Ashes Of Chaos
Year 3: The Blackest of Truths
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 3: The Blackest of Truths
Chapter 14: Tentative Trust Part I
September 2, 1993
The Great Hall
Riddle had left the Slytherin common room in a sort of daze after leveling the entire house before walking away. It left almost the house’s entirety baffled as to who she was and how she could be capable of such magic, but it also very much changed the house dynamic.
Most people had assumed that either Calypso or Selwyn would be heading the house, but this changed things. There was a new favourite in the eyes of many and the Slytherin power dynamic had been irrevocably changed. What made it all the more confusing to some was that Riddle — or Nigma, as most knew her as — had made no move to establish herself firmly in control of the house.
“I don’t get it,” Harry had heard one boy whisper that next morning, “she had it. Nobody could stop her. She had the element of surprise and everything.
Harry thought he understood, but that did not make the situation any easier for him to swallow. It was a thought he had not wished to vocalize until that morning’s breakfast when Ginny had asked about it.
Harry flicked his wand discreetly under the table and cast a wordless Muffliato before he answered. “She probably knew she could take the house on the first night. I doubt that’s the problem.”
“Then why do you think she didn’t?” asked Charlotte.
Harry chewed his eggs slowly and deliberately before answering. It wasn’t that he was buying time to come up with an answer — it was that he was buying time to try and come up with an answer that he could share without violating the oath of secrecy he had sworn to the Department of Mysteries.
“Winning the house is one thing, keeping it is another.”
“But with that kind of power,” mused Laine, “I doubt she’d need to worry.”
“Power isn’t everything,” Daphne said quietly. “It’s one thing to be the best with your wand. We know nothing about her.” She paused. “We as in everyone but Harry.” He shot her an apologetic look before she went on. “Just because she has power doesn’t mean she can keep the house under control.”
“I think Grace had been in control of Slytherin for about a year when I showed up and she still had challenges,” Harry reminded. “Flint tried to take it by force the first night of my first year and Selwyn made a play for power near the end of last year. That’s against someone with a reputation that spans over years and it’s not like Grace wasn’t an amazing duellist.”
“I still don’t really get what you’re trying to say,” Ginny admitted.
“Think about it, Ginny,” said Charlotte, who was now nodding along. “Nigma is a no-name. None of us have ever even heard of her. You know how Slytherin is. How do you think they’d react if she took the house on the first night?”
“They wouldn’t like it.”
Blaise snorted. “About as insightful as your lanky git of a brother, I see.”
Ginny glared at Blaise. “Shut your mouth, Zabini. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Blaise raised an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t have expected you to defend him after last year.”
Harry could feel the anger rolling off of Ginny, but there was something else there, too. He couldn’t be sure what it was, but it was bubbling fiercely and as potent as any poison.
“Things change, Zabini.”
Blaise dipped his head. “Indeed they do. Now, you all were saying?”
“The house would revolt,” said Harry, pulling the conversation back on topic. “They’d wait a couple of weeks because Nigma would have scared most of them into submission, but they’d revolt. She’s waiting to prove she has more than magic. I think she’s going to try and build alliances and maybe show that she isn’t some generic muggleborn.”
“Is she even a muggleborn at all?” Everyone except for Harry looked at Pansy with shocked expressions. “What?”
“Isn’t knowing everything about everyone kind of your thing?” Blaise asked with the traces of a smirk.
Pansy huffed and crossed her arms. “She’s been here for less than a day, Zabini, and trust me, I’ve tried. Nobody seems to know anything about her. It’s frustrating!”
“Nobody but our lovely pal to my right,” Blaise said with a grin. “Care to enlighten us?”
“You overestimate me,” said Harry. “I have no idea.”
It was actually true, now that he thought about it. He had thought before that Voldemort was no pureblood. No proud member of high society in the wizarding world would hide behind a fake name if she was. A halfblood, he suspected. No illustrious pureblood name, but a descendent of Salazar Slytherin being a muggleborn was not a possibility that came with great odds. Not that it mattered. Riddle would never have told him her blood status if it was anything less than pureblood; that was all the information he needed for now.
“We’ve been mislead,” said Blaise. “You wound us with your lack of transparency.”
It was a rich quip coming from the boy of so many secrets. If Blaise wanted to know what Harry had seen that summer’s night at his family home, he would need to try harder than that. The raven-haired youth would not be goaded into spilling sensible secrets so easily. He was no fool; he liked Blaise more than just about anyone, but the trust that had once been there had ebbed away over the summer. Now he was an unknown shadowed by contradictions. He had helped Harry come to his conclusions about Pettigrew, but then, there had been everything this summer. It all made little sense and did not at all jell together. Until Harry got answers, he was going to treat Blaise with much more caution than he had before.
Harry contemplated whether or not to retort, but the air was filled with rushing wind and flapping wings a moment later. Harry scanned the air for his owl, Nemesis, but she was nowhere to be found. Yet there was an owl making its way towards his table and it was one he did not recognize. His eyebrows knit together when it landed in front of him and stuck out its leg.
“Expecting mail?” Blaise asked.
“No,” he answered, “I have no idea what this is.”
Harry removed the roll of parchment from the owl’s leg and unrolled it. His eyes only widened further then. It was a short letter written in an elegant script and the address was the last thing Harry would have expected.
A good day to you,
I think last year left a lot unsaid between us. I know how I feel about you and I think I know how you feel about me, but I think there are a lot of things that both of us should get out in the open. Secrets only fester and create more conflict from my experiences.
I would like for you to come to my office tonight. You know where it is, I’m sure. The new password is lilac.
Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Order of Merlin, First Class
Senior Member of the Dark Force Defence League
This… was unexpected. Harry had thought after the debacle in the Chamber of Secrets that Lockhart may have asked to speak with him, but that conversation had never happened. Now, it seemed like it would. It was odd for the man to do it months later. Why had he not written over the summer if that was his intention? Even if everything really ought not to be said in a letter, it could have at least been broached.
It left Harry with a sneaking suspicion that all was not as it seemed and suddenly, he suspected very strongly that this would be another year that could not at all be characterized as quiet or peaceful.
Later that morning…
This was the third incarnation of the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom that Harry had seen during his tenure at Hogwarts. It had been a nondescript room during Voldemort’s time as the class’s professor. The walls had been barren and the curtains had been black as midnight. Everything in the room had been arrayed there for practical reasons. It looked every bit the room for training or teaching and was not at all reflective of the woman who had held the position.
Lockhart’s classroom had been quite the opposite. His books had been framed along the walls and there had been posters of the man himself beaming down at them with that award-winning smile. The drapes in that classroom had been periwinkle blue and had given off their own sort of light when drawn.
Now, it was almost as though their new professor had found a happy medium.
The drapes were black once more, though they were open today so that the room had no need for the torches hanging in brackets along the walls. There was a framed portrait of some kind on the professor’s desk, but it was facing him and away from the class. The walls were largely bare, but there were pamphlets pinned up here and there. Some of them discussed magical creatures whereas others gave brief descriptions of spells both defensive and offensive.
The room’s most striking feature was a large portrait of a man that Harry had seen in almost every newspaper publication across the country in the past month, though he was sure this was not what he looked like now. He was far too filled with life and exuberance in the portrait — no man would look like that after spending over a decade locked in a prison with the horrid creatures Harry had met on the train. Those grey eyes surely no longer sparkled with the mischief that lurked behind them in the man’s portrait and if his hair was even still that long, it certainly didn’t shine like it had back in his youth.
“Isn’t it just a bit odd for him to have Black’s portrait hanging behind his desk?” asked Tracey. “It makes him seem like some kind of fan.”
“He’s an auror,” said Harry, “I don’t blame him. Look at it as much as you can, you probably learn to spot it.” He turned to Daphne and Pansy. “How much do you think he’s doing as an auror whilst being a professor? Balancing both of them must be a right pain.”
“I heard that he never even wanted the position.” Pansy’s eyes had lit up the second Harry had asked for gossip. It was really quite effective. If he wanted to know something, he just had to ask, look attentively towards Pansy, and let her go off. “They obviously wanted one of the Senior Aurors to lead the team. Moody’s the Chief Auror and a total nutjob so they would never send us him. Your father—“
“Is publicly disgraced right now and has proven he can’t be objective.”
“Who’s the other Senior Auror?” asked Tracey.
“Shacklebolt unless that’s changed since first year.” He remembered the man well. Tall and muscular with dark skin and eyes that seemed to see everything. Harry could remember thinking that was what he would have expected a well-respected auror to look like.
“It hasn’t,” said Pansy. “He might get the Chief Auror position when Moody retires.”
“He should,” said Blaise, “he’s been a member of the corpse since before the Purity War.”
“A lot of people thought that Lord Potter would get the position,” Daphne said with an obvious edge in her voice.
“Well,” said Tracey, “looks like he’s thrown that away, doesn’t it? Oops, I’ve just upset all the purebloods in the country and been an awful human being for the last twelve years. Can I have a promotion?”
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Harry said darkly. “People are fickle. Remember, Charlus was devil’s spawn last winter when everyone thought he was the Heir of Slytherin. Now, he’s the poor Boy-Who-Lived who must be dealing with so much fear and trauma now that Black is on the loose.” Harry would have spat had they not been taking their seats in a classroom.
“Well, he’s the Boy-Who-Lived, isn’t he?” Tracey asked as though that explained the whole thing.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with that,” Pansy retorted. “Harry’s right; people are pathetic. Look at the minister. Everyone loved him until the war got close to ending. Then everyone thought he was going too far. The ministry wasn’t winning and reports were coming out about how ruthless he was. People thought he was deranged and should never hold a position, but all of that changed once the war ended and his team rounded up most of the Death Eaters.”
Harry’s friends just enjoyed being hypocrites today, it seemed. First Blaise quipping about transparency and now Pansy preaching about pettiness. She had abandoned Malfoy for Harry as soon as she realized he was the better bet. That had been more out of pragmatism than pettiness, Harry supposed, but the irony in the whole thing was not lost on him.
“It’s not about what you’ve done in the past,” Harry agreed, “it’s about what you’ve done in their memory, which seems to be about a week unless they’re being petty.”
“A whole week? Harry, old friend, you’re being too kind.”
“I’m a beacon of joy and happiness, Blaise, what can I say?”
“So if he didn’t want the job,” said Tracey, “why did he get it over Shacklebolt?”
“They probably wanted Shacklebolt leading the country wide hunt,” Daphne explained. “He’s the most seasoned auror the department has other than Moody. They probably wanted him on the outside.”
“And it’s best to have two of the Senior Aurors outside of Hogwarts, I imagine,” said Harry. “Hogwarts might be filled with passages and the like, but it’s still only one castle. Black has the rest of Britain to hide in assuming he hasn’t already fled the country.”
“Do you think he has?” asked Tracey.
Harry shrugged. “It’s what I’d do, but who knows. I’m not Black.”
The bell rang then and the class fell almost immediately silent. Nobody knew what to expect with Professor John Dawlish. He was a new and unknown entity.
Dawlish was a tall, weathered man with dark eyes and hair that was beginning to grey. His robes were plain and black and he looked out at all of them with a keen eye. Harry could feel the tension around him. Dawlish had been a very young auror during the Purity War, but he had served. Many of the Death Eaters he had fought against were related to students now in Slytherin House. The way he was looking at both Crabbe and Goyle certainly didn’t seem natural, and Harry thought the man’s stare was going to leave Theodore Nott scorched and buried six feet under.
“Welcome to Defence Against the Dark Arts,” said Dawlish. “I won’t Pradel on about myself because there are more important things to get to. Just know that, yes, I am a Senior Auror and, yes, I am leading the hunt here at Hogwarts for Sirius Black.”
Dawlish paused and waited. Harry was sure he had been pestered with questions about Black in most of the other classes, but they were a quiet bunch and most of them probably suspected Black would have no interest in hunting them. Harry wasn’t so sure about that when it came to him, but he was in an odd position. Certainly not one he wished to discuss in public with a man he had never met and didn’t trust, so he too held his tongue.
“No questions?” Everyone shook their head. “Good.” Dawlish seemed to relax. He must have become fed up with the questions quickly. Perhaps he had a short fuse. Harry wasn’t the type to stir trouble, but it was useful information to have. There was no read on him yet. Little assumptions like this was the best he was getting. His Legilimency senses had been becoming more and more potent in the months since he had begun practicing with them, but he was getting nothing from Dawlish. The man was doubtlessly a well-seasoned Occlumens.
“I’m supposed to teach all of you about magical creatures this year,” said Dawlish. “I’ll be doing that. I’m here to do jobs. I’m being paid for both of them, so I plan to do both of them the best that I can, but I think this year is capable of a bit more. This class, in particular, has a few very talented students if what your previous two professors say is true. Both of them seemed to lean towards the advanced side of teaching, which sets you up well for me.
“Learning about magical creatures is wonderful. It’s an important part of your education, but right now, I’m not sure it’s the most applicable thing for you. This school has been the centre of a lot of controversy these last two years and now with Black at large, that may well continue. It is my job as a professor to make sure all of you pass your OWL exams, but it is my job as an auror to ensure all of you stay safe.
“So, I have decided that in addition to teaching you about the necessary magical creatures, I will also be giving you all an introduction to some actual defensive magic that you haven’t yet covered. I’ll cover some of the more basic curses and the like, but we’ll keep it general. Curses make up the bulk of your curriculum next year, so I don’t want to spend all year covering them. I just want you all to be prepared for what is to come. There are some things that criminals like Black rely on that I’ll be showing you. I won’t be teaching you how to do these things, but I think it’s good for you to know and at least have some sort of idea what you’re up against and how to defend yourself from it. Are there any questions?”
No one raised their hand. Harry had heard many of the upper-year Slytherins complain about the quality of professors in Defence Against the Dark Arts during their own tenures at the school during Harry’s first year, but that had changed since then. Whatever could be said about Lockhart or, Merlin forbid, about Voldemort, no one could discredit either of them. They had both been incredible instructors and the current third-year students were extremely over prepared.
Now Dawlish was here and he too seemed eager to progress them further ahead than the curriculum. They may have had their professor change with the passing of each year, but at least they had been extremely fortunate regarding the quality of said professors.
Harry thought about that as he peered up towards Dawlish. For years and years, rumours had persisted about the supposed curse playing upon the Defence Against the Dark Arts position. Lockhart had claimed that previous night that by remaining at the castle and even elevating his position, he had broken the curse. Harry was less sure and he wondered whether or not it was true.
If there was a curse at all, how did it work? Surely not all of the professors had died? There had to be more to it than that. If so many had perished, he doubted Hogwarts would still be open at all, let alone continuing to employ such a dangerous position. Lockhart had clearly taken the curse to mean it would drive the professor out of Hogwarts, but Harry wondered whether or not it might simply apply to the position. If that was the case… well, Lockhart was no longer teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts.
Somehow, he suspected he would need to wait until the end of his fourth year to find out. He couldn’t see Dawlish staying on for more than a year, curse or not. It was all business; already, the man had made that much clear.
“None of you will be practicing any magic today,” said Dawlish, “that will happen on Monday when I show you how to deal with a boggart.”
Harry felt his blood run cold. Judging by the obvious pallor of many faces around the room, he was not the only one. That sounded like the worst thing imaginable; being forced to face your worst fears. That had to be lunacy.
His worst fear… Harry was not entirely sure he could say what that was. The dementor had been awful, but he was not afraid of it, just would it entailed and summoned forth. He was afraid of Voldemort in the sense that he would rather not die, but he doubted she qualified, either. Vernon Dursley might have been it years ago, but Harry had seen things far worse than him now.
“I see the expressions,” said Dawlish, wearing an especially stern visage of his own, “but it’s necessary. Boggarts are more common than you might think. Not in the cosy manors you lot call homes, but around the country, for sure. It’s also excellent practice for what could happen this year. If Black is to breach the castle, everyone will need to be calm and composed. Facing your worst fear is an excellent way to make sure you can do that.”
Harry was suddenly much less fond of Professor Dawlish than he had been a minute earlier. This changed things greatly. He had never despised the ministry and their ludicrous restrictions more in his life.
He wanted to teach them how to stay composed in stressful situations? Well, there was this wonderful thing called Occlumency, but his beloved Ministry of Magic would never allow him to teach.
Harry had to resist the urge to audibly sigh. The complete and utter incompetence in the wizarding world never failed to amaze him.
That night, in an abandoned classroom…
Finding a place for Remus to teach Charlus and Ron had been the most difficult thing. Remus had suggested what was apparently a large room hidden behind a mirror on the third floor, but when Charlus had checked the room that first night under the guise of his invisibility cloak, he had found it to be blocked off by what looked like some sort of collapse. He had written Remus immediately and the two of them had agreed to work in one of the castle’s abandoned classrooms until a better spot could be found.
Ron seemed like he was practically bouncing with excitement as they made their way to the agreed upon room. Not that Charlus could blame him. If he had spent Merlin only knowing how long under the effects of the Imperius Curse, he would be damn ready to learn how to defend himself, too. Hell, he had been just excited as Ron when he had begun these sorts of lessons with Lockhart last year. That was the only unfortunate part about the man’s ascension to the position of Headmaster. Well, that and the fact that Dumbledore no longer dwelled in the castle. If anyone other than the former Chief Warlock had to hold the position, the school could do much worse than Lockhart, but Charlus did lament losing the best instructor he had ever known.
Hermione had decided to tag along and see whether or not Remus would be agreeable to teaching her as well. Charlus had not thought to ask about her when they had gone over the plan at the Burrow. He had been so caught up by the revelations about Black and his Animagus abilities that there had not been room for anything else in his mind at the time.
“What’s he like?” Ron asked as they made neared the room.
Charlus fought with words for a moment before shrugging. “Old.”
“Old?” asked Hermione. “Didn’t you say he was the same age as your father.”
“Charlus! He’s younger than my parents!”
“It’s… hard to explain. He’s just… been through a lot and it shows. The war took a lot out of him and life hasn’t been easy for him sine. He just… old just works. He looks older, he talks like he’s older.”
“So long as he doesn’t act as old as my Aunt Muriel.” Charlus shuddered at the thought of the woman — they had met on a number of occasions and she was not the Boy-Who-Lived’s biggest fan.
“Yeah, she’s a menace. Older than dirt, too—“
“Well, it’s true! I’ve never met anyone as old as her. If everyone starts acting like that at her age I might just make sure I go out a few years younger in a blaze of glory.”
Hermione looked utterly scandalized, but Charlus stepped in before she could respond. “He’s nothing like Muriel. Merlin knows I’d never have agreed to this if he was.”
Ron grinned. “Yeah, not with the way she treats you.”
“In her defence, I did turn her jaw into a fog horn—“
“You did what!?” Hermione gasped.
Charlus shrugged. “It was an accident. I was young. She’d just belched and was all scandalized over herself and one of the twins made a joke about a fog horn. I started laughing like hell and the next thing I knew, she didn’t have a jaw.”
Ron was half doubled over in hysterics as Hermione just peered between the two of them and seemed to wonder exactly how she had gotten involved with either of them.
“You might want to compose yourself before you meet Mr. Lupin,” Hermione told Ron with a roll of her eyes.
Ron’s laughter slowly died as his brain remembered exactly what he was here to do. He wanted this just as badly as Charlus. If anything was going to keep him under control, this was it.
Remus was already inside the room and waiting for them. The desks that were usually piled in these sorts of rooms were absent, as were the torches. Magical spheres of light floated around the room in circles instead and it was wide open but for several chairs in one of the room’s four corners.
The man himself looked as old and tired as ever. He was wearing a different set of robes but there appeared to be almost as much thread exposed as there was cloth.
“Ah, Charlus,” said Remus, “and Ron.” His eyes found Hermione and one of them twitched. “Apologies, miss, but I don’t believe we’ve been acquainted.”
“Sorry,” said Charlus, blushing, “I… uh, forgot to mention her when talking with you and Dad. She’s my other best friend. She hasn’t had anything happen to her like Ron, but we do everything together and she wanted to come along.”
Hermione looked like she might start hyperventilating. “I’m terribly sorry to intrude, sir. If you want me to leave—“
“It’s quite all right,” said Remus with a sigh as he rubbed at his eyes. “I would have brought you a gift as well had I known you were coming.”
The Weasleys were known for blushing as brightly as their hair, but Hermione would have made any of them proud as she stammered. “That-that’s all r-right, sir. I don’t need—“
“You do,” said Remus, “but not tonight.” The man waved his wand and a very battered-looking bag held together by bits of what looked like spello tape parted and out floated two objects that Charlus could not decipher until they were much closer.
“Mirrors?” asked Charlus, confused.
“Enchanted ones, yes.”
“What do they do?”
“They’re communication devices. It’s brilliant, really. A charm that your mother created whilst at Hogwarts.”
Charlus felt his heart skip a beat. It was so rare that he heard anything about his mother. His father talked about her infrequently at best, sans the nights during which he’d had a bit too much to drink — nights that seemed to have become more and more frequent over the past two years.
“Yes, she created more than one charm while at Hogwarts. I’m sure James has told you—“
“No,” said Charlus, “he never has.”
Remus looked at him blankly for a moment before nodding slowly. “Your mother created this enchantment so she could talk with a friend of hers. Of course, the group of friends your father and I hung around with started using the spell once your parents started dating. James always mentioned how he wished he’d have had the mirrors a couple years earlier while he was in detention with… well, I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered. Your mother would never have come onto him had he not grown up.”
He had been about to mention Sirius. Everything his father had told him about the man said as much.
“We can talk about Lily more,” Remus said with a smile, “but we should get started with what I want to start teaching you tonight. The mirrors are simple enough. Just say either each other’s names or mine and it will connect you.”
Charlus nodded along with his other friends, who were both shooting him encouraging glances as he pocketed the mirror.
“Well, I suppose we’ll start with the elephant in the room. You all know that Sirius is an Animagus—“
“WHAT!?” shrieked Hermione.
Charlus floundered under Remus’s gaze. “I… uh, hadn’t thought to tell her yet.”
The man sighed. “We’ll be here longer than I had thought. I suppose before I can teach you the spell to force an Animagus back to their human form, I need to give the context that you forgot to share.” Now it was Charlus’s turn to blush like a Weasley as Remus began his lecture and somehow made even that look exhausting.
Meanwhile, in the Headmaster’s office…
Being in the office Harry had always viewed as Dumbledore’s but not seeing the man himself was jarring. It was a pleasant change, but jarring. If only Lockhart would give this place a rational password, things around Hogwarts might actually begin to feel normal.
The room had changed since last year. Dumbledore’s elaborate instruments were gone, replaced by trinkets and mementoes Lockhart had collected from his travels around the world. The phoenix too was gone and in its place was the prestigious Order of Merlin, First Class plaque that the man was so very proud of. The same self portraits that had once hung in the Defence Against the Dark Art’s professor’s quarters were now here, too. They looked remarkably out of place to Harry after he had become so used to the way Dumbledore had organized the room.
“Ah, Mister Potter, come in, come in,” said Lockhart once Harry stepped through the door.
“Congratulations on the position, sir,” Harry said a bit stiffly.
“Thank you, thank you. It has been a chaotic number of months, but I doubt I need to explain that to you, of all people.”
“No. You were the one touted with everything. I don’t doubt that the publicity has been hectic.”
“Yes, well, it was the most plausible story, I suppose.”
Harry wondered whether or not some of Lockhart’s other stories were similar. The tale about the yeti tied too well into the man’s life to be anything but true, but he wondered if there had been other parties involved in some of Lockhart’s other deeds, too. Harry doubted it, but it was an amusing thought. The man was more than capable of handling himself against just about anything and it hadn’t been his fault the victory had been attributed to his perceived skill and bravery.
“I’m not upset you got the credit, Headmaster. I barely did anything other than getting tied up and I’d rather just forget the whole thing happened.”
“Would you now?” asked Lockhart. “Would you really rather forget knowing that the one responsible for it is walking the halls?”
Harry grimaced. “No, not what you put it that way.”
“I thought not. Have your feelings about Riddle changed at all since that night?”
Harry just stared right back at him. “I think we made a mistake by sparing her. I expected the Department of Mysteries to be harsher, not to let her walk freely around the country and attend Hogwarts.”
“I didn’t expect she would ever be back at this school, I’ll admit.”
“Would it have changed the way you did things?”
Lockhart frowned and thought for a moment before shaking his head. “She is not the woman who killed my father,” he said. “They are too different. I still believe there is hope for this form of Riddle just like there was for the girl who saved my father from Grindelwald and his cruelty.”
“I hope you’re right, Headmaster, I really do.”
Harry didn’t want Lockhart to be wrong. He wasn’t that spiteful and the last thing he wanted was for another Voldemort to be roaming the country. The first one had been troublesome enough and was far from gone. Harry knew she was still lurking somewhere even if Lcokart did not.
“I hope so too,” said Lockhart. “Merlin knows my track record last year was far from spotless. An awkward silence stretched between them as the air seemed to swell with tension. “I made mistakes with you last year,” Lockhart admitted.
“You’re still upset and you’re right to be.”
“You had no right to suspect me. Not just because my brother had been proven a Parselmouth.”
“My rationale was sound, but mistaken. I will never quite understand how he has the ability if you really don’t.”
Harry met Lockhart’s gaze head on and focused hard on Occlumency. “I really don’t, sir. I’ve never spoken to a single snake in my life.”
“Perhaps a side effect of the Dark Lady’s curse then. It’s impossible to tell.” He hesitated. “I’m sorry for it all. If I could take it back, I would, along with most other things from last year.”
“I don’t take threats lightly, Headmaster. I accept your apology but I still don’t trust you and I don’t think you’ve earned your position.”
“Nor do I,” said Lockhart, “yet here we are. It’s funny what fame and good fortune will do for you.”
Harry watched him closely. The point had been covered yet still, something remained. What it was, Harry did not know, but he was certain Lockhart had something else up his sleeve.
“What do you want, Headmaster?”
“You want something from me. We wouldn’t still be here if you didn’t. I’d like to know what it is. I forgive you, but I don’t have any plans of spending time in a room with you if I don’t need to.”
“Straight to the point then,” said Lockhart, leaning forward in his chair and eyeing Harry with an intensity he had not seen in the man’s eyes since he’d been accusing him of the attacks. “I would like for you to be my eyes inside Slytherin House.”
Harry’s expression remained unchanged, but his heart lurched at the potential implications. “What exactly does that mean, sir?”
Lockhart did not speak for a moment but when he did, it took a conscious effort to prevent Harry’s Occlumency from failing him.
“I want you to get close to Emily Riddle and to watch her for me.”
Chapters really are going to be shorter this year. I will make sure the vast majority of them are 6k words or longer, but this length will be fairly standard going forward.
Please read and review.
PS: The next password will be released in exactly one week. THE NEXT FIVE CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE FOR PATRONS RIGHT NOW! THEY WILL BE GETTING AT LEAST ONE MORE BEFORE THE END OF THE WEEKEND. Sign up to my Patreon page if you want to read all of those chapters early.
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