Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 1: The Forsaken’s Ascension
Chapter 7: Skirmishes, Secrets, & Schemes Part I
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 9, 1991
The Great Hall
I can’t even tell you how relieved and grateful I am to hear that you’re willing to give me a chance. I completely understand why you would blame me for everything that’s happened, and to be honest, I probably deserve that and worse for being such a neglectful prat.
Don’t worry about Charlus. He had it in his head that you were going to be brothers and best mates right away, and that the two of you would reign over the school in red and gold armour. As long as you’re happy, your house doesn’t make a huge difference to me, as long as you’re not getting in with the wrong kind of Slytherins.
The first Hogsmeade trip I could meet you on would be on the 11th of October.
If that works for you, owl me back and I’ll contact Professor Dumbledore. If he agrees, (which he will) I’ll be sending you a little secret about the castle, so stay tuned!
I can’t wait to finally see you again!
Harry’s eyes roamed over the parchment for the fourth time as he tried to decide how he felt about what was sitting in front of him. It was true that he had felt compelled to give his father a chance, but in saying so, that did not mean that Harry forgave his father for everything that had happened. No matter how well the meeting went, Harry had the impression that those wounds cut too deep and there would always, to an extent, be a modicum of tension between the two of them.
“Who’s that from?” asked Tracey absentmindedly as she raised a spoonful of cereal to her mouth. She, unlike Daphne, who was eyeing Harry suspiciously, had seemed to miss his change of mood.
“My Father,” he answered shortly, stuffing the parchment into the pocket of his robes as he casually returned to the plate of fruit in front of him. From out of the corner of his eye, he saw Daphne’s jaw tighten for the briefest of moments before she turned to him, her voice as calm as ever.
“What did he want?”
“To meet in Hogsmeade.”
True to her word, Daphne had not told a soul, not even Tracey about what they had spoken about the previous morning. Harry wouldn’t outright lie to Tracey, but he was not quite ready to take that leap of faith again. In truth, he was not even entirely certain why he had taken it the first time. It had just been the perfect moment. Everything had aligned and he had a feeling the euphoria of his first true friendship probably had something to do with it. Besides, he wasn’t lying to her, even if it was only a half-truth. It was, as a matter of fact, not at all unusual for an heir to meet up with their head of house in the village while at school. Admittedly, it was quite a bit rarer for those in the first and second year, but even then, Harry very much doubted it was unheard of.
“What do we have today?” Daphne asked him, casually diverting the conversation before Tracey could become too curious, something that Harry appreciated greatly.
“Potions, Charms, and double Defence Against the Dark Arts,” Harry answered without pause.
“I think I’ll work with you today in Potions, Harry,” said Daphne. “Since Friday is the double period, I’ll rotate between partnering with each of you on that day. Since I partnered with you last Friday, I’ll partner with Tracey this Friday.”
Harry smiled at her. It was still odd to have somebody helping him at anything. “Sounds fair enough to me,” he agreed.
“As long as you help me tonight with Snape’s prep!” put in Tracey, causing Harry to smirk and Daphne to roll her eyes.
“We haven’t even got to the class yet, Tracey. For all you know, Snape might not even give prep.”
“I know all I need to know, Daphne. It’s Snape; he’s going to give prep.”
“I’ve got to put my chips in Tracey’s corner on this one,” admitted Harry with a sly smile. Daphne just looked at him, clearly puzzled.
“Put your what in what corner?”
Now Tracey cracked up and Harry too rolled his eyes, though the effect was slightly ruined by the smile he was fighting back. “Chips as in poker?” Daphne still looked as confused as ever. “You know what? Never mind, it’s a muggle thing. You pureblooded lot are impossible.”
Daphne just stuck her nose up at him. “We’ll see who’s impossible today in Potions, Potter,” she snarked.
Harry’s lips twitched. “As we shall see in Charms and defence, Greengrass.”
“I’ll have you know that I am far more capable in both of those subjects than you are in Potions.”
“In Charms, granted, but only because you’re actually quite good at it. As far as Defence goes, I’ll agree to disagree, but maybe that’s just me.” Tracey stifled a giggle as Daphne mock glared at Harry.
“Are you implying incompetence on my part, Potter?” she asked, trying to force as much artificial coolness into her voice as she could manage.
“Not at all, Miss Greengrass,” Harry returned in a perfectly pleasant voice; a placid smile pasted upon his face. “I’m just implying your overconfidence and natural self-bias, that’s all.”
“Be careful, Harry,” Tracey warned him through giggles. “You’re working with her in Potions. She could easily disguise some explosive mistake as a handy shortcut.”
“Unlikely. The pureblood princess would not dare do anything to unsettle her luscious locks.”
“Something else is about to be a lot less luscious if you don’t shut up very quickly,” said Daphne in a poisonously sweet voice. Harry made a show of snapping his mouth shut and sending her a mock, terrified stare but she ignored him. “You’re supposed to be on my side, Tracey.”
“Yes, but it’s so refreshing to see somebody who can actually keep up with you! I can’t help it! It’s just so much fun!”
Daphne rolled her eyes. “You’re both impossible.”
It turned out that Daphne did not sabotage their potion that morning, as once again, they handed in a perfectly brewed potion twenty-five minutes ahead of the rest of the class. Snape almost looked exasperated, but as Daphne had been essentially coaching Harry through the process, he could hardly accuse her of doing his work for him.
Not that he would accuse a Slytherin, anyway.
The Charms lesson that followed was, unfortunately, lecture-heavy once more. They had still yet to perform any actual magic within the class. Flitwick did assure them that would be changing during their double period on Wednesday.
Lunch passed without incident and Harry walked with Tracey and Daphne up to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. Once again, Professor Hurst was seated behind her desk, but this time, she was writing at top speed and did not so much as glance up from the task in front of her until the bell rang, at which point she closed the book that she had been writing in and swept gracefully to her feet.
One thing that distinguished Professor Hurst from the rest of Harry’s teachers was that, except for the first lesson, she didn’t taken the register. Instead, she had simply allowed her eyes to roam over them. She seemed to work with memory alone before beginning her lesson. Today was no different, as once she saw that everybody was present, she folded her hands in front of her chest and began the lesson.
“Every single one of you regardless of intelligence or ability will know that the title of this course is Defence Against the Dark Arts.” They all peered up at her from their seats, clearly flummoxed as to where this could be going. “To understand what I intend to teach you this year, it is important that you understand exactly what this course is and is not going to be teaching you.
“To be more specific, let us examine the title of this course more critically. For the sake of each and every single one of you, I sincerely hope that I do not need to explain the definition of defence, so I am simply going to be moving on to the far more interesting component of the title. What,” she asked the class, “are the Dark Arts?”
There was a far longer pause than normal before tentatively, Tracey’s hand rose into the air. “Yes, Miss Davis?”
“Magic that the ministry has restricted.”
“In a sense, I suppose you’re right.” Professor Hurst took a long, drawn-out moment to look at each of them, and when she looked at Harry, he had to suppress a shiver from running down his back. “That is half of the answer that the Ministry would like for me to give you. The other half of that answer, if any are curious, is that the dark arts are a vile, evil, and dangerous form of magic. I, however, would like to go a bit deeper. What, according to the Ministry, leads to magic being classified as dark?”
Again, there was a long, drawn-out pause before tentatively, Lillian Moon raised her hand into the air. “Because it can cause harm to a witch or wizard.”
“Correct.” Despite her affirmation, Harry could tell that Professor Hurst didn’t agree with the definition. Come to think of it, neither did he. That was rubbish!
As if she could sense what he was thinking, Professor Hurst’s eyes fell upon Harry. “Did you have a question or comment, Master Potter?”
Harry wanted to answer no. He knew that the smart thing to do was to answer no, but under the professor’s intense, expectant stare, he found that he could not do it. Idly, he noted that at least nobody in this class was likely to judge him negatively even if he were to openly praise the Dark Arts.
“Well, that is completely ridiculous, isn’t?”
The class went dead silent, though Harry noticed that Malfoy was shooting him what he thought was a rather calculating, almost approving look.
“Please explain further, Master Potter.”
“Well, almost any kind of magic can technically be harmful. That definition would make almost anybody in the world a wanted criminal.”
“Well, I could damage somebody with basic, first year spells. I could shine the Lumos spell directly in somebody’s eyes and cause visual damage. I could hit somebody with a tickling hex while they were at the top of a set of stares and send them tumbling to their death.” He shrugged. “I could go on, and on, and on.”
“Indeed, you could,” Hurst agreed with a small smile. “I am contracted to teach you a curriculum that is approved by the Ministry of Magic, but I fail to see why I cannot present both sides of a long-contested debate as long as I make no attempt to influence your own decisions.
“You see, even the most staunch supporters of the Ministry do not believe in that specification. Many, however, believe that magic created with its primary purpose being to cause harm is dark in nature. The opposition to this way of thinking would say that the Ministry classification, and by extension, this popular ideology is used as a mechanism of control. After all, if one is to set such a broad spectrum for what is and is not dark, then those in power could decide on a case by case basis as they please. The supporters of this idea tend to argue that the Ministry sets a broad definition as a last resort, but really only punishes the most heinous of magic. You could certainly find examples throughout history to support both theories, so neither could be fundamentally proven right or wrong.” Her eyes roamed over them again before she spoke, and her voice lowered an octave.
“Some say that this way of thinking is foolish. They believe that magic is a blank canvas for one to paint their intent upon. They say that evil is in the intent. They say that any magic cast with the intent of causing serious harm is dark magic. They would often use defences very similar to the one that Master Potter implored only moments ago. They would, in some extreme cases, even go above and beyond and apply their logic onto the opposite end of the spectrum.
“They would say that, for example, the killing curse, which I shall not speak the incantation of, was originally created to slay cattle and livestock in a quick, painless, convenient manner. History would support their argument, and they would say that the evil in such a curse is its blatant misuse in the hands of those who would wish to abuse it. Of course, there are flaws in this argument too, especially when examining it from a moral standpoint. However, I am not here to teach you lessons in human morality: I am here to teach you lessons in defending yourself against the dark arts.
“No matter which definition you choose to rest your flag atop, the premise remains the same. Dark magic is dangerous and is most often wielded with malicious intent. Only through a sound, strong, steadfast defence can one defend themselves from another who truly wishes to harm them.”
She paused then, giving the seemingly dumbstruck class several moments to recover. “Now, I would like you to spend the next hour writing an answer to the question, what, in your eyes, makes magic dark? I would also like for you to provide me with at least three examples, and a sound, detailed defence for at least two of them. After the hour has expired, we shall see which of you have made some progress with the Aegis Vocar shield. If these papers are not done by the end of the lesson today, they will be done at the start of our period together on Thursday.”
Harry was reasonably impressed with the progress of some. Theodore Nott had the shield charm essentially mastered, though his variant could not withstand half of what his own could. Daphne too was in a similar spot to Nott, as were Malfoy and Zabini. Tracey and Pansy Parkinson could conjure a weak variant of the shield.
Though Harry had performed well, earning ten points for Slytherin on his own while in the process, his mind was not on the shield charm. Professor Hurst, though full of praise in front of the rest of the class must have noticed, for when the bell rang, her voice rang out as well.
“Master Potter, stay behind please.”
“We’ll wait for you,” Daphne promised, but Harry waved his hand dismissively.
“No, it’s fine; go on. I doubt this will take long. I’ll meet you both in the common room and we can work on Snape’s essay.” The two of them left grudgingly, but they left nonetheless, and Harry walked over to and stood in front of Professor Hurst’s desk, where she was currently sitting and writing something on a small piece of parchment.
“You wanted to speak with me, Professor?” Harry asked hesitantly.
“Yes, I did, though only briefly.” She glanced up at him and smiled reassuringly in a way that instantly wiped all worry from his mind. “You are not in trouble, Master Potter, do not worry.” She reached for the piece of parchment she had been scribbling on and held it out to him. “I got the impression that you were rather fixated on our discussion from the beginning of the lesson. You are far from the first and you will be far from the last. I can only say so much in my position, but there is a book in the Hogwarts Library that I think will serve you well if you wish to further explore the topic.”
“Uh… thank you, professor. What is this?” He asked, taking the offered slip of parchment from her.
“This is a permission slip to retrieve the book in question from the restricted section.”
Harry had to try hard not to gape at her. He knew, of course, of the restricted section. He had heard only of sixth and seventh year students who were working on rather complex assignments gaining access. Earlier, he had actually heard a fifth year loudly complaining that Professor McGonagall had refused to grant him a slip.
Harry looked down at his slip and his face blanked for a moment. He knew that, on these slips, a specific book was supposed to be listed. On Harry’s however, the only specification was that he was to be able to enter the section. For a second, his mouth opened as he made to correct the professor’s mistake, but in mid-thought, he froze and thought better of it. Why would he give this up?
“Is something wrong?”
At that moment, he knew, just knew that for whatever reason Professor Hurst had not made a mistake at all.
“No, nothing at all, Professor.”
“Very well, off you go then, Master Potter. I have essays to mark, and I am sure you have some of your own to write.”
When he left the classroom and shut the door behind him, only then did Harry notice that on the back of the slip, was a title written in small, elegant handwriting.
Intent is Power by Emeric Emalaus.
Several hours later, in the Slytherin common room…
Harry, Daphne and Tracey all left their first practical lesson in Charms in high spirits. They had gone over two charms that double period. Lumos, the spell used to light one’s wand, as well as the colour changing spell. Harry had already known that he would have no issues with these two spells, but there was something inherently satisfying about performing them in a classroom environment. To his delight, both Daphne and Tracey had done well too.
Daphne, to her credit, had completed both of the spells on her first attempt with absolutely no issue. She and Harry were the only two students in the class who could boast of this. Tracey had managed Lumos on her first go, as had most of the class. The colour alteration charm had taken her a few attempts, but she was still the fifth one in the lesson to get it, though Nott had admittedly been right behind her. The only ones to get it faster were Harry, Daphne, Malfoy and Zabini.
Still exalting in the lesson, Harry barely noticed the commotion in the common room until Daphne threw out her arm to stop him, clearly seeing he was spaced out. There was a crowd of people gathered around the notice board, so Harry, Tracey and Daphne crept slowly towards it.
“Stay here,” Daphne told them, patting them both mockingly on the heads before going to investigate. As she was the tallest of the three of them, she would therefore have the best odds of seeing over the crowd.
She returned a few minutes later with a rather pensive expression.
“What is it?” asked Tracey, predictably beating Harry to the proverbial punch as she was literally bouncing in anticipation.
“There’s a bunch of stuff about Hogsmeade, Gobstones and the rest, but the important thing for us is that tomorrow, we have our first flying lesson with the first year Gryffindors.”
At this proclamation, Tracey paled as her eyes widened in surprise, but Harry had feelings for only himself. His heart had leapt into his throat, and he could barely keep the manic smile from making itself present upon his face.
September 12, 1991
The Grounds of Hogwarts
“Punctual as ever,” Harry muttered as the first year Gryffindors made their approach. With the exception of Hermione Granger, none of them had arrived prior to the entirety of Slytherin’s first year being gathered, something that amused Harry greatly. Clearly, Daphne was amused too, as Harry saw her lips twitch, a rarity in public, and Tracey stifled a giggle behind her hand despite herself.
Their instructor, an older, strict looking woman by the name of Madam Hooch promptly told them to stand beside a broom, stick out their right hand, and call “up!”
“Up!” chorused the class, and a handful of brooms shot into outstretched hands. To Harry’s delight and mild relief, his broom rocketed into his hand without hesitation. To his mild dismay, so too did Malfoy’s.
The boy had been droning on and on in the common room the night before to anyone who would listen about how brilliant he was on a broom. By the end of his rant, he was pretty sure that even the quiet Theodore Nott, who always stood alongside him was about ready to snap. Aside from Malfoy, Charlus’s broom had also obeyed him on command, as did Ron Weasley’s, which mildly annoyed Harry as he considered the boy incompetent. Daphne’s broom had leapt off the ground but had not quite made it all the way into her hand. Harry smirked at her as covertly as he could. She clearly did not fail to notice.
If looks could kill…
Most people’s brooms had behaved similarly to Daphne’s, though Longbottom’s and Granger’s seemed particularly uncooperative. Harry saw, out of the corner of his eye, Pansy Parkinson quickly snatch hers off of the ground, but he was fairly sure he was the only one to catch her in the act.
Once everyone had, through one means or another, attained a firm grip on their broomstick, Madam Hooch marched around the lines of students, correcting their grips as she went. Harry was mildly proud when her only acknowledgement of him was an approving nod. Both Weasley and his Brother got the same treatment, though Harry could have sung aloud when Draco Malfoy had his grip firmly corrected.
“I have been doing it this way for years!” he drawled in a voice that was surprisingly condescending for an eleven-year-old.
“Well, it’s not my fault that you have been doing it wrong for years, Mister Malfoy.”
That comment shut Draco up in a hurry.
“Now,” she called to the class at large, “when I blow my whistle you will all kick-off, raise slowly into the air and fly a very slow, very controlled lap of the area after hovering until you feel comfortable. On my command. One, two…”
But she never got to three.
Seemingly in a panic, one of the Gryffindors — Longbottom, had kicked off the ground too early, clearly fearful of being left behind.
“Come back here, boy!” Hooch cried up to him, but it was no good. Longbottom’s broom was steadily rising faster and faster into the air and Harry could see his grip was sliding. He was doubtful the boy would manage to keep hold of the broomstick for more than a few seconds longer.
Indeed, exactly a few seconds later, his assumption was proven correct. Longbottom finally lost grip on his broomstick and plummeted to the earth like a stone, hitting the ground with a rather sickening crack and promptly bursting into tears.
Harry winced internally for him. He wasn’t sure what would be worse; breaking a bone, or crying in public.
“Broken wrist,” Madam Hooch declared upon the completion of her examination. “Come on dear, up you get.” She hauled a still teary-eyed Neville Longbottom to his feet, pausing in her exit only long enough to glare at the lot of them and deliver a final, resounding warning. “If any of you so much as think about your feet leaving the ground, you’ll be packed and on the train back to London faster than you can say Quidditch!”
Cynically, Harry considered that warning far too cliché to result in anything but complete chaos.
He was proven correct less than a minute later. Once Hooch and Longbottom were out of earshot, Malfoy burst into derisive laughter. “Did you see his face?” he asked Crabbe and Goyle, causing both of them to guffaw as stupidly as ever.
“Shut up, Malfoy!” snapped a pretty girl with long dark hair from Gryffindor. Patil, Parvati Patil was her name.
“Eww, I didn’t think you’d be the fat cry-baby type, Parvati!” Pansy mocked the other girl, causing her to blush bright red and quickly retreat.
Harry’s eyes narrowed. Though to most, a remark that seemed so childish in nature may have been viewed as such, Harry wasn’t quite sure that there had not been a lot more to that exchange than he had thought. The obvious bit was that Parkinson had used Patil’s first name, which Harry thought likely meant they knew each other in some way, though it clearly wasn’t overly positive. The other and more subtle subtext was Parkinson’s timing.
Right as Patil had cut down Malfoy, Parkinson had sliced her down with twice as much fervour. It may have been a step far for Malfoy to have a go at Patil, but for some reason, it just seemed more acceptable for Parkinson to do so. She had read, understood, and reacted to the situation faster than Harry could blink, and opened the door for Malfoy to continue his drama if he chose. Yet it also hadn’t closed his out if he still wished to take it.
Perhaps Harry had underestimated Pansy Parkinson.
In his seconds of pondering, Harry had missed Malfoy bending down to retrieve something. When he straightened up, he was grinning broadly, and Harry could see something transparent shining in his fist.
“Look at this!” Malfoy drawled with obvious disdain. “It seems that Longbottom, in his infinite grace, has somehow managed to lose his Remembrall.” Crabbe, Goyle, Parkinson and Bullstrode snickered, and Harry could see a smile playing on Theodore Nott’s lips.
“Give it here, Malfoy.”
The gathered crowd went completely silent as slowly but deliberately, Charlus Potter stepped forward, coming face to face with the slightly taller Malfoy Heir, hand outstretched.
Malfoy just pulled the ball lazily behind his back. “Give it to you, Potter? Why would I do such a thing?”
Charlus gritted his teeth, clearly doing his best to keep a handle on his temper. Harry could see already that it was an exercise in futility. His fingers twitched in anticipation, ready to summon his wand at a moment’s notice.
“Because it’s an antique family heirloom!” Charlus bit out through still gritted teeth. As he said this, several gears whirred in Harry’s mind, and his eyes sharpened as his mind debated the pros, cons, and potential methods for a quickly forming plan.
“Why Potter,” simpered Malfoy, “I wouldn’t dream of damaging something so prestigious. All I want to do is help Longbottom out a little bit. I’m sure he would improve on a broomstick if he had — proper motivation.”
“Give. It. Here!”
“Maybe if I were to..oh, I don’t know — put it in a tree?”
“I don’t think that would be in your best interest, Malfoy.”
Everybody turned in shock to the Slytherin side of the clearing, many sets of wide, surprised eyes falling upon the small, raven-haired boy who had spoken. Daphne elbowed him in the ribs, subtly indicating he was making a mistake. He knew as well as she did that it was an unwritten rule within Slytherin House that they were not to oppose one another in the open. Alas, rules, particularly unwritten ones, had their loopholes.
Malfoy shot Harry a look that was half calculating and half ‘what the hell do you think you’re doing’ before, slowly, carefully, he spoke. “And why, Competent Potter, would that be?” Harry saw Charlus flush red and though he did not want to admit it, he had to verbally give a point to Malfoy for the use of Snape’s method of differentiating the two twins.
“Come off it, Malfoy. We’ve all seen Longbottom’s, how did you put it — infinite grace? If you move the Remembrall, no matter your intentions… well, I think both of us can see how that would end. I doubt that Augusta Longbottom would be pleased if her family heirloom were to be damaged.”
Malfoy’s eyes narrowed and Harry was fairly certain that he knew there was more at play than what he was seeing, but Harry also knew that he realized he had been trapped. “Fine,” Malfoy said, shrugging his shoulders with the air of somebody who was not overly bothered. “I will take it upon myself and House Malfoy to assure that the heirloom in question is returned.”
“Not a chance, Malfoy,” Charlus cut in coldly, holding out his hand once more. “You’re no ally of house Longbottom, and you’ll probably lose the thing the first chance you get. I’ll take the Remembrall to Neville.”
Malfoy sneered. “If you really care about Longbottom’s Remembrall, Potter, you probably shouldn’t trust somebody with the mannerisms of a blasting curse to bring it to him,” Malfoy smirked. “Even if that person is you.”
“Give. It. Here!” Charlus demanded, and his voice grew in volume.
“No, I don’t think I-” but Malfoy was cut off as he was forced to throw himself to the side as pandemonium broke out.
Charlus’s wand had shot into his hand in the blink of an eye, and the boil hex he sent hurtling at Malfoy was only just dodged. Chaos ensued as Ron Weasley, Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas all drew their wands and took aim at Malfoy while Theodore Nott, Pansy Parkinson, and the two gorillas aimed at the Gryffindors.
Within moments, there was a four aside duel on the grounds. Well, sort ofCrabbe and Goyle were completely inept so they might as well have counted for a half each. Parkinson was surprisingly competent, and Nott was clearly the best in the field. Crabbe and Goyle didn’t last long before stumbling backwards under spell-fire, but Nott seemed perfectly capable of keeping Thomas and Finnigan on the defensive. And in short order, Weasley had cried out as he fell to Parkinson, rather nasty burns now covering his face. Pansy’s mocking laughter and the sound of spell-fire from Nott and the Gryffindors were cut off a moment later by a loud scream from Hermione Granger.
The class turned, including the duelling combatants and all froze as one, as Charlus Potter chased Draco Malfoy into the sky while the latter held what appeared to be the former’s wand in his hand.
‘Shouldn’t have got distracted by your friend’s problems, little brother,’ Harry thought as finally, he felt the small glass ball slam into his palm. Wandless summoning of the object had been much harder this time, as he had not actually been able to see where it was.
By the time he looked up to watch Malfoy and his brother, the skirmish was all but over. Malfoy hurled Charlus’s wand at the ground, causing the other boy to dive after it at terminal velocity and make what even Harry had to admit was an absolutely miraculous catch. Charlus’s ecstasy and Malfoy’s dismay lasted approximately three seconds.
‘Well, this day just got a lot more interesting.’
About an hour later, in the Hospital Wing…
Harry had found himself rather inspired by the duel he had witnessed earlier that day. After making a point of telling Daphne and Tracey where he was going, if admittedly not what he was doing, Harry slipped out of the Slytherin common room with the library in mind as a final destination.
The library may have been his final destination, but it was not his first.
As he entered the Hospital Wing, a place that was almost comically white in colour, Harry spotted a middle-aged woman whom he assumed to be the matron.
“Excuse me,” he asked politely, prompting her to turn around and look at him, “would it be at all possible to see Neville Longbottom? I don’t need long, I promise. He lost something during his fall, and I want to make sure he gets it back.” Harry smiled his most winning, most charming smile up at the woman whom he could just tell was rather stern.
He was quickly learning that, aside from magic, there really was not a whole lot that separated wizards and witches from muggles in many ways. This was one of them. For most people caught unaware in either the magical or mundane world, an innocent smile as disarming as the one that Harry had mastered was a fantastic way of getting what you wanted.
“Oh, of course, dear. He won’t be here much longer anyway, so I suppose there’s no harm.” Madam Pomfrey, as he had been told her name was by the woman herself moments later led Harry to a bed with drawn curtains. She told him that Neville was inside before bustling off in the other direction. Keeping his face blank but making sure his hands were empty and clearly displayed, Harry pushed aside the curtain and slid through.
“Good afternoon, Heir Longbottom.”
The boy in question, who was reading what appeared to be a book of some sort on magical plants flinched horribly upon hearing Harry’s voice. Harry suspected that had he been standing and able to jump, he may very well have put his head through the ceiling. When Longbottom’s eyes found him, he only paled further and when he spoke his voice came out in a hurried stammer.
Harry smiled that same, disarming smile, watching as Neville’s nerves visibly settled, if only a little bit. “Calm down, Longbottom,” Harry assured him easily. “I have no plans that involve me cursing you and it would be a shame if I was implicated in your sudden i death via panic-induced heart attack.”
Harry saw the corners of Longbottom’s lips twitch, but he still seemed too nervous to smile properly. “W-why did you come then?” Longbottom asked, still clearly wary of the first year Slytherin.
In response, Harry reached into the pocket of his robes and withdrew the small, glass Remembrall he had managed to summon to himself during the class. “I’ll be frank, Longbottom. I have absolutely no idea what a Remembrall is or what it does, but I heard that this one, in particular, is a rare family heirloom of yours, and thought it only right that it was returned to you.”
Neville looked shell shocked as slowly, with a visible pinch of hesitation, he reached out, seeming to believe it was some sort of trap until the last second when his hand closed protectively around the Remembrall and brought it back into his chest.
“Thank you,” Longbottom breathed out in little more than a whisper, seeming to be as surprised as he was relieved.
Harry shrugged casually. “No need to thank me for being a decent human being. I’m sure that some of your friends would have brought it to you if I hadn’t.”
Harry watched Longbottom deflate. It was a rather painful seed to plant in the boy’s head, especially as it struck far too close to home for Harry, but in the end, concessions had to be made.
“I don’t have any friends,” Neville said meekly, and Harry’s face promptly slid to an expression of moderately horrified skepticism.
“Come off it, Longbottom. I’m sure that you must be exaggerating?”
Neville just shook his head miserably. “No offence, Potter,” he said bitterly, “but if I had real friends, not just people who said they were my friends, I doubt it would be a Slytherin bringing me the Remembrall.”
Briefly, Harry wondered whether Charlus genuinely considered Longbottom a friend or whether he just wanted to stick it to Malfoy where it hurt. He did not ponder this for long, as he shoved the thought ruthlessly from his mind.
“Well,” Harry said softly, stepping closer and biting back his impulses in order to lay what he hoped was a comforting hand on the boy’s shoulder. “There are always better friends out there. You just have to know where to look.”
Some time later, in the Great Hall…
After he had spent a couple of hours in the library reading up on a variety of hexes and curses that he thought would be useful and mentally noting the ones he thought doable at his current level, Harry made his way into the Great Hall for a quick, late dinner. Upon arriving, he smiled, noticing that, as was now becoming customary, Daphne and Tracey had saved him a seat. His smile wavered a second later, however, when he noticed that both Daphne and Parkinson, who had apparently chosen to sit with the two girls over Malfoy were not looking at him. Even more of a red flag to Harry was Tracey, who was glancing rather nervously between the three of them.
He sat down and didn’t even bother reaching for utensils. Instead, he peered from Daphne, to Tracey, to Parkinson and had to try very hard to resist the urge to look past their eyes. In the case of Daphne and Tracey, he thought it likely quite immoral on his part to violate their minds and as for Parkinson, well… Harry had never quite figured out why he had been shoved so forcefully from Charlotte’s and Snape’s thoughts and he had not yet discounted the possibility that this ability of his only extended to muggles.
“Is somebody going to explain to me why the three of you are suddenly looking at me as if I’m a ticking time bomb that is going to go off at any moment?”
“A what?” asked Parkinson, baffled.
Harry pressed his hands to his temples and pulled a face. “Never mind… it’s a muggle thing, but that’s not important right now. Let me rephrase that. Are any of you going to tell me what has happened while I was in the library that you are so certain will draw a negative reaction from me?”
Tracey blushed and looked down. Daphne and Parkinson did not look at one another, though Harry could tell they were having an internal discussion of sorts and again, the thought to try and look past Parkinson’s eyes was so very tempting.
“Well,” Parkinson began, clearly having lost whatever battle she had partaken in with Daphne, “I hope, for your sake, you could have guessed that everyone was wondering what would happen to your brother?” Harry nodded. “Well, I have it on rather good authority — and keep your mouth shut about it, Potter, or I’ll have the whole of the seventh year against you in an instant, that your brother’s fate has been decided.”
“Ah,” said Harry, nodding along slowly, noting Parkinson’s threat as he realized why they thought he was going to explode, “he’s been expelled then?” he asked conversationally, trying to ponder all the ways this could complicate his position.
Parkinson exchanged a final look with Daphne before, in spite of herself, she smiled as she leant forwards. “No, actually, he’s been made the Gryffindor seeker.”
All of Harry’s pondering stopped in that one, exact instant as his mind simply blanked, failing to register what Parkinson had just said. For the first time in public since his arrival at Hogwarts, Harry’s mask cracked. His jaw hung slack for several, long seconds as his eyes practically bulged out of his head.
“I think I broke him,” Pansy said jovially with a giggle, seeming remarkably unbothered.
Harry took several long seconds to process this before he slammed his head against the table, hard, pressing his hands hard into his temples for reasons that had nothing to do with a headache.
“So you mean to tell me,” he hissed to the three of them in a low, dangerous voice, “that Charlus Potter, the famed Boy-Who-Lived broke… I don’t even know how many school rules, defied direct orders from a teacher, was caught in the act and was REWARDED by being given the one thing he probably wanted above anything else?” The three girls nodded cautiously, and Harry slammed his head against the table again, ignoring Daphne’s reprimand, which was made half for his decorum, half for his health.
“What the fuck is wrong with this school?” he asked nobody in particular. “What kind of school lets somebody get away with that just because they’re famous?” He pressed his hands to his temples once more. “Why do I even bother?” He rounded on Parkinson. “And let me guess? You, Nott, Crabbe and Goyle have detention while the defenceless Gryffindors only lost points?”
“Close,” Parkinson admitted moodily. “Crabbe and Goyle lost ten points each; same with the lions, and Theodore and I have detention with McGonagall this Saturday.”
“GAH!” Harry exclaimed, pressing so hard on his temples he was sure he would compress his own skull. “What. The. Fuck is wrong with this school?”
He didn’t really care that the rather colourful language he was employing was not standard for an eleven-year-old. Vernon Dursley had been a rather crass individual and Harry had heard plenty of his rants growing up. So what if he had taken after some of his more colourful language in a rather rare situation that he never thought he would find himself in?
Suddenly not in the mood for food anymore, Harry swept to his feet and made to leave the hall. He was swiftly followed closely by Daphne and Tracey, who were both probably concerned for his sanity, and Parkinson, who, if he was going to do anything stupid, probably wanted to be there to see it. As he was walking past the red and gold table, he heard a familiar, drawling voice ring out through the hall.
“I could take you any day on my own just fine, Potter.”
Harry should not turn, he knew he should not turn, but despite himself, he stopped and turned, subconsciously drifting closer to the place where Draco Malfoy was arguing with his brother.
“I hear a lot of talk and don’t see a lot of action, Malfoy!” sniped back Charlus.
Malfoy sneered. “Fine then, Potter, have it your way. Tonight, me and you in the trophy room; a wizard’s duel. If, of course, you’re wizard enough for it.”
“Of course he is!” Ron Weasley spat furiously. “He could trounce you any day, Malfoy. I’m his second! Who’s yours?”
For a second, Malfoy pondered the thought as he glanced from Crabbe to Goyle, and then, coincidentally, his eyes fell on Harry.
“Competent Potter,” he answered in the most superior, most ridiculously victorious voice Harry could imagine.
‘You have got to be kidding me! This day will never end!’
Charlus sneered at Harry in obvious dislike. “My brother might be a git, just like the rest of you idiots in Slytherin, but he won’t second you in a duel against his own brother.” Charlus turned to Harry, scowling in a very Uncle Vernon like way as he asked, “Will you?” with as much bitterness and resentment as he could muster.
On one hand, Harry could not outright deny Malfoy’s plea for help, even though he knew full well Malfoy: A, was using Harry in order to trap him in a terrible position, paying Harry back in a sense for how he had done the same to him earlier; and B, even knowing that Malfoy had absolutely no intentions of showing up to that duel. If he turned Malfoy down, he was showing not only an obvious break in house unity, but he was doing so to the benefit of a Gryffindor, and the Boy-Who-Lived to boot, family or not. To do so would be akin to high treason and political suicide. At best, he would be an outcast, at worst… well, he would quickly find out uses of the worst curses that were not strictly illegal
On the other hand, Harry could hardly second Malfoy against his own brother. Not only would it shatter any bit of obligatory cordiality Harry and Charlus still shared, but it would absolutely set his brother, and possibly even his father against him.
‘Think, Potter, think.’
There was no way out of this one. House or blood? Friends or family?
Harry glared at Charlus. “I won’t second my housemate against the git of a brother who turned on me the moment I was sorted? The brother who has turned his entire house since the sorting? The brother that has everything handed to him by everybody because they all think, just like he does, that he’s so special?” Harry did his best to imitate Malfoy’s sneer. “Whatever gives you that impression, little brother?”
Charlus’s jaw fell open as his face flushed scarlet. “You bloody wanker!” Weasley bellowed at Harry, but he didn’t even react, he just kept his face blank.
Now, for stage two.
“Come off it, Weasley. I wouldn’t call anybody anything when you’re the idiot of a pureblood who doesn’t even know his rights within a wizard’s duel.”
All of a sudden, Malfoy’s expression went from positively smug and jovial to mildly concerned. Harry saw him shake his head forcefully in his peripheral vision, but he pretended not to notice.
“Shut up, snake!” spat Ron. “I know more about magic and duelling than you do!”
“Do you, Weasley?” Harry drawled in the most condescending tone he could muster. “if that’s true, why have you not specified the time and place of the duel? You’re the challenged party, it‘s your right?”
The only reason Harry knew this at all was because it was in his book on the Wizengamot and its politics. Apparently, honour duels used to be fairly common, so the book detailed their rules quite thoroughly.
Harry heard Malfoy curse behind him and froze, a look of mock horror on his face as he shot an exaggerated look of guilt and terror towards Malfoy. “Oh, oops; I wasn’t supposed to tell him that, was I?”
As Malfoy shot him a withering glare that promised the most hellacious retribution the world could offer, Harry merely shot him a very brief, but very pleasant smile, and the other boy did not miss the mischief in his eyes.
Later that night, in the Trophy Room…
With Harry’s intervention, the duel between Charlus and Malfoy was set to take place at 9:00 that evening in the Trophy Room. This would put the duel an hour before curfew, making the benefit for Malfoy to no show negligible at best. After a cold, quiet walk where Harry nor Malfoy said a word to one another, the two of them stepped into the Trophy Room, where Ron and Charlus were already waiting for them.
Idly, Harry thought that if Malfoy brought half the anger he clearly harboured towards him into this duel, he might just do what the Dark Lady failed to accomplish almost a decade earlier.
Malfoy had said nothing, but the withering, vengeful glares he had shot Harry all evening had been indicative enough of what the blond Slytherin thought of his raven-haired counterpart. All in all, Harry had to congratulate himself on a job well done. Now, there was only one more step to his plan.
It was a risk to piss off Malfoy as much as he was right now, but Harry thought it worth it. Though Malfoy technically had not done anything to Harry, that only made it the perfect time to strike while his enemy was least expecting it. If he could get Malfoy caught out of bounds duelling the Boy-Who-Lived in his second week of Hogwarts, preferably a bit worse for wear as well, he would shred the blond’s credibility and political standing in Slytherin, even in spite of his name.
There was also the fact that the blond was just generally a git.
“Oh wow, you actually showed up,” Charlus commented with mock surprise, looking for all the world as if Christmas had come early. Malfoy’s jaw was set. To a casual observer, he looked confident, if a bit miffed. To Harry, he looked twitchy, uncertain and very much like a person who was completely and totally surrounded.
Still, Harry had to give credit where credit was due. Even now, easily the most flustered Harry had ever seen him, Malfoy managed his typical sneer with trademarked perfection. “I’m not afraid of you, Potter,” he drawled, shooting a look over his shoulder to Harry that clearly said “either of you”
“Can we get this started already?” Charlus asked, his wand snapping into his hand as he smiled predatorily at Malfoy.
Harry almost facepalmed. The idiot hadn’t even had his wand ready!
In response, Malfoy’s wand flew from his sleeve and he lunged forward, sending a rather painful variant of a boil hex straight towards Charlus’s face. Charlus simply rolled to the side, coming perfectly up to his feet with his wand outstretched, returning fire with a leg locker curse. Harry had to admit, for all of his Brother’s flaws, he was clearly good at this, and Harry had a distinct impression that this duel would likely not last long.
He just needed a few minutes.
“Tarantallegra!” Malfoy returned fire, causing Charlus to leap to the side. Unfortunately for Charlus and a lot more fortunately for both Harry and Malfoy, if admittedly for very different reasons, Charlus managed to slam into an ancient-looking plaque in the process. The collision off-put his balance and sent the plaque in question to the floor with a resounding CRASH!
More fortunately for Charlus, he appeared, if perhaps only in battle, a quick thinker.
The trinket in question, as well as those in the surrounding area, flew into the air before pelting themselves towards Malfoy, who dove to the side in a panic. Quickly, Malfoy found himself buried under a number of trophies, and suddenly, Harry heard what the others did not, as they were too focused on their own battles.
Quick, distant footsteps, getting closer by the second.
Without drawing his wand, Harry focused on one of the trophies behind Charlus and with a loud CLANG, it slammed hard into the boy’s collarbone, sending him stumbling forwards and breaking his concentration.
Ron drew his wand and aimed it at Harry, but he merely held up his still empty hands. In the second’s pause, however, it seemed that Charlus and Ron had caught on to the oncoming footsteps.
“Let’s split!” Charlus cried in a panic, regaining his footing and making for the door on the opposite side of the room. Harry cursed, wandlessly hurling several trophies into his path. He found himself tiring fast. It was extremely difficult to do this kind of magic without a wand and he could barely maintain control of the paths of the objects he was sending in the boy’s path, let alone keep doing so. To the boy’s credit, there was not so much as a pause in his charge towards the door. Harry allowed Ron to follow after him on the pretence of helping Malfoy, and, as quietly as he could, took aim at their backs and whispered a single incantation twice.
Ron Weasley went rigid as a board as Harry went leaping over him. Regrettably, the spell meant for his Brother had missed, and he could no longer curse him without it being obvious. Instead, he simply marvelled at the general, if not complete success of his plan as he vaguely heard a snide voice ring out from the room that was now left far behind him.
Severus Snape’s eyes sharpened as he stared down at the youngest Weasley, who was completely and utterly bound. He would have likely smirked in satisfaction had one of his snakes not too been left laying in this room, face down and appearing to be unconscious, a large, distinct lump forming upon his skull.
Snape knew all too well that there was far more at play here than what lay in front of him, but he could hardly prove it. Draco would not have wasted his time on a Weasley, but perhaps, a close acquaintance. Snape could have cursed aloud at the missed opportunity that had been the probable incrimination of Charlus Potter, but he did not. As a matter of fact, his face stayed completely impassive, even as he thought he was piecing the situation together rather well.
If Draco had come to duel Potter, and evidently Weasley had shown as well, they must have agreed on seconds. Draco had trusted the wrong second, as whoever it had been, they had seemingly fled at the first sign of danger at the latest. Snape wondered whom he had used. He would have assumed Nott, or perhaps if Draco was more inept than Snape thought him, Crabbe or Goyle. Now, he knew that Draco had elected for none of those options. None of those three would have likely dared betray him.
Who would Draco bring to a duel with the Boy-Who-Lived that might betray him?
A seemingly impossible, but oh so plausible thought crossed Severus Snape’s mind and though Weasley mercifully did not see it from his spot on the floor, his eyes actually did widen, if only for a second. Somebody whom Malfoy would have brought to spite the Potter brat, who also would have had motivations to leave that letter underneath his office door. Somebody who clearly wasn’t on great terms with either side.
Snape just shook his head, hardly daring to believe the thought that, a month ago, would have been akin to the implosion of reality in terms of likelihood in his own mind.
It appeared to Severus Snape as though his own preconceptions have betrayed him.
Later, in the Gryffindor dorms…
It was a long time before a pale, exhausted, shocked and shaky Charlus Potter was able to muster up the brainpower or the courage to pen out the letter that now sat completed in front of him. He stared down at it, hardly believing the contents himself. As he read it over one final time, he felt an odd tremor run up his spine.
He very much doubted that his nightmares were pertain to the death of his mother tonight.
I know I should have never been there and how I got there really isn’t important, but I stumbled into that corridor I told you about today while running from Filch, or Snape, or someone — I’m not really sure who.
Anyway, what the hell is going on?
What the hell is Professor Dumbledore playing at keeping that three-headed-dog in the school, and what is he hiding under that trap door? I know you talk a lot with him, and I promise, I won’t tell anyone, but I’m seriously freaking out right now and feel like my head is going to explode!
I mean, even I can tell that this seems like a terrible idea!
Write back soon,
Next, the inevitable backlash of a hastily constructed plan that did not quite go off without a hitch, and an impromptu lesson in the intricacies of magic from our favourite Defence Against the Dark Arts professor.
Please read and review.
This chapter was revised on September 22nd, 2020 with the help of Discord editors Asmodeus Stahl and rawmeat898.
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