Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 50: The Sacrificial Slytherin
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June 4, 1993
Gilderoy Lockhart’s Office
It had been many years since Gilderoy Lockhart felt the amount of stress he was currently experiencing as he re-entered his office after the recent and ominous staff meeting that had followed the disappearance of both Harry Potter and Ares Black.
Not since the death of his father in 1979 had Lockhart felt as trapped as he did now, with the one notable exception that had been his battles with the infamous werewolf Fenrir Greyback. Even during much of that decade-long conflict, Gilderoy hadn’t felt this helpless. For its duration, he at least had a plan. A rough one, perhaps, but a plan nonetheless. He felt utterly helpless and without purpose as he slunk back into his office, entirely dissatisfied with the staff meeting’s results, but entirely unsure of any better solution.
His night did not improve when he noticed the soft, bluish glow emanating from an object on his desk, one that was buried under a great number of parchments. It did have the pleasant side effect of taking Gilderoy’s attention away from his current train of thought, but he knew this wouldn’t mean anything good. Least of all when the timing lined up so conveniently well with an event that was so sudden and tragic.
Gilderoy carefully slid the parchment off of the offending object and took it delicately in his hand. It was a crystal so dark in colour that it was almost black, which only meant it gave off an odd illusion of the bluish light flowing from the object being even brighter than it was.
Gilderoy had taken his wand into his other hand a second later and opened a small cut on his palm. He held the wound over a small depression in the crystal, one that seemed to greedily consume several drops of his blood before the blue glow faded and a voice began omitting from the crystal in place of the light.
“Croaker.” He might have sounded amused at the professional address given their history, but he was far too bothered by other things at the present moment in time. “I assume this isn’t a courtesy call?”
“Much as I find you perfectly pleasant, pleasant people aren’t the ones who get their hands on these crystals most of the time.” Lockhart snorted but waited for the Voice of the Unspeakables to cut to the chase. “Three Unspeakables will soon enter the school in place of the Aurors,” said Croaker. “It was difficult, but we managed to authorize a swap of personnel.”
“And you think you’ll have more success in tracking down the Heir of Slytherin?”
“I think we certainly have a higher chance than the Aurors. Particularly when Chaos Magic might be involved.”
“I have a feeling you shouldn’t be telling me that, Saul. Even with our… arrangement.”
“No, but the two of us know you’re aware of it, so it hardly matters. The point is that we now have three of our men in the castle. As our eyes and ears inside Hogwarts, we thought we should keep you up to date. The Aurors have officially vacated the premises, though they did so in as low-key a manner as possible. Our men will soon be replacing them, at which point we may enlist your assistance. As a professor at the school, Records believes your assistance will not count as part of an occupying force.”
“I’ll be waiting, just in case,” said Gilderoy, setting down the crystal when the connection was cut.
As if this night hadn’t been complicated enough already…
Minutes later, in the Slytherin common room…
The ghostly-lit Slytherin common room was rife with tension by the time all in the dorms had been awoken by those who had yet to succumb to the grasp of Morpheus — their Head of House had entered the room and demanded the presence of everyone in the house, with no exceptions. None of the students who had been awake at the time had argued. Snape looked more serious than any had ever seen him. Even his demeanour the afternoon after Daphne Greengrass’s disappearance had paled in comparison to the tight expression he currently wore, or the way he stood ramrod stiff and was as tense as a tightly coiled cable.
“I have called you all here in the middle of the night to make a grave announcement,” he said in a low voice once the crowd was gathered.
Back in January, after Greengrass had vanished, it had been clear much of the crowd had been restraining the impulse to mutter or gossip. This time, it was just as clear that not a single soul even considered whispering, let alone interrupting their Head of House.
“There has been another attack,” said Snape. “This time, there was not one victim, but two.” Everyone’s posture seemed to straighten up as they all glanced around the common room, clearly trying to spot any missing students. “The two in question are among our number,” Snape continued, and the fear and worry in the room suddenly became detectable to all physical senses.
The air seemed to smell of it, and it seemed to sinisterly caress all of them, whispering ominously of death and deception.
“Harry Potter and Ares Black have been taken by the Heir of Slytherin.” Snape waited to see if any would speak, but none did. His eyes found Potter’s friends. They looked varying degrees of pale, worried, and shell shocked. Even the young Weitts scion and the Zabini boy didn’t seem completely unfazed. “Unlike the other attacks, the Heir of Slytherin has left us a message. ‘Their skeletons shall rest in the Chamber forever.’”
His eyes roamed over the crowd. “This is your final opportunity to come forward if you know anything on the matter. Any action previously thought to be extreme within the power of our governing body and staff is being considered now with blatant disregard for any consequences those actions may wreak. If you know anything and wish to avoid such extreme countermeasures, I urge you all to come forward. This is now not only one, but two Founding Twelve heiresses who have vanished in the middle of the night and the Potters, for their immeasurable number of flaws, are old and powerful as well. This will not go without retaliation.
“I am convinced methods of counteraction will be proposed and accepted despite the Heir’s threats, and I personally do not wish for it to escalate to that point. No one wins a situation in which mutually assured destruction is inevitable.”
When nobody said a word, Snape nodded curtly and swept from the common room, ignoring the multitude of reactions that hung in the room behind him.
He certainly didn’t see the way several of his younger Slytherins exchanged meaningful glances, nor the way several of his older students watched them do so intently.
At the same moment, in an abandoned classroom…
Charlus stared at the phoenix perched upon the desk as if it had fallen out of space and was something he couldn’t possibly comprehend. It wasn’t the first time he had seen Fawkes, but it was the first time he had ever seen the bird anywhere outside of Dumbledore’s office. Outside of that one time at the Duelling Club meeting, at least. Even stranger was the fact Dumbledore didn’t seem to be anywhere nearby. Charlus had a pretty loose idea of what the word ‘familiar’ tended to mean, but he was pretty sure it usually implied a very close bond. For Fawkes to be here when Dumbledore was, as far as he knew, still out of the country meant that this visit was serious.
“Look!” said Hermione, pointing to an object on the phoenix’s leg. “He has a letter!”
She was right. A scroll of parchment was indeed tied to Fawkes’s leg, and Charlus rushed to the bird with the haste one might expect from a seeker chasing an extremely elusive snitch. His heart fluttered when he saw the tall, loopy writing of Professor Dumbledore, and he somehow knew that this letter was going to change the game entirely.
I do apologize for my lack of correspondence as of late. Since my response concerning the acromantulas, I have been what the muggles might refer to as radio silent. Luckily, I assure you that I was neither stagnant nor complacent during the gaps in our correspondence. However, I write to you with rather grave news, though it does come off the back of something more positive.
The good news is that after intensive research and cross-referencing, I am reasonably sure I have discovered what the monster is that looms in the Chamber of Secrets. The less pleasant news is that this monster is one I am unsure whether Hogwarts is at all capable of combatting.
The monster is called a basilisk. I doubt you will have heard of it before, but it is a serpent of immense size. Its venom is among the most dangerous substances in our world, and a mere scrape from any of its fangs would most certainly be fatal.
The most unfortunate part is that none of that is what makes the beast truly terrifying. It is at least not the monster’s most terrifying quality. That would be the fact that, from what I have ascertained, eye contact with a basilisk — and possibly even eye contact via reflection — will lead to certain death in every recorded case in history except one.
Naturally, the exception is Hogwarts, but the truth is no more favourable for those still within the castle, I’m afraid. Eye contact of any kind with the basilisk at Hogwarts seems to result in immediate petrification, the likes of which were experienced by Mrs. Norris last Samhain. I believe that this is how the Heir of Slytherin has been making students disappear in the middle of the night.
I am trusting you with this information, Charlus. I am currently looking for any way I might circumvent the Hogwarts charter and make an appearance of my own, but the wrath of the Hogwarts wards is not something I wish to invoke. This is why I am giving this to you. I trust you, perhaps above all others, to do what is right and not what is easy. I encourage you to proceed with great caution, and preferably with help, but it is you I entrust this knowledge to.
I imagine the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets — where the victims are likely being held captive — is something reserved for only those who speak Salazar’s noble tongue. Alas, I, unfortunately, do not have the answer as to where the entrance to the Chamber is, though I think a bathroom is possible. The basilisk might be able to move through Hogwarts unobstructed and with great stealth, and the pipes would certainly provide it with the opportunity. I have never seen reason to examine the Hogwarts plumbing, but a Spacial Expansion Charm would have been very easy to work into the project.
Act well and act safely. I hope to join you soon, and I hope you act with great caution.
Charlus gaped at the letter for so long that Hermione just walked over and read it over his shoulder. Before long, she too was in a state of utter shock, but it was she who pulled her wits together first.
Charlus’s head snapped around quickly enough for him to feel his neck crack. “What?”
“It makes sense,” mused Hermione, a faraway look in her eyes as she continued to babble away. “Maybe its stare can do both and it killed Myrtle when it was coming up from the Chamber. Or maybe she just fell backwards, or…”
“Hermione, what are you on about!?”
She looked startled and confused. “You don’t see it?”
“The entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. I think it’s in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.”
Charlus just gaped at Hermione, unable to believe she had put all of that together so quickly. “We need to go and help Harry and the others.”
“How are we going to do that?” asked Hermione in a panic. “You saw what Professor Dumbledore wrote. How on earth are we meant to fight something like that?”
Charlus recognized this moment as a fork in the road.
Last year, he had rushed carelessly after who he had then believed to be Snape in defence of the Philosopher’s Stone. He had sought to solve his own problem when Dobby had warded the barrier against him on the first of September. He had launched his own investigations into solving the mystery that was the Heir of Slytherin.
His resolve to be independent had only grown since his failure in the catacombs last June, but Charlus liked to think he learned from at least some of his mistakes. He wasn’t an academic genius like his brother or his best female friend, but he had more brain cells to rub together than a troll. He could at least see that there was no solution to this problem he could come up with alone.
Which meant they, unfortunately, needed help, and Charlus knew without question which adult he trusted most in the castle now that Dumbledore was gone.
He was halfway to the classroom door before Hermione called after him. “Charlus! What are you doing?”
“Ending this,” he said, gesturing for a frantic Hermione to follow him as he prepared to re-don his cloak and slip out the classroom door.
Meanwhile, in the Chamber of Secrets…
After what Harry had experienced outside the second-floor girls’ bathroom when Riddle — using Ares’s body — had assaulted his mind, he knew that the feeling wasn’t going to be any more pleasant the second time. This time, he did at least have the opportunity to brace himself for all the inevitable unpleasantness he was sure would come. He forced his mind as clear as he possibly could, suppressed all emotions without exception, and hyper-focused on his internal search for any intrusions.
He knew at once it wouldn’t be enough.
Riddle tore through his defences with ruthless efficiency. Within seconds, Harry was reasonably confident she could have pulled any memory from his mind that she wanted. Grace had never assaulted his mind to the best of her abilities. To his knowledge, she hadn’t actually come that close. Even if she had, Harry wasn’t sure anything she could have thrown at him would have matched this.
It was completely overwhelming. Normally, he would sort of… feel a disturbance at the edge of his consciousness.
Riddle was different in the fact that she was everywhere. There were too many disturbances and by the time Harry managed to seal one hole Riddle had forced open in his defences, she had created a dozen more.
He succumbed to her within seconds and memories began flashing past his eyes. He expected her to take everything from him but to his surprise, she didn’t.
She simply took everything related to Lady Voldemort.
He watched in transfixed horror as, for the first time in his life, he relived the death of his mother in vivid detail. He had always remembered the scream and the flash of green light, but now he could feel the heat where Voldemort’s lips had touched his forehead, and hear the crying of his twin that had started when his mother’s body had hit the floor with a dull thud.
All of Harry’s experiences with Hurst came rushing forth next. From their first lesson in Defence Against the Dark Arts, to all of their private sessions, to the final confrontation down in the catacombs.
And then finally, Riddle got what she wanted.
He was back in the Headmaster’s office, sitting across from Dumbledore as the venerable old man explained exactly why Charlus was, without doubt, the Boy-Who-Lived. He listened once more as he spoke of the sacrificial magic his mother had unknowingly invoked, and he watched once more with utter resentment and unadulterated bitterness as Dumbledore ordered him back to Privet Drive.
He expected the memories to keep going. He expected Riddle to take everything from him pertaining to the journal he shared with her older self. He expected her to take everything he had done this year, but she didn’t.
Before the memory of him writing in the journal for the first time had even arisen, Riddle had withdrawn from his mind. Harry’s head lolled forward as his vision swam. His head was pounding. It would be less accurate to say it felt as though someone was beating a pattern on the inside of his head than it would be to say somebody was carving an impression in his very skull with a flaming hot iron. He was dazed and a bit confused, and it took some time before he had any semblance of control over his mind once more.
By then, Riddle was on her feet again, peering down at him curiously. “I feared this might happen,” said Riddle. “I had worried your knowledge might have been limited. Dumbledore might have told you what seems to be what I want to know, but I have no faith in the old relic. Least of all with someone he distrusts so greatly.”
She paced back and forth in front of him once more, and her long, pale fingers were now frantically tapping a hasty pattern on her knees. “I suppose I’ll have to wait for your brother,” she decided before turning back to Harry. “I apologize for the inconvenience, Potter. It’s nothing personal; you simply interest me, and I felt as though you might have something I wanted. It was two for one, in my eyes.”
Harry might have responded to that had he possessed more brainpower, but Riddle was still speaking. “Of course, it won’t be the last inconvenience you go through tonight.”
“W-what do you mean?” Harry asked, still very much dazed.
Riddle paused for a moment before apparently choosing to acquiesce to his question. “I spoke to you already of a single-minded compulsion to reclaim a body. A desire I have quite naturally, but one that is greatly amplified by the diary I was contained in for so long. At midnight, I will be fulfilling that desire. Tonight, the full moon is shining high in the sky. The full moon represents many things. One of them is rebirth; the beginning of a new cycle, if you will.”
Riddle’s eyes were gleaming, and Harry could see the way she was practically vibrating with excitement.
“Rituals are complex things. Many factors fuel such delicate magic, but the details are of the utmost importance. Symbols have power in magic, as do numbers. Tonight, the full moon shines. It doesn’t matter that its light won’t reach us; it’s the symbolism that’s important. And the numbers.” She peered curiously at Harry. “Can you guess what is going to happen?” He glared up at her with hatred in his eyes but said nothing.
“No, I hadn’t thought you would, but you are full of surprises, so I thought the experiment would be interesting. I don’t truly exist right now. Not in the way I would like, anyway. I can cast limited amounts of magic, but even the Legilimency I used was fatiguing, and I’m drawing mostly on the ambient magic of the room. I’m not so much channelling it as much as I’m leeching off of it, which is in no way sustainable.” Harry’s mind was racing, but he was starting to see where this might go, and he didn’t like it at all. “Let’s try another one,” said Riddle. “Do you know what the most powerfully magical number is, Harry?”
“Seven,” he gritted out, still doing his best to bore a hole straight through her semi-physical form with his stare alone.
“Indeed it is,” she said. “Do you notice anything concerning that number?”
“Seven hostages,” he answered, defaulting back to his ‘keep her talking’ strategy. “If you don’t count Ares, at least.”
“Ah, I’m glad you noticed Ares. Yes, there are seven of you. Seven of you, taken and held captive against your will. In conjunction with the other components of the ritual, that symbolism will be strong enough. I have taken so much from you all already, what is a little bit of your own life force.” Harry’s eyes bulged as he began to uselessly fight against his bindings. “Don’t worry,” said Riddle, “you will be fine. There will be minor damage to your soul, but minor damage of this sort does heal, so long as it isn’t repetitive. That’s another reason for seven hostages. This way, I only need a small amount from each of you. Any more than that, and there would be long-term consequences. If there were long-term consequences, people would get… suspicious.”
Harry snorted. “I think you overestimate yourself, Riddle.”
“Oh? Do tell why?”
“You’re an idiot if you don’t think traipsing up out of the Chamber of Secrets after being gone for decades isn’t going to raise attention anyway.” He sneered, even though he hated the fact so many of his housemates sneered with such regularity. “Did you get too caught up monologuing to realize that small detail?”
“Oh, Harry,” cooed Riddle, “for all of your brilliance, you still miss the point. That isn’t at all what’s about to happen.” When he looked confused, Riddle simply gestured towards the prone form of Ares Black in the centre of the circle of hostages. “There are seven hostages, forcefully taken,” she reiterated. “I’ve explained this already, but there is also one other part of the ritual.” Harry realized what it was with horror just seconds before Riddle exposed her true, grand plan.
“Ares gave herself to me willingly.” She frowned. “Well, not entirely, but it’s close enough to count. She wrote in the diary — on her mother’s instructions — but she wrote in it no less.”
“So that… woke you up, or something?”
Riddle’s lips twitched. “You could say that. More accurately, the more of Ares that was poured into the diary, the stronger I became. After a while, I was able to completely possess her for short periods. With time, she had poured enough of herself into the diary to make this ritual possible. By the time the ritual is complete, Ares Black will be no more.”
Harry couldn’t help but notice that for a second, sadness was obvious in Riddle’s voice and eyes. But as quickly as it had appeared, it just… vanished. Vanished in a way that did not look natural. Harry remembered something about the single-minded compulsions that Riddle was somehow under, and he wondered whether or not they had anything to do with the conflict that had seemed to rage on within her until it had been forcefully resolved by… something. It could have been Occlumency and Riddle simply using it to suppress her emotions, but somehow, Harry didn’t think that was the case.
“But she’ll live on, in a sense.” Her voice was void of any of the emotion it had carried a moment earlier. “What you said is very true. If I were to walk up into the main castle using this body, there would be problems.”
“You’re going to permanently take over her body,” Harry breathed in horror. “And her mother told her to write in the book that made this happen.”
Harry wasn’t sure he had ever actually known Ares Black. Not now that he knew the truth of how she had been controlled for much of the year. What he did know was that whether he had known her or not, he felt a pang of sympathy so strong it made him feel ill.
Being neglected and abused by those who were supposed to love and protect you was something Harry knew all too well. It was something he could relate to and sympathize with on a level deeper than perhaps anything else. Yet even he hadn’t been subjected to anything like this. For all his father had done, he had never tried to get him killed. Not even the Dursleys had stooped anywhere close to that level, even in their darkest hours.
“Bellatrix Black is not a good person,” said Riddle, and the sadness was there once more before it was again crushed as quickly as it had appeared. “As I understand it, I — many years in the future, of course — gave her this diary and said that if I were to ever fall, it should be sent to Hogwarts. I told you already, I want to live. There is nothing I hate more than death, but the diary makes that feeling stronger. It takes it to a new level. The compulsion it subjects me to is stronger than anything I have ever experienced. I am aware of it, but not even the most powerful of Occlumency seems to be able to fight it, and I can’t muster up the desire to fight it, even if I wanted to. It is a single-minded compulsion to return at all costs.
“I remember placing that magic on the diary. It was my first foray into this sort of magic, and it was a safeguard against all things. If anything were to go wrong, it could bring me back. The artifact and its properties could be exchanged for a body, so long as certain events came to pass. Events I ensured would happen with the compulsions.
“My future self knew this all. In a time of war, she wanted to have a contingency plan, I imagine. Which is how Bellatrix Black ended up with the book.” She looked back down at Ares before returning her attention to Harry. “Ares was born not long before I fell to your brother, years after my consciousness was locked away in this diary. I don’t know this, but I suspect Ares was only born as a contingency plan. So that if I were ever to fall, Bellatrix Black had a way of getting the diary to Hogwarts.”
Harry’s eyes were bulging with horror despite his Occlumency.
“Her name, Ares, is spelled the same way as the Ancient Greek war god,” Riddle pointed out. “Many Ancient Greek names were gender fluid, so I think Bellatrix would have used it regardless of the gender of her child. Aries — spelled with ‘i’ as well as an ‘e’ — is also a constellation. The Black family has a long history of naming children after constellations, and I think Bellatrix liked the reference to the god of war. Ares was born as a weapon of war, after all. It is… morbidly fitting.”
She seemed to struggle through those last two words, but her face was once more clear of all emotion in no time. Harry, for his part, was so frozen in horror by the idea of a child being raised as a sacrificial lamb for slaughter that he didn’t even realize Riddle’s wand was aimed at him once more.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, midnight is approaching. I do have a ritual to set up if this plan is to work.”
And with a flick of her wand, Harry found himself gagged and could do little more than watch the proceedings unfold.
Soon after, back in Gilderoy Lockhart’s office…
Gilderoy was sitting anxiously behind his desk, watching the crystal sitting in front of him with a great deal of restlessness. A knock on his office door nearly had him leaping from his chair. For a moment, he thought the Unspeakables had arrived and came to his office with no warning from Croaker. That would have been most unlike the man, who was perhaps the most obsessive planner Gilderoy had ever met. For Saul Croaker to do or allow anything to be done that was at all spontaneous would be very out of character for him.
“Enter,” called Lockhart, fingering his wand and preparing to react at a moment’s notice if needed.
Whatever he had expected, it had not been Charlus Potter and Hermione Granger.
Lockhart pierced them with a stare and saw the odd expressions on their faces. He looked directly at Charlus. “I am going to hope you have a magnificently relevant reason for being here, or else there are a lot of problems that are going to stem from this little escapade of yours.”
“We do, sir,” said Charlus, walking forward and laying the piece of parchment from Dumbledore on Lockhart’s desk.
The man’s eyes bulged as he read over the letter, and his gaze quickly flickered from the crystal and then back to the letter.
He was supposed to be on call in case the DoM needed to get in contact with him, but this was something he could not leave untouched. He could contact Croaker, or go for another member of staff, but time was not on his side. The conversation with Croaker would likely stretch on for far longer than he wanted, especially since even he had never heard of the basilisk beyond myths and legends told to him on his travels years earlier.
And the other professors…
They weren’t trained to fight, and it would be a lot of unnecessary explaining. He was the most qualified man in the castle for the job and if he couldn’t do it, nobody could. If overconfidence turned out to be his downfall, at least it had been for a noble cause.
“We need to locate the entrance as soon as possible,” said Lockhart, sweeping to his feet, wand in hand.
“Sir,” said Hermione, sounding rather sheepish. “We think we know where the entrance is already.”
Oh, Merlin… it was going to be one of those nights.
If he survived the coming ordeal, he was going to break out a bottle of Ogden’s finest and get exceptionally plastered.
But first, he had a meeting with the perfect killing machine that he really ought to be on time for.
Meanwhile, in the Slytherin common room…
When Snape had left, the common room had fallen into complete and total disarray. Chaos ensued for quite sometime before Blaise, Charlotte, and Tracey managed to slip off from the rest, including their other friends.
Their ideal destination would have been the Speaker’s Den, but Harry had changed the password so many times this year that none of them even knew what it was at this point.
They eventually settled for the boys’ dormitory, because apparently, females could enter their dorm, and not the other way around. If Blaise was not so utterly distracted by far more important things, he might have thought that to be utter bollocks.
They hadn’t even managed to put wards up on the door before Calypso and the Carrows burst through it. Blaise, Charlotte, and Tracey raised their wands, but they faltered.
“Don’t bother trying to pretend nothing was going on,” said Calypso. “He’s our friend as much as he is yours, and he’s not the first of our closest friends to go missing. We’ve had enough of it.”
“That’s all well and good,” said Blaise, “but none of our concern does him much good, does it? It’s not as though any of us know where the Chamber of Secrets is or how to enter it.”
“I may have an idea,” came a cool voice from the door.
They all turned to see Grace standing there, wand in hand as she casually strode through the doorway. Unlike the others, she wasted no time in locking and warding the room.
“And how would you know about this?” asked Calypso. Her voice was rather tight, and she seemed very much on edge.
“Because I’ve had a very subtle, very illegal Tracking Charm on a piece of Harry’s jewelry for months. The last place I know he happened to be was right around the place where the Heir’s message is written on the wall. After that, he vanished, and even my charm can’t find him.” She fixed them all with a hard look. “Seeing as the only room near there which could house a secret passage is the girl’s bathroom, I think it fairly likely we have our answer.”
“Hang on,” said Tracey, “if these Tracking Charms exist, why weren’t they put on every student once some of them started to go missing?”
“They are illegal for one thing,” said Hestia, “and they’re only supposed to last for a couple of days at best.” She turned her eyes on Grace. “Having one last for months shouldn’t even be possible.”
If the situation was less dire, Grace may have smirked. “A secret, I’m afraid.”
“Well, enough wasting time,” said Charlotte, “let’s go.”
“You are not coming,” said Grace, her voice as forceful as a speeding bludger.
“He’s as close to me as he is you!” snarled Charlotte. Grace had never heard so much venom and resoluteness in her little sister’s voice.
“Daphne is down there too,” put in Tracey. “They’re my two best friends.” She winced and looked towards Blaise. “Sorry, Blaise.” He waved away her concerns. “I’m not just going to let other people go after them. I know I can’t do much compared to most of you, but I’ll be a distraction or something if I need to. I’m sure I can do something… anything.”
“Fine,” agreed Calypso. “We’ll all go then. Just know that anyone coming knows the risks full well. No one can be blamed for what happens to you.”
“Shouldn’t we get a professor?” asked Tracey.
“No,” said Grace at once. “They probably wouldn’t let us finish, I would likely be prosecuted for using very illegal magic, and it would take time to find one.”
Nobody argued further.
Grace swept her wand in a long, elaborate motion over all of them, and several gasps could be heard from the lower years as they faded right out of sight.
Calypso made to move, but she faltered when she realized that movement did not cause so much as a flicker in the charm.
Grace Weitts had managed to cast a Disillusionment Charm so perfect that, even while moving, it afforded completely impenetrable invisibility. The only one she had ever heard to have been capable of that was the Dark Lady. It put into perspective just how talented Weitts really was. Charms might have been her best subject, but even with the spell falling under that branch, it didn’t make the feat any less impressive.
Grace lit her wand so they all had something to follow, and then she marched out of the dormitory, and the journey up to the second floor began.
A minute or so later, on the second floor…
Charlus, Hermione and Lockhart burst through the door, charging into Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom with their wands held aloft. There were no threats in sight, but that did not alleviate any of the tension gathered in the group.
“Myrtle!” cried Charlus. “We need to talk to you!”
There was no answer.
“Myrtle!” shouted Lockhart with a stunning amount of authority. “I am Gilderoy Lockhart: Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defence League, recipient of the Order of Merlin, Third Class, and five time winner of Witch Weekly’s Most-Charming-Smile Award. As a professor of this institution and a proud member of this society, I command your presence and your compliance!”
There was a moment’s pause before the ghost rose from one of the toilets, arms crossed petulantly as she glared towards the two wizards and one witch who were intruding upon her haunt. “What?”
“We want to know how you died.”
Hermione hit Charlus on the arm as soon as he had finished his sentence, sure his rudeness had lost them any opportunity they had at extracting the truth from Moaning Myrtle. To their collective surprise, Myrtle’s eyes widened, but there was no hint of offence within them. Instead, there seemed to be… glee?
“Oh, that is a good story,” she said, a small smile playing on her lips for the first time of any of their memories.
“Can you tell it?” asked Charlus, making his best puppy-dog eyes at Myrtle.
“Well,” she began, “I was in a stall — this stall, actually — because Olive Hornby had been making fun of me and my glasses again. Then… I heard something.”
“Something?” pressed Lockhart.
“Yes, something. I had no idea what it was. It sounded like stone grinding on stone. It was very loud and I was very confused.” She shuddered, obviously not quite over the next part of her tale. “Then I heard… hissing. Lots of hissing, but… it didn’t quite sound like a snake. I was confused, so I opened my stall and saw these huge, yellow eyes. Then my body went all limp and my vision started going black. I think I was going to pass out, but I fell and hit my head on the floor before that could happen. The fall must have killed me because I just floated up out of my body a few minutes later.”
“Possibly blood loss,” muttered Lockhart. “Maybe even the swelling of the brain getting out of hand.”
“It confirms what Professor Dumbledore wrote though, doesn’t it?” asked Hermione.
“I’m not sure I would go as far as to say confirmed, but it definitely sounds like the old chap knew what he was on about.” Lockhart glanced around the bathroom before looking back at Myrtle. “Where did you see these eyes, Myrtle?”
She shrugged. “Somewhere over there.” She gestured in the direction of the sinks, and all three of them converged on them.
“That would make sense,” Hermione was saying as Lockhart withdrew his wand and began to mutter in languages neither student had ever heard before. “Professor Dumbledore thought it was using the pipes.”
Lockhart’s muttering persisted for some minutes, but it was eventually Charlus who found the entrance. Clearly, Slytherin had warded it against whatever sort of magic Lockhart was trying to use to ascertain its location and properties.
“Professor, Hermione, I think it’s here.” They swarmed forward, and Charlus indicated the small snake emblazoned upon the sink. It was a carving so small and rough that at a first glance, one would have thought it a simple scratch or depression that had formed due to the weathering brought on by time.
“Here’s how this is going to work,” said Lockhart, peering sternly at both students as the grip he held on his wand tightened noticeably. “Charlus, you’re going to open the entrance. Just try hissing at it in Parseltongue. Try things like open, reveal yourself, show yourself, you know, all the horrible cliches and whatnot. If it opens, I’ll go down into the Chamber of Secrets. I want both of you to go and find the other professors. I’ll do my best down there, but if worse comes to worst, I’ll stall for time. Do you understand?” Charlus and Hermione nodded, though both of them knew the other was thinking the same thing. “Alright then; Charlus, you’re up.”
Charlus stepped forward as the others took a step back, wands still raised and poised to strike at any moment. “Uh…. open.”
Hermione shook her head. “English.”
Fidgeting uncomfortably and tapping his foot restlessly, Charlus narrowed his eyes at the serpentine carving. If he looked at it in just the right way, the light seemed to give off the false impression of movement. “Open!”
Myrtle’s description had been apt. As soon as Charlus finished hissing the final syllable, the sound of stone grinding upon stone made itself known. Charlus stepped back just as the entire sink slid aside, revealing a massive tube that seemed to plunge into the depths of the castle itself. It was easily large enough for many humans at a time, and all three of them suddenly had no problem believing a massive killing machine could have slithered up the tube’s grimy interior.
Lockhart’s eyes cut from Charlus and Hermione back to the tube as he began his examination. The latter nodded towards Lockhart’s wand, which was held in a tight and ready grip. It was glowing faintly red, and both of them knew Lockhart was going to make sure they couldn’t follow if they didn’t leave the room or act fast in the next couple of seconds.
Charlus lunged forward, intent on shoving Lockhart down the massive tube and following. The man was fast and he sidestepped on instinct alone, which had the unfortunate side effect of him stumbling into a nearby sink. Hermione and Charlus bolted for the tube, but Lockhart rushed forward, wand outstretched and lunged. Charlus tackled Hermione out of the way, and Lockhart sailed past them… right down the tube and into the belly of the castle itself.
Charlus stood and Hermione made to follow, but a wand was shockingly in her face before she could even consider it. “C-C-Charlus?”
“Sorry, Hermione,” he said with genuine regret in his voice. Hermione couldn’t help but think he looked much older than normal as he peered down at her. “I can’t let you do this one. It’s more dangerous than anything we’ve ever done. Professor Lockhart is an expert and my plan is to hope the basilisk will listen to me if I speak in Parseltongue, but I don’t know what I would do if you were hurt. It’s been hard enough without Ron.”
And before Hermione could retort, there was a flash of red light, and she saw no more.
About three minutes later, in the Chamber of Secrets…
Harry watched numbly as the final runes were carved into the floor. All of their blood had been used to draw them, but most of them had only needed to give a trivial amount. Ares had seen a considerable amount taken, but nothing detrimental.
With Harry’s wand, Riddle had levitated a massive snakeskin to lay in the centre of the circle of victims, not far from where Ares’s body lay prone and unmoving. It had been folded through the use of magic many times so it would fit in the middle. Harry was no expert, but the way Riddle had spoken of symbolism, he thought the shedding of old skin and the growing of a new one probably had something to do with its significance. That, and the fact that it likely came from an inherently magical serpent. Its properties likely fuelled the ritual just as much, if not more than the symbolism it provided.
Riddle herself had stepped into the centre of the circle now, and she began to chant in a language Harry did not recognize. It was nothing he had ever heard spoken aloud. It certainly wasn’t any modern European tongue, and it didn’t sound Asian in origin either; not that he was an expert on the matter, by any means.
As she chanted, the runes on the floor began to glow with bright, white light, and the blood upon their surface began to sizzle. Then, Harry felt something… indescribable. It felt as though somebody had hooked something in the pit of his stomach and they were very slowly dragging it up towards his throat. Or at least, they were trying to, for the thing — his soul, he imagined — didn’t seem to want to be dragged. The pain was immense, and Harry’s vision swam in front of his eyes. He was not so out of it that he didn’t hear the grinding of stone as the chamber door opened, though, nor did he miss the mental signal his ring provided.
Riddle very nearly was, but she continued her chanting despite it. Her voice had long ago risen, and the words she had spoken had quickened. The light all around the room had brightened and the cavernous chamber that had been lowly-lit when Harry first entered was now bright enough to give the impression of daylight.
Charlus and Professor Lockhart — the latter of whom only allowed the former to accompany him when the potential benefits of Parseltongue had been proposed as an argument — burst into the chamber, both wands trained on Riddle.
But it was already too late.
She thrust her wand into the air and magic seemed to hum all around the room. Its volume rose as an invisible wind whipped the chamber, and the ethereal thrum of magic became louder and louder. The only thing Harry had ever experienced that had been on a comparable level had been the cyclone of raw Chaos Magic that had formed in the centre of the Great Hall when Snape had shattered the manifestation of Priori Incantatem.
Riddle’s eyes — which had been closed for the duration of her ritual — snapped open as her face curved into a triumphant smile. Harry could feel the pull on his soul strengthen as his vision began to darken, but he didn’t seem to be the most directly affected. A small amount of a silvery and bright substance resembling vapour had poured out from Lilian Moon, and it was floating towards Ares, whose body was now glowing.
The ritual was in motion.
“It’s over, Riddle!” There was so much hatred in Lockhart’s voice that it took Harry aback. He was so surprised, that he didn’t even wonder how he knew who Riddle was.
“Yes, Professor, it is — you’ve lost. The ritual is underway. When the clock strikes midnight, I will be reborn in the body of Ares Black.”
“Reborn?” asked Charlus. “What… what are you?”
“For now, we can call me a memory,” said Riddle. “A memory of myself at sixteen, preserved in a diary for fifty years.” Her eyes landed on Charlus, but Harry’s found Lockhart, who suddenly looked as though he had been struck by a bolt of lightning. “I’m afraid we’re short on time, Charlus, but don’t worry. When this is all over, we have much to discuss.”
“Like what?” asked Charlus, his voice shaking with rage as his eyes landed on Harry and the other bound and helpless captives.
“Like how as an infant, you managed to vanquish the most powerful sorceress the world has ever seen while Lady Voldemort left with her powers broken and within an inch of her life.”
Charlus looked confused. “Why do you care about Voldemort—”
“Charlus,” snapped Lockhart. “She cares about Voldemort because she is Voldemort.” He paused as Charlus gaped. “Or… she is set to become Voldemort… at least, she did become her, in a sense.”
“Technically speaking, I have never become Lady Voldemort. I have been stagnant for fifty long years. The me who created the diary has, and they ensured I would have the single-minded compulsion to ret—” Something Riddle said had struck a chord within Lockhart for his wand whipped up and towards the diary. “No!” hissed Riddle, sweeping her wand outwards towards Lockhart.
An invisible shockwave emanated out from the tip of her wand, and Lockhart was blasted twenty feet back and landed in a roll, coming back up to his feet with his wand raised.
Charlus made to raise his own wand, but Riddle wasn’t even focused on him.
She had conjured a silver barrier of energy around herself to stall Lockhart’s advances and she had now turned to the statue which towered above them all and hissed.
“Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four.”
Then, three things happened all at once.
The face of the statue began to move as the sound of grinding stone was discernible once more. Harry saw the statue’s mouth opening wide, and he could see something massive moving inside. Charlus must have seen his eyes moving, for he shouted at the top of his lungs. “Don’t look at it! Its gaze can petrify! That’s how all the students have been going missing!”
Through instinct or Natural Legilimency — Harry wasn’t sure — but he knew at once that Charlus was being honest and he averted his eyes from the massive statue of his house’s founder.
He looked away in time to see the next two things transpire.
One was accompanied by an ethereal sound the likes of which Harry had never heard before. Just listening to it seemed to fill him to the brim with energy as fire seemed to alight inside his chest and his very blood seemed to morph into something resembling adrenaline.
Along with the sound was a blinding flash of fire so bright that even the mighty serpent paused its descent down from the mouth of its one-time master.
Dumbledore’s phoenix had appeared atop one of the pillars, and it let out one more unearthly cry before it spread its wings and took off, just as Harry heard the unmistakable sound of a massive body hitting the chamber floor that obviously meant the snake was free.
The last thing he saw before his eyes were drawn to the third simultaneous occurrence was the phoenix drop an old, battered hat into Charlus’s hands just before it flew towards the mighty serpent with a spine-tingling cry of battle.
The other event Harry had looked away in time to see was two figures sprinting into the chamber through the still-open door. Two figures who had obviously heeded Charlus’s warning, for their eyes were looking anywhere but at the massive snake. Two figures who Harry most certainly had not expected to see there at all.
Minutes earlier, back in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom…
The wards that Lockhart had hastily conjured over the bathroom door upon his entrance had given the room away to Charlotte, who had picked up on their presence quickly enough. The ward had been hastily conjured, so Grace and Calypso had little trouble in taking it down and exploding into the bathroom.
One of the sinks was not in place, and a massive tube seemed to stretch down so far that none of them could see where it ended. Hermione Granger’s limp body was on the floor, and Tracey immediately rushed forward and knelt, putting a hand to the girl’s wrist to check her pulse. “She’s alive,” Tracey confirmed as the others walked further into the room.
“Well, this was easier than I thought it would be,” said Charlotte, eyes narrowing as the grip on her wand tightened.
It happened so fast few in the room had time to move.
Grace whipped her wand towards her sister, and a bolt of silver light exploded from its tip. Charlotte, wide-eyed and shocked, raised her wand to shield, but she wasn’t fast enough. The spell hit her in the chest and she slumped unconsciously to the floor.
But the silver bolt didn’t stop there.
As soon as it hit Charlotte, it bounced off of her chest and hit Tracey’s back, sending her to the floor before bouncing towards Blaise, who dove out of the way, causing the spell to ricochet off the wall before it flew at Hestia, who finally ended the spell with a well-cast Shield Charm.
Blaise’s body hit the floor next. He had dodged the spell, but Calypso’s silent Stunner had caught him in mid-dive.
“What the fuck is going on?” asked Hestia, glaring from Grace to Calypso and back again.
“It’s nothing personal, Hestia,” said Calypso sympathetically. “It’s just that none of you are qualified enough to deal with whomever the Heir of Slytherin is.”
She and Grace struck at once, and the Carrows fell within seconds.
“For the record,” said Grace, “you’re not qualified enough, either. It would just take more time to stun you than the others, and that’s time I’m not willing to waste right now.”
Calypso smiled thinly. “I guess I’ll just have to show you how qualified I really am.”
Back in the present…
Grace and Calypso ran forward, trying to decide where they were most needed. Charlus, who had been closest to the statue, dove to the side when the massive snake landed on the floor. Fawkes was swooping around the thing’s head, dodging and weaving as he did so.
Closer to Harry, Lockhart was locked in a futile duel against Riddle. It seemed that at the moment, Riddle was in a similar position to Peeves. She could physically interact with things, but only when she wanted to. Harry did notice that her spells were slowing down very quickly, and he remembered what she had mentioned about fatigue in her current state. The unfortunate thing for Lockhart was that she didn’t need to cast much, since none of his spells had any effect on her. It was clear he knew this as well, and it was equally clear his target wasn’t her, but the diary, which she was protecting with the ferocity of a mother dragon.
A horrible hissing sound drew Harry’s attention, and he chanced a glance through mostly closed eyes towards the snake and the phoenix. Blood seemed to pour from the serpent’s head, and he realized almost at once that its eyes had been gouged out.
Grace and Calypso now rushed forward, knowing that its gaze was no longer going to tear consciousness away from them. The beast was still exceptionally dangerous though, which was probably why the two girls branched off in slightly different directions, and it was probably why Grace opened the fight with the most powerful spell in her arsenal.
The snake tried to lunge in the direction of the voice, but the very air seemed to bend around it and fight against its movements. Grace cried out with the strain of maintaining the spell, but the basilisk was thrown hard into the wall of the chamber, shaking the very room and causing bits of stone and dust to fall from the ceiling high above them.
Calypso showered the fallen serpent with every spell she knew, and Harry had a feeling most of them would have been fatal to a human, but they all glanced harmlessly off of the basilisk’s scales.
Speaking of Harry, his heart was racing at a million miles an hour and he would have screamed bloody murder born from agony the likes of which he had never experienced before if he hadn’t been magically gagged and silenced.
The same silvery vapour that had escaped from Lillian had now exited the bodies of Fred and George Weasley, Cassius, Colin, and Daphne. Harry was the only one left now, and he instinctively knew that when it escaped him and floated over to Ares’s body — which was now surrounded by a silvery halo of light almost as bright as the still glowing runes on the floor — that the ritual would be complete, and the teenager who had become Lady Voldemort would be reborn.
The pull on his soul was intensifying.
It was what would have made him scream if he could. The explosion of pain from his scar in the catacombs last year hadn’t held a candle to this. Years later, after being subjected to the full horrors of the Cruciatus Curse, Harry would vehemently swear that the pain of his soul on the brink of being damaged had been far more painful than even the unforgivable torture curse.
He couldn’t see anything anymore, for his vision was clouded and distorted from the pain, but he could hear something nearby that resembled the flapping of wings. Then he felt weightless, and he was sure the ritual had been completed.
Until his vision cleared and he realized he was no longer bound, nor was he even sitting in the circle of captives.
Fawkes circled him protectively, and Harry realized the phoenix had cut his bindings with its beak or something else and physically pulled him out of the circle.
His mind was still clouded and he couldn’t quite manage to stand, but his vision was clear.
Something was happening in the ritual circle. The halo of silver light around Ares was glowing even brighter but now, to Harry’s confusion, a silvery stream of vapour seemed to be escaping her, which made no sense since she was supposed to be the vessel for the ritual.
But that wasn’t what drew Harry’s attention.
What drew Harry’s attention was Riddle, who had managed to knock Lockhart to the floor once more and who had turned her wand in the direction of Calypso, who was standing over the snake — writhing against invisible bindings that seemed to be comprised of the air itself — as she aimed at its throat.
Harry knew what Riddle was going to do, and Calypso’s back was turned.
He couldn’t let it happen.
Harry screamed the activation phrase, and impenetrable blackness poured from his chain, filling the chamber in less than a second and causing Riddle’s Killing Curse to miss, though nobody could see it.
Harry heard a loud whooshing sound and his brother crying out before green fire — like that which Selwyn had conjured — poured from Riddle’s wand and burnt away the blackness.
When it cleared, all in the room froze, but one, lone figure.
The figure of Charlus Potter, standing atop the basilisk’s head as Fawkes — who had obviously transported him there via flame travel — flew away. What was perhaps even more incredible was that Charlus was holding a long, silver sword encrusted with massive, vibrant rubies.
For nearly a second, nobody moved — not even the snake.
Then, with a feral cry of war, Charlus rose the sword high above his head and drove it straight down into the skull of the serpent with as much force as he could manage.
Riddle screamed in fury as the serpent hissed and flailed, sending Charlus flying like a carelessly discarded action figure thrown by a raging child.
Lockhart aimed his wand towards the diary whilst Riddle was distracted by the dying basilisk, but it mattered not.
The silver halo of light around Ares — now added to by the silvery vapour that had escaped her mouth — swirled and coalesced into a cyclone, not unlike the one in the Great Hall back in December. Lockhart’s wand shifted towards that, but it was too late.
The cyclone surged towards Riddle and enveloped her still blurry, semi-corporeal form.
She screamed — a high-pitched sound — as she was completely enveloped by the silvery light. It was so bright that not an inch of her could be seen, and the runes around the room, still humming with the audible drone of magic, gave one final blinding flash of magic before they dimmed in unison with the cyclone’s dissipation.
Riddle’s body slumped motionless to the floor, but there was an obvious difference from moments before.
There were no hazy, ethereal edges.
She was as solid and lifelike as all the rest of them.
And that was when Harry realized what had happened.
Seven bodies were required for the ritual, at least the way Riddle had set it up. There had been seven captives, plus Ares, who had been the target of the ritual. When Fawkes had removed Harry from the confines of the circle, there had still been seven bodies. The ritual had just switched Ares’s role from the recipient to another donor and instead transferred the life straight into Riddle’s semi-solid form.
She was alive once more, it just hadn’t gone the way she had planned.
Harry couldn’t allow it.
Not after what this bitch had put him through this year. Not after she had taken Daphne, Cassius, and so many others.
His vision was tinged red for the first time since his savage thrashing of Malfoy as he unsteadily clambered to his feet and held out his hand. His wand — which Riddle had dropped after falling — flew into his grip, and he aimed it straight at Riddle’s neck.
Harry’s wand flew from his hand and soared in a wide arc before it was caught in the grasp of Gilderoy Lockhart, who was looking towards Harry with a dark expression.
“YOU!” exclaimed Harry. “The light zealot stops me from—”
“Let me explain,” said Lockhart. “If all of you still believe after what I say that Emily Riddle deserves death, I won’t stop you, but listen to my words very carefully.”
“What could you possibly say that would change my mind?” asked Harry.
“A bit about the diary, and a bit about soul magic,” said Lockhart. “But first, let me tell you a story about the Legacy of Katalysator.”
I know it took a LONG TIME to get here, but the confrontation in the Chamber of Secrets is in the books. I hope you all enjoyed it, and nobody can claim anything about a canon rehash in the reviews this year 🙂
Next: the story of the Lockharts, of Emily Riddle, and of the horrors of the twentieth century.
PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, January 30th, 2021. Or you can read the next chapter by joining my Discord server or by signing up to my P*T*E*N page.
Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Asmodeus Stahl, Chocolate, Devildestroyer, hyuck, Pathological Liar, Sectumus Prince, and Sesc for their corrections/contributions this week.
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! An additional shoutout is extended to my Oracle-level Patron, 3CP, for his unwavering support as well. Your guys’ support means the world to me.
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