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 27, 1993
The Black Lake
Harry remembered the rage he felt last year right before punching Charlus square in the nose. He remembered the anger that consumed him whilst Charlus told lies about how he had taught him dark magic. He thought back even further and recalled the times Charlus had lorded their father’s correctness over him, or the time the Boy-Who-Lived had betrayed him in their first year.
All of those times had left a mark on Harry, but he was unsure whether he had ever been so offended by his twin brother’s existence as he was now.
Of all the times Charlus could have asked for a meeting, why in Merlin’s name must it have been prior to 7:00 AM on a Sunday? Harry rose early, but that didn’t mean he wanted to leave the castle before the break of dawn.
It also meant that he would get nothing done that morning unless he rose even earlier than usual. He had; apparently even he had limits to what time his body would tolerate being awake at.
Vague hints of light were beginning to creep across the distant horizon by the time Harry exited the castle, wrapped in a travelling cloak with the hood pulled up to obscure his face. He knew from the Marauder’s Map that Charlus was already waiting for him near the Black Lake and had been for the best part of half an hour.
Brittle leaves crunched underfoot as Harry walked down the sloping lawn and towards the nearest bank of the lake. There was a chill in the air that promised the fast-coming winter, yet the morning was all but windless. Harry was appreciative of that, at least.
Harry glanced down at the map one final time. The two of them were the only dots out of the castle and lurking on the grounds. Harry scanned the map for Riddle. For a moment he frowned before remembering that the map did not recognize Riddle’s new alias. He scanned it again but still could see no sign of her. Perhaps she was lurking in the Chamber of Secrets. The map had no signs of the chamber nor any of its entrances. Harry thought back to last year and frowned. It had never crossed his mind, but he couldn’t remember where the entrance was. He must have used it to get out, but he was drawing a blank.
That struck Harry as being extremely odd. Drawing a blank was something he never did; not with his exceptional memory. He could remember almost everything that had happened on Privet Drive with vivid detail. There were even vague recollections of his earliest days there and as he grew older, his memory only became more and more infallible.
So why was it Harry couldn’t remember how to get in and out of the Chamber of Secrets? That seemed a rather important detail to have just magically forgotten. He thought back on the oaths he’d made the Unspeakables and tried to puzzle together how any of them might have blocked his memory, but there was no way they had.
Which meant… he really had magically forgotten.
There was no other explanation that made sense. Through one form of magic or another, Harry had forgotten where the entrance to Salazar’s chamber lay. Had it been the Unspeakables? Maybe they had worried that even their iron-clad vows hadn’t been sufficient to stop the truth from spreading.
No, it couldn’t be. Riddle had been in the DoM’s captivity for much of last June and then with the Blacks after that. There was no way she could have gained access to the castle…
Yet… there were secret passages. Pettigrew had used one to wait for Harry all the way back in first year before escorting him to the Three Broomsticks. Even now, with the castle’s security as tight as ever, Harry suspected he could have used that same passage to sneak out to Hogsmeade.
The idea that Riddle could have used one of them to sneak into the castle and somehow hide the Chamber of Secrets was not impossible to imagine; it was just profoundly unpleasant. It said a lot that Harry vaguely hoped it was the DoM who had somehow covered up the entrance. So long as they didn’t tamper directly with his memory, it would be preferable to whatever Riddle might have done — though he still despised them for it. Really, Harry was beginning to just despise the Department of Mysteries on principle. They had made far too great a mess already.
Harry shook himself from those thoughts. The point, for now, was that Riddle was not appearing on the Marauder’s Map. That either meant she was in a passage not even the Marauder’s had found, or that she had snuck off to Hogsmeade. Harry dreaded what the latter could mean. The former was ominous in its own right, but at least the basilisk was dead and they had no fear of the Chamber of Secrets reopening.
The Black Lake’s surface was calm and unmoving. Harry thought it vaguely resembled some sort of ebony sheet of glass. There was no ripple in sight until a resounding splash disturbed the silence and sent the water rushing and spreading outwards in great circles from where a rock had landed in its centre.
“Restless, are we?”
Charlus jumped so violently that Harry thought he might end up toppling into the lake before he regained his balance and turned to face him. It was the most relaxed Harry had seen Charlus around him in almost a year. It said a lot that it had taken an especially fierce jump scare to invoke such a reaction.
“Don’t do that!” the Boy-Who-Lived hissed. “Do all you snakes have some super human ability to just sneak up on people?”
“Only the competent ones,” Harry answered with an unwaveringly straight face. “There are plenty who can’t; they don’t tend to do all that well in the house.”
Charlus snorted. “You make it out to sound like some sort of battlefield.”
Harry’s expression darkened. “You’re not as far off as you might think.”
It had certainly felt like a battlefield that first night back. Spells had flown in every direction and Harry had scarcely known which bodies to curse and which to protect. There had been so much chaos all at once; it had been like nothing he had ever known. That had been almost a month ago, but the turmoil had not yet ceased. Only a day ago, he had been discussing plans of attack with Grace; plans that might neutralize Emily Riddle and minimize the risk of great damage being done in altercations with her over the house’s rule.
“Is that how you learned to duel?” Charlus asked after a moment’s pause.
Harry snorted. “Not quite, no. There was actually a duel my first night, but it had nothing to do with me. I only watched.”
“Have you ever been involved in one? In the common room, I mean?”
“I have. Funnily enough, that was my first night this year.”
“Merlin, is it some kind of tradition?”
“Not technically, but I’m not surprised it seems to be a pattern. It’s… complicated.”
Even if the brothers had been on better terms, Harry would not have begun to explain Slytherin’s political system to Charlus. He could only dread (to imagine) explaining the complex hierarchies, social rules, and conflicts they brought on. Anyone who had ever called Hogwarts the safest place in Magical Britain had never been a Slytherin.
“Mental,” said Charlus with a shake of his head. “The lot of you are completely and totally mental.”
“I’ll have you know I didn’t start anything,” said Harry with a pointed look. “It seems like I’m usually not the one to start things.”
It was an unnecessary dig, but Harry was quickly growing tired of small talk. There was a reason Charlus had requested his presence at such a horrid hour and it was clearer than the Black Lake’s surface had ever been.
Charlus blushed and looked back over the water, which had stilled again since he’d disrupted it not long ago. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly, almost as though whispering the words.
“You told me this last June in the Entrance Hall,” Harry reminded him.
“And you punched me in the face. Yeah, I remember. Any chance I’ll need to watch out for another one of those? For a scrawny bloke, you hit hard.”
“The worst punches are the ones you don’t see coming.” Dudley had taught him that from an early age. It had been a valuable lesson and helped Harry develop admirable spatial awareness. That had helped him some in duelling, though there was plenty of magic that could combat it. Things like the Disillusionment Charm, Silencing Charm, and even a spell like the Notice-Me-Not.
“So… are you gonna hit me again?”
Harry snorted. “I’m not planning on it. Just don’t give me a reason to change my mind.”
Charlus winced. “I deserved it last time,” he admitted.
The brothers looked at each other properly for the first time. Day was beginning to truly break and so Harry could make out Charlus’s face more clearly now. There was a desperate look in his eyes. It was one Harry might expect from a wounded animal backed into a corner. It unnerved him and he had to resist the urge to reach for his wand. His brother was not going to curse him — Harry knew those were not his intentions, but Merlin, that expression.
“What is it you want, Charlus?” Harry asked bluntly, finally losing patience and shifting swiftly to the point.
“I…” Charlus trailed off as though unsure what to say.
“You want to ask for the same thing you’ve asked for before, don’t you?”
“The… same thing?”
It came out colder than Harry meant, but he was growing tired of this pattern. His father had asked for forgiveness more than once, as had his brother. Harry was growing sick of forgiving people only for them to fail him again. It was a self-destructive pattern he had recognized last year and it was a mistake he didn’t wish to make again.
“I… I’d like that.”
Harry studied Charlus. “And what do you think has changed, little brother?”
Charlus licked his lips, now looking anywhere but at Harry. “Changed?”
“When you asked something similar last June, I punched you in the face. What do you think has changed since then that would make my answer any different?”
“Uh… you seem more rational.” Charlus’s blush immediately gave away the fact he hadn’t been thinking. “Sorry,” he muttered. “It slept out.”
“It isn’t wrong,” Harry said with some reluctance. “You caught me in a bad place, but you were part of what made last year a living hell for me.”
“I am sorry,” Charlus reaffirmed. “I’m not just saying it, I really am.”
“I believe you,” said Harry, watching with a detached sort of air as Charlus’s eyes lit up right before he cut him back down to size. “The problem is, feeling sorry isn’t good enough anymore.”
Charlus’s eyes widened as his cheeks paled. “What do you mean it isn’t good enough?”
“It used to be,” said Harry. “It was good enough when Father was sorry and it was good enough when you were.” Only through the use of Occlumency did Harry fight down the surge of bitterness that threatened to rise up and pull him under, drowning him in the depths of hatred and despair. He had thought long and hard on this meeting and even gotten Grace’s opinion. He could not allow selfish emotions to get in the way of something that might be truly beneficial.
The previous day…
Harry and Grace took some time to talk about more mundane things after a long and arduous conversation about the limitations of magical oaths and how subject interpretations of their wording affected their overall enforcement. Harry could not help but wonder how Grace knew as much as she did. He had known she would be an invaluable aid in a manner like this, but even he had been surprised by the sheer wealth of knowledge she had at her disposal. It was almost unnerving, unnatural; Harry could not fathom how she had learned so much about esoteric concepts in her eighteen years alive.
Talking with her was pleasant. It had been quite some time since they had properly talked about things as lighthearted as classes and interests. They spoke of Quidditch, duelling, magical theory, a host of harmless stories each. It was one of the more pleasant afternoons Harry could remember, but there was one more thing he wanted to ask Grace before their time together concluded.
“My brother slipped me a note earlier today,” he started.
“How subtle of him.”
Harry grimaced. “Not really. Not sure he’d survive in Slytherin if that’s how he goes about passing along information.”
Grace raised a single eyebrow. “You’re not sure how the personification of Gryffindor would survive in Slytherin? I have a feeling his inability to pass notes would be the least of his problems.”
Harry smiled despite himself. “Yeah, there is that, I suppose.”
“The note, though,” Grace prompted.
“He wants to meet with me tomorrow morning out near the Black Lake.”
“What does he want?”
“It doesn’t say…”
“But you know.”
“I do, yeah.” He ran a hand through his hair. “He wants to make up after everything that’s happened.”
Grace’s lip curled; Harry could not help but notice how snobbish she suddenly looked with that expression and a slightly upturned nose. “How noble of him.”
“I’m not sure about noble, but it’s brave, I’ll give him that. Last time he tried, I think I broke the git’s nose.”
“And yet he seems eager to try again?”
“I’ve forgiven him twice before,” Harry said with a scowl, refusing to meet Grace’s eyes as he looked anywhere but at her. “He probably figures he’ll go for a third.”
“So I’m aware, what exactly is he asking you to forgive him for?”
Harry lifted a hand and began counting on his fingers. “Thinking I was the Heir of Slytherin, trying to prove I was by using Polyjuice Potion, trying to kill me at the Duelling Club, lying that I’d given a book on the Dark Arts, saying I’d taught him the Dark Arts,” Harry raised his other hand, “trying to get me expelled, letting Weasley be a dick all year…” he allowed his voice to trail off as he took on a contemplative expression. “I think that’s about it,” he said with a shrug.
“I’m not trying to impose my will or tell you what you can and can’t do — it’s your life, live it how you want — but I’m going to hope you’re not hurrying to offer a no-strings-attached apology for a third time?”
Harry sighed and tousled his own hair again. “I don’t know what to do,” he admitted. “I was hoping you might have some advice.” He raised a hand to forestall any interjections. “I… don’t hate Charlus. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life loathing him and locked in some pointless feud. It’s bad for both of us and I doubt it’ll ever do anyone any good.”
“So you want to be friendly again?”
“Not really. I don’t honestly care; I stopped caring about him and James a long time ago. I got out from under their thumb; that was the last thing that mattered to me. It just took a while to realize that.”
“All of that makes perfect sense,” said Grace, “but lying to try and get you expelled isn’t something I would so easily forgive no matter what the reason. That could be the first step towards something as drastic as being disinherited.”
“I know,” said Harry as he rubbed at his eyes. “The thing about it is… Merlin, it’s a mess. Charlus swears he remembers me teaching him the Dark Arts and giving him an illegal book to study with.”
“But you never did.”
“I didn’t, no. I never even met up with Charlus during the time he said we practiced.”
Grace studied him very closely with those strange eyes of hers; Harry wondered if he would ever get used to those eyes. “You believe him, don’t you?” she asked quietly.
“I do. Charlus is a lot of things, but a liar isn’t one of them.”
“Not that you know of.”
Harry frowned. “Do you honestly believe my brother could lie well enough to fool someone like Dumbledore?”
Something flashed in Grace’s eyes, but it was gone as fast as it had come. “No,” she admitted, “but I wouldn’t discount Dumbledore having motives of his own.”
“Do you actually think he wanted me expelled?” Dumbledore was a manipulative bastard, but surely not even he would have gone that far.
“Really wanted you expelled and actively tried to pursue it? I doubt it. Realizes that you being expelled may further a scheme of his and takes an opportunity?” She shrugged. “I wouldn’t put it past him.”
“Was burying the fact you ruined the life of one child not enough? Or is it two before now? There is of course the one that ended fatally for the person involved, and there is also the one that ended fatally for the families of so many gathered in this very room.”
Giaus Weitts’ words from the trial rang through Harry’s head like constantly chiming bells. Still, he wondered what the old man knew about the former headmaster. Harry could hardly imagine how anyone could be more cynical about Dumbledore than him, but the entire Weitts family seemed to hold a strange disdain for the man that Harry had no explanation for.
“Either way, I don’t think my brother lied.”
“So what?” Grace asked with narrowed eyes. “Do you think someone planted fake memories?”
“I don’t see what else it could be,” Harry admitted. “Pettigrew planted the book. I’m sure of that much, at least. He gave me a copy for my birthday last year.”
“That is suspicious, yes. There’s also his actions at the trial. Nothing I’ve heard about Pettigrew post Hogwarts indicated him being that incompetent.”
“He’s not,” Harry said at once. “Pettigrew’s a lot of things, but I don’t think he’s incompetent. In his own way, I think he might be more dangerous than Dumbledore.”
“So you believe Pettigrew is also responsible for planting the memories?” Grace asked with a frown.
“I don’t know.”
“I have my doubts,” said Grace. ‘Being competent is one thing, but planting memories like that requires a very high proficiency with Legilimency. I personally doubt Pettigrew has reached that level.”
“The timeline is a bit murky, too,” said Harry. “I think this happened right around the same time as the Duelling Club. Charlus isn’t a good enough actor to hide it for all the year before that and it just seemed so sudden.”
“So Pettigrew would have needed to gain access to the castle.”
“He would have, yeah. Or whoever he had do the actual magic for him.”
Grace tapped her fingers upon the table. “What about Riddle?”
Harry frowned. “What about her?”
“Could she have been behind it? She was clearly interested in you and she seems to have capabilities impressive enough to do something like that, plant false memories.”
Harry’s heart had stopped for a moment, but then his brain began moving again and he shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Riddle wanted to force a confrontation with me. Ares approaching me didn’t happen that long after all this. They were close enough together that I’d wager she had that bit planned already.” He shrugged. “Confronting me would be awfully difficult if she got me expelled.”
“It would,” Grace admitted. “The theory didn’t have much evidence, but it’s the actual logistics that bring me up short. I can think of very few in the country who I could confidently say are capable of that sort of magic. It significantly narrows down the field.”
Harry leant forward. “That’s one thing I was thinking… what if I use this note as a chance to start narrowing it down even further?”
Back in the present…
“So what?” asked Charlus, his eyes fixed firmly on the ground at his feet. “That’s it?”
“That isn’t what I said.”
“That being sorry isn’t good enough. It isn’t. That’s only somewhat your fault, though.”
The-Boy-Who-Lived frowned. “What do you mean?”
“It has as much to do with the people around you as it does you. I won’t be blindly forgiving anyone anymore, but you’re a special case.”
“Special how?” Charlus asked, frown still in place.
“I’d rather not spend the rest of my life bickering with you. The politics of it would be a nightmare and I don’t think either of us can argue we both have better things to do.”
Charlus snorted. “That’s one way to say it, yeah.” His eyes were looking out over the horizon as though he suspected something to reveal itself. Harry wondered whether he was thinking about Sirius Black; Charlus had seemed quite bothered by the man’s sudden escape and apparent motives.
“The point stands,” said Harry. “The problem is that I have no reason to trust you and I trust Father, Dumbledore, and some of the others even less.”
“Who are some of the others?”
Harry waved a hand. “Another time. Earn some of that trust back and maybe I’ll tell you, but you won’t like what I have to say.”
“Does that mean I have a chance?” That desperate look was back in Charlus’s eyes.
“Maybe,” Harry admitted, “but I have terms.”
“Yes, terms. The elephant in the room is the nonsense about the Dark Arts.”
Harry watched Charlus very closely for a reaction, but there was only a scowl that gave way to something harder to place. It looked frustrated, like the expression a child might make after being perplexed by a puzzle.
“I still don’t get it.”
“Well, I think I do,” said Harry. “Would you like me to fill you in?” Charlus hesitated for a moment before nodding. A part of Harry could understand that. Some truths were better left untouched. “Assuming you’re being honest — which, for the record, I think you are — the only thing that makes sense is that someone altered your memories. Probably through use of Legilimency.”
Charlus’s shoulders slumped. “I’ve thought something like that, too. It came up last June with Dumbledore.”
“What did he have to say about it?” Harry asked carefully. Dumbledore was many things, and brilliant was unfortunately among them. He also had no reason to lie to his golden boy; Harry thought anything Dumbledore had told Charlus here was probably reliable.
“He said there was nothing to be done. That undoing something like this would do more damage than good.”
“Did he not have any suspicions?” Charlus shook his head. “You can see why this worries me, yes? Someone close to you has it out for me. That whole thing could have led to me getting expelled and maybe even disinherited.”
Charlus blushed. “I’m not under the Imperius Curse or anything.”
“Not that we know of, no.” Charlus paled at that, but Harry paid him no mind. “The problem is that someone clearly has the ability to do that to you and I’d rather them not chance it once they know we’re on friendly terms again.”
“What does that mean, then?” asked Charlus.
“It means that I want you to look into that. Merlin knows you should have done it anyway. Once you figure out who the hell was behind that, then we can start from the beginning again. Not as friends or as brothers, but I’ll give you an honest chance.”
“And if I can’t find out who did it?” Charlus asked.
Harry’s expression did not waver. He knew how much he was asking of Charlus, but it would not do to be negligent here. “Then nothing changes.”
Charlus’s face hardened as he nodded. “Fine,” he said, holding out his hand, “you have a deal.”
“Not quite yet,” said Harry.
“A favour of my choosing at a later date. It’s the least you can do for the hell you’ve put me through.”
Charlus just shrugged. “Sure. Do we have a deal, then?”
Harry nodded and the brothers shook; as they did, he could not help but remember the way he and Grace had mocked Charlus and how long he would last in Slytherin House. If this was how carelessly he threw away things of value, he had another thing coming. Especially if he thought whatever Harry would ask of the Boy-Who-Lived would be a matter worth shrugging off so easily
Harry planned to make that one count.
September 30, 1993
A Room In the Dungeons
Harry had considered many places for this meeting. The Speaker’s Den had been the most obvious, but it was not so simple. Harry needed more than safety and security; he needed those things in a place that he could sneak off to easily — not just from most of the house, but from most of his friends.
That had been the most difficult part about meeting in the Den regarding Blaise and that had been avoiding one person. Avoiding the entirety of his group would be a complete and total nightmare.
All but one.
“I’ve always liked this room,” said Daphne. She and Harry had been using it during Daphne’s duelling lessons, though this was the first time Harry could remember being in it with her alone. She practiced at the same time as Charlotte for those aforementioned lessons; it was far easier than setting aside another day of the week — there were only so many of those to sacrifice.
“So have I,” Harry admitted. “I have good memories here.”
“Was this where she taught you?” Daphne asked quietly.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “I never learned from Amelia Hurst.”
Daphne scowled. “Is this some sort of sick trick to get me to use her name.”
“You should. Dumbledore is off his rocker about plenty of things, but he’s got the right idea with Voldemort. So do the Weitts family.”
“You’re infuriating.” Harry just continued staring at her. It was unusual for Harry to push Daphne in this way, but he knew it was necessary given what he had brought her here to reveal. There could be no fear for Voldemort; not if this worked and not if she deduced what he hoped she would. Daphne huffed. “Fine. Is this where you learned from… Voldemort?”
Daphne watched him closely. “It bothers you, doesn’t it? That she taught you.”
“Not in the way you think,” Harry admitted with a sigh. “At the end of the day, I could hardly ask for a better teacher. I doubt I’d be half the duellist I am if not for her. It’s just… I hate those thoughts. I hate the fact I justify it in my head. I hate the fact I’m not more bothered than I actually am.”
Daphne continued staring at him. Those eyes of hers had always been unnaturally bright, but Harry found himself blinking hard to look away. Perhaps the light had reflected oddly and caused him to lose focus.
“You’re a Slytherin, aren’t you?” The question caught Harry off guard, but in response, he fingered his green tie and raised a single eyebrow. “Cunning, Harry. It isn’t always about what’s right and wrong or about what you should or shouldn’t feel.”
“That’s easy to say for you.”
Daphne chewed her lip. “May I speak freely? It… will be harsh.”
“Always,” Harry said without hesitation. “I wouldn’t have told you and the others everything I had if I didn’t want your honest thoughts and advice.”
“Your parents would have wanted the best for you. Can you honestly say that training with her wasn’t that?” Harry had no response for that, so he only bowed his head. That was an entirely new perspective to consider things from. “Anyway,” said Daphne, “what made you go through the trouble of sneaking out and meeting her here, of all places, at such a time of night?”
Harry’s fingers tapped against his knee as he thought. Being able to say this was one thing. Both him and Grace were as confident as they could be that it wouldn’t violate the oaths he’d sworn to the Department of Mysteries. Figuring out exactly how to say it in a way that would make Daphne investigate… that was an entirely different manner.
Not to mention in a way that wouldn’t leave her thinking Harry was completely and totally insane. That would also be a preferable outcome of this upcoming exchange.
“It’s about your sister,” Harry said slowly.
“Astoria?” Daphne asked. “What about her?” Her eyes narrowed. “You figured out what happened over the summer, didn’t you?”
Harry shook his head. “I haven’t tried,” he answered honestly. “If you wanted to tell me, you would have. That’s good enough for me.”
Daphne smiled, though the expression looked tired. “Thank you.” Harry just shrugged in return. “So what is it, then?”
“It’s about the friends she’s been keeping.”
It was maddening that Harry couldn’t just tell Daphne everything. She had been one of the petrified victims, but she had never known who orchestrated the attacks on her person. That meant she was as far from eligible to learn the truth as anyone else in the castle. The unjustness of it all made Harry seethe. All of this coming from a body of the ministry, whose job it was to uphold justice and order in Magical Britain. It was yet another example of how utterly the systems put in place in the country had failed.
Daphne frowned. “This is about Nigma, isn’t it?”
Harry bit his lip — now was the moment of truth; it was surely the best opportunity he would get. “Not Nigma, no.”
Daphne’s frown deepened. “Then who?”
Harry met her eyes and tried to will the meaning of his words to shine through his stare. This entire Riddle debacle had made him envious of the ability to plant memories in other people’s minds. That had been before he’d realized that ability would be no good here. Grace had indeed confirmed that even subtle passing of secrets kept under oath would count as an explicit violation so long as the secrets were passed directly.
That was the key; Harry was sure of it.
If he couldn’t pass on Riddle’s secret directly, he would pass it on in another way. All he had sworn was that he wouldn’t speak about the identity of the Heir of Slytherin or tell anyone about Riddle’s involvement going forward. Which meant he could not share the fact that Emily Riddle had changed her name to Emily Nigma.
“Not Emily Nigma, no,” said Harry, suddenly struck with an intense sense of Déjà vu. This must have been how Dobby had felt whilst trying to pass him secrets on Privet Drive. “It’s Emily Riddle who you need to worry about. I’m afraid of what she might do to Astoria.”
Passing a secret on indirectly… well, there was a reason oaths had fallen out of practice; no wording could cover for every workaround anyone could ever come up with.
October 1, 1993
A Secret Passage on the Fourth Floor
It was not the first time Ares and Emily had met up in this room, but the Black heiress almost found herself taken aback each and every time. It was hidden in a simple way — nestled behind a floor-to-ceiling window on the fourth floor — yet Ares had never heard mention of it until Emily had shown it to her as a meeting place for them. She was fond of the room; the fact Emily had rearranged it to look much like the Slytherin common room probably didn’t hurt.
Emily herself was in the chair directly across from Ares, with the softly crackling fire in between them.
“How are things coming along with Potter?” she asked in that smoothly soft voice of hers.
“He said he’ll give me another chance.” It was difficult for Ares not to smile. That single shred of hope had been the high point of her school year so far. “We’re not friends, but I have a chance to earn his trust back.”
“Don’t squander it.”
Ares scowled. “I’m not planning to.”
“I would hope not. You would have very little potential if you were.”
Ares just rolled her eyes. “You know that you’re infuriating to talk to sometimes, right?”
Emily’s lips twitched. “Only when your narrative contradicts mine.”
“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?”
“That I am a superior intellectual and communicator in every conceivable way and that you often find yourself frustrated any time you’re confronted with that truth.”
Ares opened her mouth, then closed it, then glared at her. Emily just laughed softly, something that only caused Ares to glare at her more fiercely. “Was there anything specific you wanted to talk about?” she asked, ready to move on from the one-sided exchange.
“Don’t ask questions you know the answer to already,” Emily chided.
“I don’t know the answer, though.”
“You should. I do very few things without deliberation and purpose. I would expect you to be more confident in knowing that by now.”
Ares tugged at her hair and had to resist the urge to glare again or else roll her eyes for a second time. “Yes, yes, superior intellectual. What is it you wanted to talk to me about?”
Emily folded her hands and leant slightly forward. “I will be introducing you to someone new very soon.”
Ares furrowed her brow. “Someone new?”
“Yes. Someone who I’ve been closely watching since the beginning of the school year.”
“Do I get to know who?”
Emily tilted her head and appeared to think for a moment. “Astoria Greengrass,” she said after a pause.
“Greengrass? Her sister’s best friends with Potter. I’m surprised she’s speaking with you.”
“Her sister knows nothing of me. The Unspeakables saw to that. There’s nothing Potter can tell her and if she suspects anything herself, she either hasn’t passed it along or else Astoria has ignored it altogether.”
Ares tilted her own head. “Okay, Mrs. Superior Intellectual; you say you don’t do things without a reason. What’s your reason for this? I doubt you just took a liking to her.”
“She’s pleasant enough, if a touch naive for my tastes.”
“But I’m right.”
“You are, and more confident of it, too. A good step in the right direction.” Ares just continued watching Emily, not giving her the satisfaction a reaction would gift. “There’s something different about her,” Emily said after a moment. “I’m not exactly sure what it is yet, but I intend to find out.”
“Do you have any ideas?” Ares asked. Something different hardly narrowed it down.
“Something different about the way she interacts with magic. There’s something off that I can’t quite gauge.”
“Is she more powerful or something?”
Emily’s lips thinned. “I’ll spare you the deconstruction of what most people think of when they hear magical power and answer your question because I’m in a generous mood. No. She can conduct no more magic than the average witch or wizard and I don’t think she has any particular affinities. Its interaction with her is just… odd.”
“And you think you can use it?” There was no other viable reason why Emily would pursue a first year this fiercely. Astoria might have been a Greengrass, but she was not the heiress and therefore commanded no political power beyond the influence garnered by her name.
“Perhaps,” said Riddle. “I dislike not knowing things, especially about magic. I intend to right that wrong first and foremost.” A thin smile teased the corners of her lips. “If I can use whatever magical anomaly I learn of to my advantage going forward, then all the better.”
Maybe it’s because I took a bit of a break after chapter 72, but this was one of the more fun chapters to write of year 3 despite the fact I’ve written more appealing ones on paper. I hope you all enjoyed it despite the slow pacing; there are a lot of things setup in this chapter — some of which won’t be seen for years.
Please read and review.
PS: The next password will be released in one week. THE NEXT FOUR CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW FOR PATRONS. Feel free to sign up to my Patreon page and read all of those now.
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