Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 37: The Toppling of Crowns
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 2: The Sacrificial Slytherin
Chapter 37: The Toppling of Crowns
June 5, 1993
The Department of Mysteries
Emily felt her entire body tense at the mere mention of the word ‘horcrux’. Her heart began to quicken as her palms threatened to sweat. Her immediate instinct was to look down towards the floor, but she resisted the urge, knowing it was a typical sign of internal self-reflection.
Once more, she tried to raise magic to the surface of her skin but she felt nothing. It was as if the very force was unwilling to interact with her and the thought made her mad. The fact that she still seemed to be capable of using Occlumency was a small miracle, by her estimation, but she was sorely missing the natural Legilimency she had enjoyed for so long.
She sat in a high-backed chair with chains that bound her wrists. She wondered if these were somehow restricting her ability to wield magic, but she couldn’t be sure without utilizing the force itself.
The sudden lack of power terrified her more than anything had for many years. Not since the very early days in that accursed place had she felt powerless. Not since those early days had she felt anything but in control, something she was presently anything but.
“Yes, Miss Riddle, about horcruxes.” The Unspeakable studied her very carefully, but she gave away no visible reaction. He fidgeted for a moment before deciding his next line of questioning.
“I am only supposed to offer you a proposition once other methods of extraction have failed, but I already see that no other way will work. Your Occlumency is very much still intact and I doubt it could be overwhelmed by either Legilimency or Veritaserum. The former may be viable, but I hesitate to learn what mental traps the Dark Lady had in her arsenal, even at the age of sixteen.
“Which brings us to a proposition, one that I am sure you will be very interested in, even if you wouldn’t dare let that fact be known.”
Riddle’s eyes flashed. “What proposition could you make that would be of interest to me?”
“One that guarantees the thing we think you want above all other things.”
Emily’s confident expression faltered for a moment, but it was quickly pulled back under control. “And what is it that you think I want above all other things?”
“Safety and security.” Riddle’s eye twitched as her heart raced, but she stayed completely impassive otherwise. “We’ve done some digging into the past of Emily Riddle and learned that you grew up in a muggle orphanage and that you spent time there during the London bombings. We know that at least a version of you eventually became the worst Dark Lady Britain has perhaps ever seen. Though your goals were never exactly clear, it was obvious that you wanted control above most things.” The Unspeakable paused. “And we now know that you made at least one horcrux.” Finally, Riddle’s composure slipped, if only for a split second. “In conjunction with the other findings, it stands to reason you have an inherent fear of death and helplessness, as well as a potential, smaller aversion to uncertainty — in addition to an obsession with control and power.”
Riddle kept her mouth shut and her face blank, not uttering so much as a word as she stared impassively towards the figure who was as indiscernible as one could possibly imagine. If only the man could see past her blank visage, he might truly understand the tumultuous storm of panic raging deep inside of her. Or, judging by what he had said already, perhaps he knew even without Legilimency.
“With all of that in mind, our proposition is thus. Our normal course of action, given the obvious risks you pose to society, would be to immediately eliminate you at all costs.” Riddle tried her best to keep a look of desperation from showing in her eyes, but she was unsure as to her degree of success in the endeavour. “It is the rational course of action and the one that should logically be taken.”
Emily said nothing. The only bit of hope she’d latched onto thus far was the fact that this man seemed to be using a large number of words with hypothetical connotations.
“It is the option we will take if you do not agree to our proposition.” Emily felt her heart sink as she nodded curtly to show she understood. “The alternative is that you answer all of our questions honestly, sign several magical contracts, and tell us everything you know about horcruxes and what you think a version of yourself might have used as soul vessels, in addition to where she may have hidden them.
“If you do all of this and continue to comply with demands as time passes, we will follow through on our end, which is a prospect I doubt you will be able to refuse.”
“A bold statement when asking so much from me.”
“Perhaps, but in return for your compliance and aid, we will not only spare you, but we will classify all information about Emily Riddle as a secret of the department, meaning no one shall be able to connect the dots between yourself and Lady Voldemort. It would ensure that any who even tried would wind up looking foolish, and we would allow you to reintegrate into wizarding society, so long as you followed the numerous restrictions that would be included in the aforementioned contracts.”
“And I would be heavily monitored, I’m sure.”
Emily wished she could accurately claim to have hesitated, but the decision was shockingly easy. There was really only one thing she wanted to be answered.
“If you keep me alive, am I not anchoring my other self to life?”
“You are not. Based on every test we have conducted, we have concluded with definite certainty that you have no direct connection to the alternate version of yourself who terrorized Magical Britain. Soul Magic is… delicate, so we are unsure of the causation of this phenomenon. We think it largely based on the cooperation of others’ influence in the ritual, as well as the fact that your soul vacated its original host; which is, in many ways, the antithesis of the horcrux ritual.”
“Will you swear this truth under oath?”
The man hesitated for a second but nodded. “When you sign your contracts, we will be returning the favour. I can ensure a clause about our honesty in regards to such matters is included in our half of the written agreement.”
“And what of those who would bring me down despite your protection?”
“Who is it you think would dare of doing such a thing?”
“Dumbledore.” The name was spat with enough vitriol to take the Unspeakable aback, but Riddle didn’t pause long enough for him to ponder her tone’s implications. “I think it’s likely that he drove my future self out of the country and I have no doubt he would kill me this time around given the chance.” She hesitated. “The Potter twins are also interesting wildcards. They pose no threat now, but who knows how that will change in the coming years.”
“Charlus Potter will be administered a potion ensuring he forgets all about your involvement in the Chamber of Secrets fiasco. Dumbledore may tell him of what he knows, but neither will act. We will… make Albus aware of the developments. While he may not unconditionally comply, I do not think it likely he will directly contradict the wishes of our Department. Doing so would be… problematic on his end.”
“And the other Potter?”
“We will cross that bridge once it becomes treacherous. Currently, I doubt he poses any threat. Now,” the Unspeakable continued, “allow me to fetch the first round of paperwork. Once that is signed, we can begin our dealings.”
June 12, 1993
The night was warm, as one might expect in the middle of June. The whisper of the wind was soft and alluring, and its warm breeze blew the dark, raven locks into the face of the figure who had appeared on the side of an out-of-the-way street corner in one of Scotland’s major wizard-only settlements.
If anyone could see the gleam in Emily Riddle’s eyes as she stared up at the imposing outline of Hogwarts in the distance, as well as the halo of light its windows cast, they might have thought she was demented.
Truthfully, obsessed might have been a more accurate piece of terminology. She had never gotten over her attachment to the castle. Seeing it from this perspective for the first time since regaining her own physical form was like easing an addiction so demanding that the feeling of relief capitulating to its calls elicited was incomprehensible.
With her target in sight and her eyes still gleaming, Riddle swept her wand above her head, vanishing into the night as if she had blended into the very darkness itself.
Minutes later, in the Speaker’s Den…
Harry had been wrought with indecision for the better part of twenty-four hours and the feeling had been slowly tearing him apart. Daphne had noticed quickly, as had Tracey and Charlotte. He was sure Blaise picked up on it as well, but his Italian friend was far too polite to say anything; or perhaps he thought he could observe more by watching a potential breakdown. After Harry’s heightened sense of paranoia inspired by the year’s events, it wouldn’t surprise him.
He had eventually come to the same conclusion he’d reached whilst speaking with Charlotte some time ago after one of their sessions in the dungeon classroom Harry had so frequently occupied since first arriving at the castle.
He needed to tell his friends.
Not all of them, but the ones closest to him; the ones he trusted the most. Of the four, he was least sure of Blaise. He had no idea whether or not the boy’s mother really was a serial killer, let alone where her alliances laid. The Greengrasses and Weittses were also mostly mysteries, but Harry at least had a feel for them. Not that intuition hadn’t led him far astray in the past, but it was miles better than the heaps of nothing he had to judge the Zabini family by. Tracey was by far the safest bet, if for no other reason than her betrayal wouldn’t backfire on him to the same extent.
But he needed to tell them if they were to remain close to him, especially considering the precautions that were in place when one stood in this room.
There was no preamble. As soon as Harry and his four friends entered the room, he immediately spoke the authoritative words that would once more invoke Salazar Slytherin’s sanction, set up to secure Slytherins’ secrets for centuries to follow the man’s own passing.
Once the sanction had been imposed, Harry had started divulging all of the important things he had held from them for so long. He spoke first of his relationship with Professor Hurst during their first year, and then the way she turned out to be Voldemort, and how she had pursued rebirth via Nicholas Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone. He told them of the prophecy concerning Charlus and Voldemort, and how his brother had burnt Hurst’s body to ashes when his death had seemed imminent. One of the only things he didn’t spill was what Dumbledore had said in his office about Charles’s natural defence against Voldemort, forged directly from the power of Lily Potter’s final sacrifice.
He told them of the Chamber of Secrets and how, indirectly this time, Voldemort had been behind it all. He found it impossible to speak of either Ares Black or Emily Riddle due to the sanctions he had been placed under by the Unspeakables, but he had no doubts his friends would work out the bits about Ares in their own time. Perhaps not that her mother had intended to willingly sacrifice her, but at least the fact she had, in one capacity or another, been the one to open the Chamber of Secrets.
Outside of the nature of his brother’s protection, the journal he had shared — presumably connected to the current-day incarnation of Voldemort — and now had no plans of ever opening again, as well as all things he was bound against saying by magic, Harry revealed just about everything to his four most trusted friends.
Outside of the nature of his brother’s protection, the journal he had shared and now had no plans of ever opening again connected to — presumably — the current-day incarnation of Voldemort, as well as all things he was bound against saying by magic, Harry revealed just about everything to his four most trusted friends.
He sat nervously waiting for their reactions when he had finished their tale, unsure of how they might react. To his slight relief, he could tell almost at once that Tracey would react in the positive. He now recognized that as a byproduct of natural Legilimency, but he didn’t get the same intel from the others. Probably because all three of them were competent in the art of Occlumency; which was both a blessing and a curse for Harry, as far as he was concerned.
“So you really did fight her down there at the end of last year.” Daphne’s voice was shaking and it was barely louder than a whisper. It was perhaps the first time Harry had ever heard her speak in such a way before.
“I did, yeah.”
“The better question,” asked Blaise, “is why did you do it in the first place?”
Harry sighed. “It made sense to me at the time. In hindsight, I might have been wrong. I didn’t want to chance Voldemort coming back.” It was very interesting to Harry that of his four gathered friends, Tracey was the only one to flinch at the Dark Lady’s chosen alias. “Not after she had attacked my family and had seemed pretty set on killing all of us. If she got the stone, she would have been at full power again. That’s how I understood it, at least. I couldn’t risk that. The last thing I wanted was her to come after me again.” He scrunched up his face with obvious disgust. “And at the time, I was actually on pretty good terms with my brother and I didn’t really want him dead either.”
“The bigger question,” said Charlotte, “is what on earth made you think you would be able to stop Voldemort?”
It wasn’t the first time that question had come up in the past twenty-four hours. It had arisen several times in Harry’s mind whilst he mentally readied himself for this conversation. The thought had been brought on by Emily Riddle’s taunts in the Chamber of Secrets, and it had actually pointed Harry to an inherent flaw in how he approached many challenges set out before him.
“Yet you told nobody of your suspicions. I’m sure you researched me. There’s no way someone like you didn’t, especially not after you worked out the truth. I’m interested; what made you think you could bring me down alone?”
Harry tended to get caught up in the mystery of things. More broadly, he was an extremely obsessive and goal-oriented person. What he was coming to learn was that the fact meant he would hyper-fixate on one particular thing at a time and not always take all of the factors of an equation into account. It had bitten him this year badly. Riddle was right; even if he had caught her, he would have never been able to bring her down alone.
And now, upon further reflection, Harry realized he had never stood a chance at the end of his first year. Even though the decisions had been driven through an obsessive nature and not through Gryffindor courage, the results reminded him far too much of something Harry might have expected from one donned so proudly in scarlet and gold.
It needed to change.
He needed to change.
Trust was something he was going to have to treat like an invaluable commodity going forward, and he was going to need to do a much better job of looking at the big picture and not being so fixated on the immediate forks in the road that life presented him with.
If he wanted to achieve the vague goals that had started forming in his mind ever since his meeting with the two Unspeakables, it was something he was going to need to do.
But first, he had one more secret to reveal to his friends.
Well… two, if one counted the Chamber of Secrets, which he intended on exploring tonight with their assistance.
At that same moment, in the Room of Requirement
After so many years away from the castle, Emily stood in her favourite room in the entire castle — outside of the Chamber of Secrets, of course.
The Room of Requirement. Or, to be more precise, the Room of Hidden Things.
To specify further, Emily stood near an old cabinet, clutching in her hands a stunning piece of jewelry that had endured for over one-thousand years.
She studied it intently, marvelling at the stunning blue sapphire set in the piece. It had been lost for many years when she attended Hogwarts, but it had been her goal to find it. The fact it was here — clearly hidden by her future self and exuding the sort of presence one would expect of a horcrux — not only meant that she had found it but it also meant she had likely gone through with her initial pipe dream regarding horcruxes.
That was to fashion at least four of them after trinkets that had once belonged to the four founders of Hogwarts.
Only now, after many lectures on the subject via the Department of Mysteries, did Emily realize the problems posed by a seven-part soul.
Not that she disagreed with the desire for immortality… she was still very much in line with that idea and she would be achieving it in this existence as well. Whether it would be via horcruxes, though… well, she would need to gain some confidence within the Department before they would leave her alone for long enough to re-explore that option.
For now, she simply pocketed the artifact and headed towards the door, with half of her business at Hogwarts for the night now concluded.
It would be the last time she would see the castle before the coming September — hopefully — since the Unspeakables were toying with the idea of allowing her to finish what were realistically supposed to be her final two years of education at Hogwarts.
But before she left, she had one more objective. She had achieved a great deal by removing the diadem from its hiding place — not least of all unknowingly shattering the curse on the Defence Against the Dark Arts position — but she still had one more feat of magic to achieve before her work was done.
Two minutes later, in the dungeons…
Harry felt an odd sense of urgency as he and his friends made their way towards the stairs that would lead them up into the main castle, at which point they would begin the trek to the second-floor girl’s bathroom; otherwise known as the entrance to the fabled Chamber of Secrets.
This odd sense of urgency bothered Harry, who had — after ignoring an odd suspicion about Ares months earlier — gathered that he really should trust his gut more often.
So he decided to make a compromise and sacrifice planned dramatic effect for brutal pragmatism.
Harry stopped in the corridor near the Slytherin common room that was so lavishly decorated with serpentine decor. Then, ignoring his friends’ stares, he turned to one particular snake and ignored the fact he had an English password picked out. If he was going to ignore his sense of urgency, it was best to get the shock factor that would inevitably be brought on by what he was about to do out of the way now.
A doorknob appeared from nowhere, but Harry was too busy trying not to smirk despite himself as all of his friends gasped.
He turned to them with a completely blank expression, ignoring the way that even Blaise’s eyes seemed to have bugged completely out.
“Well,” he prompted, “ladies first.”
A minute or so later, in a room at the Three Broomsticks…
It was odd for Albus Dumbledore to be back in the United Kingdom after so long away. Especially in Hogsmeade, nestled right in the looming shadow of the castle he had lorded over for so long. The castle he still hadn’t been invited back to, and the castle to which he so desperately wished to return.
For now, he had other matters, specifically the shocking story being told to him by one Charlus Potter.
More specifically, the gaping gaps in that knowledge.
Charlus could remember going down into the Chamber of Secrets after Harry. He could remember a diary and how it had been possessing Ares Black. He could remember the exact details of a ritual and that Lady Voldemort had been involved somehow.
What he couldn’t remember is who had been forcing Ares Black to open the chamber for the better part of a year.
Dumbledore thought he knew, but that was the best he was to get, apparently. A gentle probe of Legilimency that both Charlus and James — who was present both in his capacity of Lord Potter and as a Senior Auror — had agreed to showed him nothing.
Granted, that was only true because Albus had only searched through recent memories.
Had he gone back further, he might have found an entirely different, non-potion enforced block on the Boy-Who-Lived’s memories.
But he didn’t.
He was far more concerned with the implications of all that had transpired since his removal from Hogwarts.
Especially in the case of the diary.
Merlin, how he wished Charlus could have snagged the diary for him to examine.
He didn’t even know if it was destroyed; and without it, he had no way of definitively concluding that Voldemort had made horcruxes as he had now suspected for some time.
All in all, the fiasco that had been his last ten months was very much still in full swing.
Meanwhile, in the out-or-order bathroom on the second floor…
For the first time in fifty years, Emily stood in the bathroom where Myrtle Warren had died. Of course, to her, it felt as though only days had passed. She remembered it well. Myrtle wasn’t meant to die. Her death really contradicted so many things that Emily wanted to achieve, but it happened. A simple slip on a wet floor after her body had gone rigid and the next thing Emily knew, Myrtle’s head was split wide open and pouring blood. The girl was dead just minutes later.
But she couldn’t think of that now; she had more important things to do.
Namely, ensuring the Boy-Who-Lived didn’t return to the Chamber of Secrets and do any looking around. That would be… problematic.
His brother — if he was a Parselmouth as Emily suspected might be the case — could potentially be even more problematic.
Though, there was a small part of her that wanted Harry Potter to find the other entrances around the school.
A small part of her that was still mightily curious about all things pertaining to the boy who seemed to be her modern-day equal, of sorts. At least when comparing them at the same age.
But for now, she had to make sure knowledge of this entrance disappeared.
For that, she needed clear, guided intent, as well as a Secret Keeper.
That had been extremely difficult, especially considering one could not be their own Secret Keeper, but she had worked it out in the end.
With a deep, measured breath, Emily’s eyes flew open as she swept her wand in a long gesture, turning all about the room as she did so.
Magic hummed around the very room, swirling and building for several seconds before it radiated outwards, encompassing Emily’s envisioned area in a perimeter of shining, golden light.
Then, with a blinding flash of magic, the few people who knew of the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets contained in the out-of-order bathroom on the second floor immediately forgot it existed.
This select group of individuals even included a small group of Slytherins making their way up to the second floor, all of whom promptly and suddenly forgot what it was they were doing.
But Emily Riddle didn’t forget.
She remembered all she had done, and all of the implications surrounding it, as she stealthily exited Hogwarts via the same secret passageway she had entered it not long earlier.
Her work for the night was complete and she hoped to see the castle once more in September.
June 13, 1993
The Great Hall
GILDEROY LOCKHART TO BE HONOURED WITH THE ORDER OF MERLIN, FIRST CLASS TOMORROW IN HOGSMEADE FOR HIS HEROIC CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE EFFORT OF CLOSING THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS
By Rita Skeeter
For once, Harry didn’t have to marvel at the spinning of information to form a headline.
The papers had been made aware of the chamber’s closure immediately, though they had been given far from all of the details.
The extent of what they had been told — or managed to ascertain — was that a Hogwarts student had been somehow forced to open the Chamber of Secrets. Charlus Potter and Gilderoy Lockhart — possibly amongst others — located the chamber and pursued the mysterious Heir of Slytherin after the disappearance of Ares Black and the Boy-Who-Lived’s Slytherin brother. From there, the Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defence League had shown his medal once more, doing the heavy lifting after Charlus Potter had let the pair of them into the chamber through the use of parseltongue.
The tale was missing some major details, obviously, but it was closer to the truth than Harry expected.
Not that he had much time to think on the matter.
Two more bits of mail found their way in front of him before long and he frowned at the first before letting out a sigh of relief at the second.
How ironic that, if things went to plan, the second would nullify all of the implications that the first dreamed of.
Able to convince himself everything would work out —for now at least — Harry finished breakfast alongside his group of friends in relative peace. He exited the Great Hall in a larger group, accompanied by the four who had joined him in the Den, plus Pansy Parkinson, Ginny Weasley, and Laine Slater.
They made it about halfway towards the stone steps leading down into the Hogwarts dungeons before Harry heard a most unwelcome voice calling out behind them.
“Hey, hold on! Harry, I need to talk to you!”
Harry’s posture went stiff as he heard the voice of his brother. For the first time in months, it sounded anything but antagonistic. It spoke volumes in regards to desperation, guilt, and regret.
Yet Harry couldn’t find it in himself to care.
He considered continuing his path down into the dungeons but decided against it. If he avoided this encounter, Charlus would only force it upon him at a later date. There would likely be no escaping the Git-Who-Lived on the train ride back to London if he wanted to speak with his twin this badly, so it was really better to get the whole thing out of the way now.
Slowly, Harry came to a stop, prompting the rest of his group to follow his lead. In the same methodical, deliberate manner, he turned to face his twin, who was standing before him and looking very nervous. Hermione Granger stood a bit behind him, with Neville Longbottom a bit behind her. Neville was looking nervously between the Potter twins whilst Granger shot encouraging glances towards Charlus’s back.
“Can we talk?” asked Charlus.
“I stopped walking, didn’t I?” Harry answered with no emotion. “Is that not an answer all by itself?”
Charlus winced. “Harry, I—”
“When have I ever not talked, Charlus? When have you ever asked me to talk and I’ve said no?” His brother fidgeted uncomfortably and Harry’s eyes narrowed. “It wasn’t a rhetorical question, little brother.”
Charlus’s gaze dropped to his shoes which shuffled uncomfortably back and forth. “Never,” he admitted quietly.
“Precisely,” agreed Harry, unintentionally falling into his best impression of Snape’s condescending drawl. “And when, little brother, have you ever returned that kindness?” Charlus had no answer. “Interesting thing, that. Well, go on then; say your piece. Do make it quick, though, will you? I have a couple of important letters to reply to, and they’re both fairly time-sensitive.”
“I’m sorry,” said Charlus. “You’re right… I was a prat. I never haven’t been a prat. Harry, I… Merlin. I don’t know what’s going on anymore. I treated you like a git all throughout first year only to make up and bottle it right at the end. Then… second year happened.” Harry snorted but didn’t interrupt. “I… I really thought you were the Heir. It was just… you were right there and a Slytherin… I don’t mean that in a bad way, but surely you can see why I thought it might be a Slytherin?”
Harry could hear the pleading tone in his brother’s voice and he felt a small amount of sadistic pleasure just by listening to it.
Sadistic pleasure that he masked with Occlumency, keeping his face void of emotion as he stoically nodded his head.
“I… thought you might be the Heir and I didn’t want to take that chance. Not after what happened at the end of our first year.”
A crowd had gathered around the brothers now and that last comment had obviously piqued their interest. None of them knew why, but almost all of them knew that both Potter twins had been in the hospital wing during the end of their first year. It was well-publicized, as Charlus had missed Gryffindor’s final Quidditch match of the season, which had led to their worst defeat in centuries.
“And the frame job?” Harry asked in a hissing whisper.
Charlus looked conflicted. “You… didn’t give me that book?” Harry’s eyes flashed as he shook his head with violent force. “You… never told me to practice those spells?” Again, a shake of the head. “You… never told me to focus on things I hated while casting?”
“No,” spat Harry. By now, he was consciously resisting the urge to snap, and he could tell both Charlotte and Daphne were tense and ready to at least try and stop him from doing anything stupid.
“I… really do remember you doing those things,” said Charlus, looking anywhere but at Harry as his shuffling intensified. “But… I believe you. I don’t know what happened, but I believe you. I believe you never did any of it, and you obviously weren’t the Heir of Slytherin. When you were kidnapped…” He trembled violently. “It might have been the worst I ever felt. I can’t remember anything like it. I-I realized we were brothers and we really ought to be friends, not enemies. I’m sorry, Harry. It’s all my fault and I just hope one day, you can forgive me.” He hesitated. “It doesn’t have to be now but… can we at least promise not to fight.”
Charlus stretched out his hand, obviously intent on shaking to signify a gentleman’s agreement. The crowd held their collective breath as, with a blank face, Harry Potter stepped forward and slowly reached towards his brother’s offered hand…
Before changing direction at the last second and bringing that hand up, closing it into a fist, and slamming it into Charlus Potter’s face with as much force as he could muster.
The sound of breaking glass rang out as the glasses worn by the Boy-Who-Lived exploded as he fell back, blood spraying from his nostrils before he even hit the floor.
The horde of onlookers erupted into chatter as Harry slowly stooped over his twin, intent on getting one last word in before he was either dragged off by his friends or told off by a professor.
“Once is an accident,” he hissed into his brother’s ear. “Twice is a coincidence, thrice is a pattern. That’s three times you’ve treated me like hell for things I didn’t do, Charlus. No hard feelings, but I’m not going for a fourth.”
He straightened up, his visage once more smoothing over into one of complete and total relaxation. With a gesture, he began his descent back down into the dungeons, leaving his very dazed-looking group of friends to follow in his wake as the Hogwarts rumour mill practically exploded behind him.
That night, back in the Department of Mysteries…
With their experiments on the artifact complete, Emily watched with morbidly detached interest as the famous diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw blackened and shrivelled under the assault of carefully controlled Fiendfyre.
One horcrux down.
Two, if one counted the diary, but this one felt different.
She had single-handedly helped bring about its destruction and there was only one thing about it that confused her above all other things.
The fact didn’t bother her nearly as much as she would have expected.
June 14, 1993
The Three Broomsticks
First and second-year students had been allowed in Hogsmeade for the first time in decades to watch their Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor receive the most prestigious award the Ministry of Magic had to offer. All the while, the rabid crowd wondered when the curse against the Defence Against the Dark Arts position would kick in. There was actually a betting pool going on in the crowd. It had been orchestrated by the newly-restored Weasley twins, who seemed eager to make up for lost time due to their prolonged petrification.
Most students seemed to think the curse would take effect during the award ceremony, but it never did. The brave few that had bet on Lockhart — the notorious breaker of curses and slayer of monsters — breaking the curse on the position were now holding their breath, just hoping he could pull off another miracle and make it until the end of the year.
Harry was in the camp that had no idea and quite frankly, weren’t foolish to part ways with their money over something they themselves couldn’t control.
Besides, he had bigger things on his mind.
In particular, the meeting he was striding towards and making sure he had a perfectly blank expression for. The meeting which had been announced to him via the less pleasant half of his correspondence he had received at breakfast the day before.
The letter had read:
I know it’s been ages since we’ve spoken, but I’m so relieved you’re okay. I know that this year has been a crazy ride of emotions. I’m happy for your friends and I’m sure you’re doing better now that they’re safe and sound, but I know it can’t have been easy.
Trust me, all of us just want to get this year behind us, but there are some things we need to take care of first.
Can you meet me at the Three Broomsticks tomorrow at 2:00 in the afternoon? As I’m sure you’ll see in the paper, Lockhart is getting awarded in the village earlier in the day. I think Hogwarts is going to let the younger years out to watch it. If they don’t, just claim heir privileges.
Write back as soon as possible, and I hope to see you tomorrow!
PS: Dumbledore will be there too.
When he knocked on the familiar oak door behind which he had first met his father almost two years ago now, his emotions were well and truly in check.
“Enter,” called the familiar voice of the former — at least for now — Hogwarts Headmaster.
Harry steeled himself as he stepped inside, eyes roaming over both men gathered in the room. This was the first time he would be seeing Dumbledore since he had orchestrated the man’s removal from Hogwarts. Consequently, he was more than a little bit worried about how he would be received. There was also the fact that Harry just never enjoyed being in a room with the man.
And then there was James… he was conflicted in regards to his father.
On one hand, the man was Dumbledore’s stooge, or so it seemed. On the other, he had single-handedly saved him from expulsion and likely criminal charges, so there was also that.
The best way to describe his current dynamic with James was… awkward.
“Ah, Harry,” began Dumbledore. “It is so nice to see you after all the time I have spent away. I hope you are well?”
“Much better now that everything has cleared up at Hogwarts, sir.”
“I am glad.” The man twirled his beard in what was obviously an anxious movement. “Harry, I must apologize for my suspicions earlier in the year. I maintain that there was a large amount of evidence implicating you as the most likely assailant, but I confess that I may have leapt to conclusions more quickly than was wise. For that, I do apologize.”
Harry thought the fact others had to repeatedly apologize to him spoke volumes in regards to their characters, but he didn’t say that. “Thank you, sir.” Harry turned his head to look at James. “Thank you for your support in December. It was nice to have somebody in my corner.”
James looked as though he wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved or even more awkward. He eventually settled for mumbling something about not mentioning it and falling silent once more. It was obvious he wanted to speak further, but he didn’t seem to be willing in the presence of Dumbledore. Harry had a feeling after this meeting, he wasn’t going to be inclined to stick around and exchange words, either.
“Thank you for presenting yourself so promptly,” said Dumbledore. “I know it was sudden, but so was Gilderoy’s most well-deserved ceremony. He truly is a credit to Magical Britain, especially with everything he has been through.” Harry’s nod was genuine this time. He couldn’t say he liked Lockhart; not with their differing ideologies and the man’s ill-placed suspicions earlier in the year. Despite his dislike though, Harry did respect Lockhart. He respected him immensely because he knew better than most what it took to overcome horrible things.
“What did you think of Hogsmeade?” asked James, hands fidgeting in front of him as he forced a smile onto his face. “First time really being here for more than just coming to the Three Broomsticks to chat, huh?”
“It’s nice,” said Harry. “It will be interesting to explore it properly next year.”
James grinned more naturally now. “Oh, the memories made in Hogsmeade… some of my best moments at school. I’m sure you’ll love it.”
Harry smiled briefly before turning back to Dumbledore. “You called me here to discuss summer plans, sir?”
The atmosphere in the room changed immediately. It wasn’t quite as oppressive as last year when Dumbledore had made the plan for Harry to return to the Dursleys known. Yet, it definitely wasn’t as casual as it had been a moment earlier and Harry could practically see the tension in every muscle that comprised the well-toned body of James Potter.
“We did, yes. For obvious reasons, it is no longer viable for you to return to Privet Drive. It is an unfortunate loss of a potential asset we might have had in the future, but with both Vernon and Petunia dead and the wards having collapsed months earlier, it is not at all viable.”
Harry wanted so badly to point out that the Dursleys should have never been considered viable in the first place. He had never once bitten his tongue nearly as hard as he did at that moment, but he managed to stay silent; only responding with the curtest of nods.
“So, where are you going to ship me this year, sir?”
The wrinkles on Dumbledore’s face deepened as he obviously fought against a frown. “I don’t plan to ship you anywhere, Harry?” Harry simply raised an eyebrow. “I think it time you finally reside with your true magical guardian after all those years.”
“My true magical guardian?”
James cleared his throat. “I wanted you to come to stay with us last summer,” he said, suddenly tapping his foot rapidly against the floor. “It just… didn’t work out.”
“So the plan is for me to stay at Potter Manor this summer?” Both men nodded. Harry sat back in his chair, mimicking what he thought a prince would look like whilst studying his pitiful subjects. “I see one glaring hole in this plan.”
The two men exchanged looks. “What is this… hole?” asked Dumbledore.
“Well… James Potter isn’t my magical guardian—”
“What do you mean I’m not your magical guardian?” spluttered James. “All parents are the guardians of their—”
“Nor is he legally able to serve in that position until such time as the legal matters surrounding the case have concluded.”
The room went deathly still and completely quiet. “The… case?” James asked.
“Yes, Father,” said Harry, withdrawing a number of parchments from the pocket of his robes. “The case… the case that I’ve been planning to put forth for months.”
December 22, 1992
The Greengrass’s Law Firm
“In the contract you signed, it expressly stated that the Greengrass family were to handle any and all legal fees associated to you.”
Clearly, Harry needed to get better at reading contracts. All he had taken from the offending documentation was that his base legal fees were covered. This made the whole process much easier, especially when considering his other and altogether more pressing reason for being here.
“Have that done then, please. Can you owl me immediately when it’s done? I‘d like to talk on it more once we have actual information.” She nodded and this time, it was his turn to lean forward with a gleam in his eye as they came to the other business that had brought him here. The business that he had planned to attend to for months now.
Tate noticed his shift in posture at once. “Can I assume whatever you’re about to say next is the primary reason you came?”
“You can, yeah.” She readied her posture and nodded. “Is there a way to make sure my father doesn’t have any power over where I stay in the summers? I’d prefer if he had no power at all, to be honest, but I could settle for that.”
Tate thought about it. “Well, so long as he is your Lord and Magical Guardian, it would be difficult to build a case against him dictating at least your living arrangements.”
Harry frowned. “What if he wasn’t my Magical Guardian?”
“That… is a complicated bit of business.”
“Heirs and Lords are very closely connected. So long as a Lord doesn’t do anything that directly endangers his heir’s life or puts his heir at a massive disadvantage, or abuses them in any other way, there really isn’t any other reason I can think of that would be strong enough to revoke their status as Magical Guardian. Even if there was, it would definitely go to a trial. At that point, it would be in the hands of the Wizengamot.”
A wild, half-formed plan began to come into shape inside Harry’s head. There were components of it he was unhappy with, but he grudgingly accepted the fact they were probably necessities if he was going to get out from under his father’s — and by extension, Dumbledore’s — thumb.
“Would… this contract covering all of my legal expenses pay for the funds to verify memories using a pensieve?”
Tate raised an eyebrow but decided to play along. “So long as we were able to present an amount of evidence substantial enough to justify the use of a pensieve, then yes.”
Harry took a deep, centring breath. The last thing he wanted was hordes of people seeing some of his worst memories, but it was a necessary evil, in this case.
Never again would he be powerless, and never again would he be at the mercy of his father and Dumbledore.
“I… think I have enough to launch a case.”
Back in the Present…
“Harry?” asked James, who looked absolutely stricken, “what… what is this?”
“A declaration that I’m pressing criminal charges against both of you. You,” he told James, “for mishandling and neglect of your heir.” He turned to Dumbledore. “As Headmaster, you’re supposed to intervene and inform the authorities if you get any indication that a child is being mistreated because of their parents’ actions. So, I’m pressing charges against you for criminal negligence. Because of these charges, James can’t legally watch over me until the trial is over.” Harry’s eyes gleamed. “And seeing as I’m pushing for the transfer of guardianship, that will only be allowed to happen if I lose the case.”
Dumbledore looked rather sick, but his voice was still measured when he spoke. “Who would you be proposing James transfer guardianship to, Harry?”
“With respect, sir, I see no reason to give up that information. It will be made public when my solicitor thinks doing so is a good idea.” He looked between the two of them. “Is that all?”
“Harry,” moaned James, but Dumbledore silenced him with a hand on his shoulder.
“Am I correct in assuming there is nothing either of us can do that might dissuade you from your current course of action?”
Dumbledore sighed deeply. “Very well. I see you have chosen your path. Walk it carefully, Harry, for it is not the one I would have advised.”
Harry scowled at Dumbledore, looked anywhere but at James, snatched his parchments off the table and stormed out of the room without so much as a backwards glance.
“Merlin,” moaned James once the door had closed. “What have we done?”
That night, at Black Manor
All was normal inside the dining hall of Black Manor until the family’s elf appeared, placing the day’s mail before its masters just as Bella and Barty neared the end of their meal.
“Expecting anything?” asked Barty.
Bellatrix just tilted her head and plucked up the one, unexpected bit of mail.
It took every bit of her mastery over Occlumency not to react and even then, Barty clearly noticed something was off. “Bella?” In response, Bellatrix just held up the envelope in which the letter rested.
It was adorned with the image of a veil, over which two wands were crossed.
June 17, 1993
The Great Hall
ALBUS DUMBLEDORE WILL NOT BE INVITED BACK TO HOGWARTS AFTER THE NEWS OF CRIMINAL CHARGES LEVELLED AGAINST HIM!
GILDEROY LOCKHART, RECENT RECIPIENT OF THE ORDER OF MERLIN, FIRST CLASS TO TAKE HIS PLACE AS ACTIVE HEADMASTER FOR THE 1993-1994 HOGWARTS SCHOOL YEAR!
By Rita Skeeter
“Now that,” said Harry, grinning down at the morning’s paper with a vicious grin, “is how you write a pleasing headline.” He joyfully snatched the morning’s edition and began to read.
Two days ago, the news broke that the Heir Potter would be levelling charges against both his father — Lord James Charlus Potter — as well as the Chief Warlock himself. One day later, news broke that the case would be going to trial, the date of which will be announced in the coming week.
One day later, yet another Blasting Curse has been let loose on Magical Britain.
The evening after the trial was announced, the Hogwarts Board of Governors convened in an urgent meeting to discuss the upcoming school year. Over the past several months, Minerva McGonagall — the long-time Transfiguration Professor and Deputy Headmistress — was serving as Interim Headmistress in the wake of Dumbledore’s removal. When news broke that the Chamber of Secrets had been closed, many of us reasonably thought Grindelwald’s defeater may return to his position of authority.
All of that changed when Gilderoy Lockhart was named a national hero just days before Albus Dumbledore’s name was dragged through the mud like it never had been before.
“We cannot justify giving that man back a position of power and authority over children after what appears on paper to be the horrible mishandling of one of the most notable children in our society.”
Those were the words of Lord Lucius Malfoy, who proudly serves as the Head of the Board.
He went on to say:
“It just so happens that with the convenient timing of Mr. Lockhart’s most recent bit of heroism, we had a natural replacement ready. It also seems that he has beaten the long-standing curse on the Defence Against the Dark Arts position, something many people thought was impossible. When considering all of this, the choice really was quite easy.”
The article continued on, but Harry had read all he needed.
The Heir of Slytherin fiasco might not have ended the way he had planned. He still wondered where the hell Emily Riddle was now and could only hope that the Unspeakables had seen sense and gotten rid of her.
Still, despite the atrocities of the year, Harry was beyond happy with how things had turned out on a personal level. He had now ousted Dumbledore permanently and set up a trial that would more than likely see him break free of many of the powers his father held over him.
All in all, it seemed a remarkable end to an otherwise miserable school year.
Later that day, Platform Nine and Three Quarters…
It felt profoundly odd deboarding the Hogwarts Express with Grace and Charlotte, sticking close by the eldest’s side. Even more strange than not receiving end-of-year grades. They hadn’t bothered assigning them after the exams had been cancelled for everyone but those students taking O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts. Those tests were administered by the Ministry of Magic as opposed to Hogwarts, so they went on. Everyone else just received a generic pass or fail grade. As far as Harry knew, even those who had been petrified for large periods of time had passed. It had been viewed as ‘unfair’ to fail them.
What Harry thought was ‘unfair’ was making Colin Creevey try and take second-year classes after barely two months of magical education, but that was just his opinion.
Yet even the oddity of not receiving grades didn’t hold a candle to his present set of circumstances.
The second bit of correspondence Harry had gotten the day his father had written to him asking for a meeting, had been from the Weitts family. It had been a response to a letter sent out by his solicitor, Veronica Tate, asking whether or not they would be at all interested in filling the position of Harry’s Magical Guardian. The same letter would be sent out to the Greengrass family if the Weitts contingent declined, but Tate thought it best to try with them first since they had willingly taken Harry in the summer prior.
Harry thought for sure they would reject the offer, especially after the conversation he had shared with Giaus back in December.
To his surprise, they had accepted.
It was rather awkward standing by as Adriana hugged both of her daughters and fussed over them immensely. It beat going to the Dursleys by a mile though, so Harry wasn’t going to complain.
Everything was going perfectly right up until the moment they were about to depart from the platform.
That was when he saw her.
His eyes had caught sight of Ares and followed her with no small amount of sadness right up until the moment she had neared her family members…
All three of them…
No, that couldn’t be right…
Only two of the three gathered figures were Ares’s family, but Harry had no problem recognizing the third.
Tall, pale-skinned, and raven-haired, Emily Riddle stood proudly alongside Bellatrix Black and Barty Crouch Jr.; the final sight Harry saw before being whisked away to Weitts Manor by the portkey he had rested his hand on not moments earlier.
Some time later, in Castello Zabini…
Blaise made no preamble upon landing gracefully in his family’s entrance hall.
He discarded his trunk at once and hurriedly made his way towards where he knew his mother would be waiting for him.
This time, unlike the others, he didn’t wait for her to speak.
“I have news,” he told her in well-practiced Italian.
“Oh?” Antonia Zabini asked with one, perfect eyebrow raised.
Blaise’s eyes were void of any and all emotion as he looked at his mother and gave a curt nod. “I think he is the one.”
Several hours later, in the Department of Mysteries…
Gilderoy Lockhart’s well-polished shoes clicked against the ancient, stone floor as he came to a circular room with a large number of doors. The walls began to spin past him at dizzying speeds, but he kept his composure and spoke out in a loud, clear voice.
Slowly, the spinning ceased and a door on his right began to glow with a soft, bluish light. Lockhart marched purposefully through it and made his way through a maze of contraptions he could never hope to comprehend. To his left, he saw an open door leading into a large, amphitheatre-like room, in which he could just make out a tall, ancient veil.
He didn’t spare it more than a passing glance; he didn’t want to know what would happen if he did.
Instead, he marched onwards until he came to an oak door that was the entrance to an office. He knocked thirteen times, then eleven, then seven, then three. Only then was he finally permitted access to the office within.
“Mr. Lockhart,” spoke the figure behind the desk. He had the typical charms applied to make him look as generic and forgettable as possible, but Gilderoy wasn’t fooled. “What can I help you with today?”
Lockhart reached into the pocket of his robes and withdrew the still-intact diary that had caused so much trouble that last year at Hogwarts.
“I have something I think you might be interested in… Mr. Black.”
TO BE CONTINUED IN:
HARRY POTTER AND THE BLACKEST OF TRUTHS
COMING TO PATREON IN THE COMING WEEKS!
And on that absolute bombshell, it is finally time to call it a year.
This story is SO MUCH FUN TO WRITE. Honestly, I am obsessed with it, and I am so glad you all enjoy it. I cannot thank all of you enough for the support on this fic. By the time this goes out on FFN, we will have surpassed 5k followers and 4K favourites, which are just numbers I never expected to hit.
I’m not going to speak about the year and my thoughts on it in detail here, because there will be a blog post for that at some point in the not-so-distant future.
NOTE ON THE UPLOAD SCHEDULE GOING FORWARD:
I am taking a couple of weeks to work out my exact year 3 timeline, and then I am back to writing this fic. So yes, I am not taking a break from the fic; just doing the planning and then jumping right back into writing.
Due to the fact I hope to participate in the Tokyo games this summer, I don’t really want to be on a time crunch to upload during that time. I also don’t want to just take a two month break in the middle of a year, so year 3 will not be posted on FFN and AO3 until September.
HOWEVER, Discord members and Patrons will be receiving chapters in that time. My current thought is that Discord will receive one full chapter per month.
There are two ways we can do this:
1 – I can just post the full chapter all at once at either the beginning or end of each month.
2 – I can divide each chapter into four smaller chunks and post one per week, or into two and post every two weeks. This is basically taking a page out of The Sinister Man’s playbook, for those who are on his server. The chunks would be quite short, but it would probably keep the chats far more active.
I will do a poll on Discord in the coming days to see how you all feel about this. I am perfectly happy going forward with either option.
Patrons will, as always, receive chapters as I write them. They will probably get a few chapters every month, so they will get very far ahead. These chapters are not paywalled, they are just posted for Patrons early.
So it’s the same as now, really. Patrons get the chapters first, then Discord, then FFN and AO3. The main difference is that Patrons will be much further ahead of Discord than they are now, and Discord will be much further ahead of the site by September.
Once more, thank you all so much for the support once more, and I hope the end to the year justified the titanic build-up that led us here.
Please read and review.
DE: Sectumus, Fryce,
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