Ashes of Chaos
Year 3: The Blackest of Truths
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.
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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
Year 3: The Blackest of Truths
October 31, 1993
The Hospital Wing
Harry awoke to a still silence that made him tense. What had happened? Where was he? Had Riddle struck again? That had been the last thing that had knocked him unconscious, but he had no recollection of any interactions with the could-be dark lady.
Then, the memories returned; slow at first, but then faster. He and Charlotte walking headlong into a duel, her retreating, Harry going forward. That had been foolish, but there could be no other way. It had been clear that Black had been focused on Harry and would not be letting him go. Charlotte’s best chance had been away from him, which had left Harry to fight Black alongside a man he had never before met.
The fighting came back to him next. They had done well in the beginning, but Black’s skill had been otherworldly. No one had exaggerated his reputation. If anything, nothing anyone had said had prepared Harry for just how dangerous the man truly was. His skill was not the only daunting thing about the fight, either. As Harry and Lupin tired, Black had remained unhaggered. Injured, but free of fatigue. Such a thing should not have been possible. Not whilst the three of them threw around powerful magic without pause for so long. Especially Black. Harry and Lupin would occasionally get short breaks if they had been thrown to the ground and covered by the other, but Black had been forced to fight the whole time. Yet he had not tired; Harry could not fathom how that was possible.
Not that it was the only oddity. Harry had lacked time to consider during the conflict, but Black’s focus on him was odd. Not the fact he had seen and fixated upon him. That was to be expected; Harry was a Potter — he knew a fight would be inevitable if he was unfortunate enough to cross paths with Black.
The thing that confused Harry was the fact Black had been in the dungeons actively searching him out. That part made no sense. Harry might have been the Potter heir, but he was not the one Black had sworn vengeance against during his trial. Charlus was the obvious target and the one that everyone had rightfully worried for. Yet Black had specifically targeted Harry. There could be no other explanation for his fixation upon the dungeons, in particular. He was unlikely to find Charlus anywhere near them which meant, for one reason or another, he had viewed Harry as the more important target.
A troubling possibility began taking form in Harry’s mind, but he was distracted before he could consider it for too long.
“Awake, are we?”
Harry startled and looked to his right. His muscles protested the swift movement, but he felt nothing serious. He was uninjured as far as he could remember, but extreme soreness was only natural.
Harry glanced to his right and saw him. On the bed closest to him lay Charlus. His glasses were already on his nose and he was propped up on one arm, peering at Harry. He must already have been awake for some time.
Harry cleared his mind, shaking off the last vestiges of confusion and fatigue. “Did Black go for you first, then?” He knew the answer even as he asked. Harry had seen Black fight; Charlus would be dead had he been Black’s target. Yet the spells he had used against Harry…
Charlus scowled so fiercely it looked as though he wished to burn a hole straight through Harry’s face. “No. I never even saw him. I wish that I had.” The last bit was added in a mutter, but Harry caught it nonetheless.
Harry frowned. Part of him had begun believing that Charlus had changed. Then, his brother had to come out with something stupid like that. He wished he had run into Black? Harry wanted to believe it was ignorance and nothing more. Not even he had expected Black to be as dangerous as he was, and Harry was a great deal more cautious than Charlus. The more rational part of Harry suspected Charlus was indeed ignorant, but that it mattered naught. Even if the Boy-Who-Lived knew exactly what Black was capable of, Harry still had a feeling he would wish for the same things, so he held his tongue in regards to Black for now.
Harry shook his head. “I guess Samhain really did decide to be a pain this year.” He glanced back towards Charlus. “How’d you end up here, then?”
Charlus flushed and looked towards the ground. Something was bothering him greatly and, for a moment, Harry expected him not to answer.
Ah, yes; Harry had almost forgotten about them. They had been moving towards the fight near the end. Another interesting tidbit. Black had fled from the dementors the moment they had arrived. Harry supposed it made sense. They doubtlessly knew Black and could trail him more effectively than any magician could. They had also spent time tormenting him in Azkaban, so Black was painfully aware how horrible they were. Yet he had also escaped from them. If any wizard had reason to flee before dementors, it was Sirius Black.
This whole mess just felt wrong somehow. There were so many things Harry had no explanation for. One of them could be easily dismissed. Three of them were harder to ignore, especially when considering all that had happened since the end of Harry’s first year. There was more at play here. Harry could sense it, but for now, its nature eluded him.
Harry refocused; there would be time to consider these sorts of things later. “You were actively chasing Black, weren’t you?” he asked.
“You weren’t?” Charlus actually sounded surprised.
Harry just stared blankly towards his twin. “Why would I go looking for Black?”
“He got mum killed! Plus he betrayed Dad…” Charlus trailed off, steam vanishing when he realized what he just said. “Sorry,” Charlus muttered, “I guess that last one wouldn’t bother you as much. It’s just—”
“I get it,” Harry said, raising a hand. Harry could understand Charlus’s emotions even if he couldn’t empathize with them. In a twisted sort of way, he probably loathed Black the same way Harry did Dumbledore. More intensely, perhaps, but both men had cost each of the Potter twins something dear.
“I just… I need revenge, Harry. That bastard needs to die.”
“Chasing after him isn’t going to accomplish that.”
“You haven’t fought him, Charlus. I have — you won’t win.”
Charlus flushed. “How do you know? I’ve been practicing, I—”
“Can you cast non-verbally during duels?”
The question appeared to take Charlus off guard. “I… well, no.”
“Can you cast powerful spells that will break through shields and immediately incapacitate anyone it hits?”
“Did you outduel a talented seventh year last June?” This time, Charlus said nothing. “I can do, or have done, all of those things and more. I’ve been practicing relentlessly, Charlus. This isn’t something I’ve picked up recently. I fought Black tonight and I used all of that and more. Plus, I had Lupin with me.”
Charlus’s eyes widened. “Remus was there?”
“Yes — he’s very good; one of the better duellists I’ve seen. Both of us fought him together. It was no good; we injured him, but Black just kept fighting. He was better than both of us and he never tired. It was like trying to fight a storm. I’ve never…”
Harry paused as a memory sprang to mind. He had been about to say he had never seen anyone cast precisely with such speed, but that was actually untrue. There had been one person — one time when magic had come at him like a storm, slamming into him so fast, he could not remember how the duel had been lost.
That had happened almost a year and a half ago in a catacomb beneath Hogwarts when Harry had decided upon defiance and raised his wand against Lady Voldemort.
Harry’s mind raced with impossible ideas. Could Black not have been Black at all? Could Voldemort have possessed his body much like she had Hurst? Or simply occupy another vessel and take Polyjuice Potion? Black had looked astonishingly young — much too young, like he had not aged in over a decade…
Harry shook his head. Thoughts like that were foolish. Wizards aged slower than muggles and Black was a master magician.
Yes, it made sense that Black would fight something like Riddle. He was supposed to have been her lieutenant near the end of the war. Harry had first-hand experience with Voldemort and knew she took a hands-on approach. It was likely she had trained Black personally so it was only natural some of his attacks would resemble hers.
The twins sat in silence for a moment. Harry had no need for Legilimency to know Charlus was pondering his words. “I have to try,” he muttered a moment later. “I just… for mum—”
“There are better ways to honour your mother’s memory than suicide, Charlus.”
Harry almost leapt from his bed. His ring had not been removed and there had been no pulse to warn him someone else was near. How was that possible? The only person who had ever fooled Harry’s ring was Dumbledore.
Remus Lupin stood from a bed nearby. Harry eyed him. Perhaps there was more to this man. He had certainly appeared skilled whilst fighting Black, but this? This impressed him far more than Lupin’s martial ability. Harry watched him more carefully and with greater interest. Madam Pomfrey had patched up his face the best she could. It was still a swollen mess and Harry knew it would scar quite gruesomely, but it looked better than he might have expected and gave Lupin an ominous air in the low light of the room.
“Your brother is right, Charlus,” Lupin continued, “you can’t beat Sirius.”
“So what?” Charlus spat. “I’m just supposed to stay back and let him come after me?”
So, Charlus had not put together why Sirius had been in the dungeons. He may not even have considered it. Charlus was so used to being the Boy-Who-Lived that the idea of someone viewing Harry as more important had probably never crossed his mind.
“Your mother died to save you,” Lupin said simply. “I think running after Sirius and getting yourself killed would be a poor way of repaying her. If you want to do that, stay safe. Sirius has the entire country after him; he will eventually be caught.”
“Voldemort never was.”
Lupin frowned. “Sirius is not Voldemort.” Harry’s intrigue rose further. Saying a name should not have meant so much, but when it came to Voldemort’s, the will to utter it meant something. Yes, there was more to this Remus Lupin than Harry had realized.
“But she fought you and Harry off. Dad said the ministry could never have imprisoned Voldemort because she was too powerful. What if Sirius is the same?”
Lupin’s eyes grew dark. “They don’t plan to imprison him again.”
“The dementor’s kiss, Charlus. That is what Barty Crouch has ordered to take place if Sirius is apprehended.”
Harry shuddered at the thought. He had done a bit of reading on dementors since their arrival at the castle and knew what their kiss entailed. The thought of it made his stomach squirm — there were no more detestable creatures on the planet. Not even their timely arrival hours earlier had changed Harry’s opinion on that.
“And what if they can’t?” Charlus challenged. “What if he really is like her?”
Lupin sighed. “Sometimes, I forget how young you are.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Charlus asked, glaring.
“It means that you know very little of Voldemort and what it was like when she reigned. Charlus, if you think Sirius duelling Harry and I is comparable to what she was capable of, you are either delusional or you have been lied to. Voldemort would have killed both of us in seconds and without any of our spells coming near her. She then would have bent the dementors to her will had they dared come near, not flee like Sirius did the moment he felt them coming.”
Charlus slammed a fist into his pillow. “I just… I feel like nobody’s doing anything and that he’s going to get away.”
“He won’t,” Lupin promised. “I understand what it is we deal with now and we have one major advantage now.”
“We do?” Harry asked, honestly intrigued.
“We do indeed,” said Lupin, eyes grim, “we know that Sirius truly does fear the dementors.”
Soon after, in the Speaker’s Den…
Getting his entire group into the Speaker’s Den on such short notice without making a scene had been difficult. Harry still suspected they looked like a suspicious bunch, but there was nothing to be done. This information was vital and it had to be passed along as soon as possible. If there was one blessing from tonight, it was that Riddle had not been present in the common room. She must have been off on one of her frequent nightly escapades. What exactly she did, no one knew, but she was often absent from the common room at this time.
Still, using the Den so often unnerved Harry. The more often it was used, the higher their chances of being spotted using it. All it would take is for one student to become suspicious and to tell Riddle, or for Riddle herself to take notice. Harry had a feeling she would gain entry even in spite of his password; there was just an ominous feeling that would not let him be. It was funny how the moment he had grown more conscious of using the Den less often, circumstances had forced him to use it more frequently.
It was an apt personification of much of what he dealt with on a regular notice. The universe had a funny way of toying with Harry — especially on Samhain. Had Riddle burst through the Den’s entrance then and there, Harry would have been unsurprised. On this cursed night, it all would have been par for the course.
Yet she did not.
The Den was as still as ever — no, stiller. Daphne, Charlotte, Blaise, and Tracey joined him tonight.
“The old inner circle?” Blaise asked, looking around the room. “Something really is serious, then.”
Harry’s lip curled. “What gave it away?”
“You’ve been including others lately,” said Blaise. “You really meant what you said after the incident last year about keeping everyone more informed. The fact you’ve limited this meeting to your original inner circle is ominous.”
It had been a rhetorical question, but Blaise’s answer was still enlightening in a way. He had always been observant. All of Harry’s friends were, but Blaise, in particular, had a knack of noticing things that passed others by.
“Well, yes, it’s serious. I do plan to tell part of it to the others, but I think some of it might be better kept quiet.”
“This is about Black,” Daphne guessed, eyes moving from Harry to Charlotte. She had told them then. Harry could hardly blame her. There had been a very real possibility he would not return from that fight. His friends had deserved to know where he was; he could not begrudge Charlotte that choice.
“Yes,” he admitted, “it’s about Black.”
“You fought him,” Tracey said with awe.
Harry shook his head. “I stayed alive. I’m not really sure that can be called fighting him. We’re not in the same league.”
“But you’re alive,” Tracey argued.
Harry frowned. “Part of that is because I wasn’t fighting him alone. Do you all remember what I told you about Lupin? How he was a friend of my father’s who was watching the castle for any signs of Black?” They all nodded. “He was there and we fought Black together. Black was better than both of us. Nothing he did seemed to fatigue him.”
“They said the same thing about… Voldemort.” Tracey gasped at Daphne’s use of the Dark Lady’s name. Charlotte and Blaise just raised eyebrows. Harry fought the urge to smile with some difficulty. He could have hugged Daphne right there and then. She had not taken what he’d told her about Voldemort and the name idly. It was an important step.
He internally frowned. He could hug Daphne? That was an odd thought. It really did show just how far he had come in the past two years. Harry would have cringed at the thought whilst on Privet Drive. Now… it almost sounded appealing.
“What do they say about her?” Harry asked.
“That she never tired in duels. Some say she could take on dozens of aurors and just hold out, wait for them to tire, and then strike back.”
“He really was her lieutenant then,” Harry said, thinking aloud. “He fought somewhat like her, too. The only time I’ve ever seen spells cast like the way he did it was down in the catacombs at the end of first year. She taught him well.”
“You said Lupin was part of the reason you were alive,” said Charlotte, eyes narrowed, “what are the other reasons?”
“Only one, really — I don’t think Black wanted to kill me.”
They all exchanged looks. “Um… that doesn’t make any sense,” said Tracey.
“I know,” Harry agreed. “A lot of things about tonight don’t make any sense.”
“Like?” Blaise prompted, leaning forward.
“I’ll start with the bit about not killing me. All the spells I recognized Black use would have incapacitated me, but none of them would have killed me.”
“He must have wanted to capture you,” Blaise mused, “take you as a hostage or take you for some other reason.”
Harry paused. That had not been something he’d considered, but he soon shook his head. “I don’t think so. Why would Black need a hostage?”
Blaise shrugged. “They’re useful. He could probably get quite the ransom.”
“I doubt Black wants gold. If he really was the one to break into Gringotts this summer, he could have stolen plenty whilst there. The Prophet made it pretty clear he hadn’t taken any.”
“There are other things he could have wanted you for,” Charlotte said. “Blackmail against your father, maybe.”
“See, that ties into one of the other things that was odd. Why was Black targeting me? Let’s combine the problems for a minute. If Black wanted a hostage, Charlus is more useful in any way imaginable. He could ransom him for more, it would be better blackmail against James, hell, he could probably even extort Dumbledore or the ministry. None of that’s true if he captured me.”
“That is odd,” Daphne agreed. She was tugging on a clump of hair, looking troubled. “Black threatened your brother during his final trial. One would think it was him who he was after.”
Blaise’s eyes had been watching Harry for some time now, but only when Daphne finished did he speak. “You have an idea, don’t you?”
All eyes turned towards Harry, who fidgeted despite himself. “A crazy one.”
“Oh, goody,” Blaise said, lounging back in his chair. “Go on then, old friend.”
“Well, I know of only one important person who has constantly tried to get me out of the way.”
Blaise’s eyes narrowed. “You think Pettigrew is involved somehow.”
Harry hesitated, then nodded. “It sounds paranoid, but it makes sense. They were all friends whilst at school. We know Black turned traitor and, at this point, I would basically bet my inheritance that Pettigrew is a Death Eater. Their friendship might not ever have fallen apart, and so, they could be working together.”
“It’s possible,” Blaise admitted. “I’m not sure what Pettigrew gains from capturing you, but it’s possible. If I were him, my goal would be to kill you if he really does want you out of the way.”
Harry considered how much to say. There were two crazy ideas left that churned inside his head, unwilling to leave him be.
Eventually, he decided upon putting forth one of them. “I think his goal would eventually have been to kill me. If he could capture me, though, there are valuable things I could tell him before I died.”
“Like what?” Charlotte asked.
“Like what happened in the Chamber of Secrets, or at the end of first year if Charlus hasn’t told him. I swore oaths to the Unspeakables, but Pettigrew might not know that. From his perspective, I know more about Voldemort than anyone else he could ever get to.”
Tracey bit her lip. “Why would Pettigrew go through all that trouble just to hear you talk about her.”
Harry took a deep breath. This was the part where they might consider him insane. “The Death Eaters are becoming stronger again. Lord Malfoy wanted an alliance last winter and I think there was more to it than politics. Pettigrew’s been trying to get me out of the way ever since I defied Voldemort. Calypso’s father has started showing more interest in me, and there are other things.”
“What are you saying?” Daphne asked, though Harry thought by the look in her eyes that she knew.
“I’m saying that I think the Death Eaters are plotting and that their end goal is to bring Voldemort back into power.”
Tracey gasped as her eyes went wide. The others had more control, but it was clear Harry had shocked all of them. It made sense to him, at least. Now that he knew of Voldemort’s horcruxes, he knew that she could indeed gain power once more. Lockhart had been vague about the process, but he believed she could return and he had clearly studied the subject intently. Everything felt too interconnected when taking that fact into consideration. The others might think him mad — though Harry seriously didn’t think they did based on their expressions — but to him, it all made sense.
Yet so did a different theory that was far crazier; a different theory that would surely have made his friends doubt him had he spoken it aloud. Their faith tonight was a victory — it was best to halt his march and accept the day’s spoils, so he said nothing to them of his crazier worry.
November 3, 1993
A Secret Passage on the Fourth Floor
Emily had been wanting to meet with Ares ever since the chaotic night of Samhain. Arranging the meeting had proven more difficult than the older girl had planned. A full lockdown remained in effect throughout the following day. That had been lifted yesterday, but the teachers, ghosts, and prefects watched the halls with incredible vigilance. That had lessened some today — lessened enough for the two of them to sneak off, anyway.
Oh, and Astoria, apparently; she had begun being present at more of these meetings than not as of late.
“You look tired,” Ares observed when Emily entered the room. Indeed she did. Her appearance was still immaculate, but there were small imperfections not usually there. A hint of redness around her eyes, a slight hesitation in the way she moved.
Emily sighed. “I am a bit, I’ll admit. Being unable to roam freely has worn on me.”
“But you could have snuck out,” Astoria pointed out. “I doubt anyone could have stopped you.”
“It would have been unwise. It was best for the house to see me. I’ve been absent often lately and I don’t want them to forget about me.”
Astoria hid a giggle behind her hand. “I doubt anyone is going to forget about you any time soon.”
Ares eyed her more critically. “You’re going to move on the house soon, aren’t you?”
Emily nodded. “That’s the plan, yes. I had originally hoped to do it the night of Samhain, but other things diverted my attention.”
“Other things like Black appearing,” Astoria said with a smirk. Astoria said it lightly, but Ares would not have. Emily had been absent that night. She would not have been at all surprised if Emily had aided Black in sneaking into the castle.
Ares would speak none of that aloud whilst near Astoria, but she did watch Emily closely for any signs of a reaction. “That was distracting, yes, but I actually changed my plans long before Black ever attacked the castle.”
Astoria waved her hand. “I was kidding, anyway. I’m not one of the morons who spread the rumours about Potter fighting him.”
Ares had heard those rumours, too. She found them less ridiculous than most. She knew that Harry had survived in the Chamber of Secrets last June. She knew how proactive he had been in his attempts to bring down the Heir of Slytherin. If he held Black responsible for the death of his mother — especially now that she knew of the childhood he’d had — it was not all that difficult for Ares to imagine him hunting Black. Harry had a powerful determination that most others lacked and he was the most gifted magician his age Ares had ever met.
“I don’t find those rumours especially moronic,” Emily said as if she was reading Ares’s mind. Ares checked her Occlumency to try and ensure that wasn’t actually happening. She was never sure with Emily. Not that checking would necessarily tell her the truth of the matter. Emily was skilled enough that Ares may well be unable to detect her intrusions at all.
Astoria looked puzzled. “You don’t?”
“No, I don’t. Potter has always interested me. He’s different from the others and always has been. More talented, too.”
“So… you actually think he fought him?”
Emily shrugged. “I’m unsure. Potter is someone I may investigate at a later date, but for now, he is not my priority.”
“Right,” said Astoria, snapping to attention, “the house.”
“Yes, the house. Have you made any headway in forming alliances?”
Ares nodded eagerly. “I’ve made friends with Rowle, Thicknesse, and Yaxley from my year.”
Two Sacred Twenty-Eight families and the daughter of a fast-rising ministry official. That was not bad at all. Ares supposed being an outgoing member of one of the country’s Founding houses probably helped.
“Good,” said Emily, turning to face Ares. “And you?”
“I’ve been talking to Harper and Cuffe again. I think you’ll have their support.”
“What of Jugson, Mulciber, and Travers?” Ares might have asked the importance of such families had she not known Emily’s true identity. They were all former Death Eaters houses.
“I haven’t spoken to them yet. They keep themselves mostly separate and I don’t like the air about Mulciber. Something feels off about him.”
“Will you speak with them in the coming days if I ask?”
Ares hesitated, then nodded. Emily had helped her against her parents, both of whom were much more unsettling than school children.
“Thank you,” Emily said with a smile.
“So what’s the plan?” Astoria asked whilst bouncing on the spot and beaming up at Emily.
Emily just smiled down at her. “Don’t worry about that. Neither of you have roles to play. I just want to make sure everything is in place. I’ve waited far too long for improper planning to render it all useless.”
I know this chapter is short, but I have officially stopped carrying any regard for chapter word counts. They will be as long or as short as they need to be. That might mean 3k words, it might mean 10k words; only time will tell. Despite the chapter’s short length, it was filled with important details that I hope did not go unnoticed.
Please read and review.
PS: The next password will be released next week.THE NEXT THREE CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW FOR PATRONS! Feel free to sign up to my Patreon page if you’d like to read those now.
PPS: I am aware of an inconsistency regarding Harry having his ring when Charlotte should still be carrying it. That will be revised by the time this chapter releases on FFN.)
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