain admiration from his followers, and to strike fear in the hearts of his enemies.”
Harry nodded slowly. It did seem utterly impossible and it was exactly the sort of thing he would have done in that position. He typically preferred half-truths to lies, but if you were going to lie, the best lies to tell were the ones that couldn’t be disproven. Whatever anyone thought of Grindelwald, it was likely the man had been a genius in the Mind Arts, even if this particular claim had been bollocks. He doubted anyone would have been able to breach his mind even if they had tried, and he had a sneaking suspicion none had ever dared. Not once he became feared across Europe and the wider wizarding world, at least.
“I had one more thing I wanted to talk to you about before we leave,” Grace said carefully. “Two things, I suppose. They’re sort of connected.”
“This is about Cassius, isn’t it?” Harry asked with a sigh.
“It is,” Grace admitted. “I’m not going to force you to talk about it. I just know this is the second person who is close to you that has gone missing. All I need is for you to look me in the eye and tell me that you’re okay. Or, at least, that you’re going to be okay.” She paused. “That and that you won’t do anything stupid.”
Harry knew what she was implying with the latter statement, and he would not rescind his efforts in hunting down the Heir of Slytherin. It wasn’t something he was willing to do. Grace’s statement was also vague enough that he could agree carefully and not violate his promise by doing just that.
“I’m not exactly okay,” he admitted, “but I promise I will be. And… I won’t do anything stupid. I won’t promise that nothing will be done, but anything I do will be done with extreme caution.”
Grace gave him a very piercing look. “Be careful, Harry,” she said simply. “I’ll be watching out for you, but I won’t intrude.”
He nodded thankfully; it was, realistically speaking, the best he could have hoped for.
At that same moment, in Gilderoy Lockhart’s office…
Charlus was thoroughly battered by the time he had finished his most recent mock duel against his Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor. Lockhart did not facilitate mock duels often. He seemed largely of the opinion that, at Charlus’s current age and skill level, drills would most often suffice. On the rare occasions he did set up mock duels, he didn’t hold back. Gilderoy Lockhart did not do anything halfway.
“That will do for tonight, I think,” said Lockhart, glancing up towards the clock and noticing that the hour was steadily growing late. “Your improvements have been humbling to bear witness to, Charlus. I am very proud of how far you have come, and I look forward to seeing how far you can progress in the future.”
That sounded oddly formal to Charlus. Oddly final, even. He supposed Lockhart was the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. Something always happened to the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. That was, if they made it the entire year, of course. This year, with danger seemingly looming around every shadowy corner, that seemed somehow even more inevitable.
Lockhart must have noticed Charlus’s internal pondering, for he smiled a very tired-looking smile. “The end of the year is coming fast, Charlus. With it, likely too, comes the end of my tenure at Hogwarts. I know this school has had many incompetent professors of Defence Against the Dark Arts, but I’m not one of them. I understand the curse on the position, even if I frankly have no idea how it came to be. I have no delusions that I will be teaching this subject next year.” His jaw set. “With the end of the year, my tenure here comes to the end of the line. The closing of my window to capture the Heir of Slytherin.”
Charlus perked up. “Do you have any leads, sir?”
“None,” admitted Lockhart, “which is why this is so pressing. I need to catch the Heir of Slytherin. I believe that things happen for a reason, Charlus. It is my belief that I am here at this institution to capture this Heir. It is the only goal I have left this year before I go out into the wider world once more and try my hand and larger, grander things.”
Charlus could sense that Lockhart was trying to tell him something, but exactly what was unknown to him. “What are you trying to say, Professor?”
“I’m trying to say that this will be the last lesson the two of us have, Charlus. Unless the curse on the Defence Against the Dark Arts job miraculously disappears, which I find to be unlikely. My efforts are divided, which clearly isn’t working. All of them need to be set firmly on capturing the Heir of Slytherin. Anything less than my best effort isn’t going to cut it.
“Don’t look so down,” Lockhart continued. “Exams are right around the corner for you. I doubt you’ll struggle in my subject, and I’m sure none of the practical portions of the wanded subjects will trouble you much, either. But I’m sure it will still do you some good to focus your energy on the exams. The theoretical portions, in particular. Take it from me, Charlus. Being able to cast magic is a fantastic skill, let alone being able to do so more efficiently than those around you. But if you want to counter magic and truly work against those who would turn it against you, there is no tool more powerful than knowledge. Understanding magic and how it can be used against you is often the most important thing you can possibly learn.
He glanced up towards the clock once more. “And with those prophetic-sounding words of wisdom, and my best Dumbledore impression out of the way, I think it time we return you to the safety of your dormitory.”
May 30, 1993
The Wizengamot Chambers
Crouch banged his gavel hard against the podium, demanding silence from all gathered parties. Some were fiercely arguing favour of the motion that was finally about to be voted on, and others were shouting in complete and utter outrage at what they viewed as an atrocity the likes of which the British Isles had not seen since the torture of the Longbottoms in early November of 1981.
Crouch Sr. was standing in as Chief Warlock, for the time being. Soon after the ousting of Albus Dumbledore as Hogwarts’ headmaster, the man himself had asked for a temporary release from his duties as Chief Warlock to address some deeply personal concerns. None had objected, partially because the last thing the Wizengamot needed was the bad publicity currently associated with the no-longer Hogwarts Headmaster. And also because many of the gathered voters were more than happy to never see Dumbledore in the chamber again. Some for personal reasons, some for political reasons, and some for a large quantity of both.
“I demand order!” bellowed Crouch, finally cowing the hall into silence. “We shall argue about this no longer! We have wasted time already. Why argue over something that will either pass or not depending on how we all vote?” Murmurs, many of them annoyed, filled the chamber, but they stayed at a relatively low level. “All in favour of the motion proposed here today?”
It was a very close vote. A quick glance would not suffice, and the votes had to be carefully added.
Eventually, it was decided.
The vote passed, if barely.
That night, in the Chamber of Secrets…
Emily Riddle paced back and forth in her acquired body, paying no mind to and hardly noticing the bound and helpless forms at the feet of the massive state that dominated the Chamber of Secrets.
The time was drawing near.
In five days, the moon would be at its fullest. The full moon was symbolic of many things both magical and mythological. Its copious number of potential symbolic applications lent itself rather well to rituals.
As did powerful, magical numbers.
Three and seven, in particular, were ostensibly linked to ritual magic. She had debated carrying out her plans after the Weasley twins’ capture.
She had dismissed it just as quickly as she had dismissed taking the map. It would have been useful, but she hardly needed it, just as she hardly needed to rush her plans. By that point, she had already realized just how helpless the school really was, and just how unlikely it was they would be discovering her exploits. That had held very true. She had practically been toying with them ever since.
She could have ended this months ago, more than likely. Any time after Dumbledore had been removed from the castle, really.
But she had wanted everything to be perfect.
Seven catalysts to draw from during the night of the full moon.
Everything would go perfectly.
She would have her body back, at long last.
And when she did, she would be able to think clearly and outside of the single-minded compulsion she was currently under via the diary that had served as her prison all these years.
Meanwhile, in the staff room…
Harry had been watching the Marauder’s Map when he had seen the oddity take place. All of the teachers had grouped together and were slowly making their way towards the staff room.
His eyes had narrowed.
This may well have meant that the Heir of Slytherin had struck again. If the cryptic note Harry had received just the previous morning was any indication, this would be the final strike. After this, or whatever constituted as the Heir’s next move, something major would happen.
Harry could feel it.
He slipped out of the common room as quickly as he could and, with the aid of the map, beat all of the teachers to the staff room. The difficult part was going to be getting past the Auror standing guard outside the room.
Harry hid in a nearby alcove until the sounds of the teachers drew near. Then, he sucked in his breath and vanished from sight, carefully creeping into the room behind the professors. Just as carefully, Harry slid under the table and cast the most powerful, wordless Notice-Me-Not Charm he could manage.
He had been trying to work his way up to the Disillusionment Charm over the past few months. He had quickly realized that particular bit of magic was firmly out of his reach, for now. So he had decided to work on other, slightly less advanced secrecy measures. This particular spell had taken him months to master, particularly because he had only worked on it wordlessly. His philosophy had been quite simple — if the entire point of a spell was to aid in stealth, then speaking the incantation aloud would have been wholly counterintuitive.
He had eventually mastered it. Mercifully, he had, for none of the staff seemed to notice him as Professor McGonagall shakily cleared her throat and began the meeting in earnest. Harry had never heard her sound so grave before.
“The Wizengamot met earlier today. They did so in a behind-closed-doors meeting. No media was allowed entrance, and everyone in the chamber was sworn to secrecy, except in telling those who they were ordered to tell.” Her face set into a firm line of resoluteness. “It just so happens I was one of those told, and now I am telling all of you, though I must insist you all swear a most stringent oath of secrecy.”
All present did so, except Harry. Depending on what this was about, it could be excellent blackmail material.
McGonagall closed her eyes and took a long, deep breath. To those who had been present on that fateful day almost two years ago, she reminded them of how Dumbledore had looked right before informing the staff that Terence Higgs had been killed by the cerberus he had willingly allowed into the school.
It didn’t exactly fill them to the brim with hope and joy.
“Hogwarts will not be opening next year unless the Heir of Slytherin is apprehended.”
Most present gasped.
“But Minerva,” piped up Professor Flitwick, “what about the Heir’s threats? They’ll kill all of the students they’ve taken if they find out.”
“Hence the strict oaths of secrecy, Fillius,” McGonagall said heavily. “Hopefully, it doesn’t come to this, but my hopes aren’t terribly high, at the moment. We’ve tried for months and nothing has come of it. I’m not sure that will change in the coming month, but we better hope something does, or else the school will not reopen.”
“What of the captured students?” Snape asked in a completely emotionless tone of voice.
“The announcement will not be made for some time,” said McGonagall. “August, if it must wait that long. The Wizengamot is working on repealing the portion of the Hogwarts charter banning any occupying force from entering Hogwarts.”
“So the goal is then to hope the Heir keeps the students alive over the summer and to send everything the Ministry has at the school at some point in July before the announcement is ever made?” McGonagall nodded, and Snape sneered. “Has the Wizengamot failed to notice the holes in that plan? Or maybe chasms would be a more apt term? Chasms so vast they put even Potter’s ego to shame.”
“That’s enough, Severus,” ordered McGonagall. “Unless you have a better plan to propose to the Wizengamot, we shall move forward.”
Snape said nothing, and the meeting continued, though dread was mounting inside of Harry.
His worst fears had come to fruition.
Not only had the Heir of Slytherin made things deeply personal, but they might also end up ruining his life, whether they did so knowingly or not.
June 3, 1993
The Office of the Minister for Magic
Bartemius Crouch had been having a long day. Most days were long as the Minister for Magic, particularly during this most trying year. Days since the last, secret meeting of the Wizengamot had been ever longer. Mercifully, nothing had leaked to the public. This wasn’t terribly surprising, since there had been an air-tight oath of secrecy in effect, but one never knew with people like Rita Skeeter floating about. Mind you, even if Skeeter knew, there was a serious chance she would refuse to spread the knowledge. She would be vilified and likely far worse if she did.
Crouch’s day had been long before he got to his office, but it became still longer when he saw the envelope sitting atop his desk.
It was a fairly nondescript envelope aside from its rather blatant seal. One that Crouch thought far too revealing for the most secretive group of individuals in the country.
It was an image of a shimmering grey veil as the backdrop to two crossed wands.
Hesitantly, Crouch opened the envelope, and his eyes widened.
This really was not his day.
June 4, 1993
A Tower Overlooking the Sea
On a battered, ancient bed sat a man just as weathered as the excuse for furniture he sat atop.
Once, this man had been dashing. His blond locks had drawn attention, as had his perfect skin, quietly imposing figure, and an air of power and danger.
Now, years later, much of that was gone.
His skin was wrinkled and as weathered as leather. It was also unnaturally pale, as it had not properly seen the sun in many long years. Where luscious blond locks had once sat, his head was now mostly balding, with only small traces of the hair he had once sported.
One thing that had not dimmed over time was the man’s eyes.
Mesmerizing, bluish-silver eyes that seemed to draw you in and compel you to listen. Not only did their vibrancy remain, but a terrifying amount of intellect still sparkled behind them. This emaciated man’s body may have decayed over time, but his mind was as sharp as it ever was. His cunning remained, as did the intelligence that had made him notorious around the world.
His eyes had seen very little over the past forty-eight years. The view from his tower was rather splendid, but even the most breathtaking sights lost their majesty over time.
Tonight, the view was positively stunning, though he was sat on his cot and not looking at it.
The silvery full moon dominated the sky, seeming to shine like a slightly dimmer, far more sinister sun. Or a particularly powerful, particularly ominous spotlight that somehow encompassed all the world below. Its silvery, luminescent light shone down, glinting and sparkling off of the dark, churning sea below as light might dance across a sheet of glass.
It was a beguiling image, for certain.
Even if the man sitting in this tower was looking, his vision would have been obscured a moment later.
A blinding flash lit up the very world around him, and the light that suddenly filled his cell was far brighter than he had seen in many years. He winced as he covered his eyes, completely blinded by the sudden onslaught of light until it finally dimmed and faded. Even then, he had to blink white spots out of his eyes but once he managed, he stared openly at the man before him and let out a deep, mirthless cackle.
The sound filled the otherwise quiet cell, sounding almost magnified next to the complete silence that otherwise accompanied it. After a few seconds of laughing, the man’s cackles broke down into deep, wracking coughs before he finally pulled himself back together, still grinning madly.
It took him another moment or so to compose himself and glance up towards the tall, thin man standing before him. One with long, silvery hair and beard, twinkling blue eyes behind half-moon spectacles, and a splendid bird sat atop his shoulder.
“You have come at last,” said Grindelwald in a raspy voice that still managed to convey his cynical amusement. “As I knew you would.”
Meanwhile, back at Hogwarts, on the second floor…
The knowledge of Hogwarts’ looming closure had lit a fire under Harry. A fire the likes of which he had never experienced before. He hadn’t thought it possible for him to become even more motivated to capture the Heir of Slytherin, but it had somehow happened.
He had even begun retracing their steps from months earlier. They had already explored this part of the castle in-depth and found nothing, but Harry had a feeling it housed the answers they needed.
They now also had the advantage of him being much more skillful with wards. He had set up a temporary Notice-Me-Not ward using some of the runestones he’d gotten for Christmas. It wouldn’t fool the Aurors for long, but it would buy him and Ares — who was accompanying him on his explorations as she often did — time if they decided to stray from their typical patrol schedule.
He was certain it was well worth the risk. Harry just knew there was something here that they had missed. He had a feeling tonight would be the night.
He was correct, just not in the way he suspected.
“Nothing yet?” he asked Ares, having yet to discover anything enlightening himself.
“Nothing I didn’t know already.”
That answer was… odd.
He glanced over his shoulder to look at her.
She was not searching at all.
She stood straight, peering curiously at him in the low light of the corridor. Her dark blue eyes shone malevolently in the light of the torches, sparkling with unmasked curiosity and victory.
Wait… blue eyes?
Ares didn’t have blue eyes!
And the ward was up around them… nobody would hear anything that was about to happen.
“Too late, Harry,” Ares said smugly as he went for his wand. Hers was already in her hand, and she fired a jet of red light towards him without the need for a wand movement or incantation.
He dodged, summoning his wand with a flick of his wrist and wheeling to face her, adrenaline coursing in his veins.
Ares Black was the Heir of Slytherin!
The bolt of red energy erupted from the tip of his wand, crackling towards his opponent and closing the distance with the speed of a thunderbolt.
Ares casually batted the spell away as if it were a Tickling Charm.
“Not quite good enough, I’m afraid,” she said casually, strolling lazily towards him as she batted every effort aside without seeming to so much as try.
Harry snarled as he continued to unleash spell after spell, but he could tell she was toying with him. She could end this duel whenever she chose.
Even Grace wasn’t this good.
The only opponent he had ever faced with this sort of skill had been Voldemort herself.
Which was wholly unsurprising considering his suspicions.
Before he knew it, he found his back up against the wall and the woman masquerading as Ares Black went on the offensive for the first time.
In seconds, Harry’s wand was torn from his hand, and hers was aimed at his forehead.
“Legilimens,” she hissed.
He gasped as the force of her magic washed over his mind. His shields were of no consequence, as she passed through them in seconds.
But she did not pry his memories from him.
She simply took control of his bodily functions and flicked the light off.
Harry crumpled to the floor in an unconscious heap like a puppet with its strings cut, completely unaware of what was going on around him as the Heir of Slytherin smiled victoriously.
The final piece had fallen.
I really hope that the last scene turned out as good as I wanted it to. I will likely go back and play with it a bit before it finds its way onto the sight.
I have actually been foreshadowing Ares as the Heir ever since the second chapter of year two. When speaking with Dobby at Privet Drive, Harry makes a specific mental note that whoever is responsible for the events that are going to befall Hogwarts must be close to the Malfoys, but not the Malfoys themselves. I then later show, through inviting them to dinner, that the Malfoys are close with Barty Jr. and Bella. There are also tons of more subtle references to Ares being exhausted and not knowing why, as well as a not-so-subtle hint she used Legilimency against Draco after I earlier stated very bluntly that she did know Legilimency and was not a Natural Legilimens.
Either way, I hope that scene was a good payoff for the mystery I had set out. I didn’t just want to do a “and now they’re in the Chamber and BOOM — here is the Heir of Slytherin”
Let me know what you guys think and try not to hate me too much for the cliffhanger.
Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Asmodeus Stahl, inkbug, Κυρία της φωτιάς, Lily of Dreams, princeoftheseas, Sam, and Sesc for their corrections/contributions on this chapter.
A massive thank you is also extended to my first top-tier Patron, Κυρία της φωτιάς, Lily of Dreams, for her generous support on that platform!
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