AoC 71

Ashes of Chaos

Year 3: The Blackest of Truths

Chapter 17:

By ACI100

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

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

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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos 

By ACI100

Year 3: The Blackest of Truths

Chapter 17:

September 12, 1993

The Dungeons

7:32 PM

It had been two days since Harry had told his friends about what had happened at Costello Zabini in Italy. Some of them were handling it better than others. Daphne and Charlotte had acted just as they always had. Pansy had done well to be subtle about the glances she threw at Blaise. 

Laine and Tracey were the worst. Tracey had become fidgety and nervous around Blaise and Harry had seen the boy’s eyes follow her movements on more than one occasion. Laine just wouldn’t meet his eye but constantly tried to look at him when she thought Blaise wouldn’t notice. Harry suspected that he had caught on more often than Laine had suspected.

The one who’d really impressed him was Ginny. She had taken it all in stride and acted with as much grace as Daphne or Charlotte. If anything, she had begun speaking more with Blaise, who had never been her biggest supporter. The first few conversations had been stiff and awkward, but Blaise had begun warming to her when he realized there was someone else in the group who could occasionally match his razor-sharp tongue. Ginny was less eloquent and her retorts were rougher, but they hit hard and she wasn’t afraid to attack the low-hanging fruit. Harry thought Blaise strangely appreciated that; if there was one way to get on his friend’s good side, it was by having an affinity for banter.

Harry himself had gone about business as he had been for the past month. Blaise already suspected something; those suspicions would only be proven correct if Harry changed the way he acted now. Someday, he might need to speak openly with Blaise. There may come a time when being so close with someone so dangerous would become utter madness. Perhaps if Pettigrew and the other Death Eaters became known or their plans took form in the shape of more direct attacks at Harry. For now, those possibilities remained merely that and Harry would enjoy his friendship with Blaise whilst he could. He had not told his friends of what he had seen to turn them against Blaise — he had even told them as much — Harry just felt like not warning them of what had happened was bordering on negligent at best.

It felt good to share what had happened. Harry despised Tracey’s smug smile when he had admitted that to her earlier in the day. The speech she had given at Weitts Manor out by the lake before their second year had proven to be wise beyond her years. Harry was only now beginning to see the wisdom in it and it made him appreciate Tracey even more than he already did. There was so much more to her than the bubbly exterior and Harry enjoyed it all.

That was one worry pushed to the back of his mind for now, but only then had Harry realized just how many troubles he had. The power struggle within Slytherin House, Emily Nigma’s existence, his bargain with Lockhart, Peter Pettigrew, and potentially even Sirius Black.

He would take all of those troubles over the Chamber of Secrets, but Merlin, it was overwhelming at times. Pettigrew was a problem Harry really couldn’t tackle. He just had to wait for the detective to make a move and hope that he left an opening or made a mistake. Sirius Black fell even deeper into that same category, and Emily Nigma… Harry had not forgotten how their last confrontation had gone. When he had so foolishly chased after the Heir of Slytherin without any plans of how to apprehend them once they had been discovered.

For now, he had to try and put those troubles out of his mind as he walked down a dungeon corridor and listened to his footsteps echo off the walls. The suits of armour down here always looked extra imposing. Perhaps it was the complete lack of natural light or perhaps it was the fact Harry knew at least one of them concealed a secret passageway.

He focused on the sounds and sights as he walked. It was easier than the alternative. Harry was on his way to the abandoned classroom he had used with Grace, Charlotte, and Lady Voldemort before them. Charlotte would be meeting him there for them to practice. Tonight was an Occlumency night for Harry; he was really trying to make progress into stage three. The subskills appealed to him, but that only made it all the more frustrating that he had not yet progressed to the point at which he could begin using them.

Sitting in the common room had been driving him mad, so Harry had left early, but he only made it a few corridors down before his ring flared, alerting him that someone was coming up behind him. He suspected it was Charlotte, but leaving that to chance would not have been wise. Especially not after he had so publicly sided with Calypso in the pitch battle that first night in the common room. Harry had been expecting retaliation from Selwyn or his thugs ever since and had been surprised when none seemed to come. Perhaps now was the time if it wasn’t Charlotte who drew near.

It was neither Charlotte nor Selwyn or his thugs. It was one of the last people Harry would have expected to openly approach him in the corridors and he suddenly found that something seemed to have a tight hold on his chest. He didn’t know what to feel; it was like whatever it was had trapped all emotions near his heart so that they could not pass to and be processed by his brain. 


She looked mightily uncomfortable. Ares was no fidgeter, but Harry could see the tightness in every muscle, the tension in her face, the strain in her eyes. 

“Harry,” she said in a voice more timid than he had ever heard from her. “Can we talk?”

The timing was ill and Harry had opened his mouth to say no when he reconsidered. The first thing he thought of every time he saw Ares was that corridor and those dark blue eyes, but they were different now. A violet to match her mother’s. He remembered what had happened after they left the Chamber of Secrets, remembered the one, simple request the Black heiress had made of him.

Harry closed his mouth and nodded curtly, marching away and working under the assumption Ares would follow. He knew at once by the sensations provided by his ring that she had. He wasted no time in finding the nearest abandoned classroom and stepping inside. Ares followed him through the door. Harry drew his wand and watched as her eyes followed it. That sent an odd pang through his chest. Did she expect him to curse her?

Several spells later, Harry was altogether more confident about their current arrangements. When he turned to face Ares, she too had her wand drawn. Harry held his loosely, but he doubted very much she would curse him. Her dark eyes darted towards the door and asked a silent question, one which Harry answered with another curt nod before watching her cast wards of her own — wards he had never seen before.

“Interesting magic,” he complimented. “I don’t think I’ve seen any of those.”

“They’re Black family magic, so I would hope not,” Ares answered as she put her wand away. 

The tension in the room was horrible. It pressed against him from all sides and invaded every part of him. His eardrums seemed to ache with it and were fit to burst. The ringing in them played along, though that part was not at all surprising. It had been a long time since Harry had been in a room this quiet.

“Uh… what was it you wanted to talk to me about?” asked Harry.

“I wanted to know where we stood.” She wouldn’t meet his eye and Harry had the feeling she was resisting a blush with every word she spoke.

“Where we stand?” he asked slowly, buying time.

She finally met his gaze and there was something in her eyes that made him shiver. “Yes, where we stand. I… enjoyed our friendship last year.”

“How much of that do you even remember?” Harry winced when Ares pulled back. “I didn’t mean it like that,” he said hastily.

“No,” Ares countered, “you did. It’s… not an unfair question.” She said nothing for a moment, seeming to ponder that deeply. “Bits and pieces,” she answered at last. “I remember bits and pieces. I remember more, but a lot of it is… odd. Like I’m watching it through someone else’s eyes and not my own.”

“Did you ever consider telling me?” Harry couldn’t help but ask the question. It was one he had wondered often since the culmination of last year’s drama.

“Yes,” Ares answered, not faltering in meeting his gaze, “all the time.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Her.” The word was spoken like a taboo, the same way other witches and wizards throughout the world would say Voldemort’s name if they were forced.

“What about her?” Harry asked.

“She would have sped plans up and I doubt she would have given you as much time to talk.”

Harry felt annoyance prickle at the corners of his mind. “Are you telling me you lied for my own good?”

“No… for both of us. It was selfish; I’m not going to say it wasn’t. You were the only one who might be able to figure it out once Dumbledore had been thrown out of the castle.” A visible shudder ran up Ares’s body. “And… the faster she got to the ritual—”

“The sooner she would completely take over your body.” Ares nodded stiffly, finally letting her gaze fall from his.

Harry felt like he was being torn apart from the inside out. There was still so much anger and bitterness there. He was sick and tired of being betrayed. By his father, by Pettigrew, by Voldemort in his first year, by Charlus not once, but twice, and finally by Ares — or Riddle — last June. That wasn’t even considering everything that was going on with Blaise and his family. That could be another betrayal he looked back on years down the road if things went a certain way. It all just seemed so hopeless and Harry had promised himself he wouldn’t forgive so easily.

Yet this was not Charlus, the boy who had broken his promises, then backstabbed him once more. Nor was it his father, who had left him to ten years of abuse in Harry’s version of personal hell. Nor even was it Pettigrew or, Merlin forbid, Dumbledore.

Harry closed his eyes and took a deep and calming breath. The haze of anger subsided as his racing thoughts calmed and dissipated altogether. Only then did he begin considering Ares, crushing all emotions that rose up before they could impact his clinical process of thinking.

This was a twelve-year-old girl who, in a way, had never wronged him. Ares’s word alone would have meant little, but Harry had Riddle’s from the Chamber of Secrets. She had openly boasted about how in control she had been and how Ares and everyone else had been powerless to stop her.

Harry opened his eyes very slowly and found that Ares was looking at him again. The expression she wore was completely different, but Harry had seen it once before. It was the same one she had worn last June when begging him to help spare Emily Riddle. Being compared to her even by himself left a bitter taste in Harry’s mouth, but the annoyance was yet another emotion he refused to allow any power over him and this most recent decision.

“We’ll start from the beginning,” Harry said after a very long pause. “We’re not friends like we were right before you turned on me, whether it was your decision or not, but I respect you and your status. If you’d like to sit with us at a meal here and there, feel free. We’ll start from there and see how things develop since I’ve never really known you.”

Ares smiled. It was a smile more carefree than Harry had ever seen on her face before. It was odd after the blank mask she so often wore, but Harry thought it suited her much better. Ares often looked older than she was, but with this smile on her face, she well and truly looked her age.

“Thank you, Harry.”

September 16, 1993

The Library

7:24 PM

“Good evening, Miss Greengrass.”

Astoria startled in her chair and winced when her knee collided painfully with the desk.

What had just happened?

She had been pouring over Transfiguration for hours to no avail and had begun to space out. Her eyes had fixed on the nearest torch bracket, watching its flame endlessly flicker as it slowly began to tinge her vision a lurid orange colour.

Perhaps she had fallen asleep. There could be no other explanation as to how Nigma had snuck up on her so fast. Nobody had been able to do that since she had awoken inside Weitts Manor. Not one person had been able to draw near her without her knowing — not since the way she interacted with magic had changed.

“Nigma,” she greeted, blinking fatigue from her eyes as she turned to face the older girl.

“I have told you before that you may call me Emily,” she said, conjuring a more comfortable-looking chair from thin air and taking a seat next to Astoria. Astoria’s lips pouted against her will and the sixth-year girl smiled. “Would you like one as well?” 

“If you don’t mind.”

“Not at all.” Emily waved her wand and Astoria felt the chair shifting, softening, and expanding underneath her. 

She had never seen somebody Nigma’s age do anything like this before. Not so casually and with such ease, anyway. She had seen her cast a fair bit of magic and never had she incanted aloud. She made it look so easy; even when she had been destroying some of the best students the school had to offer with a single, blinding spell.

“Thank you,” said Astoria, eyeing Nigma with unmasked curiosity.

She thought it was odd how much time and effort the girl put into her. She had sat with her at the feast and made conversation throughout. Astoria had thought it was because of her surname at first, but she was becoming less certain of that as the school year slowly aged. Daphne was the heiress, not her, yet she had not seen Nigma say so much as a word to her older sister. Nor had she seen her talk to many other people at all. It was like she had an odd fixation on Astoria, but the youngest Greengrass could not imagine why.

Well… she could imagine very easily. It would actually have made a lot of sense if only Nigma had known the truth, but she didn’t. It wasn’t possible for her to know, so Astoria remained confused. Other than the anomalous side effects of the summer’s exploits, there was very little about her that was special. Everything else she had, her sister had more of.

“It’s no trouble at all,” said Emily. “How have you been adjusting to Hogwarts? I know it’s been the quite transition for me.”

“I’m… doing okay,” Astoria answered. “I’ve made a few friends and I like Hogwarts. It’s different.”

“I think it’s my favourite place in the world.” There was reverence in Nigma’s voice and she breathed in the library’s air like it was the scent wafting from some great and fruitful utopia.

Astoria bit her lip. “I’m not sure about that, but I do really like it.”

“What about the classes?”

“They’ve… been fine.”

Emily frowned. “Have you been having any trouble?”

Astoria wished for Daphne’s emotional control often, but never more than now. Her sister could hide her emotions easily and make it all look natural. Astoria just ended up looking like she wore a constant grimace and somehow ending up miserable. She had begun learning Occlumency but she was not as adept at it as Daphne. She still had many troubles with the art and consistency with it had not yet come.

“Some,” she muttered, casting her eyes down towards the desk.

“Which ones?” 

“Transfiguration, mostly,” Astoria admitted. Emily Nigma was far too perceptive; there was no way she was going to lie her way out of this one. “Charms has been hard from time to time, but it’s mostly Transfiguration.”

“What is it about the subject you find difficult?”

Astoria knew the answer, but she couldn’t share it. She suspected she knew, anyway. It had been given to her over the summer, though she supposed the man who had theorized it could have been wrong. Though Astoria had her doubts; Giaus Weitts did not seem like a man who was wrong very often.

“I don’t know,” she lied. “It just… doesn’t work for me.”

She saw the way Emily’s lips twitch. “It’s funny how so many people say that.”

“It’s true!” Astoria protested and, in a vague sense, it was.

“I’ll tell you what,” said Nigma. “Pick a night of the week and I’ll help you practice Transfiguration.”

Astoria blushed. “You don’t have to,” she said. “I know you have your own classes and I’ve heard you’re taking as many electives as you can.”

“It’s sweet of you to worry, but you don’t need to. I’m much better at magic than most people if you’ll forgive me saying so.”

Astoria hid a giggle behind her hand. “That’s like saying Dumbledore’s beard is a little bit longer than usual.”

She thought the amusement in Nigma’s eyes looked forced somehow as she chuckled. “I suppose it is, but modesty is a trait we should all keep in mind.”

“My father always says that honesty should come before modesty.”

“An honourable sentiment, but a shortsighted one.”

Astoria frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Modesty can lead to many advantages. Leading people to be overconfident can be a weakness to strike against later. It’s also often one of the key components of any charming persona. I doubt I need to tell a scion of House Greengrass why that might be important.”

“Why did you do what you did the first night, then?” Astoria asked with a challenging sort of fire in her eyes. Her boldness wavered when Nigma met her stare. That dark blue gaze was unnerving and for a moment, Astoria feared she had pushed too far.

Until Nigma grinned and real amusement danced behind her eyes. “Because in this situation,” she said with what sounded almost like teasing mockery in her voice, “I don’t need any advantages and I plan to make that very clear.”

Harry ended his Super Sensory Charm once Riddle allowed her conversation with Astoria to move onto more mundane things. Once Lockhart had tasked him with watching Riddle, Harry had known he would need new tricks. Traipsing up to her and offering a hand in friendship wouldn’t work after the vitriol he had held last June. She would never believe it and Harry didn’t feel overly inclined to make that offer in any case. 

The Super Sensory Charm had been one of the more difficult he had ever learned. Casting it was simple enough — not allowing the increased input to cause sensory overload and drive him mad was more difficult. He’d had to really learn how to cast the spell whilst keeping a firm clamp on his Occlumency. Never had he wished more for the ability to open more than one stream of thought. He knew it was a level three sub skill, but he had not yet progressed to the point at which it was feasible. Though he thought he was growing close and so did Charlotte. His hope was that by Samhain, he could begin at least attempting to experiment with the ability.

He sat back in his chair and watched the library from his shadowy corner, taking in a breath of mouldy air scented by the smell of weathered leather and aged parchment.

What exactly was Riddle playing at? An alliance with Astoria didn’t seem all that beneficial. Harry could understand why she hadn’t approached Daphne. If Daphne put together who had attacked her last year, she would never align herself with Riddle. Plus, she was friends with Harry. Riddle surely knew he couldn’t sell her out, but one as intelligent as her likely suspected he was working against her after the hatred he had shown last June in the Chamber of Secrets.

That really just summed up Riddle’s moves so far this year. Harry just had no idea what she was playing at. He had thought she was building a power base and waiting for it to be established after that first night, but he had not yet seen anyone flock to her. The only person he saw her talking to were the scarce occasions she spoke with Astoria, usually when Daphne was nowhere to be seen. 

It just didn’t make sense. If Riddle wanted control of the house — and the first night certainly indicated that she did — why wait if not to gain support? If she had no reason to wait, why was she bothering at all? She could have walked through most of the opposition at the very least. Harry thought they could have taken her if his group fought as a collective, but part of him worried Calypso was too prideful to let that happen. If she was, it might well be their downfall when Riddle finally decided to make a move.

She was a mastermind, even if Harry didn’t understand how she was playing. That much had become obvious and it was just as much so now. Harry never felt in control when it came to Riddle. He always felt as though she was leading, forcing him and everyone else to react to even the smallest of movements. It was maddening, but there was little he could do but wait, hoping to Merlin he wouldn’t be on the defensive for the entirety of the year.

For now, there was nothing he could do — nothing he could do except tell Daphne about her relationship with Astoria, but that would require some thought. It would need to be delivered properly; in a way that would indicate the situation’s urgency yet without violating any of the oaths Harry had been forced into swearing.

Gah! He was thirteen, for Merlin’s sake. How in the hell had he landed himself in this position?

Harry wasn’t entirely sure who he despised more — Riddle, Dumbledore, or Fate. One was a constant shadow that loomed over him, one had ruined his childhood, and one just wouldn’t leave him the hell alone.

September 17, 1993

The Great Hall

8:46 AM

That next morning, the sun broke through the veil of clouds overhead for the first time in nearly a week. Harry reveled in its glow, soaking in the glitter of plates and utensils as the sun’s rays struck them at the right angles. He could practically feel the star’s warmth even from inside the castle. It had been something he had missed, especially as everything inside Hogwarts seemed to grow bleaker and more ambiguous by the day.

“Splendid morning,” Blaise was saying as they all took seats in the Great Hall.

“You’re only saying that because you can see your reflection in the plates if you look at the right angle,” sniped Daphne.

“Why would that be a good day?” asked Ginny.

“Because he’s a narcissist,” said Daphne.

“No,” Ginny argued, “I don’t think that’s right. Well,” she corrected, “it is, but it’s not the most important thing.”


“If he’s happy because he sees the reflection, that means he’s going blind.” That made even Daphne laugh. Harry cracked a smile of his own; this summer had been a good one for Ginny. Something had changed — something had hardened her and it was serving the young girl well.

“Can you believe these two?” Blaise asked Harry. “They’re ganging up on me.”

“Well, Blaise, when you’re so incredibly dangerous with your words, that tends to happen.”

“Dangerous?” he asked with doe-eyes. “Harry, old chap, whatever are you implying?”

All sorts of things, Blaise, Harry thought, all sorts of things.

A cloud of owls so thick that it resembled a storm cloud blew across the enchanting ceiling, otherwise as blue as the calmly churning sea. Harry could almost sense Nemesis somewhere in that storm of flapping grey feathers and sure enough, a spec of white darted out from the cloud like the first snowflake on a bleak winter’s day.

“Hey, girl,” Harry greeted, feeding the bird a piece of bacon as he removed the letter from its leg. He had not yet finished by the time the second owl landed. Harry didn’t recognize this owl, but it stuck out its legs and puffed out its feathers with an air of importance. Nemesis’s own feathers bristled as she fluffed them out and narrowed her eyes, hissing at the new bird, but Harry stroked her feathers to ease her as he removed the second letter and set it aside, opening the one brought by his own bird first in an attempt to ease her worries.


It’s been a while since I’ve written and I apologize for that. Work has been extremely busy since the summer’s wrapped up. My employers are trying to get the most out of me and it’s taking a ton of time and effort.

I hope everything is going well at Hogwarts. I’ve heard troubling rumours from some of my friends still there and would love to confirm them with you over a chat in Hogsmeade. I’ve been told your first outing is next Saturday and I know my parents signed your form, so I was wondering if you would meet me in a private room at the Three Broomsticks some time in the late afternoon?

I look forward to your reply and hope we can be better about writing to each other. I’ve hardly even written to Charlotte. If it wasn’t for Black potentially roaming around somewhere near the castle, I’d encourage her to sneak to Hogsmeade and meet up with me too. As it is, I’d rather not risk it.

I hope to see you next Saturday — wish your friends all the best from me.

All the best,


Merlin… with all that had happened already at Hogwarts, Harry had almost forgotten about Grace. She just… hadn’t been on his mind. Which was strange considering how close the two of them had grown and how much time they had spent together last year. 

It would be nice to meet with her again. Merlin, it would be nice. She was the closest thing to a mentor Harry had and he trusted her. She was somebody who knew about Riddle, so he could ask questions openly. Just that alone was a massive relief.

There was another reason he wanted to speak with Grace, too. His conundrum with sharing oaths — if anyone he knew could help him around them, it would be Grace. The question would be whether or not there was a feasible way around them. That would be a question better left to her discretion than Harry’s. 

The second note seemed somehow more imposing as Harry unrolled the parchment. Something about it made his skin itch in an odd sort of way as though his body had guessed at its significance before Harry himself had read the letter.


So long as you’re still willing to hold up your end of our agreement, I would like to meet with you and share the information I promised. 

The next date I’m available is October 8th. I’d like to get it out of the way sooner, but it turns out that running a school is arduous business — who would have guessed. I will obviously require you to swear very strict oaths of secrecy before I disclose anything to you, but I’m sure you assumed as much already.

Write me back as soon as possible to let me know if the proposed date is manageable for you. I do need to try and fit this into my schedule somehow and the sooner I have clarity from you, the easier that will be.


Gilderoy Lockhart 

Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry 

Order of Merlin, First Class

Senior Member of the Dark Force Defence League

Harry had known who the author of the note had been before he had read it. The list of titles at the bottom gave it away and he remembered Lockhart’s handwriting easily enough. There had been dread when he’d first seen it. Now, he wasn’t entirely sure what to think.

On one hand, a date was set. Harry would make the eighth work one way or another if it was the soonest available option, so that was a go. He would soon learn what even Albus Dumbledore didn’t seem to know — so long as Lockhart wasn’t bluffing. Harry had been very clear that if he was, the deal was off.

The downside was that this made the deal feel real. It was one thing to observe Riddle using Super Sensory Charms and report to Lockhart — which he would do during this upcoming meeting. It was another altogether to get properly close to her, and Harry feared the day may come where Lockhart asked him to do just that.

It was a conundrum. This whole damned year was already a conundrum. It seemed that Harry was cursed to never have a peaceful year at Hogwarts. During this one, he would be at least be staying in the common room during Samhain. Perhaps that would shift whatever omens were against him in his favour.

September 19, 1993 

Malfoy Manor

10:54 PM

The drawing room had become familiar to Peter in the past number of months. He had walked through the lush hedges, passed through the towering gates, and entered this room often enough since the summer had broken. It was odd, really. Only one time he had been during the Purity War, yet he had attended these meetings several times in the past number of months. He supposed his escapades at the end of the war really had earned him some respect from the others.

“Bellatrix,” said Lucius in that smooth drawl of his. “I believe it was you who had information to share?”

“Information on Potter, yes.” Peter straightened in his chair. If he was in his animagus form, his ears might have perked up.

Everyone in the room was nodding for Bellatrix to go on — everyone but Evan Rosier. His face was as blank as ever… too blank. Rosier usually misled, not gave away nothing. This was an interesting development and Peter watched him closely as Bellatrix began to speak, but there was no change, nothing to read or to gauge. 

“My daughter has approached him, as has my lady.”

“She is not truly your lady,” said Tiberius Nott. 

Bellatrix’s nostrils flared, but Crouch placed a hand on her arm. “Guard your tongue if you have nothing valuable to add, Tiberius.” The man’s eyes practically shot sparks, but Bellatrix was speaking again before he could interrupt once more.

“Potter is willing to give my daughter a second chance.”

“Positive news,” said Lucius. “Something to use in the future, perhaps.”

“What of your ward?” Evan Rosier asked, speaking for the first time. Even his voice was measured. 

“She has noticed no unusual movements. He meets with many people, but she believes they’re just other children.”

“No signs that he might be pursuing the truth?” Peter asked.

“None,” said Crouch.

“That doesn’t mean our plan should change,” Bellatrix insisted.

“No,” said Nott, “it doesn’t. If that brat gets his hands on—”

“We all understand the stakes perfectly well, Tiberius,” Lucius interjected. He turned back to Bellatrix. “I assume you plan to use Ares as a means to learn more?”

“And to do more, yes.”

“Do keep us informed. There is no way the boy should know and I doubt the ministry is competent enough to piece together what’s really going on.”

“The ministry has no inkling,” said Crouch. “The public story really is the one they believe as far as I’m aware.” He turned to Peter. “Do I have that right, Pettigrew?”

“You do, but that doesn’t mean she would take any chances. It’s easier on the lot of us if he isn’t in the way.”

“You don’t believe he can be swayed?” Rosier asked from beside him.

“I don’t think trying is worth the risk of failing,” Peter answered.

“I agree with Pettigrew,” said Bellatrix, perhaps for the first time in living memory. “There’s no reason we would change the original plan. It’s the safest option we have.”

“What of the other Potter?” asked Lucius. “He seems in a primer position to learn of the truth.”

“There has been a development on that front,” said Peter, “but it should make no difference.”

Bellatrix’s eyes narrowed and Peter could see a manic gleam coming to life behind them. “What developments?”

“Remus Lupin has returned to the country. He’s tutoring Charlus and his friends in duelling and defensive magic. But,” Peter said, holding up his hand, “he knows nothing. There is no possible way he should be able to put anything together so long as the ministry never uncovers the truth.”

“And luckily for us,” said Lucius, “we have you to ensure that never happens.”

“Will people begin asking questions if their expectations aren’t met?” asked Nott.

“What do you mean?” Peter returned.

“Well, they all expect Black to attack Hogwarts. What happens if he doesn’t.”

They all exchanged glances and nobody spoke for a moment. Their faces looked like those of ghosts in the flickering torchlight of the room. Bellatrix looked thinner than Peter could ever remember. She had always been eccentric, but Peter wondered whether this whole fiasco and the stress of it all would drive her around the bend.

“Well,” Evan Rosier said after a moment, expression finally dawning on his face in the form of a gleam in his eye. “Why can’t Sirius Black attack Hogwarts?”

Peter felt his lips curve up into a smirk. There was a reason Mr. Bellona had been the Dark Lady’s chief strategist. 

Author’s Endnote:

Slowly but surely, the veil is beginning to be pulled away to reveal what is going on. I will be very interested to see if people put it all together by the end of the year.

Next chapter will be an eventful one. I will almost definitely end up splitting my planned chapter into two, so we’ll see how much I can fit in there. 

Please read and review.


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