Ashes of Chaos
Year 3: The Blackest Truth
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 3: The Blackest of Truths
September 24, 1993
An Abandoned Classroom
Charlus could hear the sounds of spells whistling through the air as Ron duelled Hermione under Remus’s supervision. Charlus had just handily beaten his bushy-haired friend and was sitting this round out. He had handily beaten each of his friends every time they duelled. For all Hermione’s knowledge, Charlus was just infinitely more experienced in duelling, plus he had always been better at subjects like Defence Against the Dark Arts.
The few times he had duelled Remus had not gone as well. The werewolf had claimed to be out of practice, but he was still levels above Charlus and the duels were hardly competitive. Charlus felt a strange sense of déjà vu during the duels, but he could not for the life of him decide why. The worst he had ever lost a duel in his life had probably been against Harry last winter at the one and only duelling club meeting and that duel shared no resemblances to his ones with Remus. Charlus could never even remember duelling an adult before now, but still, the feeling persisted.
Harry… Merlin, that thought had been plaguing him often as of late.
There had been opportunities to try and approach his brother, but none of them had seemed right. The birthday gala was the perfect opportunity, but his path had been much too impeded by the hoards of sycophants who wouldn’t give him two feet of clearance. Harry had been long gone by the time Charlus had picked his way through the crowd and he hadn’t seen his brother that day.
Something about all the instances at Hogwarts just felt wrong. The moment hadn’t been right. Either Harry had been surrounded by his friends, the setting just hadn’t been private enough, or he would have startled his Slytherin twin by gaining his attention.
Then there was what Scrimgeour had said. Charlus wasn’t even sure approaching Harry was the right thing to do. It was what he wanted to do, but if the last two years had taught Charlus anything, it was that his gut’s instincts weren’t always the wisest ones to follow. Perhaps forcing the matter with Harry would only make things worse, especially with how last year had ended. Charlus could still practically feel his nose press into his face, feel the sharp jab of pain behind his eyes, and feel the jagged pain any time he touched his nose for the next week. That was one wound he hadn’t gotten Madam Pomfrey to heal — a part of Charlus knew he deserved it even then.
Scrimgeour had advised Charlus not to push the matter too strongly, but that course of action still felt wrong. The Boy-Who-Lived allowed his eyes to track the spells between Ron and Hermione.
All three members of the trio had grown in leaps and bounds over the course of the school year’s first month. Charlus was thrilled with his own progression and he hoped that if Black came calling, it would be enough to hold him off. There was that dark part of him that hoped it would allow him to do far more, but he knew that thought was vile and unrealistic in any case.
Charlus was still the best of the three by a meaningful margin, but it was Ron whose improvements had been the most staggering during their time with Remus. He had really begun to put in work over the summer and his time at home with no distractions hadn’t hurt. Hermione had wiped the floor with him in their first few duels, but now the two of them were breathing heavy and seemed to be holding each other at a tight stalemate.
“His improvements really have been something, haven’t they?” Remus asked quietly as though reading Charlus’s mind.
“I wasn’t sure he had it in him,” Charlus answered honestly. “I’ve always liked Ron, but he’s never the most serious bloke when it came to school.”
“Neither was your father,” Remus said with a small smile. “Heaps of talents, but bollocks if James cared anything for his grades before fifth year. He made sure to score well on his OWLs and after that, it was off to the races.”
“What about you?” asked Charlus.
“I cared most,” the werewolf admitted, “even though I was the least talented.” He hesitated. “After Peter, I suppose.”
“My dad’s always said that Uncle Pete never did well in school.”
“He did fine, but that was just it. Peter had a strong grasp on the theory and he was a deft hand at Potions, but he never quite took to magic like I did, or Merlin forbid your father and Sirius.”
A sort of tension filled the room, made only more powerful by the panting and sounds of battle from where Ron and Hermione still fought wildly. Charlus allowed himself a moment to watch the duel as Ron broke through Hermione’s shield and sent her staggering back. She managed to raise another layer of magical defence just in time before retaliating and forcing Ron to dive to the side. Charlus frowned then when Hermione reached up and brushed some of her thick hair back out of her face. It was sloppy; she ought to have considered that before duelling.
“How are you holding up under everything?” Remus asked.
Charlus’s frown deepened. “What do you mean?”
“You looked stressed a moment ago. It can’t be easy knowing that Sirius is out there somewhere.”
“I’m doing okay,” said Charlus. “I just… I wish he was still rotting in that cell.”
“You and I both. We can only hope the ministry does everything they can to catch him.”
“Do you really think he’ll attack Hogwarts looking for me?”
“I have no idea. I never expected him to betray your father. Sirius had a sadistic streak, but I never took him for a traitor.”
“Dad says he should have seen it coming once Black basically betrayed his family.”
“Then James hasn’t changed as much in these past twelve years as I might have hoped.”
“What do you mean?” asked Charlus, tensing slightly at the implied slight.
“Just that something like that is a thing James might have said without thinking whilst at Hogwarts when really, it’s ridiculous and he should know it.”
“Why is it ridiculous?”
“Sirius’s family betrayed him to start,” said Remus, “not the other way around. The things that happened in that house were horrible. Sirius ought to have left much earlier than he did.”
That struck home with Charlus now more than it would have several months ago. After hearing the accounts of what Harry had gone through whilst living with his muggle relatives, Charlus had a new, twisted understanding of exactly how low parental figures could sink when raising children.
Then it hit Charlus. The realization was jarring and it stabbed at him like a well-honed dagger. “My dad doesn’t really have many legs to stand on when it comes to talking about betraying family, does he?”
Lupin’s face looked more weathered than ever then, more leather than skin as the lines seemed to deepen and crinkle. “I’m sure James did what he thought was best.”
“But it wasn’t best,” Charlus argued. “It’s obvious now that it wasn’t.”
“Now being the key word.” Charlus opened his mouth, but closed it again; it was difficult to refute that. “Many decisions seem easy years later. If the ministry would have acted sooner, Voldemort may never have gained the power she had to begin with. That seems obvious now, but there hadn’t been a truly powerful dark tyrant in the country for centuries, yet false rumours rose up all the time. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“That there are more to the decisions than just what’s obvious.”
There was a pause in Ron and Hermione’s drawn out stalemate as both combatants gasped for breath and appeared to ensure they were steady on their feet. Charlus wondered how much longer the duel could go; it was more well-balanced than any other round of magical combat he had ever watched.
“What is he like?”
Charlus jerked his head back to look at Remus. “What is who like?”
“Your brother. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him.”
“He’s… different,” Charlus answered.
“In what way?”
“It’s… hard to explain. He’s quiet but has a bunch of friends anyway. Greengrass, Davis, Weitts, Ron’s little sister.”
“A Greengrass mixing with a Weasley?” Remus asked with upturned lips. “That is certainly different, yes.”
“Him too. He’s brilliant — best kid in our year — but he’s just so… so…”
“Unlike you and your father?”
Charlus nodded. “It’s annoying.”
Remus laughed. A deep, full-belly laugh that made him look younger than he had ever appeared. “Annoying?” he asked. “Would it not be boring if you two were the same? Hell, you might have tried to kill each other by now.” The man must have seen the truth in Charlus’s expression, for he sobered swiftly as his eyes narrowed. “You don’t get along with him because of your differences, do you?”
“It’s… complicated,” Charlus said, running a hand through his raven hair. “Really, really complicated.”
“Care to elaborate?”
“Well… the last time I tried to talk to him, he punched me in the face.” Charlus scowled. “I deserved it.”
“And you want to try speaking with him again?”
“I don’t know!” Charlus hadn’t meant to shout, but his voice rang out through the abandoned classroom. “I just… I want to be brothers, but I keep screwing things up. Now, I doubt he’ll even talk to me.” He hesitated. “Scrimgeour told me—”
“Scrimgeour?” asked Lupin. “What were you doing speaking with Scrimgeour?”
“He came to my birthday party — we throw a gala for it each year. I was trying to get to Harry, but the crowd got in the way. I was kind of sulking and he approached me.”
“I wouldn’t listen to a man like Rufus Scrimgeour,” Remus said carefully. “Not about something like this.”
“Why not?” asked Charlus.
“I have never known Rufus Scrimgeour to have a friend.”
“Did you know him well?”
“No,” Remus admitted, “but I was in Dumbledore’s… vigilante group that fought against Voldemort and we kept a very close eye on the aurors. We learned as much about each of them as we could and Dumbledore agrees with me on the matter of Scrimgeour.”
“Does he just… not hang out with anyone?”
“Not typically, no, but it’s deeper than that. Many aurors rise up the ranks through more than ability. Politics has a lot to do with it. Your father is — well, your father. Some do it in other ways. The right smile here, shaking hands with important people there — the power is in connections, or so I’m told.”
“What does this have to do about Scrimgeour?”
“He did none of that. His ranking was established the night he murdered Igor Shevechenko and massacred his men.”
“Shevchenko… I’ve heard that name.”
“He was Grindelwald’s lieutenant. They say his war crimes in Warsaw would have made Voldemort blush.”
“And Scrimgeour killed him?”
“And all of his men. It was an early Death Eater raid. Scrimgeour went against all ministry protocols, but he brought in Shevchenko. To and that earned him more clout and respect than following rules ever would have.”
“What do you think I should do then?” Charlus asked with wide, pleading eyes. “If you don’t think I should trust Scrimgeour, then what? Last time I tried to talk to Harry, he snapped. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to fix it?”
Remus didn’t answer at once, instead he watched the closing stages of the duel between Ron and Hermione and listened to Ron’s loud stream of curses when his wand fell from his hand before both he and Hermione collapsed to the floor, their bodies wrought with heavy exhaustion.
“Well,” Remus said after a time, “there is one risk-free way to find out how willing he would be to speak with you.”
September 25, 1993
Harry could not boast that it was his first time in Hogsmeade. He had actually been here twice before. Once in his first year to meet with his father, and of course at the end of last year to witness Lockhart receiving his Order of Merlin upgrade and to meet with his father and Dumbledore once again.
Harry was finally in Hogsmeade under more pleasant circumstances. The day was overcast and the air was cool for the end of September. There was a chilling wind that blew through the little village. The mountains loomed up in the distance, poking up through the clouds like submerged banks of rock jutting up through murky waters.
“Three broomsticks?” Daphne asked once Harry’s group of third-year friends had all stepped out of the carriage.
“I was leaning towards just exploring for a bit,” Harry answered.
“We have all day to do that,” said Pansy. “I’ll be more willing to explore once I have something warm. Besides, I’ve heard their butterbeer is excellent.”
Harry glanced to Blaise for backup, but the boy only shrugged, expression blank as ever. That had been a theme as of late. Blaise was usually impassive, but he usually let his guard slip from time to time around his closer friends. Those instances had been scarce since returning to Hogwarts. Harry actually suspected they had been nonexistent and that what resembled slips had been little more than calculated displays. Not that he blamed Blaise. Laine and Tracey weren’t the subtlest people in the world — it was no wonder he had begun piecing together that something had changed. It would have put Harry on edge too if he were in his friend’s place.
Harry sighed. “Fine, but I’d rather not be stuck in there all day. If I wanted to sit around, I’d have just stayed up at the castle.”
“What time are you meeting Grace?” asked Tracey.
“Grace?” Pansy asked, jumping on the gossip like a dog whose eyes had found a stray bone.
Tracey blushed. “I… sorry. I thought you would have told her.”
“It’s fine,” said Harry, “it doesn’t really matter.”
“So…” Pansy prompted.
“Don’t play dumb, Pansy,” Harry said dryly. “Who do you think it is?”
She scowled. “I was only being polite.”
“Such an interesting definition of polite you have,” said Blaise. “Prying into business that isn’t yours and not even being subtle about it.”
“I’d argue being subtle is worse,” said Pansy. “At least I’m honest about it.”
“But you’re not,” Harry said with a smirk. “Don’t you remember how we became friends in the first place?”
“That’s neither here nor there.”
“And I disagree with you regardless,” argued Blaise. “Haven’t you ever heard the expression ‘what people don’t know can’t hurt them’?”
“I don’t think I have,” Pansy said with her nose upturned. “Have you ever heard the expression that goes something like ‘go kick it in a bin’?”
“I haven’t, but it sounds delightfully British. The lot of you might be uncultured swine, but you do have some interesting idioms.”
“Do you ever not snark at people?”
“That would be like if I asked whether you ever stopped drinking coffee, prying into gossip. Or burying your face in makeup.”
Pansy shoved Blaise away with a sneer as they all stepped inside the Three Broomsticks. Harry nodded minutely in Blaise’s direction — that had been an excellent distraction and a masterful way to pull Pansy’s attention away from Harry’s meeting later that afternoon with last year’s Head Girl.
The Three Broomsticks was said to be as old as Hogsmeade itself. The town’s founder had allegedly lived there in medieval times.
“Can I get you anything, dears?” asked a woman who Harry remembered was called Madam Rosmerta.
“Five butter beers, I think,” said Daphne.
“Excuse you!” cut in Pansy. “I’ll take a coffee, please.”
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” Daphne hissed as Rosmerta moved away. “Were you not just preaching about their butterbeer?”
Pansy looked at Daphne the same way someone else might look at an especially slow child or an annoyingly persistent insect. “Did you not hear me mention that I’d ‘heard’ it was excellent? Anyway, I was trying to convince Harry to not be a spoil sport.”
“You’re insufferable,” Daphne grumbled as Harry’s attention was pulled towards the door.
A familiar trio had just entered the building. Harry got a glimpse of bushy brown hair before two of the three disappeared in a sea of bodies. Harry could see the red of Weasley’s hair as the Gryffindor trio moved through the establishment, but the other two were not yet tall enough for their heads to show above the crowd.
Harry had not missed the way his twin had been looking at him whenever the opportunity presented itself. He had never met the Boy-Who-Lived’s eyes. Partially because he wasn’t sure how to feel about the whole situation, and partially because Harry had decided to just allow Charlus to think he hadn’t noticed.
Harry ought to have hated his twin by now. Between broken promises, shattered trust, and Charlus nearly getting expelled, their relationship should have been dead in the water. Yet he didn’t. Charlus really just fell into a category similar to the one their father occupied.
Harry just didn’t much care one way or the other.
The sticking point for Harry was the bit about the Dark Arts. Charlus swore he vividly remembered everything he had lied to Dumbledore about happening, but Harry just didn’t get it. Charlotte was a master Legilimens even at her age. If Harry’s memories had been altered at any time, she would have noticed. Grace may have, but Charlotte would have for sure.
Harry had begun to wonder the more he thought about whether or not Charlus had been placed under a Memory Charm. It made sense from a logical standpoint. Why else would Charlus make such outlandish claims about things that hadn’t happened and then vehemently swear later he remembered it all with what seemed like genuine remorse? That kind of situation wasn’t adequately justified in many ways, but a Memory Charm would have done it.
Harry’s biggest problem with this theory was the timeline.
Charlus hadn’t accused Harry of anything until after the Duelling Club meeting. On one hand, childish pettiness would have been an excellent cover story for whoever had used this hypothetical Memory Charm, but on another, how in the hell would anyone with a motive have gotten to Charlus to enchant him?
Harry’s prime suspect would have been Pettigrew. That whole fiasco would have steered Harry right into the rat’s master plan, but again, the timeline didn’t work. If Pettigrew was going to place a Memory Charm on Charlus, the summer was a more logical time, yet that particular storm had not brewed until months later. Pettigrew had never had any reason to be in the castle, either. Harry supposed there was that passage his father had told him about before their meeting in first year, but why would he have come and how would Charlus have found himself in that position?
It was all such a complicated mess and trying to piece it together was as painful as trying to keep up with Emily Nigma. They both seemed like unsolvable puzzles and Harry often wondered which one was more dire.
The Gryffindor trio had broken free from the crowd now and they were drawing near. Harry felt more than saw Blaise tense beside him and he wondered for a moment if the Boy-Who-Lived had taken leave of his senses. Surely Charlus wasn’t about to march straight up to him in the Three Broomsticks and demand a conversation?
It turned out that he did no such thing, but he did allow a small bit of parchment to fall from his fist as he walked back. Harry saw his hand open and saw the parchment fall, snatching it deftly under the desk. He was oddly impressed with Charlus. It wasn’t the subtlest thing in the world, but it didn’t need to be. Harry had used the strategy himself several times, as had people like Calypso. Harry wouldn’t have thought his painfully Gryffindor-ish brother had it in him.
Not that there was any subtlety about what the note said. The boy’s yes had said it all; Harry didn’t even need to read the note to know what it asked of him. The only question was, what day did Charlus hope Harry would finally meet with him on?
About four hours later…
Harry had convinced his group of friends to not linger too long in the Three Broomsticks, that way they could explore all Hogsmeade had to offer. Harry’s favourite places by far were Honeydukes and Zonko’s. Pranks and the like might not have been Harry’s thing, but there was actually a fair few items at the joke shop that he could see being useful in the future. They would serve as quite the distraction, if nothing else, and Harry was all for their versatility.
The day had continued to grow colder still as it aged and Harry suspected Pansy and Daphne wouldn’t be long for the trip. Sure enough, the two girls were ready to depart by the time Harry had to begin making his way back towards the Three Broomsticks to meet up with Grace. Blaise seemed just as happy to get back up to the castle, though Tracey seemed like she wanted to stay longer. She seemed quite taken with the little village, but Daphne had assured her there would be many more trips to come.
It was odd for Harry to enter the Three Broomsticks for the second time that day. “Can I help you, dear?” Rosmerta asked when Harry sought her out.
“I’m meeting somebody in one of the private rooms, ma’am. Grace Weitts booked one for the two of us.”
“Ah, yes. Just a moment while I serve these two gentlemen and I’ll be right with you.”
It turned out the room Grace had booked was the same Harry had used for both meetings with his father.
“You ought to test if you’re a Metamorphmagus,” Grace said with a smile when she saw Harry. “Your hair never does seem to change.”
Harry frowned. “Is that possible?”
“Not likely, but yes, it’s possible. Your grandmother was a Black, was she not?” Harry nodded. “They’re well-known for the trait even though it quieted down in the last few generations. Inbreeding tends to do that to powerful magical traits.”
That was an interesting thought that Harry had never considered. He had heard of Metamorphmagi before. Witches and wizards who could alter their appearance at will. It was something he had never considered before and something he had only read about in some of the more advanced tomes on Transfiguration he had consumed over his two years in the magical world. Plus the ones he had read in the Weitts family library this summer about the Black family. His interest had been piqued when he had spotted Riddle accompanying Ares and Bellatrix on Platform Nine and Three Quarters back in June.
Yet Grace was right… he was related to Dorea Black. He remembered the way he had trained his hair to stop being so messy years earlier in his cupboard back on Privet Drive and even the way it had grown back over night after Aunt Petunia had shaved it all off. Was it possible he had at least some form of metamorphmagery at his disposal? It seemed unbelievable, but was it?
“A thought for another time,” he said with a smile. “Work’s been busy, you said?”
“Like you wouldn’t believe.”
“I don’t suppose there’s any chance you’ll finally tell me exactly what it is you’re doing for work?”
“We’ve been over this before. If I could tell you, I would. My own parents don’t know, nor does Charlotte.”
“What about your grandfather?”
“I haven’t told him, but I’m sure he suspects. It was a job he almost took after the Blood War.”
Harry shrugged; he would let Grace have her mysteries — it mattered very little in the grand scheme of things. “It’ll be nice catching up, but I have a weird feeling that’s not why you wanted to meet with me.”
“No,” said Grace, “it’s not. I’ve heard plenty of rumours about Hogwarts and I trust you more than the people who have been telling them to me.”
“You once told me I didn’t know how the Hogwarts rumour mill worked,” said Harry.
“Yes, yes,” said Grace, “I’m aware, but that’s neither here nor there. Is this Emily Nigma everybody seems to be talking about Riddle?”
Grace’s expression darkened. “I’d thought so, but couldn’t be sure. And that first night—“
“She knocked down everyone who was fighting with a single spell. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
“Did you see anything that could help you identify it?”
Harry shook his head. “I was busy trying not to get cursed while working out how to deal with the three upper years coming at me. All I saw was a bolt of silver, a bright flash of white, then I was waking up on the floor with Calypso and the others.”
“I doubt I need to explain to you why she didn’t take the top position then and there?”
“I thought it was pretty obvious. She wanted a power base and supporters so she didn’t have to fend off attacks all year.”
“Thought? As in, past tense?”
“She just… it doesn’t seem like she’s doing any of that. She’s always alone when I see her. She’s polite but not friendly to anyone who approaches her and I haven’t seen any of the higher touted upper years even approach her. Most of them have just stayed away after the first night.”
“That is interesting. I’d stay on guard. If last year showed anything, it’s that Riddle plays offensively but that she doesn’t take her shots until everything is set up. It might be that she doesn’t want to waste her time socializing when she thinks another display could win those same people over.”
“What can I do about it, though?” Harry asked, ringing his hands and looking at Grace with all the pent up frustration and worry of the past month in his eyes. “I can’t beat her — I’m not sure anyone in the house can.”
“You saw her duelling Lockhart, didn’t you?”
“I did,” Grace admitted. “She’s very good. I would imagine I’d be unable to beat her in an open duel.”
“Calypso seems to think she can do it, but I just don’t think she can. We could take her down with enough people, but I doubt she’d let us get her in that position and even if we did, she’s shown she can beat a crowd once already.”
“We’ve been depressed for a month and you’re losing your touch.”
Harry was startled. “What?”
“The answer to beating an opponent more talented than you is never to confront them openly.”
Harry could have smacked himself in the head. “An ambush or something.”
Grace nodded. “There’s no reason it can’t work, but you’ll really only have one shot. You’ll have to time it wisely.”
“When would you time it if you were in my place?”
Grace thought about that for a moment. “After she took symbolic control of the house.”
Harry’s eyes widened. “You’d let her take it?”
“I would. She’s probably waiting for those kinds of things right now and even if it worked, you would still have to contend with the others. Riddle will take the house. When she does, the pureblood sycophants in the upper years will flock to her like timid sheep. Let that run for as long as needed, and then strike. If you take her down when everyone’s so supportive of her, she not only loses the house, but whoever takes her down will also take the support she just had.” She shrugged. “It relies on your ability to read the situation and time your attack perfectly, but it’s the most elegantly efficient solution.”
“Calypso will never go for it,” Harry said quietly. “She’s determined to not let Riddle take control.”
Grace fixed him with a piercing stare. “And when have you ever categorically answered to Calypso Rosier?”
“We have an agreement that I’ll help her win the house—“
“An agreement you can still fulfill even if you don’t do things her way.”
“And if she doesn’t support the idea, then what? I’m going to start working on the younger years soon, but Calypso would be the one rallying the older years against Riddle.”
Grace smiled thinly. “I still have friends at Hogwarts. Friends who would support you, and not Rosier, with a few spoken words. I think you might be needing them.”
Harry opened his mouth, closed it, then nodded. There was no better idea — Calypso’s plan would only lead to failure.
“Okay,” Harry agreed. “I think your way works best unless I think of anything better.”
Grace’s smile turned into something more arrogant. “It’s almost as though I have experience in the matter.”
Harry snorted and shook his head. “There was something else I wanted to ask you about?”
“Oh?” asked Grace as Harry leant forward in his chair.
“What can you tell me about the restrictions of oaths from a wording standpoint…”
Meanwhile, at Rosier Manor…
Emily had not expected the sudden invitation that morning. She might have months ago. She had expected for some time to be more included in the meetings Bellatrix and Bartemius attended. Not that she could blame the approach they had taken. It was the one she herself would have employed. Regardless of her status, she was an unknown that came with more variables than they had time to solve.
So she had been surprised that morning when the letter had come. The man had been a Death Eater. Emily had no doubts about that. His wife had died fighting for her future self’s cause and Evan himself had been under a great deal of suspicion. Emily had known Evan’s father, Felix, back at Hogwarts. If Felix’s son was anything like him, Emily was entirely unsurprised he had gone undiscovered for so many years.
She waited atop the grey-faced mountains overlooking Hogsmeade as the day aged all around her. It had always been one of her favourite destinations whilst at Hogwarts. There was little so high in the air to disturb her but the cawing of crows and flapping of their wings. They would leap from the mountain every now and then, soaring down towards the ground far below. The further away they flew, the more they resembled fallen pebbles as Emily looked down upon them and the small town of Hogsmeade situated some ways beyond the mountain’s foot.
When the time finally came for the meeting to commence, Emily withdrew the envelope from the pocket of her robes. It was a plain envelope with nothing special about it, save for the single enchantment it was said to carry.
Emily knew the word was significant even if she did not know how. Something her future self had dreamt up. Some sort of code word or perhaps even an incantation of sorts. It had that sort of sound about it, but it was difficult to tell.
The mountains were gone in a multi-coloured blur, as was the village, the castle, and anything that even vaguely resembled the Scottish Highlands. Emily had almost never travelled by portkey. This was by far the longest she had taken thus far and she could not claim to be all that fond of the sensation as she hurtled through space and time before suddenly and with a great jolt, her feet slammed hard into a solid floor of rich, dark wood.
Emily was impressed with herself for staying so steady on her feet, even as she turned to face the hunched house elf that greeted her. “Master be expecting you, Miss.”
“I’m ready to meet him. Show me there.”
The elf bowed low and led Emily through a sequence of dark and twisting corridors that she immediately used Occlumency to catalogue. She might well return here one day and if she did, she would be prepared for any circumstance she might find herself in.
“Master be in that room, Miss,” squeaked the diminutive house elf, pointing to a richly polished door just down the hall. “Does Miss be wanting—“
“It’s quite all right,” said Emily. “I can greet him on my own.”
“Enter,” called the smooth voice when Emily knocked upon the door, admitting her inside.
The man behind the desk looked like Felix reborn. Golden blonde hair, deep blue eyes, and pale, smooth skin. There was a coldness about the Rosiers that no other family could boast of. It was difficult to say exactly what made them appear this way, but it was just the air that hung about them.
“Ah, Miss Nigma,” he said with an amused smirk. “Excellent puns aside, I have heard many things about you. It is a pleasure to meet you at last.”
“You as well, Lord Rosier,” Emily said as she stepped forward and took the chair across from him. “Thank you for welcoming me into your home.”
“It is my pleasure. I can only hope I will be rewarded with good business.”
“Exactly what kind of business are you hoping for?”
Rosier’s smirk returned. “You are indeed her, if younger. She was never much for wasting time.”
“It is the one thing magic cannot give us back,” Emily preached. “It should be treated valuably and with great care.”
“An admirable sentiment for one so young, though I cannot claim to be surprised. How old are you, Miss Nigma?”
“I turn seventeen at the end of December if one ignores the years during which I was out of commission.”
“So wise, yet so young. I think there is wisdom I can pass along to you. Even she saw the value I had in such a role.”
“You served her?”
“Then, and now,” said Rosier.
“What was it she asked of you? If you know of me, you must have been one of her most trusted.”
“She asked for plans, strategies, and ideas. I was her general; named for the deity the ancient citizens of Rome prayed to before they went to war.”
“Bellona,” Emily finished.
“So, Mr. Bellona, what is it you want from me in return for such wisdom?”
Rosier leant forward with a glint in his eye. “Not all that much… Miss Riddle. Simply assistance with a plan of my own.”
One of the story’s shortest chapters, yet one of the most significant of year 3 thus far. I know there is a lot of scheming going on and not a lot coming from it, but it will all kick off quite soon. A couple more chapters to go before that happens, I suspect.
Please read and review.
PS: The next chapter will be posted in one week. THE NEXT FOUR CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE FOR PATRONS RIGHT NOW AND I HOPE FOR CHAPTER 77 TO BE AVAILABLE FOR THEM TOMORROW. If you want to read all of those chapters early, feel free to sign up to my Patreon page.
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