AoC 53

Ashes of Chaos

Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin

Chapter 36:

By ACI100

Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter universe. All recognizable characters, plots and settings are the exclusive property of J.K Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.

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June 5, 1993

The Chamber of Secrets

12:11 AM

Harry’s eyes never left Riddle’s fallen body as Lockhart spun his elaborate tale. He gave only the necessary details but, as he neared the end of his story, Harry could begin to see where he at least suspected Lockhart was taking it. 

A large part of Harry wanted to strike Riddle down in spite of Lockhart’s tale, but he doubted the professor would have allowed that to happen. He surely would have blocked any attempt Harry made. Even if he didn’t, he was reluctantly transfixed by the story being told to him, even if he wasn’t entirely sold on its relevance. 

With that being said, if Riddle so much as moved during the story, Harry would strike her down in a heartbeat. 

They had never covered Grindelwald’s war in History of Magic. He had read a bit about the notorious sorcerer in the Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts, but the book hadn’t spoken of him in such detail. He had never known the man kept a training facility for his next generation of children soldiers, and Harry couldn’t help but wonder if Grindelwald was worse than Riddle ever had been.

And then there was Riddle herself…

Whether the falling of the wards around Katalysator had weakened Grindelwald or not, an eighteen-year-old Riddle going toe-to-toe with that generation’s Dark Lord was still mind-boggling — even if he would have killed her had it not been for Dumbledore’s intervention.

And didn’t that make things so much more confusing.

The Riddle before him was a fifth-year manifestation of herself and already, she obviously despised Dumbledore and knew he had been onto her. Yet, at the end of her seventh year, she had willingly fought alongside him in the Battle of Katalysator. 

It just made no sense.

Nor did Riddle herself, for that matter.

Harry hadn’t seen the memories, but the way Lockhart described her didn’t add up. At least a somewhat compassionate — if still ruthless to those who opposed her — woman turning into the monster that was Lady Voldemort. It really didn’t make sense. From what he had been told, Harry had a hard time imagining the same Riddle that had saved Sigmund Lockhart from Katalysator murdering him and his wife in cold blood.

There had been other, more interesting, tidbits as well, but nothing that was immediately pressing. Harry did note the presence of a man named Giaus down though, particularly in light of his role. He would bet a large amount of gold that was Giaus Weitts, the grandfather of both Grace and Charlotte. 

It wasn’t immediately pressing, but more than a little bit intriguing and most definitely something to look into in the future.

Which brought them back to the present set of circumstances…

“I don’t see what this changes,” said Harry. “She’s attacked children and was willing to kill one of them if it meant she came back to power. Maybe the magic involved made her different, maybe your father just misread her. Either way, she can’t be left unchecked.”

He could feel the anger boiling right beneath his skin, but his Occlumency was more firmly in place than ever before. His eyes darted over towards where Charlus had landed after being flung off the basilisk in the creature’s final moments. The-Boy-Who-Lived had clearly struck his head against the floor, for he now laid there completely unmoving. Harry actually thought this was quite fortunate. If he was more active, Charlus would have doubtlessly made the situation all the more chaotic.

“And therein lies the problem,” snapped Lockhart. “The magic is most definitely changing her. My father was wrong on a lot of things, but I don’t think he misread Riddle. I watched his memories and came to the same conclusion he did. I don’t think Emily Riddle was ever a good person, but I don’t think she was a monster who deserved to die.”

“And that’s the problem, sir,” countered Harry, putting a positively poisonous pinch of politeness into his tone. “You’re speaking in past tense. Maybe Riddle wasn’t a problem in the forties, but she’s proven to be a massive problem this year. I’m sorry, sir. I can’t just let her go after what she did to my friends — and for what she tried to do to me.”

Annoyance and frustration was beginning to slip into his voice despite his best efforts to prevent exactly that from happening, but Harry still managed to mostly maintain his cool. Grace and Calypso had drawn near now, and both of their wands were trained on Riddle’s fallen form as well.

Lockhart took a deep, shaky breath. “You said it yourself. I don’t think you have ever truly met Emily Riddle.”

“She’s right—”

“She is now. Think back to her posturing, Potter. She spoke of a single-minded compulsion. One that seemed to force her to pursue rebirth above all other things.”

Harry’s eyes flashed. “You’re saying that everything she did was only because of some Compulsion Charm? You’re making excuses for someone who kidnapped students and was ready to kill?”

“I’m not making excuses for anyone.”

“Really, because that’s what it sounds like to me. You’re thinking of a Riddle who your father knew. This Riddle is different, clearly.”

“Yes, because of the—”

“Sir, with her level of Occlumency, I doubt a Compulsion Charm could just make her become a different person.” He looked up towards Grace, who had never steered him astray in regards to the Mind Arts before. “That’s impossible, right?”

“I’m… not entirely sure.”

Harry felt as though he had been slapped. “What—”

“If the charms were just cast on a person who happened to be a high-level Occlumens, then yes, I think it would be impossible. The problem is… she was tied to an object, which likely weakened her and strengthened the magic. To an extent, her existence could have even been somewhat dependent on that charm.” She shrugged. “It’s impossible to say without knowing a lot more about the object.”

“Precisely!” agreed Lockhart. “I’m not saying we let her walk free; not at all. That would be foolish and ridiculous. I understand revenge, Harry. Surely you can see that after what I’ve told you. I understand how you must feel, and I know nothing would satisfy you more than revenging yourself upon Riddle. All I’m saying is that I don’t think it’s the wisest course of action. Even if there is an ounce of doubt that Riddle was in control of herself, surely that should be enough? Would you sentence a girl to death if that girl had no control over the actions she was being sentenced for?”

Harry scrunched up his face and pressed his hands to his temples. This was all such a mess. He wanted nothing more than to kill Riddle on the spot for what she had done to Daphne, Cassius, and himself. But he could see where Lockhart was coming from. He could see it, but his vengeful streak was stronger, and it was slowly winning out.

“I’m not going to let you kill her, Harry.”

Harry’s head whipped around so fast that his neck cracked painfully. He barely even noticed, staring incredulously up at Grace, who had spoken. Her face was set in a hard, somber expression. “She took Daphne—”

“I’m not going to let her walk away scot free, either,” Grace assured him. “I just don’t want you to live with the consequences of being a murderer at the age of twelve.”

“The… consequences?”

“Miss Weitts,” cautioned Lockhart. “I’m not sure this conversation—”

“Respectfully, Professor, we will need to stop him from killing her if you don’t let me explain this. I see both sides of the argument, but I care more about Harry than I do about her. So long as she can never hurt anyone close to me again, I don’t care what happens to her. The only thing I care about is that Harry doesn’t damage himself just to get revenge for friends who will be perfectly fine.” She winced slightly. “Fine from a physical standpoint, at least.”

“Will they even be fine?” asked Calypso, speaking for the first time in minutes and sounding more nervous than Harry had ever heard her sound before.

“Riddle said they would be,” Harry said thoughtfully. “Except for Ares, because she was supposed to take over her body. Now… well, the ritual didn’t go as planned, so I’m not sure.”

“I think they’ll be fine,” theorized Grace. “I think the only thing that changed was her semi-corporeal form becoming her vessel and that the ritual just drew on Ares instead of you.”

“What was that?” asked Calypso. “Was it… taking bits of their soul?”

“No,” said Lockhart, “that’s not possible. There would be… consequences if that happened. It might have been taking something closely connected to the soul. Probably something connected enough to cause micro-tears of sorts, but not enough to truly damage the soul. That would be very problematic.”

Harry’s face contorted with frustration. He wasn’t going to be able to strike down Riddle. Not with Grace and Lockhart both opposed to the idea. Calypso had yet to make her stance heard, but Harry doubted he would be able to sneak a killing blow past the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor and the most skilled student in the school, even with the help of Calypso.

“The point still stands,” said Grace, peering at Harry with a stubborn expression. “Murder is a powerful thing, Harry. It’s a very dark symbol, and symbols have power.” This ritual had proven that much — even if Harry hadn’t known it already — so he didn’t argue the point. “Murder is a symbol for a lot of things, but none of them are good. To murder is to change oneself forever. Your soul… well, soul magic is a touchy thing, but it will never quite be the same. It won’t completely break apart, but there will be a sort of deep scarring that never goes away. It can mostly heal, but its effects will always be there. It’s not something I’m willing to let you experience. Not at your age, at the very least”

Harry was struck again by the oddity of how much Grace seemed to care. He hadn’t done anything worth this much fondness or protectiveness from her that he could think of. Not that it mattered; once she had brought up the point about not letting him do it for his own good, he knew she wouldn’t step aside. It also did add a drop or two of hesitation to the sizzling pit of vengeful fury that was crying out for retribution. 

“So what are we going to do with her, then?” spat Harry, his stomach churning with the dissatisfaction he felt at the inevitable events to come.

“Give her to the Aurors,” Grace answered without missing a beat. “Let them decide what to do with her. I doubt anyone would argue if she was sent to Azkaban.”

Harry noticed the way Lockhart seemed to fidget a bit uncomfortably after that proposal. If he hadn’t been very sure his story wasn’t a lie, he might have questioned Lockhart’s loyalty. He seemed… hesitant for odd reasons Harry didn’t know.

“What about the others?” asked Calypso, gesturing at the bodies strewn across the chamber’s ancient, stone floor. 

Grace swept her wand in the directions of the fallen bodies and they all levitated up into the air. 

“The better question is how we’re going to get them out of the chamber,” said Harry.

“If the Phoenix is amiable,” Lockhart said carefully, “it could do it. Incredible things, phoenixes.”

When searching his bank of memories, Harry realized he knew a disturbingly small amount about phoenixes. They were immortal birds of fire who had healing properties and could travel through fire? He was reasonably sure that was at least a semi-bastardized version of the facts, but it was all he had ever read about them.

Fawkes was hovering not far from where Charlus had fallen. In his beak was the Sorting Hat once more, though a gleaming sword lay on the ground under where the bird floated. Harry’s eyes widened when they focused upon the sword. As he had first noticed, it was silver and encrusted with a number of splendid rubies. What he hadn’t noticed the first time was the name carved into the blade; one that every single person in Magical Britain had known since at least the age of eleven.


“Charlus actually just killed Slytherin’s monster with Gryffindor’s sword.” Harry’s voice was timeless, largely because he wasn’t sure whether to be annoyed or amused. He couldn’t deny there was actually a certain amount of dramatic irony to that which was hard to ignore, but he also dreaded that the Boy-Who-Lived may just become even more insufferable as a result of the fact. Perhaps being unconscious for the battle’s end while his Slytherin brother exited the Chamber of Secrets under his own power would help to balance out the boy’s ego. It might have been a far-fetched hope, but it was one that Harry happily latched onto, if for no other reason than he had more important things to worry about. 

When her Summoning Charm produced no results, Calypso levitated the sword into her grasp as the four conscious figures made sure they were, in one way or another, touching each of the unconscious forms. Harry had suspected that they would have to coax Fawkes into helping them, but he seemed to know what they wanted without being told. As soon as their position had been established, the bird flew towards, of all people, Harry, and perched upon his shoulder. 

The next thing any of them knew, the world was a haze of brightly flickering fire. When it cleared, Harry could only tell that they were in a Hogwarts corridor. Which one, he couldn’t say. 

The next thing he realized was that they were not alone.

Three figures who had been facing the opposite direction spun on their heels with wands raised. Harry had never seen anything like them before. Their grey, hooded cloaks completely obscured their faces, seeming to hide them behind an impenetrable veil of shadows. Their bodies couldn’t even reliably be distinguished as male or female, and it was perhaps the oddest thing Harry had ever seen.

“Lockhart,” one of the figures said, drawing the attention of all onto the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor. “Where have you been? We have spent the better part of an hour showering the castle in search of who was supposed to be our trusted associate.”

Lockhart flushed. “Er… yes, you… have my apologies. As you can no doubt see, I have been a busy man this evening.”

The figures’ heads all turned towards their cargo, and Harry could picture the widening of their eyes without issue, even if such a thing was impossible to actually see. “You’ve done it!” said one of them, actually breaking character but for a second and sounding legitimately surprised.

“It… was a tad more complicated than that, but yes, I suppose I did.”

“What are Unspeakables doing here?” Calypso asked sharply, glaring at Lockhart with a suspicious air about her. “This wasn’t the agreement.”

He winced. “Well… you never exactly gave me time to explain the situation.” When the gaze of all three teens made it obvious the time to do just that had arrived, Lockhart sighed heavily. “Oh, very well. Earlier this evening, the Aurors stationed around the castle were replaced by these fine men or women — Merlin only knows which they are. They are three operatives belonging to the Department of Mysteries. They were… seen as the more viable option moving forward in regards to the ongoing crisis posed by the Chamber of Secrets and the Heir of Slytherin.”

“Who is it?” asked one of the Unspeakables. “I’m presuming one of them is the Heir of Slytherin.”

“Her,” said Harry, immediately indicating Riddle.

“Who is she?”

Harry, Grace, Calypso and Lockhart all exchanged glances. “Um,” began Lockhart, “perhaps this conversation would be… better had in my office.”

Some time later, in Gilderoy Lockhart’s office…

There had been a brief intermission during which all of the bodies had been examined by the Unspeakables. Afterwards, all but Ares were sent to the Hospital Wing. They wanted to examine her more closely if possible, so she was kept behind. There was also the fact she was the only one who hadn’t been petrified. Ironically, that meant she was actually in better shape than all of her victims — despite having been semi-possessed since at least September.

Harry, Grace, Calypso, and Lockhart then told the DoM about what had happened. Harry could tell at once that Grace wasn’t being truthful about how she had found the bathroom, but that was something to bring up later. To Harry, it seemed very hard to believe that she and a number of other students — the ones who were still unconscious, having also been shipped off to the hospital wing — had just stumbled across it, especially considering the wards that had been erected prior to his kidnapping.

Harry was somewhat surprised the three Unspeakables didn’t call her out on what he viewed as an obvious deception by her standards. They just sat and listened to everything unfold, and Harry couldn’t help but notice that — despite their magical veils and what appeared to be a rock-solid hold of their mind — the three cloaked figures seemed to steadily become more and more agitated as the tale went on.

By the end of it, they actually stepped out of the room to speak among themselves, erecting obscenely powerful privacy wards in the process.

The wait for their return wasn’t terribly long, but Harry could never remember a time during which a room he was occupying had ever been so tense. Nobody knew what was about to happen, but everybody knew that something was about to happen.

When the Unspeakables entered the room once more, the tension only amplified. “There is only one way in which this can be done,” one of them said. “We are taking Miss Riddle back to the Ministry of Magic tonight. That is non-negotiable and it will happen with or without your collective cooperation. There are… things we must discuss with her about this plan. Things she didn’t make any of you aware of.”

“She won’t tell you,” Harry said quietly. If there was anything to any of the comparisons Riddle had drawn between the two of them — and he did reluctantly have to admit she seemed to be onto something with them — there was no way she was going to answer those questions. 

“And she will resist Veritaserum,” added Grace. “From the limited amount of information I have about her ability in the Mind Arts, I doubt there is any chance of the potion working.”

“Given who the active version of this woman became years after this form of her was locked away in that diary, we suspected as much. We are confident that she will speak with us. I’m afraid we can’t tell any of you anything more than that regarding Riddle.”

The four of them nodded; though Harry did so a bit seethingly. He had no idea what they wanted with Riddle — or what they were going to do with her — but this somehow didn’t sound like a criminal trial. That was about the only thing Harry wanted right about now, at least if dealing a fatal blow to the bitch was truly not an option. He could only hope that trial he sought would soon follow whatever form of interrogation they had planned. And Merlin, he hoped whatever form that took hurt like hell.

“The difficult part about this is making it happen in a low-key manner,” continued the same speaker. “This entire mess has become highly publicized, so the public will be demanding answers. In order for this to work, all of you are going to need to stay quiet. As far as you’re concerned, you have never met — nor heard of — a girl named Emily Riddle. You all fought valiantly in the Chamber of Secrets and destroyed the diary, which was possessing a student who shall not be publicly named. They will stay anonymous for their own sake, but also to avoid inciting the retaliation of the Black family. If your story holds up, I doubt Lady Black would take well to this going public, and it is a very difficult thing to prove.”

“Couldn’t Ares submit a pensieve memory?” asked Harry. “Of her mother telling her to write in the diary, I mean. There’s more than enough evidence in this case to call for one.”

“Unless Bellatrix Black is extremely foolish, she will have taken precautions to see that exact thing cannot happen. It’s likely Heiress Black was sworn to secrecy on the matter. If the head of her family demanded it, she would have had little choice in the matter.”

“Or,” said Grace, “she might have just imposed a family-specific sanction to classify anything pertaining to the diary a family secret.”

“So basically,” said Harry, bitterness evident in his voice, “there’s nothing we can do to help Ares?” All others in the room exchanged bashful looks before most of them nodded. Harry rubbed furiously at his temples. The corruption in Magical Britain really was pathetic. All of the horrendous loopholes and contradictions to fit those in power were nauseating, and Harry’s mind was suddenly brought back to his months’ old conversation with Lord Giaus Weitts.

“The second thing is for you to establish what it is you want in life. Do not simply answer to be the greatest wizard in the world. That is not a goal worthy of somebody with your potential. If you are going to be associated with my family, I will not see your potential warped in a way that will ruin us, but I will not see it squandered either. I do not need an answer for several years still, but think very deeply, Harry Potter. Think of what it is that defines you. Think of what it is you think should define the world. When you have thought about those two things, come to me with your dearest ambition. Not a small, sentimental, personal goal, but an achievement that would be truly worthy of a lord.”

Harry thought the beginnings of an idea were forming in his mind regarding that front, but he couldn’t presently dedicate much thought to that spark. He had too much going on right in front of him to divert his attention anywhere else.

“The point is,” continued the Unspeakable, “we need your silence. You will be presented with two options. The first is an obliviation of all things pertaining to Emily Riddle, and the second is a vow of secrecy that will ensure you can tell no one of her involvement in the Chamber of Secrets saga that wracked this school.”

“I’ll take the oath.” Harry and Grace answered at the exact same time, their voices ringing out together. 

Harry hated the idea of people mucking about with his mind, so a Memory Charm had never been on the table. Even if it had, he had other thoughts and memories connected to the name Emily Riddle. Thoughts and memories that might be affected in one way or another if the oblivitation went through, and thoughts and memories he wanted complete and total context with which he could extrapolate and use to help him analyze things later. 

Calypso and Lockhart both also agreed, but Harry had a point to make before the oath went forth. “What about my brother? He also saw Riddle and will know who was behind the attacks.”

“Do you think he would be amiable to taking an oath?”

Harry snorted. “Not before he had the chance to run off and tell Dumbledore everything he knows.”

The Unspeakables stood in silence for a moment, clearly thinking hard. “An obliviation is an option,” one of them said carefully. “The only troubling possibility with that is that it gets discovered in time.”

“Albus plans to teach the boy Occlumency,” said Lockhart. “I’ve actually been helping him along these past few months. Depending on the man’s teaching style, it isn’t impossible he might discover the obliviation, depending on how well it’s done.”

“The potion.”

The voice came from behind all of them, and several of the gathered crowd jumped. For his part, Harry had his wand drawn and its tip was glowing red. 

To the surprise of all present, it had been the now awake Ares Black who had spoken. Her voice was hoarse and a bit faint, but she was awake, if barely.

“The… potion?” asked the same Unspeakable who had just been speaking, disregarding the girl’s health in light of her statement. “What potion?”

Ares was looking at Harry. “The one you took from Mulciber and Jugson.”

Harry’s eyes widened as his posture stiffened, but he shook his head almost as fast as the revelation struck him. “That won’t work,” he said. “Mulciber and Jugson already added their blood to that potion. It would only work if they were involved, and it would only make the drinker forget about their involvement.”

“What is this potion?” asked Grace with narrowed eyes.

Harry hesitated but saw no way around answering. “I… stole it off of Mulciber and Jugson the night they tried to use it on Charlotte Weitts back in November. According to them, the potion lets whoever drinks it remember everything that happened. The catch is, whoever adds their blood to the potion won’t show up in the drinker’s memories of the event.”

“Do either of you know of this potion?” The two Unspeakables who had been questioned by their counterpart shook their heads. The third looked back towards Harry. “It’s likely we can duplicate the recipe even without knowledge of the potion given a day or two to do so. I would like to request you fetch us this potion, please.”

Harry didn’t like this. He didn’t like this one bit. That had been an ace up his sleeve, and quite possibly the most perfect bit of blackmail one could ever ask for. He was more than a little bit hesitant to give it up, but he hardly thought there was a choice.

There was also something about the way Ares — who was now slowly fading back into unconsciousness — had spoken her suggestion. She sounded… hopeful; desperate, even, as if she wanted Riddle’s identity kept safe.

Harry wondered if there was some form of stockholm syndrome going on, and he resolved to keep an eye out for Ares Black. He would do so from afar this time, as he wasn’t sure he had ever known the real Ares, and he had no intention of getting betrayed again. But he would be watching, for the abuse of a child was probably the thing he hated most in the entire world given his own past experiences. Ares earned his sympathy through that alone, and the last thing she needed was more piled on top of it.

“What will be done with Charlus until the potion can be duplicated, mixed with Riddle’s blood, and administered?” asked Lockhart.

“For now, a simple sleeping charm will do. We’ll cast the charm before vacating the premises in possession of Miss Riddle. One of us will return with a vial containing Draught of Living Death. I’m sure Snape could brew it’s counter, but we have it in stock and will almost definitely have the potion duplicated before he could brew the antidote.”

All present agreed and Harry reluctantly made his way back towards the Slytherin dormitory, entirely unhappy with how the events following the confrontation down in the chamber had played out.

This really wasn’t his year.

June 5, 1993

The Great Hall

7:06 PM

The hours following the closure of the Chamber of Secrets were best described as a frenzied whirlwind. Harry had not escaped the grasp of the matron, Madam Pomfrey, though he had mercifully been allowed to leave after breakfast. He felt quite weak for the rest of the day — likely due to his almost inclusion in the ritual — but he felt no ill effects outside of that.

He was questioned everywhere he went for the duration of the day and for the first time, he took a small amount of pity on Charlus for his celebrity status. If he had to deal with this every day of his life — like his brother — Harry thought he would either be insane, in Azkaban for several counts of murder, or both.

That attention resulted in him spending much of the day with Charlotte, Blaise and Tracey, as far away from people as one could possibly be. 

That night, avoiding crowds wasn’t something that was at all possible. The school had lifted the lockdown that morning when news had broken of the chamber’s closure. Even the Daily Prophet had caught wind of the events quickly enough to get a morning’s edition out. 

As a result of the euphoria and sense of total relief sweeping through everyone who had not been present during the meeting with the Unspeakables, a celebratory feast was called for that night. Harry was immensely grateful for the year’s travesties to have passed, but he couldn’t quite relax in the same way as the others. Not with Riddle in the hands of the DoM and still very much, in his cynical opinion, with a chance of escape.

He maintained that mood for most of the meal, though he did smile a small smile when Hagrid strode through the doors of the Great Hall to much applause. Harry didn’t care much for the half giant one way or the other, but he also had no desire to see anyone wrongfully imprisoned in Azkaban. The giant of a man didn’t seem at all happy to see Harry if the glare he levelled him with was anything to judge by, but Harry could live with that. He didn’t regret removing Dumbledore from his position of power; collateral damage or not. 

There had been some rumours that the man would be retaking his post as Hogwarts Headmaster, but nothing had been said definitively as of yet. The opinion in Slytherin was divided. Though not many cared to see him back, some argued his unbreakable reputation would see him back in power within the week. Others argued the blatant neglect of an Heir, and wrongful handling of evidence, was enough to shatter even Dumbledore’s image and that he wouldn’t be seen inside of Hogwarts again. Harry had no idea which was true, but he was selfishly hoping for the latter.

The real surprise of the night — and the thing that broke Harry out of his misery — happened about an hour into the feast, when all of the previously petrified and missing students were marshalled into the Great Hall. The ovation they received was thunderous, and those who had lost friends to the attacks rushed forward to embrace them. Harry was one of the first to embrace Daphne and he didn’t need to think to realize that it was the first time he had ever been the one to instigate such physical contact. Insecurities and trauma be damned, he had missed her more than he would ever care to admit. Tracey had actually cried tears of happiness, and Harry was sure both he and Daphne herself would have joined in had it not been for their rather firm grasp on Occlumency. 

It was the first time in months Harry let go of everything and just enjoyed himself. Easily the first time since Daphne had gone missing, but — if he was being honest with himself — most likely since the Duelling Club had their only meeting. The feeling of blissful weightlessness he was now experiencing in regards to his mental burdens was perhaps the single best thing he had ever felt.

Daphne was quiet throughout most of the meal, but that was to be expected. For her, it only felt as though she had closed her eyes for a moment, opened them, and found herself in the hospital wing. It could have been much worse from a trauma standpoint, but one still couldn’t be expected to bounce right back into the flow of things.

Still, Harry could tell something was bothering her, so he followed quietly when she exited the hall under the pretence of using the restroom. His sense of paranoia had greatly increased over the course of the year. He had the Marauder’s Map in hand and his senses were tuned into his ring, but neither alerted him to any presence that wasn’t that of Daphne. 

“Are you alright?” he asked, making sure she noticed and turned to face him before speaking.

She sighed. “I am, it’s just… I feel horrible about what happened.”

Harry’s face scrunched up. “You’re not the one who should feel horrible, Daphne.”

“See, and that’s exactly why I do. I don’t remember anything that happened after I saw those eyes, but it doesn’t matter. I know the effect it had on other people, and that’s the biggest problem.” 

She locked eyes with him, and there was a great amount of emotion in those sapphire orbs; the ones he had missed so much since her disappearance back in January.

“I know you,” she continued, continuing to eye him with some concern. “I know you blame yourself for some stupid reason. The same way I know you were upset with yourself because you couldn’t do anything to stop your relatives from being awful — even though you were young and not in any position to defend yourself when it happened. I know it affected others, too. My family can’t have taken it well. I’m sure I’ll see them tomorrow, but I worry about my sister.”


“Yeah, she’s… under a lot of stress as is. She has… something big coming up that has been on her mind for a long time. We were all trying to make sure she kept in a good state of mind, but I doubt me disappearing will help anything.”

“That’s not your fault, though,” said Harry. “There was nothing you could have done against that snake.” Harry had to resist the urge to shudder. “If Fawkes hadn’t been there, and if Charlus didn’t have whatever the hell kind of luck he has, we would all be petrified because of that thing.”

“You’re a hypocrite,” jabbed Daphne, but Harry could tell there was no bite in her words. Her smile was a touch watery, and he couldn’t help but return it with one of his own. She closed her eyes and took a deep, calming breath. “I’ll agree to try and get over my ridiculous guilt if you try and get over yours?”

Harry couldn’t help but allow his smile to grow. Merlin, had he missed Daphne. “That sounds agreeable to me.”

“Can I… ask a favour?” 

The sudden shift in her tone took him aback, but Harry kept his face impassive. “Of course.”

“Can you teach me to duel? I don’t need to become amazing at it. I know you started teaching Charlotte, and I don’t need to become as good as she wants to. I’m not a duellist and I know it, but… I don’t want to have something like that happen again. I know it wouldn’t have helped me there, but just in general. I don’t want to go through that again, and I especially don’t want to put others through it again.”

Harry’s lips twitched. “Of course,” he agreed, “so long as I get… preferential treatment in Potions.” 

She swatted him on the shoulder. “Prat.”

“That’s me.”

She laughed and even Harry followed her example. It was a rarity for him and it lifted both of their spirits, even if he did let the sound die long before they re-entered the Great Hall.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the Department of Mysteries…

Emily felt consciousness return to her all at once. There was no slow sensation of shaking off drowsiness; she was just immediately awake.

Her dark blue eyes shot open as she tried to leap to her feet, only to realize her rise was being prevented by external forces. 

She seemed to be sitting in a high-backed chair and her wrists were bound. Her wand was also absent but, more disturbingly, no magic seemed to rise to the surface of her skin when she tried to bring it forth.

She had never been unable to cast wandless magic before.

“Miss Riddle,” came a smooth voice from nearby that was so monotone she could never have placed it.

She looked hastily around but couldn’t immediately identify her companion. The room, or wherever she was, appeared to be shrouded in complete blackness.

Suddenly, torches flickered into life all around her, and her company was made known to her.

It was a man who looked completely and totally average. Emily knew even with Occlumency she wouldn’t be able to recognize him once this conversation had ended, and that was what clued her in as to where she was. Complete panic seized her body.

She had somehow been captured by the Unspeakables.

“There is no need to panic, Miss Riddle,” the man continued. “I only want to chat with you and offer you a proposition. I think you will actually find it most enticing.” His eyes gleamed, fake as they might have been. “But first, I would like to ask you some questions… some questions about horcruxes.”

Author’s Endnote:

One more chapter to go before the end of year 2!

Apologies for this one being short but I couldn’t resist ending it off here. The year 2 finale will be tying up a ton of loose ends, so I hope you’re all ready and excited for the year’s conclusion.

Please read and review.

Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors 3CP, ElomJosh, Rilla, (others) 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! It continues to boggle my mind each and every time, and it is something for which I will be forever grateful!

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