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
September 7, 1993
The Staff Room
John Dawlish was completely mad. That was the conclusion Charlus came to as he watched the man beckon the first student forward for them to face the boggart. Boggarts were not to be taken lightly. His father had told him that long ago. They had been known to cause mental breakdowns or even fatal heart attacks. Having students face them at all was ambitious. Having students face them with their peers watching seemed like complete and total madness.
Though perhaps Charlus was just biased. It was all well and good for people like Ron. His boggart would surely be a spider. There was no real harm in people seeing that. It was a bit embarrassing, Charlus supposed, but it was a commonly innocuous fear that nobody would bat an eye at. Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil would probably have fears of similar variety.
It was different for people like him. His fear wasn’t going to be something like a spider. Charlus knew what it would be without much thought. Those long, rasping breaths seemed to echo inside his skull as an involuntary shiver ran up his spine. Just the thought of a dementor unnerved him and made Charlus feel cold. The appearance of one would do far more, and that was what Charlus dreaded above anything else. The crippling cold, the oppressive despair, and the horrible screaming that could only belong to one woman.
Charlus heard a ragged sound from nearby and glanced to his left. It was Neville Longbottom. He was taking swift, shallow breaths and visibly trembling as he looked anywhere but at the wardrobe or the students nearest to it.
Charlus hadn’t even considered Neville. If anyone might have a fear worse than a dementor, it was him. What with his parents tortured into insanity by Rudolphus and Rabastan Lestrange. That must have played its own games on Neville’s mind and Charlus couldn’t help but wonder in what horrible way that particular fear would manifest.
Lockhart would never have done this. The man had done many things, but never would he have set them this task in front of their peers. Not after seeing so many horrible things for himself and understanding the effects they had.
But John Dawlish was not Gilderoy Lockhart.
He was an excellent auror by all accounts. Well respected for his work in the field and without any major blunders. His reputation was strong and his father had often said that Dawlish had quickly gained the favour of the Minister for Magic himself.
Yet that was not all James Potter had said about John Dawlish.
James had once called him the second most Slytherin auror James had ever seen, second behind only Rufus Scrimgeour.
“More in some ways,” his father had said. “Scrimgeour is more cunning and probably more ambitious. He’s subtler and more dangerous, but Dawlish is slimy. He plays both sides better than almost anyone.”
“What do you mean play both sides?” Charlus could remember asking.
“There were rumours back in the day,” his father had replied. “Rumours that he would take up arms with Voldemort.”
Charlus had gasped then, for he had been much younger the first time his father had told him the story. “Really?”
“Afraid so. Dawlish had exceptional grades graduating from Hogwarts. Some of the best the school had seen in years. He was no prodigy in any subject; just diligent enough and a hard enough worker to excel at everything. That alone is dangerous in its own way.”
“Is that why she wanted him?”
James had shrugged. “I’m sure it didn’t hurt but to tell you the truth, I think she wanted just about anyone she could get at that point.”
“But he didn’t join her?”
“Not that we know of. He hung around with a crowd at school that was made up mostly of future Death Eaters, but I’ve seen Dawlish’s bare arm and there’s no Dark Mark. Dawlish also isn’t an old family. I’d never heard it before John became an auror.”
“Is he muggleborn?”
“I have no idea. I’ve never asked him; we’re not friends.”
“You don’t like him?”
“Not really, no. I don’t like anything I’ve told you about him and the group he hung around with at Hogwarts was made up of people I despise.”
“Did he go to Hogwarts at the same time as you?”
His father snorted. “Merlin, no. Dawlish went to Hogwarts years and years before I did. He was already a high-ranking auror by the time the Purity War broke out.”
“But there were still rumours about him joining her?”
“There were, yes. He never stopped hanging around with that crowd and like I’ve told you, he plays both sides. He’ll say one thing to a certain audience and another to a different one. Moody’s always said he could have been minister had he been from a more well-known family and had he not become an auror instead.”
“So he never joined her?”
“Not that we know of. It wouldn’t exactly make sense for him to join a pureblood movement when his family wouldn’t benefit from it all that much even if he is a pureblood, but what do I know? Maybe he did. His friends certainly tried.”
The fact Dawlish had at least allegedly considered joining Voldemort hadn’t seemed to bother his father as much as Charlus would have thought at the time. It wasn’t until he grew much older that he understood why. Voldemort had sympathizers all over the country, both in and out of the Ministry of Magic. Just one more on that list was a blip on his father’s radar, though Charlus wondered what he thought of the man’s appointment as the professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts. That was a letter Charlus really ought to write sooner rather than later. He had scarcely written a word to anyone outside of the castle yet and he realized now that he should have; for this if for no other reason.
The line between Charlus and the ever-shifting boggart was thinning fast. Dean, Seamus, Eloise, Lavender, and Parvati had already fought the boggart and Hermione swiftly became the next to fend it off. When Ron stepped forward, the boggart seemed to hesitate. Charlus wondered why. Ron’s fear was obvious… or so he thought.
It turned out that there was something Ron feared more deeply than spiders. Charlus’s jaw hung ajar for a moment as he studied what the boggart had become. It took him a moment to realize its significance, but when he did, his eyes widened.
The boggart had become Ron, but he was different. His eyes were glazed over and he moved slowly and with stiff, robotic motions. There were strings around him that seemed to come from nowhere. That was the part that had confused Charlus until he realized what they symbolized.
Ron feared being the puppet of another. It was a fair fear after the Imperius Curse fiasco this past summer. Charlus might even have feared it after whatever the hell had happened with Harry and that damned Dark Arts book, but he had met scarier things. Ron had not and for him, it made perfect sense. That bewitchment had done its best to ruin his life; Charlus could understand quite easily why he feared it so deeply.
Ron stared down the boggart with steadfast determination. His stance was unwavering as he raised his wand and shouted the incantation. Bluish light filled the room in a blinding flash before clearing. For a moment, Charlus thought Ron had failed. There were no obvious differences from a first glance other than the missing strings, but then he saw it.
The glazed look in Ron’s eyes was gone, replaced by a powerful twinkle not unlike the one Dumbledore was so famous for. Ron was taller, too, with straighter posture and an air of confidence all around him.
“Next!” called Dawlish.
Charlus startled and looked around. It was either him or Neville. The Longbottom heir looked sick, but he moved forward before Charlus could. His skin was paler than the ghosts and he was shaking so violently that Charlus feared he might well drop his wand.
The boggart didn’t take nearly as long for Neville. It morphed not into any monster, nor even the infamous Lestrange brothers. It instead took the form of two sleeping adults who were beginning to stir. Charlus felt the air forced from his lungs. They were bone-thin and the girl’s red hair was like straw now. These could be nobody but Neville’s parents. Charlus wondered why he feared them — it was something of common knowledge that he saw them every Yule with his grandmother — but then they opened their eyes and the Boy-Who-Lived understood.
There was no vacancy there, no confusion. The emotion in their eyes was powerful and certain, but it was one that would have broken Charlus had he been in Neville’s place. Hell, it was one that had almost broken Charlus even though he wasn’t.
Charlus could only imagine the pain of seeing it in the eyes of parents he had never truly met. He’d had countless nightmares about it himself. Horrible visions of his mother venting her frustrations with his idiocy and how horrible a son Charlus was. How Harry was better, had always been better, and would be the one who lived up to her expectations.
Perhaps those dreams were what compelled Charlus to step forward. Neville was raising his wand, but he seemed incapable of speech. Charlus knew in his heart the boy would fail; there was no need for his pain to stretch on any longer.
Charlus regretted his stupid Gryffindor courage seconds later.
He had been ill-prepared to face his own boggart. His time had been spent pondering Dawlish and the fears of his friends. How was he supposed to make a dementor look amusing? How was he supposed to do that without coming up with an amusing image beforehand? And how in the hell was he supposed to do anything against that damn cold?!
It slammed into him with such force that Charlus staggered. Or perhaps that was because the horrible, high scream had torn through his head so violently the room had begun spinning. Charlus clutched at his head with one hand while raising his wand with the other, but the dementor was surging forward and Charlus felt his wand slipping through nerveless fingers as the monster closed in and the screaming grew louder and louder…
And then there was nothing.
Some time later, in the hospital wing…
Charlus awoke shivering and drenched in a cold sweat. The white blankets clung to him like a child’s swaddling clothes. There was still that overwhelming sense of cold, though it was lesser now. It also didn’t help that he couldn’t tell where he was. His glasses were absent from their perch upon his nose and his vision was blurred. He could see outlines more than objects and it wasn’t until he heard the nearby voice that he realized where he was.
“Ah, you’re awake.”
It was the matron, Madam Pomfrey. Charlus heard her bustling about for a moment before his glasses were pressed into his hands and he put them on. Not too much time seemed to have passed. There was still natural light outside so he could not have been asleep for more than a few hours at most.
“Hardly half an hour,” said the matron. “You were levitated down here and woke up within twenty or so minutes. No long-term injuries, as I’m sure you remember.”
“The dementor,” Charlus muttered.
Madam Pomfrey sniffed. “The boggart. What that man was thinking by having children fight them…” she let her voice trail off and Charlus suspected that was for the best. “Let me fetch you some chocolate,” she said. “It will help.”
Charlus watched her move away just as a burning heat sprang into being deep in his stomach. It made him cringe as it spread outwards until he felt something akin to heartburn.
It was infuriating!
He had beaten Voldemort! He had helped retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone! He had even made it out of the Chamber of Secrets alive — if admittedly unconscious. How could one do all of that yet be so powerless any time a dementor floated by? There were very few things Charlus could think of that would have bothered him more and the worst part of it was, he had no idea how to fight them. Fire had been his first instinct, but that didn’t seem to work. He was flummoxed.
Or… was he?
“There’s only one charm that can do it, as far as we know. It’s called the Patronus Charm, but it’s post-N.E.W.T level magic. I only know a few aurors who can cast it reliably.”
The Patronus Charm…
Charlus searched his memory for any other mentions of the spell, but there were none. He wished he had Harry’s allegedly eidetic memory right about now, but he doubted it would have mattered. He somehow didn’t think his father had ever mentioned it outside of that one time.
A spell designed to fight dementors sounded exactly the kind of magic that Charlus needed to master.
Yet… post N.E.W.T level magic and only a few aurors employed by the Ministry of Magic could cast it.
That was going to be very difficult for a thirteen-year-old boy to get the hang of.
Charlus shook himself. There was no use wallowing in self doubt. He was the Boy-Who-Lived and had come out on top against some form of Voldemort twice, plus survived the Chamber of Secrets last June. There was no reason he couldn’t master some fancy charm.
His face set in a hard line. Now, it would just be a matter of finding instructions for the spell somewhere.
September 9, 1993
The Arithmancy Classroom
Harry had mostly enjoyed his three electives thus far. They were at one point supposed to have selected them last April, but that had been pushed back to the summer due to everything surrounding the Chamber of Secrets. Not that it changed Harry’s plans. He had been looking into Arithmancy for quite some time and Ancient Runes for almost as long. Care of Magical Creatures sounded more interesting than Divination or Muggle Studies, so he had taken that as well.
The only down so far had been the latter class. It was interesting in its own way, but Hagrid was unfit to teach it. He was plenty knowledgeable, he was just negligent and had no gift for teaching. He didn’t teach; he threw the students in front of creatures and told them to fend for themselves. In kinder words and with more stalling, but that was what it amounted to in the end.
His other two classes had gone much more favourably. Ancient Runes were extremely versatile and just as useful. Harry had been bored so far because he had already learned the first several runic languages, but Professor Babbling had given him some interesting thought experiments to pass the time. Arithmancy was perhaps the only class in the school in which muggleborns actually had the advantage, so Harry partnered up with a number of students from other houses to pursue more practical work. Runes and Arithmancy were notoriously difficult for most, so the class sizes were small. It was the only class where all four houses studied together. Harry’s only real competition in either was Granger, who seemed to be a bit ahead of Harry in Arithmancy. He seemed miles ahead of her in Runes, but she actually seemed more adept at the mathematical components of Arithmancy than Harry. It was vexing, but Harry was spending more time working on Transfiguration, Charms, and duelling — there was very little left to try and beat Granger out of pure spite.
The class today had been a quiz that Harry and the others he had grouped up with had completed with relative ease.
“Here,” said Harry when the class neared its end. “I’ll take everyone’s tests up to Vector, if you guys want?”
Granger stood at once to bring her own test up. Harry had not missed the scowl before she stood. She had not forgotten his Legilimency attack at the end of first year, evidently, or the Polyjuice fiasco in the Slytherin common room last December.
The others were more agreeable and Harry gathered all the quizzes and made his way up to the front of the class. He passed by Daphne on the way to the teacher’s desk and their hands brushed together. Harry felt the small bit of parchment leave his fingers and heard the nearly imperceptible rustle as Daphne tucked it away. It was a mark of how practiced she was that she never once broke stride nor even did she look at him from the corner of her eye.
“When did you leave the common room?” Ares asked as she stepped into the abandoned classroom. She had left exceptionally early due to not knowing exactly how to get here, and still, she was the later of the two to arrive.
“Some time after you did,” Emily Riddle said with a small smirk.
“Then how did you get here so fast?”
Riddle’s smirk widened. “Nobody dead or alive knows this castle as well as I do,” she boasted.
“That seems bold to say.”
“I would have thought you of all people would know not to doubt me.”
“Most of the things that would make me feel that way are things I don’t remember,” Ares pointed out. “If I remembered them, I’d probably have been here sooner.”
“I suppose you might have, yes. My apologies; I would restore those memories if I could.”
“Could you not?”
“Not in a way you would like, no.”
“In a way that I would like?” Ares said with an arched brow.
“I could do it via Legilimency. Either by breaking the blockages or by transferring my memories to you, but neither would be pleasant or worthwhile.”
Ares shuddered. “I’ve never liked the idea of Legilimency.”
“Which is why you’re an occlumens, I presume?”
Ares nodded. “You improved my Occlumency last year.” It was more a statement than a question.
“Did I?” asked Emily.
“It’s better. I can clear my mind faster and I feel more in control.”
“That’s actually unexpected, but I’m glad to hear it. I was certainly using it more than you do and to a higher level. I hadn’t thought you would maintain any of the intuitive knowledge. That’s an interesting occurrence, actually. I doubt anyone has ever tested anything quite like it.”
“Did you use any Legilimency last year?”
“Is that a no, then?”
“You wouldn’t have retained any of it. I’m quite certain of that. The only times I used Legilimency was by using extensions of my natural ability. All of it was through eye contact and is leaps and bounds ahead of where you would be even with a year or two of practice.”
“I always wished for some kind of affinity,” Ares admitted. “The Blacks are such an old family, yet I’m stuck with nothing.”
“You’re quite good at Transfiguration.”
Ares snorted. “What a talent when compared to natural Legilimency, Metamorphmagery, and whatever else there is out there.”
“You are something of a natural occlumens. Not truly, but the affinity is there.”
“But if anyone should have some kind of ability, wouldn’t you think it would be the Blacks? One of the oldest families in the country. A family that tons of generational witches and wizards have come from.”
“A family that has inbred itself half to death,” Riddle said bluntly.
Ares’s cheeks flushed, but she didn’t rise to the challenge. It was difficult to defend her family after what they had done. “What do you want?” she asked Riddle.
Emily raised an eyebrow. “Is wanting to speak to the only person I am at least somewhat fond of a crime?”
“No,” said Ares, “just hard to believe.”
Riddle cocked her head to the side. “Fresh starts, Ares, remember?”
Ares fought the blush that rose to her cheeks. “You did obliterate the entire common room that first night.”
“I suppose I did. What of it?”
“It seems like you have plenty going on. You seem a bit busy for simple catching up sessions.”
“Who said anything about a simple catching up session?”
“You just said—”
“That I wanted to catch up with you, yes. That doesn’t mean it’s the only reason I wanted to speak with you, nor that it will be at all simple.”
“So you do want something?”
Riddle’s eyes gleamed. “I always want something, Ares. The ambitious always crave more.”
“What is it you want tonight?” Ares asked with narrowed eyes.
“I do want to check in first. How have you been?”
It was so odd hearing concern in Riddle’s voice. There was every chance that none of it was genuine, but Ares somehow didn’t think so. She would not operate under the assumption, but she thought Riddle really did care in a strange, roundabout way. Perhaps that was what happened when spending months and months inside someone else’s head. It surely inspired a link greater than most. Ares thought she understood Riddle better than most people, at the very least. Though that really wasn’t saying much. She doubted most people knew a thing about Emily Riddle — or Emily Nigma as the vast majority of them knew her as.
“I’m… fine, I suppose. Relieved to be away from Mother and Father.”
“You’re quieter than I had even expected.”
Ares blinked. “Pardon?”
“I don’t think I’ve seen you speak with a student the entire time we’ve been back here, and I’ve been watching closely.”
Ares narrowed her eyes. “Part of that is your fault.”
Riddle dipped her head. “I suppose it is. I did keep you quite isolated last year. Apologies for that as well.”
“It’s… fine. I’m not exactly a people person anyway.”
Somehow, that answer appeared to displease Riddle judging by the way her lips seemed to thin. “It has little to do with being a ‘people person’. I care naught for people, but they have their uses. You’re the Black heiress.”
“Only by a technicality.”
Ares sighed. “The Blacks aren’t exactly huge fans of matriarchs. The only reason my mother is allowed to rule the family is because of an extinction clause in our charter that activates in cases that pose the family risk.”
“So,” said Riddle, “you’re the heiress until you bear children, at which point you’re nothing more than the regent if your mother is still alive?”
Ares nodded. “And if I don’t bear children, that’s probably it for the family. I’m not allowed to assign assets in a will or anything of the sort. Neither is Mother. Only true lords or heirs can do that with family titles and assets.”
“Regardless,” said Riddle, “you are the Black heiress in every way that matters.”
“What of it?” asked Ares.
“To see the Black heiress as a loner is ridiculous. You could cultivate alliances with anyone you wished based on your position.”
“I don’t want—”
“Liar.” Ares flinched. “I’ve been inside your head and very few people can lie to me. Consider not wasting your time by trying.” She waited to see if Ares would interrupt, but the Black heiress held her tongue. “Good, you learn fast. You want friends. That’s clear to see. You want to be friends with Potter at the very least.”
“Do you really think he would accept me as a friend after you made me betray him?”
Emily Riddle shrugged. “I explained the basic compulsion theory to him down in the Chamber of Secrets. He is more likely to forgive you than most.”
“Based on how hard he punched his brother last June, he doesn’t seem like the forgiving type.”
“Rest assured that if he struck you, I would make sure he never had the capability to do so again.”
There was something cold in Riddle’s voice. Ares had never heard it before, but it made her shiver. There were times when she wondered how, in another time, this girl had grown up to become Lady Voldemort. There were other times, like now, when she had no trouble at all imaging her as a would-be empress lording over much of Magical Britain.
“You want me to try and befriend him again, don’t you?” Ares asked quietly.
“Yes,” Riddle said bluntly. “You owe yourself that much and I think he will surprise you. Don’t expect to be welcomed into his little posse with open arms, but I doubt he’ll shun you. He can keep as cold of a mask as he wants, but he doesn’t fool me. Potter doesn’t seem the type to turn you away without at least giving you a chance.” She hesitated. “Not in your circumstances, anyway.”
“Just Potter,” Ares asked, “or are you going to try and get me to make more friends to help you in whatever you’re scheming?”
Emily actually chuckled. “Ares, dear, I’m doing this for your own good. I’d like for you to be as powerful and as happy as you can be and I think allies will help that.” Riddle met her eye then, and there was something manic about her stare. “You boasted of your family’s prestige, but consider how they earned it. It wasn’t by being a loner on the edge of conflicts and common rooms. Consider that. As for my schemes,” she went on, “I doubt any little friends you collect could help him much.” She smirked.
“You also don’t seem to need the help,”
“I don’t need it, but that hardly means I would be opposed. I could seize control of the house whenever I like. Rosier, Selwyn, whoever else is jostling for the position, they’re all just children crawling at my feet and being general annoyances like those snivelling brats from the orphanage. I could put them in their crib and enjoy the silence whenever I’d like, but one of them would eventually escape and cause a racket again. I could quiet it, but it would be so much needless work. There’s a reason the orphanage had plenty of hands.”
“You want someone with political ties to form friends and help you keep the position without people trying to take it from you,” Ares put together.
Emily’s lips curved upwards. “You are sharp for your age. I’m grateful for that.”
Ares bit her lip. “Why exactly would I help you?” she asked. “Everything you’ve done for me over the summer is just making up for last year, is it not?”
“It is,” Riddle admitted, “but I’m sure the two of us could come to some sort of agreement that would benefit you as much as I.”
September 10, 1993
The Headmaster’s Office
Emily had not often been summoned to the headmaster’s office in her own time. Dippett had doted on her as though she was his own daughter. For all she had done, Emily had no doubt she could have gotten away with far more. Some would view that as arrogant, but Emily viewed it as realistic. She had gotten the old imbecile to believe that Rubeus Hagrid, of all people, was the Heir of Slytherin. Her confidence was quite high.
That had been the last time she was in this office. Framing Hagrid to ensure the castle stayed open. Well, she was sure her other self had been here after that, but the memory of framing Hagrid was one of her last. After that came the ritual and then… nothing. Nothing for fifty long years, not until Ares Black had first written in the horcrux diary.
This time in the office felt much like the last, but worse. She had been nervous for that meeting, but she had at least gone in with a plan and as the instigator. Emily had always been an offensive player. She believed that the best defence was to blitz one’s opposition with such brutal force that they were crippled before they could ever attack.
This was different. Emily had been summoned for reasons she could only guess at. She now found herself sitting across from a man who had duelled her last June, a man who had opposed her in the Chamber of Secrets, and a man who had been all too happy to sell her to the Department of Mysteries. She wondered whether he had gotten anything in return for that. He could have just as easily killed her; it was what she would have done in his place. There had to be a reason for him sparing her. Regardless of what it was, she planned to use it.
“How has your first week and a half back at school treated you?” Lockhart asked her after taking a sip of what looked to be a dark, rich wine.
“It’s treated me well, Headmaster,” she replied. “I enjoy Hogwarts and it’s nice to really be back.”
“It must be different than the castle you left behind.”
“It is. My friends are long gone and I’ve been left quite alone. I’ll miss them, but the peace has been nice.”
“Peace and quiet are quite nice for people who want to be productive, yes,” Lockhart agreed. “I hope you’ve made the most of them.”
This was almost painful. Emily had done her homework on Lockhart. A hero to most, he had been a Ravenclaw at Hogwarts who arguably could have been a Gryffindor. It showed now. His probes were sloppy at best, blatantly obvious at worst. He hoped she was productive? Bollocks. He hoped she was overconfident enough to say exactly how productive he thought she had been. The truth was that she had really just been using the library to try and catch up on the fifty years of history she had missed, but it was easier to let him be wary than to tell him the truth.
“I don’t think you do, Headmaster,” she said at last. “You don’t like me very much.”
Lockhart looked like his last sip of wine had been somehow spoiled. “I neither like nor dislike you,” he said.
“You just don’t trust me,” said Riddle, “which is perfectly reasonable given your position.”
“You seem well-informed.”
“It’s hardly a deductive leap. It’s more like a few baby steps across a bridge made from common sense.”
“Slytherins,” Lockhart sighed. “You’re impossible to deal with, the lot of you.”
“Ask your friends at the Department of Mysteries how hard I am to deal with. I think they’ll tell you I was quite cooperative.”
Lockhart’s eyes narrowed as he leant forward. “And what price did your cooperation come at, Miss Riddle?”
Meanwhile, in the Speaker’s Den…
Harry had been meaning to organize this meeting for ages. Originally, he had wanted it to happen in Diagon Alley late in the summer. It would be the ideal time. Blaise would still be out of the country and all of his friends would be in one place — a rarity whilst outside the castle. That had fallen through when his father insisted on a meeting to warn him about Sirius Black and the true threat the animagus posed.
Then, Harry had wanted to do it at the end of last week, but again, his plans had been interrupted. This time, by Gilderoy Lockhart, of all people. That meeting had left Harry with other problems to sort out; problems that still very much persisted.
But he had finally gotten around to organizing the meeting at long last.
It had been no easy feat. Meeting with all of his friends except for Blaise was its own kind of challenge. Getting everyone together was easy. Doing so without rousing the suspicion of the most paranoid person Harry knew was more difficult. The answer had come to Harry swiftly enough, but manifesting it properly was far more difficult.
He had decided they would just need to meet without Blaise ever knowing it happened. Considering he either followed Harry like a shadow or lurked near Daphne and Tracey when Harry needed a break from people, that was easier said than done.
So they had orchestrated a whole host of distractions for Blaise in the past number of days that meant the dark skinned boy was the only one in the group with homework to finish that evening. Homework that conveniently necessitated the library, leaving Harry and the others open to the Speaker’s Den.
It was nice to be inside it again. Its emerald green lighting felt warm and familiar in a way the Slytherin common room never had. Harry’s eyes fell on the throne-like chair as soon as they entered the room, but they left it just as swiftly. Something about that chair had always been ominous in its own sort of way. Daphne had looked at, too. Her eyes had flickered between it and Harry, but he had given a subtle shake of his head before taking the chair nearest it.
Most of his friends had been in here before. The only ones who hadn’t were Laine and Ginny, both of whom looked around the room with gaping mouths and bulging eyes. Perhaps it was due to the majesty of it all, or perhaps it was because one of their best friends had just hissed at the wall in order to gain entry.
“Merlin,” said Ginny, “what is this place?”
“The Speaker’s Den,” Harry answered. “Best I can work out, Slytherin himself built it and his heirs and heiresses have been using it ever since.”
“So, you’re the Heir of Slytherin,” said Laine. “That… makes absolutely no sense.”
“Don’t be moronic,” Daphne snapped at the younger girl. “Harry wouldn’t have gone around kidnapping his own friends.”
“Amazingly enough,” he said, “my brother and I aren’t the only two Parselmouths in the school.”
“And you can’t tell us who the other one is?” asked Pansy.
Harry shook his head. “I can’t, no.”
“Just like how he can’t tell us anything about Nigma,” Ginny said with a knowing smirk.
“That is convenient, isn’t it?” Laine asked, recovering from the scolding Daphne had given her a second or so earlier.
“Don’t put words in other people’s mouths,” said Daphne.
“Especially when that person is Harry,” said Tracey with a grin. “Nobody can predict anything about Harry. Things just happen that make no sense. It’s lovely; keeps things interesting.”
“They do have a nasty habit of doing that, yes,” said Harry, looking around at all of his friends. “Which is why before I warn all of you, there’s something I need to do.” He cleared his throat. “I, Harry James Potter, a rising member of Salazar’s noble house, hereby call upon my newly forged connection with the greatest of the Hogwarts four and the legacy which he has left behind. In doing so, I hereby invoke Salazar’s Sanction upon the Speaker’s Den. As magic is my witness.”
“What the hell was that?” Ginny asked a moment later.
“Some kind of oath or unwritten contract,” Laine said with narrowed eyes. “What did you just do?”
“Nothing that will affect you,” Harry assured. “Salazar’s Sanction is something Slytherin himself set up in this room. Once it’s invoked, no secrets shared here can be passed along by anyone who heard them. They can’t be taken, either, not even by Legilimency.”
“Legiliwhat?” asked Ginny.
Charlotte opened her mouth to speak, but Daphne beat her to it. “Don’t worry about that,” she said, looking at Harry. “I think we’re about to have more important things to worry about.”
Harry nodded gravely, clearing his mind and beginning the tale of what happened the night of Antonia Zabini’s wedding.
Back in the Headmaster’s office…
“My freedom,” Riddle answered. “I feel like you want to take that from me, Headmaster, and I don’t appreciate it.”
“I want to do no such thing,” Lockhart argued. “I just want to make sure that you don’t endanger anyone in this castle.”
“And that I don’t become Lady Voldemort,” Riddle finished.
Lockhart did not so much as blink. “That would be ideal, yes.”
“Well, Headmaster, rest assured that I have no plans of following my alternate self’s path. Her decisions baffle me and I don’t understand why she made them.”
Something flashed in Lockhart’s eyes. Emily couldn’t place it — not even with passive Legilimency — but it was there for a fleeting second. If she had to guess, she would say it almost looked and felt… triumphant?
“I’m glad to hear that, Miss Riddle. Do be sure to stay on the right side of that line. My family had ties to you after Grindelwald’s war and I saw you at your best. It would be painful to see you at your worst, but between the two of us, I wouldn’t let that happen.”
Emily stood with a blank expression. “Between the two of us, sir, carrots tend to work with me better than sticks.”
Riddle was halfway to the door before Lockhart spoke. “What is it you want from me? What is it I can offer that will sway you from pursuing that path?”
Riddle paused before glancing over her shoulder. “If I find out why my other self did it and I think it’s the right path, then nothing. But,” she continued, “if you’d like to foster a positive relationship with me, advice on how to cast the Patronus Charm would be a positive start.”
“You don’t know?” Lockhart asked, a surprised frown marring his otherwise picturesque face.
“I don’t have much fuel to use in the form of happy memories, Headmaster.”
Lockhart’s eyes darkened. “Then there’s nothing I can give you to help.”
“Shame,” said Riddle, turning again.
“Riddle!” She turned. “I’ll try,” he said quietly. “As you so kindly implied, I do have friends in the Department of Mysteries.”
A smile played on Emily’s lips right before she walked out the door. “For an organization so steeped in fear and conspiracies, they have been quite helpful.”
This one was surprisingly difficult, but it is the happiest I’ve been with a chapter since their arrival at Hogwarts. Last one was also fun, but this one was just more complete as a piece of writing.
Please read and review.
PS: The next password will be released next Friday. THE NEXT SIX CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE FOR PATRONS RIGHT NOW! Sign up to my Patreon page to read them all early!
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