AoC 67

Ashes of Chaos

Year 3: The Blackest of Truths

Chapter 13: A Dangerous Game

By ACI100

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

Acknowledgements: Thank you to my editor Athena Hope as well as my other betas 3CP, Fezzik, Luq707, Raven, Regress, and Yoshi89 for their incredible work on this story.

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September 1, 1993

The Great Hall

9:13 PM

It was like Harry was not the only one who knew who Riddle truly was and who she might become. The silence in the Great Hall had become as deafening as the roar of Quidditch spectators packed to capacity in a magically expanded stadium. The loudest thing in the hall once the newly christened Emily Nigma took to her feet were her own footsteps. They echoed as though she was walking through some great cavern completely devoid of all life when really, she was moving through a hall crowded full of people who knew nothing about her.

It gave Harry some hope, strange as the thought might have been. Of course she had drawn attention; she stood so much taller than the other minuscule first years she stood near it was almost laughable. It was the kind of attention she drew that piqued Harry’s interest. An intense, ominous sort of attention. She just seemed to have that air about her and people were already taking notice.

Over the past two years, Harry had learned the value of allies and support. He knew little about what had led to the Purity War, but he knew that at its height, Voldemort had commanded an immense group of supporters who were all too willing to die for her.

Perhaps it would be different with this incarnation of Riddle. 

The hall seemed skeptical of her already as she moved towards the Slytherin table. They all eyed her with great caution like they were examining an erumpant horn that might go off at any moment. It was a welcome sight. 

If everyone approached Riddle with skepticism, she would have a harder time winning over the masses and building her own support base. That was what Harry hoped, anyway. Riddle on her own was a nightmare — she had singlehandedly toyed with the entire school last year — but Riddle with allies was a thought that Harry would rather not consider. That was the worst possible scenario and he really just had to hope that it did not come to pass.

He watched her as she neared the Slytherin table. Her skin was pale as is, but it seemed even more so in the light of a thousand flickering candles. The light seemed to pool there and make her shine like one of the ghosts floating about the hall, though her long sheet of hair was as dark as the velvety sky depicted via the ceiling far above them.

Harry’s eyes flicked towards the centre of the table as a crushing realization made itself known to him.

Calypso’s biggest goal this year was to fill the void atop Slytherin’s pecking order that had been left vacant ever since Grace had graduated from Hogwarts. There was a reason the centre of the table was presently empty — nobody had yet earned the right to sit there.

Now, the game had changed and it had done so in a big way.

Daniel Selwyn was a menace and not a threat that should be taken lightly. Harry had found that out in his first year during the fiasco with the dragon and it had been reaffirmed in his second year when Selwyn had kidnapped Charlotte and nearly trapped Grace inside his cruel blood ward. The boy was no joke and he was deranged enough to put every single one of his twisted talents on display. He had been an ominous challenger but with the help of Calypso, the Carrows, Cassius, and any other allies their group fostered, Harry was confident he could be overcome.

Riddle worried him far more than Selwyn. She had duelled Lockhart to a standstill whilst her power had been diminished. She had taken the time to enjoy how helpless Harry was whilst the two of them had duelled. Only Grace — who had been a full two years older than the Riddle he had seen in the Chamber of Secrets — had rivalled her talents. Grace was gone and as great as Calypso was, Harry had his doubts whether or not she could pose any threat at all to the girl who, in another time, had grown to become the most feared dark sorceress in a thousand years.

Harry tensed as he watched her move. Would she be daring enough to take the centre spot at the Slytherin table and attempt to seize control of the house unopposed? It would draw retaliation as soon as they were in the common room, but did Riddle even care? Did she think any of them could even remotely threaten her?

Harry felt himself release a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding when Riddle did not, in fact, take the seat he had feared her occupying. She moved right down to the end of the table and sat with the first years. She was sitting across from a girl who looked quite familiar, then Harry realized who she was with a widening of his eyes.

Emily Riddle had taken a seat directly across from Astoria Greengrass.

Harry flicked his eyes towards Daphne, who was watching Riddle with a pensive expression. That was the worst thing. Harry couldn’t even tell her who was conversing with her little sister. 

He thought for a moment before leaning forward. “Keep an eye on that one,” he warned, “but don’t approach her if you don’t have to. Hell, don’t go near her if you can avoid it.”

Daphne’s eyes narrowed. “You know her?”

“Something like that.”

Blaise was watching him too now. Something glittered in his dark eyes as he glanced from Harry, to Riddle, and back again. “Friend of yours?”

“I have no love for her,” Harry said curtly. “I’m just warning all of you now. She might not look it, but she’s dangerous. I’m not sure anyone in the castle could take her.”

“Not even the professors?” asked Tracey with wide eyes.

“Maybe McGonagall, Flitwick, or Snape,” Harry admitted, “but I wouldn’t bet on it.”

“How old is she?” asked Charlotte. There was something about her expression. She was curious, Harry could tell that much already. 

That was a dangerous thing when it came to Charlotte Weitts and even more so when the focal point of her curiosity just so happened to be the most dangerous student who had ever attended Hogwarts. Harry was going to need to talk to Charlotte on her own at some point and figure out exactly what he could and could not tell her.

“She’s going into her sixth year. I think she’s sixteen, turning seventeen on New Year’s Eve.” 

Perhaps that was the way to go about this. Hint enough things about Riddle and somehow get his friends to go digging. He dismissed the thought a moment or so later with a shake of his head. It would not do. They would never connect the dots or suspect that this girl was really one who had attended the school fifty years ago and vanished off the face of the planet. It was a tale so unimaginably fantastical that Harry wondered if his friends would believe him even if he could share all he knew.

It was moments like this that made him contemplate exactly what his life had become. It was a thousand times better than what it would ever have been on Privet Drive, but it was difficult to believe it was real at times. Dark ladies, her scheming minions, vicious and psychopathic peers, and now even a sort of time traveller. Those had all been important facts of Harry’s two years in the magical world. If things continued to escalate, he could only imagine what would be next. With his luck, he would find himself thrown into an alternative dimension before the year’s end.

His friends were exchanging glances, but he said nothing. Let them wonder. They would at least be wary of Riddle; anything else he could deal with so long as they had some form of understanding of what they were dealing with.

“She doesn’t look like a muggleborn,” Pansy observed. “I never heard of the name Nigma so she must be, but she doesn’t carry herself like one.” They all looked at Harry, but he shrugged helplessly. He wondered at this point which of his friends would break first and snap at him, but none did. They too must have realized how unbelievable his life had become. Perhaps they just took outlandish things like Harry knowing random, dangerous girls but being able to say nothing about them at face value by now. The thought was one he wasn’t sure he liked.

The final student must have been sorted because Lockhart swept to his feet and looked around the room. His hair flowed like liquid gold as he smiled out at all of them with teeth so bright that they rivalled the stars depicted far above. He was taking it all in. 

Harry would be lying if he said he did not resent Lockhart, at least a little bit. The man had caused him more stress during his second year than any teacher ought to have ever put a student through. It had been the cause for much anxiety over a year during which Harry really had not needed any extra sources of anxiety. 

He understood where Lockhart had been coming from, but that didn’t mean he liked him. There were ways to go about things and ways to not. Lockhart fell firmly into the latter. His heroics in the Chamber of Secrets had been valiant and he deserved every honour he had received for his efforts, but Harry wasn’t sure that being a daring hero qualified him to be the Headmaster of Hogwarts. Least of all after the gross mistreatment he had suffered at the man’s hands.

“Welcome!” Lockhart cried with that beaming smile still in place. “I know I’m not the face you’re all so used to seeing, but I’d like to think mine is a touch easier on the eyes, don’t you think?” Only a few students chuckled, but they all seemed to spur on the new headmaster. 

Harry could see the way Professor McGonagall’s lips pressed so firmly together that it was difficult to tell where one ended and the other began. She clearly did not approve of Lockhart’s appointment. Or, at the very least, was not pleased that her long-time colleague no longer lorded over the school. Good, thought Harry, let anyone who thought Dumbledore could be a decent human being suffer. He hoped every last one of them felt half the hell the man had put him through during his stay on Privet Drive.

“Alas,” said Lockhart, “new face, same old business. No one is to stray near the forest on the edge of the grounds. You’ll hear it called the Forbidden Forest and for good reason. Quidditch tryouts will take place in the first few weeks of the year. Ask your captains for more details on that and if you’d like to try out, go and see your Head of House

“Now, onto the more interesting bits of news.” His smile seemed to grow still wider if such a thing was even possible. “After breaking the curse on the Defence Against the Dark Arts position last year, it is my honour to pass it onto a man who I hope will fill it with much ease and with little stress.”

Harry had almost forgotten about the Defence Against the Dark Arts job. Lockhart still being at the school had meant Harry hadn’t even pondered who the new professor might be. Whether he liked Lockhart or not, he had been an excellent professor. Not quite on the level of Voldemort, but well above what he imagined average would look like. Of course, he would now be unable to fill the position due to his duties as headmaster.

Harry’s eyes roamed the staff table and he knew before Lockhart said it who would be tasked with filling the post. 

“Joining us this year is Senior Auror John Dawlish. He’s at Hogwarts on… shall we say… business and has agreed to teach all of you while seeing to his other priorities.”

It was the same man from the train; the one who had allegedly driven off the dementor with something hulking and silver. 

Harry’s expression soured as his lips pursed so tightly his Transfiguration Professor would have been proud.

John Dawlish worked with his father and had for many years. Harry was immediately wary. James Potter had taken the time to inform him about Sirius Black’s abilities as an Animagus and the measures James and his friend, Lupin, were taking, but only after he had told the Weasleys by the sounds of it. 

Whether James told Harry because he cared or because he was trying to win back his trust, the youth could not tell. If losing custody and control over his son and heir had worried James, perhaps he had called upon a favour from his old friend, Dawlish. The man was now in a prime position to watch Harry as closely as he wished. Harry sighed internally. He would need to be quiet and careful around John Dawlish. The less his father knew of him, the better. Anything he found out was one more thing that might be passed on to Dumbledore  — and that old man could still go and get stuffed as far as Harry was concerned.

“I’m sure Professor Dawlish will be an excellent professor and we’re happy to have him, but he does come with less pleasant news.” A hush fell over the hall as many waited for Lockhart to go on.

“I’m sure you’re all aware, but the wizard known as Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban prison and is on the loose.” The masses began to stir and even Lockhart himself had ceased smiling by now. “I don’t mean to incite panic, but we have reason to believe that Sirius Black may wish to pay the castle a visit.” Harry felt for his brother; every pureblood in the hall had turned their stare upon him. They all remembered Sirius Black’s final proclamation well enough. 

“You think this is over, old man? This is far from over. The Dark Lady shall return and your pathetic reign over Britain will be over. You’ll be her first victim, first after the Potter brat, of course.”

Some of the Slytherins glanced towards Harry and he could see the gears turning behind their eyes. They were doubtlessly wondering whether or not Sirius Black would come for him as well as his brother and they wondered whether or not that would put them in any danger. He couldn’t blame them; he would probably have been thinking the exact same thing in their position.

“We are preparing for the possibility the best we can,” Lockhart assured them. Harry could only fight against the urge to sneer. What could they prepare? What would stop a man who had escaped Azkaban? Especially when the general public hadn’t the foggiest of ideas as to how he might have done it. Harry thought James’s plan was little better — he had nothing against this Remus Lupin, but he doubted the man would be able to stand against Voldemort’s lieutenant — but at least the Lord Potter was operating on more information than the Hogwarts Headmaster. “Professor Dawlish here is actually leading a strong group of aurors. Please make them feel as welcome as you can. They won’t intrude but are here for your protection.”

Harry saw the man’s eyes darken. The only other time he had ever seen an expression such as this on Lockhart’s face was when he had been telling Harry and the others about the horrors of Katalysator down in the Chamber of Secrets last year.

“They’re not the only… precaution that’s been taken. Under order of the Wizengamot, Hogwarts is also hosting some of the dementors that usually guard Azkaban prison.” The man looked like far removed from his Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award form. It was like he had bitten into something sour or foul. “I was against the appointment, but events in the summer tied my hands.

“I urge none of you to stray too near the dementors. They don’t think like the rest of us. They think only in terms of hunger. They won’t be fooled by enchantments and they won’t be sated by truth or logic. Please do stay away from them. I have no plans of letting them on the grounds, but they are infernal creatures and may not allow me as much control as I hope.

“Now,” he said, looking up at the clock. “You all have a long day tomorrow and I have a pile of paperwork that I’ve put off for most of mine today.”

The chairs all scraped back as students clambered to their feet. 

“It’s going to be a very strange year,” Daphne muttered.

“Personally,” said Harry as his friends grouped up and made for the door. “I’m not against the change.”

“Didn’t Lockhart make your life a pain last year?” asked Charlotte.

“Beats the ten that Dumbledore ruined. Besides,” he continued as they stepped out of the Great Hall’s doors and began making their way towards the marble staircase, under which Harry knew a secret passageway would expedite their journey down to the dungeons, “after last year, I’ll take a murderer on the loose. At least this way, we know what we’re dealing with.”

Blaise nodded approvingly as they discreetly filed one by one into the passageway. “That might be the single wisest thing you’ve ever said.”

“Thank you, Blaise. Your confidence is as touching as ever.”

“I live to make others happy, my friend, you know that well.”

As they made their way down towards the dungeons Harry could only muse that he actually wished he knew far more about Blaise Zabini than he really did. That would be some level of stress off his shoulders this year, at least.

“What happened?” Hermione asked the second she and Ron had dragged Charlus into an abandoned classroom on their way up to the Gryffindor common room.

“I… I heard it board the train,” said Charlus.

Ron smirked as Hermione rolled her eyes. “Yeah,” said the former, “we got that part, mate. I think she’s asking why it took you so long to get back to us.”

“Oh,” muttered Charlus, suddenly anywhere in the room but at his two friends. “There was an… issue.”

“What kind of issue?” Hermione asked with surprising force. “Charlus, you looked like one of the ghosts by the time you came back into the Great Hall.”

“I’m fine,” Charlus defended, “just… they’re not pleasant.”

“So you actually saw the dementor?” asked Ron. Charlus nodded curtly. “Are they… you know, as bad as people say?”

“Worse,” said Charlus, remembering all too clear his run in with the dementor on the train. “So much worse than I ever thought.”

Earlier that night, on the Hogwarts Express…

It had been so refreshing to partake in a normal train ride to Hogwarts. Charlus’s first had been tainted by the memory of meeting his brother and first seeing the contempt he’d held for not only him, but his father.

Last year… the less said about last year, the better. Charlus would never quite forget the jarring pain as the flying Ford Anglia slammed headlong into the Whomping Willow at high speeds.

This day had been almost normal. Being escorted onto Platform Nine and Three Quarters by a team of aurors had been odd and a touch awkward, but he would certainly be happy with that as the only out of the ordinary occurrence that day.

But of course, whatever force ruled over making Charlus’s life an utter bitch had very different ideas.

Dread had clamped down on his chest like a vice the second the train had begun to slow. He was no fool and Hermione was even less of one. She told both him and Ron even before either of them could figure it out for themselves that this was much too early for the train to be stopping.

Charles’s wand was in his hand in an instant. Looking out the window yielded nothing; just a thick layer of impenetrable darkness that warded off their magical light as if it were but a pesky insect.

Then, he heard it; the door to the train sliding open and then shutting again. Charlus tensed and now, he noticed that both Ron and Hermione had drawn their own wands. This could not be Black, right? Surely he had not caught up with them this quickly? He would at least need to penetrate Hogwarts and get past Remus.

Charlus looked more closely at both of his friends as all three of them waited. Ron looked pale as a sheet and Hermione’s wand trembled in her hand, but Charlus felt very differently.

There was no fear. He did not wait out of dread of worry, but because if he left the compartment to chase down whoever was on the train, he wanted to make damn sure it was Sirius Black. If he thought it was, he would not be looking before he fired off his spells — likely the ones he so vividly remembered learning from the book his brother had given him. Well, the book Charlus remembered getting from his brother, anyway. That entire situation was a mess so complex he had no hope of deciphering it quite yet. Perhaps he would be grateful for it by the end of the year. He would certainly have no objections to using all forms of tricks if he ran into whatever must be left of the full man who had entered Azkaban prison more than a decade ago.

Then came the scream and everything changed. There was no rationale or logic, only a blinding haze of red as Charlus’s worst suspicions were proven correct.

He hardly remembered leaving the compartment and could never have said when he had found himself standing in the first place. His wand was at the ready as he rushed down the corridor and spotted the one door that seemed to be ajar. It was from in that compartment that the screams were emanating. 

He leapt straight through the open door with a snarl and let fly with the Lacero Curse. 

There was no scream, no blood, no dull thud of a body of a limb falling to the floor. Only the sound of tearing cloth as a long strip of a flowing black cloak seemed to drift to the floor. Charlus braced to cast again before he noticed the figure turning. Figure was really the only word that worked. Black must have used some form of Transfiguration to make himself so toweringly tall.

Then, the cold hit him.

It was awful. A hundred times worse than any other feeling that had ever accosted him. All the pent-up stress and anxiety of the previous two years rushed back into him so fast that he staggered backwards. Where before they seemed to be a reddish haze of fury clouding his vision, now, it was misted, almost blurry as a horrible, high-pitched screaming began to sound inside his head. There came a flash of blinding emerald light so bright he could see nothing at all and only blackness followed.

Back in the present, in the dungeons…

Harry felt an unmissable sense of tension as his group of friends — now joined by Cassius, Calypso, and the Carrow twins — neared the entrance to the Slytherin common room. Harry glanced towards the older students, but none of them seemed to be on edge. The only other one of his friends who appeared to notice anything was Charlotte. She was casting furtive glances towards the common room and was beginning to fidget.

Legilimency, then. The two of them must have been picking up emotions from inside the room. Though that did beg the question — what the hell had happened inside the Slytherin common room that was powerful enough to invoke emotions strong enough that even Harry could feel them from behind the wall. 

He grabbed Calypso’s arm and pulled her to a stop with no words. She raised an eyebrow as Cassius tensed and the Carrows drew their wands.

“Something’s going on in the common room,” Harry said quietly. “I’m not exactly sure what, but something.”

The older students exchanged glanced. “Keep a hold of your wands and have them at the ready,” said Calypso. “We don’t have any reason to assume this is a bad thing—”

“But we don’t not, either,” said Blaise.

“Exactly.” Calypso took the lead and readied her wand as Harry stepped in front of his younger friends. Calypso may not have been sure, but he had a sneaking suspicion. 

“Can you actually identify any of it?” he whispered to Charlotte as he stepped past her.

“Excitement, nervousness, and curiosity.”

The common room door slid open and Harry thrust his wand forward, deciding to act on instinct alone.


Magical energy rose up around Calypso and surrounded her in a spherical sort of shield not a second too soon.

A wave of magic slammed into her and burst the shield into pieces. Harry felt a spell of dizziness wash over him from the sudden impact against the shield and he slumped to his knees as Cassius and the Carrows returned fire.

It was madness. Harry could tell nothing from his spot on the floor, but it was complete and total madness. He could hear things shattering, people screaming, and bodies hitting the floor. 

There was nothing ‘Slytherin’ about this. No cunning, no wit, no any of it. Just pure gorilla warfare as everybody traded spells. 

Harry felt more than saw magic hurtle towards him and rolled to the side. The dizziness had begun to pass but that had brought it forth once more. Still he lunged the only way he knew was open — forward.

All at once, he was in the centre of it all and he focused as hard as he could on Occlumency. The dizziness ebbed away as focus returned to him. Nobody had spotted him yet, so he had only to worry about off-course spells as he examined exactly what had happened.

They had been waiting to ambush Harry and his group, clearly, but who exactly were they. 

Well, Daniel Selwyn was duelling Calypso, so that gave a pretty strong indicator. It looked to Harry like Calypso was winning, but it was hard to tell. There appeared to be a fair bit of blood under Selwyn’s robe, but that did not necessarily dictate the winner.

A spell sailed too close to Harry to be inadvertent and he turned. A seventh year was stalking towards him with a gleam in his eye. Harry met him halfway with the Lacero Curse and the boy faltered as he had to dive for cover. Harry’s wand kept moving as he levitated two sofas and hurled them in his opponent’s path. He had duelled Flint last year, who had been much better than this boy. That was before training with Grace and Calypso’s father over the summer. Harry was a very different duellist now and he still had the advantage of the upper years underestimating him. This duel would be over in seconds, but he wasn’t sure the same was true for the battle itself.

Harry couldn’t see Cassius anywhere and could only assume he had fallen. The Carrows were each duelling two upper years and it wasn’t going well. Harry could see two older boys rushing towards him to aid their fallen friend. He had no idea where Daphne, Charlotte, Blaise, or any of the others were. He hoped for their sake they had fled to the dorms, but knowing them the way he did, Harry suspected that Charlotte at least had stayed.

Harry raised his wand to fend off the two incoming upper years, but he knew he’d be overwhelmed. He thought he saw another one coming from behind him. He would be lucky to fend off, two but three?

He thought somebody had fired a spell at him from the side for a moment, for he heard a loud rushing noise from nowhere. Harry spotted the stream of silver light from the corner of his eyes and braced himself, but he was not its target. It didn’t actually seem to have a target it all; it did not sail towards any one person, but instead was shot up above all of them…


Harry felt… something slam into him followed by a feeling of weightlessness and then, for the second time that night, nothing.

At that same moment, in the Headmaster’s office…

It was so odd to stand here. Even when he had been a student more than a decade ago, this office had belonged to Albus Dumbledore. It had been his and that was always how Gilderoy Lockhart had thought of it. There was no one who would ever take the position from Dumbledore was an opinion shared by many around the wizarding world. Most people had thought Dumbledore would go the way of the man who had ruled the school in Gilderoy’s father’s time, Armando Dippett. Pledging an untold number of years to Hogwarts before finally capitulating to the power of time and traipsing down the path to the next great adventure.

If any man was to have replaced Dumbledore, Gilderoy would certainly never have guessed it might have been him. He had almost not taken the job at Hogwarts in the first place. If not for a desire the so-called defeater of Voldemort and for the crushing sense of emptiness he had felt after killing Greyback and his pack, he doubted the position would ever have appealed to him. He had never considered teaching and he made more money still from selling his books than he did from running the school

Yet he would never have planned to end up in the Chamber of Secrets with a number of students and an artifact from the past, but that had happened and Gilderoy was now living with the consequences just like everybody else.

He had spared Riddle down in the Chamber but the more time that passed, the more he started to wonder whether or not that had been a wise decision.

It was the one his father would have made, he was sure of that. Sigmund would have wanted Riddle to live.

Yet Sigmund was dead and Gilderoy was not. 

Perhaps that spoke to the error Gilderoy had made, or perhaps he just had not lived long enough yet to die. There were many ways to look at the situation and really, either option would have been a loss in a different way.

This did not seem to be the woman who had murdered the former World Champion duellist in cold blood. The changes in her over the years were obvious. They had jarred Gilderoy the second he had seen them. His goal had been to avenge his father upon the Dark Lady, but he had always wondered what had changed her.

Perhaps that curiosity would spell doom for the country. This Riddle might well do whatever the original had and become the monster known as Voldemort. If Gilderoy had killed her, he would have avoided that, but there would have been far more pressing problems at the time. 

They would doubtlessly have needed to present a culprit for the attacks and Gilderoy was not much one for frame jobs. Without Riddle and the evidence they had presented to the Unspeakables, Hogwarts might well have closed forever.

Whether or not Riddle ever became Lady Voldemort was still up in the air, but at least this way, Gilderoy had time to try and stop it.

And, failing that, he would at least learn why. He would learn what had driven his father’s mentor into the insanity that had led to his death. He owed Sigmund Lockhart that much, at least, and Gilderoy prided himself on his ability to pay back debts.

He nodded stoically as he glanced to a lone portrait hanging in the wall. It was the closest thing he had ever seen to a muggle mugshot. One of Fenrir Greyback before he had gone on the run. It was a reminder of what Gilderoy had already achieved and it served as a beacon of light in times like this, where murky darkness seemed to press in on him from all sides.

There was always a way forward even when things seemed especially bleak. If anyone knew that, it was him.

Back in the Slytherin common room…

Harry wondered where he was for a moment as he stirred. His head spun and his ears rang, but more than ever, he could tell that he had just been asleep. Or perhaps knocked unconscious. That would explain the pain in his head and ringing in his ears and it was relatively par for the course at this point.

Though that still left the problem of where exactly he was.

This was certainly not the hospital wing. There was no soft mattress beneath him, no plush pillow supporting his head, and no cocoon of warmth created by the thick and comfortable blankets Madam Pomfrey’s patients were always given.

Instead there was something cold and hard underneath his back; his back that ached as though it had hit whatever it was lying on hard. Stone, it seemed. It felt like stone when Harry touched it, anyway.

This was idiocy. Why was he trying to identify where he was based on the surface beneath him?

He groaned as he sat up and forced his mind clear. Only then did the memories come back. 

The ambush in the common room, the soaring spells and fallen friends, the brutal battles and deadly duels… and the stream of silver light. He remembered thinking that spell had been meant for him, but it had… done something. It must have been what had laid him out — perhaps it really had been meant for him all along.

But that wasn’t right. The room was quiet whereas before it had been a clustered cacophony of chaos. The only other sounds Harry could hear were of shifting bodies and groans not too dissimilar from the one he had just let out a moment or so earlier.

That was when he finally peered around the room.

Bodies were strewn everywhere. It looked like the whole of Slytherin House had decided to camp out in the common room but had forgotten pillows and sleeping bags.

All but one of them.

One figure stood near the entrance with a wand clutched between long, pale fingers as she inspected them all with dark, intense eyes.

It was Riddle.

Harry tensed as she began moving forward, but she made clear she had no intent of sitting in the lounge Grace and her friends had once occupied. She strolled straight past it and moved towards the hall that sloped down into the bowels of the castle and towards the girls’ dormitory.

This had not been a bid for power, not yet. This had simply been a message that the Heiress of Slytherin had arrived back home.

Author’s Endnote:

And now the year can get properly under way. It is going to be much shorter than year 2 — see the length of this chapter versus the old ones for evidence of that — but we’ll see what kind of length it ends up.

Next chapter will get them through the first week of Hogwarts and it will include a meeting that I think a number of you will find interesting and long overdue.

Please read and review.

A massive thank you is also extended to my Olympian-level patron, ShadowWolf, for his incredibly generous support on that platform!

PS: The next password will be released next week. THE NEXT FIVE CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE FOR PATRONS AND I PLAN TO WRITE 3 NEXT WEEK! If you want to read those all early, feel free to sign up to my Patreon page.

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