Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 1: The Forsaken’s Ascension
Chapter 6: Adventures and Admissions
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 nor do I make any profit.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to my beta Umar for his work on this story. Additionally, a massive thank you is extended to Fezzik. She became a beta for me at a later date and has graciously agreed to assist me in revising these early chapters.
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September 7, 1991
The Slytherin Common Room
I won’t pretend that I’m going to run into your arms and forgive you for everything you have done. I hold you accountable for most of the bad things that have happened in my life, but I also feel asking for a second chance is not unreasonable.
I would be willing to meet with you in Hogsmeade during the first trip of the school year. Please get back to me when the trip itself has been confirmed.
I hope you’re not taking me breaking the Potter tradition of landing in Gryffindor too much to heart. Charlus seems quite annoyed by the fact.
Harry read over his fourth draft of the letter to his father with a sigh, deciding it was probably the best he was going to get. It was honest, yet still portrayed him in a positive light and even contained some light humour– something that he thought from stories he had heard about his father and from his father’s last letter that he would enjoy. He thought the letter was passable at the very least and was just standing to leave the common room when a voice spoke from a bit behind him and off to his left.
“And where are you off to at this time of the morning?”
Harry turned, finding that he was not nearly as startled by Weitts’s sudden appearance as he had been on the first day of classes, even in spite of the way she had embarrassed Flint, who had not returned to the common room until early on Thursday.
“Exploring,” he answered honestly. He had read all about the mysteries upon mysteries that Hogwarts had to unravel and Harry, eager as always, could not wait to start. At the moment, he just wanted to find an abandoned classroom in which he could practice actual practical magic without being disturbed.
Weitts looked amused. “You really weren’t exaggerating when you told me that you were a morning person, were you?”
“No, and you weren’t either. You said it would separate me from the rest of the house. You weren’t kidding.”
Her lips quirked. “Yes, that is one of the peculiarities of a bunch of children who, for the most part, grew up in luxury.” Harry’s eye twitched as he tried to suppress a modicum of expressional changes that would all indicate his bitterness about such a statement. If Grace noticed, she didn’t comment.
“I guess that makes sense, yes,” he answered, keeping his voice neutral.
“I saw you sitting with Greengrass and Davis last night,” Weitts commented.
“You seem oddly interested in, and disturbingly open with a random first year who shouldn’t be worth your time,” Harry noted bluntly, prompting Grace to pause for a moment as if processing his statement before laughing softly.
“You have a very odd manner about you, Potter.”
“You are certainly a Slytherin; anybody who knows which qualities to watch for would be able to see that. Even in conversation, you are slick, elusive, and calculating. However, in the same vein, you go on to say things like that. Most wizards in this house would have hinted at such a question or dodged around the topic entirely.”
“Maybe,” Harry conceded. He believed in cunning for certain, but had no intention of hyperbolizing the trait to fit a certain narrative. “You’ve hardly acted normal around me yourself.” He mentally reviewed his conversations with Weitts. “And you’ve been pretty open yourself.”
“You see what I mean?” she asked rhetorically. “You are certainly cunning, but so different. Just your confidence around me alone separates you from nearly all in your year.”
“I don’t have any reason to fear you.”
Grace’s brow quirked. “Were you not as impressed as the rest?”
“Impressed and fearful are two completely different things. You have no reason to attack me, and I’m not dense enough to think I would have a chance at the age of eleven. So unlike Flint, I have no interest in starting something I can’t finish.”
“As astute as you are different.” she commended. “I’ll have to get used to your tendency of seeing and stating the obvious as well. It’s… refreshing if a bit off-putting.” She bowed her head. “Well, I won’t stop your explorations. Just be back for curfew and don’t get lost.”
Quickly, Harry slipped from the common room without saying another word, letter clasped within his hand. He hadn’t mentioned that small detail to Weitts, as it was not something that he thought essential for the older Slytherin to know. If truth be told, he was rather surprised that, unless she had seen it while entering the common room prior to their conversation, she hadn’t seemed to have spotted the letter at all.
It took him quite a while to reach the owlery. For one thing, he had needed to climb countless sets of stairs and essentially travel to the opposite side of the castle. For another, he had not had the foggiest idea of where he had been going. This time, there were no sheep to follow.
When he finally did reach the owlery, his sharp, green eyes quickly searched the room. It didn’t take long for them to fall upon his owl. Ghostly white against the uniform normality of grey and brown. Nemesis looked up and met his eyes, letting out a soft, rather pleased sounding hoot that seemed to be a stark juxtaposition of her name as she swooped gracefully down onto her master’s outstretched arm.
“It’s good to see you again too,” Harry whispered amusedly, scratching her feathers briefly before holding up his letter. “Do you think you’re up for a flight? I’m not quite sure how long it is?” The owl hooted once more, though this time, there almost seemed to be a note of challenge if such a thing were at all possible. Harry laughed quietly, tying the letter to Nemesis’s leg as he did so before allowing the owl to swoop out of the open window and streak off towards the horizon.
Now that he was alone, Harry began to ponder his options. He had heard, through the tales of older students, that the castle housed many abandoned classrooms that were the perfect place for practice. He intended to find one of these, but he wasn’t completely sure where he should look. It was not so much that he was worried about being able to find them. On the contrary, they sounded quite numerous. No, what Harry was more concerned about was finding one where he was unlikely to be interrupted. In his mind, this left him with two obvious options.
The first was to find a room in one of the tallest towers, somewhere people would not want to spend all the time and effort getting to. Through viewing his Uncle and Cousin for ten years, Harry had experienced the peak of human laziness, and he would not be underestimating its power ever again. As such, he had very little doubt that this option was perfectly likely to work, but at the same time, it was terribly inconvenient to have to spend so much time walking from the dungeons to the highest tower on a regular basis if he decided to make this a permanent arrangement.
The other option, one that if the whispers from the older students had been any indicator, was likely the more dangerous and daring option was to explore the dungeons. The Hogwarts dungeons were very vast, stretching far beyond the Slytherin common room. He’d heard that not many, not even within Slytherin House dared to venture into the true depths of the Hogwarts dungeons. Nobody was quite sure what was down there, but Harry had a feeling there may be some rooms that could be serviceable. Privately, he thought the concern over such a trek was quite childish. From a logical perspective, he could hardly imagine that the founders would have put anything in the school that was dangerous. He also did want to explore the castle, so in a sense, this option satisfied two of his most pressing desires.
So, he set off on what was quite a long trek back down to the dungeons, walking straight past the wall that he knew to be the entrance of his common room and continuing his descent downwards. As he went, he noticed that the torches became less numerous, giving him the impression that he was plunging straight into darkness. Corridors were leading in every direction, and Harry privately thought that it may well take him all seven years to explore the castle to its entirety if this was any indicator.
The light was not the only thing that seemed to dwindle as Harry plunged into the belly of the castle. It seemed as if he had left the concept of rooms far behind him, as he simply walked past blank corridor after blank corridor after blank corridor.
Finally, he took a turn that led him down an extremely long, extremely dark corridor. Now, Harry felt as if he were walking down a slope, as the gradient of the floor seemed to be increasing. As Harry continued to walk, he noticed that, though no room seemed to be in any hurry to appear to him, the walls were no longer bare. As a matter of fact, they looked almost familiar. They were, much like the corridor several turns before their common room, decorated with serpentine decor. Briefly, Harry debated the possibility that he had somehow walked back to that place, likely aided by the magic of the castle but he dismissed the idea quickly. For one thing, there were far fewer torches lining the walls in this corridor and for another, though the decor was certainly serpentine, it was different. More… realistic.
Where the corridor far above was clearly the work of a skilful artist, these serpents genuinely appeared to be portraits. As that thought crossed Harry’s mind, he paused. For some reason, he had the terribly powerful sense that he had been here before. It was akin to Déjà vu, but it seemed to Harry as if it were a dozen times stronger and more insistent. Something about this place, and not just the decor, mind you, felt… familiar, homely even. He had the odd sense that this feeling had nothing to do with the corridor Merlin only knew how far above.
This was not the only thought that crossed Harry’s mind, as when he gazed upon the serpents decorating the corridor, and in particular, when he thought of portraits, several more pieces, and a rather wild, rather unrealistic idea came to him.
By now, Harry had found out that in the magical world, portraits behaved in an odd sort of way. Not only did their occupants move, but in most cases, they even seemed to carry the mannerisms of the person depicted. That was to say, in a pale, half sense of the expression, the portraits were — well… there was no other word for it — alive.
Harry also knew that in this state, the portraits could even speak and communicate with the living. This radical, unrealistic idea of his was not formed here, in this corridor for the first time. Their common room, having been designed by a man who had chosen a snake as his emblem, was positively littered with serpentine markings, paintings, and other forms of decoration.
Harry had, of course, read by now in Hogwarts, A History, as well as Rise and Fall of The Dark Arts of Parseltongue. That was to say, the ability to speak to snakes, which, to his great surprise, was not one that was frequently possessed.
He had assumed when first finding out about magic as a whole that his ability to speak with snakes, as discovered for the first time at the London Zoo, was one that was very unique. He had also discovered, unfortunately, that due to both the stigma surrounding Salazar Slytherin and, to a larger extent, Voldemort’s reig of terror that Parseltongue was not something that was viewed in an overly positive light. As such, Harry had refrained from revealing this ability and had been perfectly ready not to use it until he found a time to experiment with absolutely nobody around.
He would have liked to give it a try over the summer holiday. However, the Dursleys, despite being quite a bit better in general after Hagrid’s visit, did not seem eager to let him leave the house. Not even to perform errands that would have certainly fallen to him before.
Now, alone with countless depictions of snakes that dated back a millennium and gifted with an excuse to speak to them, Harry looked up towards the nearest portrait, focused upon it and spoke, barely noticing that his voice came out as a hiss.
“Can you hear me?“
Instantly, the corridor around him came alive. Suddenly, the sound of slithering could be heard in every direction around him. Though he could not see for certain in the oppressive darkness, Harry thought the serpent decorations must have stretched on further down the corridor than he had realized. He could hear serpents slithering from one portrait to another in order to get a look at him. At the same time, Harry’s hearing was assaulted by dozens of hisses, all clashing with one another in a cacophony of noise that made one hiss impossible to decipher from the rest. This phenomenon stretched on for almost a minute before one hiss managed to make itself heard above the rest.
Somehow, this hiss sounded more powerful than the rest. It was, if such a thing was possible at all in the language of snakes, a rather authoritative statement. Slowly but surely, all the snakes depicted around Harry fell silent and one of the largest snakes Harry had seen slithered its way into the painting directly in front of him.
A black mamba!
The snake was, contrary to what many may believe by its name, a dark, greyish-brown colour, though its belly was noticeably pale, especially in contrast with the rest of its body. Though Harry could not see inside the creature’s mouth at present, he knew that if he could, he would see an odd, inky-black coloured maw. It was, as a matter of fact, the reason the snake had been given its name at all.
The snake surveyed him with dark, black eyes; eyes that were surrounded in a pale, yellow colour. “You speak?” the snake hissed. Harry almost jumped when he realized that he was the one being addressed.
“Not a great question considering I could technically speak English and you’d never understand me, but I know what you’re getting at. And yes, I speak.”
Harry could have sworn the snake sneered at him.
“With a bit too much cheek for my liking, but it does indeed appear that you speak.” The snake surveyed him more critically, seeming to be sizing him up. If the serpent in front of him was not confined to a portrait, Harry very much doubted he wouldn’t have already fled. “What is your name, human?“
“Harry.” he hissed back, having to put less thought into the language the more he used it. ‘Harry Potter.“
“Potter, you say?” hissed back the Mamba. “We have never spoken to any with that name, though it has been many years since we spoke to any at all.“
“How long ago?” Harry asked.
“Time is difficult, immaterial to portraits, and you humans think about it more than us snakes. I do not know how long it has been, but it has been a long time.“
“Can you tell me who the last one was to speak to you?“
“She did not give us the first name as you have done,” the mamba informed him. “Her surname was unique as well. We had never heard it before her arrival.“
“What was it?“
At top speed, Harry searched his near infallible memory for the name Riddle. To his surprise, he drew a blank. He had thought that if the ability to speak Parseltongue was genetic, then he would have recognized the surname as one descended from Salazar Slytherin, and perhaps even one of pureblood nobility. In spite of that, he had never heard of the surname Riddle. He didn’t think it was even mentioned in Nature’s Nobility: A Guide to Wizarding Genealogy. But if she were not descended from Salazar Slytherin, and he was quite sure he would know the name Riddle if she was, then how could she speak to snakes?
‘Come to think of it, how do I get off talking to snakes?’
This thought gave Harry pause.
As far as he knew, the Potters had no relation to Slytherin whatsoever, which should make the ability to communicate with snakes impossible.
Yet here he was.
He supposed that as old as the Potter family was, there could have been an unknown affair or connection somewhere down the line. If that were the case, he would never have known.
It was also possible that perhaps, everyone was wrong. Perhaps, you did not need to possess the blood of Slytherin. It would explain both himself and Riddle in one go, but it also hinged on centuries of wizards all misinterpreting a universally accepted concept.
In other words, he didn’t like those odds.
He shook his head, pushing the mystery of Parseltongue and its intricacies to the back of his mind for now. He had more pressing matters to attend to at present.
“I have never heard that name before,” he admitted after a longer than normal delay.
“She could have lied,” hissed a different snake, bringing forth a very real possibility that Harry had never considered.
“Perhaps,“ the mamba replied, though Harry could detect that the serpent in question was not at all convinced. “What is it you want from us, human? Very few wake us without good reason.”
“I was actually mainly focused on finding out whether or not I could speak to snakes in portraits. But if you wouldn’t mind, are there any abandoned rooms that could be used as practice and study rooms down here?“
“If you continue down the corridor past this place and take the next left, there are several small, generic rooms there.“
“Thank you.” Harry hissed back. He made to leave when he heard the definable hiss of the mamba once more.
“Speaker!” The snake hesitated for only a second once Harry had turned before hissing one final time. “Find my brother Custos in your den. I think he would be of interest to you.” The snakes fell silent once more, fading back into their portraits and not making any further sounds at all.
September 7, 1991
The Great Hall
When Harry had entered the room specified by the Mamba earlier that day, he had found a rather large room that was completely open. For some, the lack of furnishing may have been discouraging, but though it was not ideal, Harry found that it didn’t really bother him one way or another. As long as he could practice magic, that was all he needed, at least for now.
And practice he had.
He had worked with mostly Charms and Transfiguration, though he had performed a few of the defence spells that didn’t require a target. His Aegis Vocar shield had improved astronomically and by the time the day was done, he was performing magic that they wouldn’t even think about until the Easter holidays.
When he finally left the room that night for dinner, it was with the thought of returning the next day to practice once more.
When he entered the Great Hall, he smiled a rather soft smile when he noticed that Daphne and Tracey had saved him a seat. Unfortunately, he was receiving rather scathing looks from the two of them as he easily slid into his chair. It was the look of the former that truly caused his heart to beat just a bit faster.
“Where have you been?” Daphne asked sharply. She did not raise her voice. As a matter of fact, she spoke quite softly, but her voice was laced with danger.
Harry winced. “Practising,” he answered.
“That isn’t a where, Harry.” Daphne pointed out in a poisonous tone.
“An empty classroom,” he amended, not really sure if the room he had used had ever been serviced as a classroom. Either way, it was an easy answer, and he didn’t want to keep Daphne waiting for those in her current state.
“Where?” she asked, clearly annoyed with him. “We looked all over for you today!”
Harry did not like apologizing. It reminded him painfully of Privet Drive, when he had to do it often because he had been too weak to do anything about it. He was sorry, but he couldn’t will himself to say it.
“I didn’t really want to be found. I’m sort of an obsessive person. Once I put my mind to something, I don’t want anything distracting me from that thing.” It wasn’t a lie, but it was not the full truth either.
Daphne huffed, but for now, she let the subject fall. Harry thought she did so far too easily, and he was sure that she would pick it up once more in a far less crowded area.
“Well,” Tracey asked, sounding a bit nervous, “what did you practice?”
“Charms and Transfiguration, mostly,” he said, happy to be answering far safer questions. “I couldn’t really practice much defence outside of the Aegis Vocar shield, or I might have done that too.”
“So,” Tracey asked, leaning forwards, “now that we’re… you know — actual friends and everything, how far ahead are you?”
Harry smiled, both at the concept of friends and at the memory of his refusing to answer that exact question. “Depends on the subject. I was casting charms and transfigurations today that I doubt we’ll touch on until the Easter break, but I’m not as far ahead in other subjects like Astronomy or Potions.”
Tracey’s jaw hung agape, and even Daphne nodded appreciatively. After a moment of shock, Tracey asked the question that seemed to be burning a hole through her brain.
Harry couldn’t help it. he laughed quietly, which only caused Tracey to glare at him. In turn, this caused him to laugh harder, joined in now by Daphne. Laughing was another thing he could not claim to be fond of. It had always signified danger at the Dursleys. If he laughed about something or showed amusement, that thing would be taken away.
But he would not let the Dursleys deprive him of this, even if he had no plans of making a habit of it. It was such a natural, light feeling, one that he thought he enjoyed quite a lot.
“What are you two laughing at?” Tracey asked, crossing her arms.
“That look does not suit you,” Daphne told her after stifling a giggle behind her hand. “You’re way too bubbly to pull off the glare.” She smirked evilly. “This is how you glare, Tracey.” Daphne’s eyes seemed to shoot sparks as she narrowed them at her best friend, causing Tracey to recoil. Harry laughed again, joined in by both Daphne and Tracey this time.
Finally, Daphne gained control. “Seriously though, how are you that far ahead?”
“Magic has always come naturally to me and I have a very good memory.” He had used this line on them already, but Daphne chose not to point that out to him.
“How good is very good?” Daphne asked him, eyes narrowing.
He was happy she hadn’t asked him about the whole “magic has always come naturally to me thing”. He had no way of explaining it — it was just true.
This time, Harry saw no reason to lie to them about it, so he dropped his voice to little more than a whisper. He wasn’t sure if this fact could be used against him if it was overheard. He decided not to take any chances. “Near eidetic,” he admitted, causing Daphne’s eyes to widen and Tracey to look confused.
“Near what? Eider-ick?” she asked.
“Eidetic,” Daphne answered. “Somebody with an eidetic memory can remember everything they’ve ever done, heard or seen in vivid detail.”
“Oh,” Tracey said smartly.
“How close are you to that?” Daphne asked him, seeming genuinely interested.
“That’s hard to say. After the age of three or four, it’s all pretty much vivid. I can remember most books cover to cover on my first read, even though the odd one takes a second read depending on how complicated it is.” He shrugged, smiling sheepishly as he did so. “The school textbooks are actually simpler than a lot of stuff I read before coming here, so they’re not really a problem. I haven’t memorized the older years’ sections yet for the ones that span multiple years.”
“That must be handy!” Tracey noted admiringly.
“It certainly can be,” Harry answered, choosing not to remark on the fact that he could remember all the bad things in his life in vivid detail as well. The laughing of a group of young boys, the slamming of a cupboard door, the sound of a belt whipping through the air…
‘Mind out of the gutter, Potter.’
“Well,” sighed Daphne, looking across the table at him, “care to put that brilliant brain of yours to use tonight?”
“You’ll have to be more specific,” said Harry, trying not to blush at the description. He noted, as incredible as it may be, that Daphne’s comment, sarcastic or not, had probably been the first time he had ever truly been praised by somebody who was not a teacher, at least in such a blunt manner.
“I haven’t quite managed the shield Professor Hurst was teaching in Defence yet,” she admitted. “Nor have I been able to do the full transfiguration. I’m pretty close to that one though.”
“Speak for yourself,” Tracey muttered.
Harry smiled, feeling the same, odd, warm feeling that had encompassed him when he had first formed his friendship with Daphne wash over him once more. He had never had friends of any sort before, let alone friends who needed his help with something. It was a good feeling.
“I can try and help with that stuff, yeah,” he said with a smile. “No promises though,” He warned. “As I said, magic has always come pretty easily for me, so I’m not sure that I’m the best person to try and teach it.”
The beaming smiles on both girl’s faces made that night of helping the two of them all worth it, and thoughts of more practice were wiped clean from his mind the moment he saw them.
September 8, 1991
The Slytherin Common Room
Harry entered the common room the next morning with his bag slung over his shoulder. He was intent on spending most of another day in the abandoned room practising. He wanted to finish the first year syllabus in at least Charms and Transfiguration, that way he could move onto next year’s. There were things about magic that he wanted to explore, but until he had a very strong foundation, that exploration would be impossible. This time, he was planning to hand a note off to a school owl, who would deliver it to Daphne that morning at breakfast. As it happened, it was unnecessary, for when he entered the common room, the voice that Harry associated with the girl in question spoke from an armchair near the fire.
“You really do wake up early, don’t you?”
Harry added another tick in his mental chart calculating how many times witches and wizards lurked nearby him in shadows. Seriously, it had to be some sort of trend, or something.
Unphased, he just crooked an eyebrow. Daphne sounded tired, very tired. “And judging by your state, I’m guessing you don’t.”
“What is that supposed to mean, Potter?” asked Daphne, miming indignance as she stood, crossing her arms over her chest and glaring at him. Even though Harry knew it was a façade, he had to try very hard not to cringe under her stare.
She smiled at him. “Good answer; you’re learning.”
“With this brilliant brain of mine,” he quoted, “I would like to think I’m a fast learner.”
“Yet you were still about to rush off without telling me or Tracey,” she accused.
Harry raised both of his hands in placation, tossing her the note he had been holding and causing her to jump in surprise, only just managing to snatch it out of the air. “I was going to send that to you at breakfast via owl, actually.”
Daphne folded the note neatly and stuffed it into her pocket. “Maybe you do learn fast.” she conceded. “But I still want to talk to you about something.”
This was a conversation he had really hoped to put off, if not outright avoid altogether.
“Not here,” he told her, his eyes flickering back to the tunnels that led to the dormitories.
Daphne crossed her arms again. “Where then?”
“Somewhere where people can’t eavesdrop so easily,” he answered, allowing his eyes to flash back to her. After a brief moment of inner debate, he nodded towards the exit. “I know a place; the same spot I practised yesterday, actually. I’ll be using it pretty often, I think. I’ll take you there if you’re not afraid of the deep, dark dungeons.”
Daphne sniffed, tilting her head up defiantly. “Lead on,” she said a bit snottily, and Harry smiled at her manner as they left the common room and began to make their way down the long path to the room in question. “How long of a walk is it? I have no idea how far down the dungeons lead.”
“Nor do I.” he admitted. “I’ll find out, but that’s an adventure for another day. It’s a fairly long walk.”
“Can we talk on the way then?”
“Sure, I don’t suppose why not.”
“Yesterday, there were a few things I just found… weird.”
“Go on then.”
“Well, when I mentioned the fact that you should have let me and Tracey know where you were going,” she said, glaring at him briefly to emphasize the point, “you looked as if the thought had never even crossed your mind?”
“It hadn’t,” he admitted after a brief pause, causing her to blink in surprise.
He sighed, closing his eyes, and trying to control his racing heartbeat as he readied himself for what would be, if a half-truth, the most difficult admission of his life.
“Look, Daphne, I don’t really want to talk about it if I’m being honest, but I’m not exactly good at this whole friends thing.” He drew air quotes around the last two words with his fingers and Daphne just looked all the more confused.
“You act as if you’ve never had a friend before,” she said cautiously.
He closed his eyes one more time, fighting down the sudden impulse to flee.
Harry had a moment of intense, inner debate. Every instinct that had been carefully honed over the past ten years was screaming to keep his mouth shut. Yet there was a persistent part of him that wanted to tell her. A part that had stayed silent for so long and yearned to speak.
It wasn’t just his instincts at war. There seemed to be two voices arguing intensely inside of his head. The first was pointing out the very real possibility that this pureblood princess would one day toss him to the side, that she would look at him as a freak the likes of which she could never relate to. The other voice was arguing that wasn’t the impression it got from Daphne and that it was rarely, if ever, wrong in regards to other people.
“Harry?” Daphne asked after the pause had stretched on for an uncomfortable amount of time.
“I haven’t,” he said softly, trying his best to keep his voice as close to hollow as he could manage.
“I haven’t,” he said, and this time his voice was louder, though he did not do as good of a job at keeping the bitterness and embarrassment from its tones.
“My first two friends are you and Tracey.”
He wasn’t entirely sure what made him say it. Perhaps ten years of silent suffering had finally broken his restraint. Now, with an actual opportunity to speak on the matter, his mouth seemed to move of its own accord.
The quiet between them felt like it went on for ages, but it lasted no more than a minute. Finally, the light emanating through the corridor began to dim. Harry nearly jumped out of his skin as he felt a warm, soft hand take hold of his own. His grip was slack and he had to fight the rather strong impulse to pull away. He was not a person who enjoyed being touched, not in the slightest. After a brief pause, he managed to give Daphne’s hand a shaky squeeze, one that she returned more surely, though she did not let go off his hand.
“How?” she asked, her voice softer than Harry had ever heard it before.
“Daphne, I would rather not-“
She had come to a stop now, forcing him to do the same as she reached for his other hand. She held onto both of his hands tightly as she held them to her chest, forcing him to face her. At that moment, it was the odd, little things about her that struck him as he tried to think of anything but what he would have to say next. How warm and soft her hands were around his own. The strange, sweet smell of her perfume that he had never noticed before now. The fact that, notwithstanding his fairly average height, she was a couple of inches taller than him. He looked up into her brilliant, sapphire eyes and in spite of himself, despite every bit of his essence screaming that he should say nothing, his next words came out, though they were little more than a whisper.
“What? Is that why you don’t get along with your brother?”
“Yes, but not in the way you think.”
“How then? Explain it to me?”
He sighed in resignation. “I never knew my brother until the Hogwarts Express, and I’ve still never met my father. Well,” he added when she gasped in shock, “not since my mother died, anyway.”
“But what… why?”
Harry smiled bitterly up at Daphne. “The truth,” he mused, “not always pleasant. The truth is, the reason I’m probably not mentioned in whatever these stories are about my brother that people keep going on about is that, until now, most of the magical world didn’t know I existed because… well, I wasn’t in the magical world.”
“Then, where were you?” asked Daphne, who was looking more horror-struck by the second.
“The muggle world. Best I can work out, my father couldn’t handle the pressure of raising ‘the Boy-Who-Lived’ and his brother, so instead, he shipped me off to live with my mother’s muggle family.”
“And they didn’t treat you well, did they?” Daphne asked, her voice hardening as anger seemed to replace her horror. Admittedly, Daphne was not only annoyingly observant but also rather sharp and intelligent. It was only inevitable that she would put two and two together during his tale.
“You could say that, yes.”
Her grip on his hands suddenly became vice-like as she stared piercingly into his eyes. “What did they do?” she asked, and her voice was more dangerous than he had ever heard it.
“Daphne,” he protested, not quite ready to talk about it, “not now.”
Please was yet another word he hated uttering. Painful memories flashed through Harry’s mind.
“Please, Uncle Vernon, I just want a glass of water.“
“Please, Aunt Petunia, I’m sore and sunburnt and really tired. Can I just come inside?“
“Please, Mrs. Hudson, don’t write home to my Aunt and Uncle. I swear, it wasn’t me. I don’t know what happened to your hair.“
“Please Uncle Vernon — not the belt.“
“…not now… not yet.” For the first time since his arrival at Hogwarts, Harry could feel his voice shake and waver. Clearly sensing his unease, Daphne relented and let the matter drop as her grip on his hands loosened. Though, Harry doubted that Daphne would ever be able to understand the irrational panic rising within him.
“The only thing you need to know is that my cousin was always the important one, not me. They didn’t like magic, and taught my cousin not to either, even though he never realized what it was.” Daphne’s grip on Harry tightened once more. “Without going into detail, he was bigger than me, and he liked to make sure I didn’t make friends. Most of the school was scared of him, and I couldn’t exactly magic myself out of trouble as a six or seven-year-old.”
Not entirely true, but close enough.
He let his statement trail off, they both knew there was no need for him to finish it.
Daphne slowly reached out, finally letting Harry’s hands fall gently from hers. She seemed to be searching his face for permission as she did so. Presumably finding what she was looking for, Daphne gently pulled him into the first hug Harry ever remembered experiencing. Harry instinctively tensed and could immediately tell that Daphne noticed. Assuming the worst, Daphne made to release him, an apology on her lips. Taking a deep, centring breath before she could do so, Harry took the metaphorical plunge and wrapped his own arms around her in return.
It took Harry several seconds to get his heart rate under control, though once he did, he found that the embrace was actually quite pleasant. However, it still seemed strange and unnatural.
“Thank you,” Daphne muttered after several minutes of standing as they were, “that must have been… I can’t even imagine…” She stepped back a bit, still holding onto him, but creating some more space between them.
Harry looked at her with a rather bitter expression. “You never could have,” he said reassuringly, before becoming serious once more. “Daphne?”
“I need you to promise me something.”
“This conversation does not leave this corridor — ever.”
“Please, Daphne? Maybe someday, I’ll either let you tell people, or I’ll do it myself. But not now.”
“But those muggles,” she said darkly. “If the right people knew; my family could-“
“Ruin them? Yes, probably, but I don’t care.” Daphne made to cut in, but Harry silenced her by firmly grasping her hand.
“Daphne, it’s like this. It’s all I’ve ever known for as long as I can remember. When you grow up like that…” he shook his head, trying to put his thoughts into words.
“You get used to it, I guess. I don’t mean the actions, but the… situation. The way you have to think about it. The truth is, I don’t care what happens to my aunt, uncle, or cousin. I learned years ago that they don’t matter. When I was really young, I would do things to try and get their attention, their approval.” He smiled bitterly at the memories. “Eventually, I realized they didn’t care, and you know what? They were happy, so I decided to give it a try.
“I chose to stop caring about them. I pretended I didn’t care whether they paid attention to me, or whether they approved of what I did. Eventually, that was just how I felt… and now, I could care less about what happens to them. They’re unimportant, insignificant. What happens to them doesn’t affect me. I don’t need to see them punished. The same goes for my father and brother. All I need to do is prove to them they were wrong. Prove to the muggles that they picked the wrong child to place their hopes and dreams on. Prove to my father that abandoning me was the worst choice he could ever make. All I need to do is outshine all of them, make them all regret not getting in my good books while they had the chance. As long as I can do that, I’ll be okay.”
This scene took place very early in the story. Some of you may say it happened too soon, which is fine, as it is your own opinion. At the end of the day, these are eleven-year-olds, and this is the first time Harry has ever had somebody willing to listen to his problems. I personally don’t think it too large a leap to assume he may actually take the opportunity, especially because he gave no specific details away.
A note on the pairing. This in no way suggests anything about it. There will be no romance before year three at the earliest. Please do not make assumptions this early, and please do not PM me asking about the pairing. I have received dozens of them and have never given it once. I am happy to answer questions via PM, just not any pertaining to pairings.
I will say that it is not slash, nor is it a multi or a harem story. Aside from that, you’ll have to wait and see.
Please read and review.
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