SHAMELESS PLUG: Please check out my original fiction on Amazon. Strangers In Boston, by T.S. Mann.
Harry Potter and all associated characters and situations belongs to J.K. Rowling.
and the Resurrection Game
Chapter 21: Dinner and Champagne
25 October 1994
4 Privet Drive
As the Welcoming Feast was commencing, Lily Potter was actually sitting on the floor of the "Magic Room" at 4 Privet Drive next to her open trunk, which was how James Potter found her when he stepped out of the nearby Floo from the Ministry. Lily was weeping openly, and in her hands was a book that she did not recognize but which was filled with notes in her handwriting scribbled in the margins. Applied Pharmacology was the name of the text.
"Lily?" James said tentatively.
"James," she said in a terrified whisper. "I think I may have murdered Vernon Dursley."
"What?!" James asked incredulously. "What do you mean you think you murdered him?! You already denied it under Veritaserum just this morning?!"
She nodded dumbly and sat down on a nearby couch, her face still a mask of shock.
"Yes, I did," she said shakily. "And then, afterwards, I had a talk with Severus in which he told me that by the end of Fifth Year, I was nearly a level-four Occlumens, the level you need before you can alter your own memories and beat Veritaserum! But I don't remember it at all!"
And with a mounting sense of panic, she held up the Muggle textbook and showed it to her husband. "Just like I don't remember this!"
James studied the text in confusion. "Applied Pharma …?"
"Pharmacology. It's the study of Muggle pharmaceuticals. Basically, their equivalent to healing potions. James, if there is a way to magically alter a Muggle's prescribed medications so that they would become poisonous and then revert back after death, this is the sort of knowledge you would need to do it!"
"And … you learned how in your Muggle college studies?"
Lily sighed loudly and wiped her hand across her face. "Apparently, I took a First in this class, but I don't even remember signing up for it!"
"Calm down, Lily-Flower," James said as he took the book from her and held her hands in his own. "None of this proves that you murdered Vernon."
"James …!" she said in exasperation.
"Lily, don't forget! Peter was screwing with us for years! He gave both of us potions and used both Confundus Charms and Obliviations on us. Even if your academic knowledge is responsible for Vernon's death, Peter might have influenced you into it somehow."
"I feel like you're stretching a bit, James," she said somewhat acerbically.
"And I feel like my head's been screwed with a lot over the years, Lily. So is it so hard to believe that yours might have been as well?"
"But to what purpose? Why would Peter have wanted me to kill Vernon in such a ridiculous way?"
"You mean in a way that only a brilliant Muggleborn could have done it? One who might have felt guilty over what Vernon did and might have wanted revenge? Peter had plans in place to do away with us both if he needed to. If he could have framed you for murder—or for that matter, Confunded you into actually committing a murder!—he could have sent you off to Azkaban and gotten an even stronger hold over me and Jim. Or worse … When I … when I met with the Goblins last Spring and finally went over the paperwork, I found…"
Then, he looked down in embarrassment.
"There was a document I had signed that would have made Peter regent for Jim and House Potter if something happened to us both. Yet another thing I was stupid enough to sign without even reading. I think his plan might have been to get you sent off to Azkaban for murdering Vernon and then get me out of the way somehow. Fake my suicide or get me committed for having a mental breakdown."
Lily looked at him in disbelief. "You … you really think that's possible? But what about my missing Occlumency skills?"
"I don't know. But now that you mention Occlumency, I studied it at the Auror Academy. I had to reach Level 3 in order to pass. But I never went beyond that and actually let my skills degrade afterwards. I always thought it was because I just didn't like the effects it had on my personality. But maybe it was something else!"
"What? You think Peter might have manipulated you out of studying Occlumency so that you would be less able to resist his tricks?"
"Well, looking back on it," James said firmly, "I can't imagine what else would have made me so reluctant to develop a skill that would protect me from having my emotions manipulated. Can you?"
"I suppose not," she said slowly. "I can't think of anyone else who might have been close enough to influence you mentally without it being detected. But at this point … what can we do?"
James assumed a look of determination. "We brazen it through. You've already denied the accusations under Veritaserum. There's no physical proof of what you … I mean, of what really happened."
"You're an Auror, James! You can't just ignore…!"
"I'm not an Auror anymore, Lily!" he replied angrily. "And as Director Yaxley has made perfectly clear, criminal investigations are no longer part of my job description!"
With that, James tossed the book into the fireplace before lighting it up with an Incendio. Then, he reached out for Lily's hand.
"Come on. Let's go have a cup of tea in the kitchen and think if there's anything we missed."
Lily took his hand and walked with him out of the room, still bearing a shellshocked demeanor. Behind them, the edges of the book slowly blackened in the fire. But then, just a few seconds after the Potters had left the room, the book suddenly began to shake before leaping out of the fireplace and onto the floor. Then, a strange wind which seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere rushed over the book and extinguished the fire. The book was badly damaged, but still recognizable as a pharmacology textbook with examples of Lily's handwriting within. A few more seconds passed, and then the book slid across the floor a few feet. And then a few feet more. And a few feet more, until it finally slid beneath the sofa out of sight.
Only then did the ghost of Vernon Dursley sink to the floor in utter exhaustion from his spectral exertions.
"Bloody buggering hell!" he exclaimed breathlessly, even though no one could hear him and he was not, in fact, breathing. "In the films and on the telly, they never talked about how exhausting it could be to haunt someone!"
Meanwhile back at Hogwarts
As Harry Black took another bite of the excellent Beef Stroganoff which the house elves had provided, he regarded the Great Hall with wonder at how cool magic could be. The entire room had been nearly doubled in size due to Dumbledore's spatial expansion charms, and each of the House tables had been lengthened to accommodate the guest students. Meanwhile the Head Table had been replaced by a raised two-tiered platform with several smaller tables for the adult guests. These included (in addition to the Hogwarts faculty) the Headmasters of both visiting schools and a half-dozen faculty from each, ten or so Tournament judges who apparently couldn't turn down a free meal (the rest would be arriving in time for the Goblet's selection), and various other dignitaries. Prefect Adrian Pucey had mentioned that the dining hall might be getting even bigger for the Goblet Selection Ceremony to be held in one week's time, as it was considered a "social event" to which the Ministry had provided tickets to various donors and luminaries.
Among those Harry recognized immediately were the Hogwarts judges: Barty Crouch (and his ever-present assistant Percy Weasley), Elphias Doge, Griselda Marchbanks, Horace Slughorn, and, of course, Ludovic Bagman (who was quite obviously boring and annoying everyone around him). Sitting on the other side of Dumbledore was Porpentina Goldstein. Harry was unsure of whether she was the wife or ex-wife of Newt Scamander, but there was definitely some connection as she was the guardian of Rolf Scamander, the Beauxbatons Fourth Year who Harry had dueled the previous summer in Marseilles. The other Beauxbatons judges were also present except for Julian Montmorency and Nicholas Flamel, both of whom would arrive later in the week. One name that definitely caught Harry's attention was Gabriel Delacour, who Blaise identified as Fleur Delacour's uncle and who was seated next to Headmistress Maxime. Blaise's tone implied there was more to Gabriel Delacour than a simple "special attaché" but begged off answering any questions until later.
Serena Zabini also sat with the Beauxbatons guests, with Sirius sitting beside her rather than with the Hogwarts crowd. He and Harry made eye-contact, and Sirius flashed him a winning smile meant to be reassuring but which Harry found utterly unconvincing. The boy braced himself for a conversation later that evening about his "feelings."
Other than Karkaroff, Harry didn't actually know anything about the Durmstrang judges beyond their public biographies. Even Viktor Krum, who had joined Harry at the Slytherin table, knew very little about them other than his Headmaster, who he greatly admired. Officially, Harry was supposed to chaperone Draco, but as the boy was still at Malfoy Manor with his injured father, he offered to fill in for the still-missing Hermione.
The food at the Welcoming Feast was impressive, even by Hogwarts standards. Harry had always been appreciative of the Hogwarts feasts (especially given the occasional starvation suffered in his formative years), but the food served was, for the most part, decidedly English. Very good English cuisine, no doubt, but still limited. But for the visiting schools, the house elves had finally been permitted to broaden their horizons, and they had risen to the challenge. Tonight's feast included fare from the homelands of every guest from both Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, each of which drew students from across Europe and even beyond.
Of course, Hogwarts had its share of non-English students whose food preferences were rarely considered. Blaise, for example, was enjoying his first Hogwarts lasagna and declared it "acceptable." Idly, Harry wondered if the Patil twins had been provided with vegetarian meals (assuming they were, in fact, vegetarians), let alone Indian fare. He'd never gotten close enough to either Patil sister to inquire about their eating habits, but he was fairly certain that Remus Lupin had been provided vegetarian meals during his brief appointment at Hogwarts.
Then, Harry froze as he experienced a peculiar feeling, a sensation of a kaleidoscope whirling around inside his head but never quite resolving into a clear picture. Moreover, he had the oddest sense that he'd experienced this same phenomenon fairly recently, but he couldn't recall when. But before he could focus more of his precocious Legilimency gifts to the question, he was distracted when Viktor asked him "Please for to pass borscht."
Shaking off his momentary confusion, Harry did so. He'd tried a bit of the borscht, but while it was well-prepared, he found the dish off-putting. A cold soup with a beetroot base, its dark red color reminded him uncomfortably of a bowl of congealing blood with bits floating in it. For his part, Viktor poured himself a healthy serving of the Ukrainian dish before leaning in somewhat conspiratorially.
"Forgive Viktor if impertinencity, but does Harry Black know what became of Her-mo-ninny?" He grimaced and looked around. "Viktor noticed Herm-mo-ninny ran away discommoded after Yaxley spoke to her."
Krum glanced down the Slytherin table and sneered towards the area Harry referred to as "the Warrington zone." Harry saw that both Giles and Albert Yaxley were happily ensconced among the blood-purist clique.
"I'm … not sure," Harry said cautiously.
He'd not been able to find Hermione after she ran off earlier that afternoon and had no idea where she was at the moment. It was troubling, bordering on alarming, for a girl normally so cool under pressure to have what was quite obviously a panic attack in public. Moreover, Viktor's reminder that her flight had been triggered by a simple hello from Giles Yaxley sat cold in the pit of Harry's stomach. He suddenly recalled that his time-traveling Gryffindor friend had escaped an alternate and now aborted timeline in which Corban Yaxley was the Minister of Magic. More to the point, a Minister who pursued a blood purity agenda so aggressive that Hermione and her family had been about to flee the country when the Time-Turner miraculously fell into her hands. He'd never really talked with Hermione about her experiences in her former timeline, experiences which must have been deeply traumatic on some level, and he was now beginning to realize what a mistake that might have been.
"I mean, really! My own prior timeline was so awful that my memories of it fuel both the Patronus and Fiendfyre! And she was all alone there for at least nine months or so!"
Ruefully, Harry realized that he had somewhat ruthlessly suppressed all of his own emotional baggage dating from the three days he'd erased by time-travelling. Intellectually, he thought it was pointless to brood over things that had never actually happened even if he clearly remembered them happening to him. But just because he was perfectly capable of ignoring unpleasant emotions and memories didn't mean Hermione could. He resolved to be a better friend in the future.
"I'll speak to her first thing tomorrow," he reassured the Bulgarian. "I'm sure it's nothing for you to be concerned about." He then coughed delicately. "Although, no offense, but her name is Hermione."
Viktor nodded. "Da. Her-mo-ninny."
Harry stared at the older boy nonplussed. Then, he pointed at a nearby female student. "Her." He pointed at himself. "My." He held up his hand with his forefinger touching his thumb. "O." Finally, he slapped his knee. "Knee."
Viktor stared at him as if deep in thought. Then, he slowly repeated the same hand gestures Harry had made while sounding out the name. "Her. My. O. Knee."
"Her-mo-ninny?" Viktor asked tentatively.
The Slytherin sighed. "We'll work on it."
Viktor nodded. "And how goes Harry Black's own languagification. Elder Futhark, Viktor recalls?"
"Yeah, I'm actually supposed to take the potion this weekend. So depending on my reaction, you might not see me for a few days."
Viktor nodded sagely. "Viktor remembers language potions. Taken four so far. Englander was worst. Though perhaps because bad made." He grimaced. "As Harry Black can doubtless tell."
Harry smiled and reassured the other boy before glancing back up to the platform and focusing on Igor Karkaroff.
"So tell me about your Headmaster," he inquired.
Viktor smiled. "Headmaster Karkaroff is brilliant. Was Dueling and Battle Magics professor for many years before becoming Headmaster when Viktor was in Year of the Four." The boy smiled warmly. "Plus, is national hero!"
Harry's eyebrows shot up in surprise. He looked around and then leaned in closer and whispered.
"You, uh, do know that Karkaroff was a Death Eater, right?"
Viktor grimaced but then gave a stubborn nod. "Headmaster has spoken to Viktor and others of this. He … is not proud of those things he did. But … Viktor can see how they were necessitated."
"Necessary?!" Harry hissed in shock, but Viktor put up a hand to shush him.
"Viktor will not speak of such things here," the other boy said quietly but intently. "Is not Viktor's tale to tell. But Headmaster and his friends served Dark Lord only because it was required to get Dark Lord's aid in their struggles."
Viktor's eyes grew intense. "Harry Black, Viktor will say only this. What you Englanders called the Death Eater In … Inter…jection?"
"Insurrection," Harry supplied. Viktor nodded.
"Da, Death Eater Insurrection. But in my country, it had different name: War of Balkan Liberation! And Igor Karkaroff was one of its greatest heroes!"
Outside the Hall …
Cho Chang tapped her foot impatiently as she waited. Her boyfriend, Cedric Diggory had needed to make a quick run back to his dorm for something, though he didn't mention what it was. It was, in fact, a Calming Draught laced with a Cheering Potion. Just a little something to "take the edge off." And he now looked much more relaxed than he had at the earlier event, though he'd had to use more of the potion than expected to get his anxiety in check. At this rate, he might need to speak to Roger Davies again to get some refills from the illegal potions lab that the NEWT-level Ravenclaws had been running since long before Cedric had started Hogwarts.
"Glad you could finally make it, Ced," Cho said sarcastically. "Shall we go in?"
Diggory took a deep breath. "Not just yet. Before we go into the Hall, I … I have something I want to talk to you about."
He led the confused girl over to a nearby bench where they sat down together.
"What is it?" Cho asked, now concerned about his expression.
"I .. I want to ask … I wish to know." He paused, gathered himself, and then barreled on through. "Cho, what exactly are your feelings about Muggleborns?"
The Ravenclaw leaned back in surprise. "What do you mean?" she asked sharply.
"I mean, earlier this afternoon, we both heard that Yaxley boy call Hermione Granger … the M-word. And you … laughed. Just a few months ago, I finally had to stand up to my father and ask him to not use that word anymore, and he promised me he wouldn't. But then, my girlfriend …"
"Okay, let me just stop you right there, Cedric Diggory," Cho said hotly. "First of all, I didn't laugh. I snorted once because his comment caught me by surprise. You should not think that means I share any of Giles Yaxley's bigotries because I don't. Second, my reaction wasn't because he used an anti-Muggleborn slur. It was because he insulted Granger. I am not bigoted against Muggleborns. But I definitely don't like Granger because she is bigoted against me."
"What?" he asked in confusion.
"Oh come on, Ced! It's obvious. Granger is bigoted towards Purebloods. She always assumes the worst about Purebloods who don't placate her by braying at the top of our lungs about how wonderful Muggles are. She started SPAM initially to provide social support for someone who had been declared outcast by the Ultimate Sanction, but it quickly grew into a Hate-The-Purebloods group. And according to Greengrass, Granger has spent a lot of time defending the reputation of the Dark Lord McAvity!"
She leaned back, crossed her arms, and fixed Cedric with a glare. "I am not bigoted towards Muggleborns. However, my family may have immigrated to Scotland before I was born, but in China, I can trace my Pureblood ancestry back over 2,000 years. I'm not going to turn my back on my heritage just because it makes the likes of Hermione Granger feel insecure about her place in our culture!"
Cedric withered a bit under her angry remarks but steeled himself to go on. "I still plan on trying to end the hostilities between SPAM and the CPS," he said.
"Good! I hope you succeed, and I'll help you however I can. And I really think you can do it now that Granger is out of SPAM and has been replaced by someone much more reasonable who's also a housemate of yours."
She smirked. "And let's be honest. Doesn't the fact that SPAM itself kicked Hermione out of their leadership show that the problem was really her all along?"
"I guess so," he said. "I hope you're not angry with me for mentioning it."
"Pfft. You're a Hufflepuff. Of course you're going to call me out if you feel I'm being unfair. Though I suppose I was a little angry. My Scottish burr came out."
"I noticed!" Cedric replied with a cheeky grin. "I love it when you talk Scottish."
"Och, mah wee bairn!" she replied with a grin of her own. "Ah'll try to imitate Professor McGonagall more often then!"
They laughed and kissed quickly before entering the Great Hall.
Back at the Slytherin Table …
After Viktor's remarks about the War of Balkan Liberation (whatever that was), Harry thought it best to change the topic, and the two discussed Seeker strategies for a while over the dessert course. To Harry's surprise, Viktor utterly hated the Firebolt to the point that he wanted it banned from professional Quidditch. As he explained it, there were two basic theories about what makes someone the ideal Seeker. One camp says that the Seeker should be as small and light as possible so as to reduce drag and let the broom fly faster. The other says that Seekers should be more muscular so that they can exercise better control over the broom at high speeds and fly with the precision one needs to do maneuvers like the Wronski Feint. The Firebolt's Redistributed Gravity Charm allowed even physically weaker Seekers to perform such precise moves without any need to "fight the broom" as he put it, and Krum feared that if the Firebolt became the broom of choice for Seekers, he would have no future in professional Quidditch.
As Harry considered that perspective, he glanced over towards the Gryffindor table where his Seeker brother sat. The earlier discussion about language potions also drew his attention to the Weasley Twins who were supposed to provide him with their special (and almost certainly illegal) version of the Elder Futhark Language Potion later that evening. He groaned internally at the timing. It had been a very long day, one that had commenced that morning at 3:00 a.m. with the recovery of the Ring Horcrux and Lucius Malfoy's cursing and self-amputation, continued with The Daily Prophet's expose on Lily Potter's alleged murder of Vernon Dursley, and ended with Rita Skeeter boldly announcing that she knew the most privileged secrets of the Azkabal.
The most embarrassing, in Harry's view, was the fact that their secret conspiracy was actually called "the Azkabal."
"Okay," Harry said to himself. "If any other horribles happen tonight, I will definitely go talk to Ted about counseling. Probably. I mean, if I can find the time."
At a minimum, even the insanely self-sufficient Harry Black thought he should at least talk to Ted about the accusations against Lily Potter. Or at the very least, he really needed to meditate and sort through his feelings. Assuming the story was even true, Harry found himself torn by conflicting emotions. On one hand, he'd been consumed for nearly two years by guilt over Vernon's death because he thought he'd given the man a heart attack with his "freakishness," and it angered him to think it might actually be someone else's fault entirely. On the other hand, there was a part of him that would never forgive the Dursleys for their treatment of him even if it was an artificial hatred born of his curse scar (aka "Bob"). And that part was, on some level, slightly pleased at the idea that his estranged mother still cared enough to kill someone in order to avenge their mistreatment of him. Arguably, it was the nicest thing any of the Potters had ever done for him. And on the third hand, the fact that he might actually feel that way about a premeditated murder said some pretty unnerving things about his own mental health.
Meanwhile across the Great Hall …
"Come on, Jim," Ron said urgently. "You've got to eat something."
"M'not hungry," the Boy-Who-Lived said sullenly.
"I don't know how that's possible since you skipped breakfast and lunch. Just stop worrying about it. Everything's going to be fine."
Jim turned to his friend and whispered angrily. "How can you say that? The whole country thinks my mum murdered her own brother-in-law! And then, she gets questioned by the likes of Corban Yaxley, and once she's done with that, she just disappears without a word to anyone!"
"Excusez-moi," said one of the Beauxbatons students.
"Well, maybe no news is good news, mate. I mean, if she had been arrested, surely someone would have told you something."
Jim snorted. "Have you forgotten what my family is like? Even our secrets have secrets."
"Ahem. Excusez-moi," said the French girl a bit more firmly.
"I mean," he continued, ignoring the reserved girl, "it would be just like Mum and Dad to think they're protecting me by not telling me anything and leaving me to just panic in the dark!"
Ron sighed. "Well be that as it may, Jim, there's no sense worrying about it because there's nothing you can do right now. So you might as well eat."
Jim turned away to look towards the Head Table. And more importantly, towards the tall plinth standing right in front of it with a plain-looking wooden goblet resting on top. The Goblet of Fire.
"I reckon there's one thing I can do," Jim thought angrily to himself. "Get House Potter enough money for a good solicitor!"
The boy ignored his friend's entreaties and studied the Goblet, which was surrounded on all sides by a glowing field representing the wards that protected it from tampering. On the night before the selection, all of the protective spells would come down except for the Age Line. But even that appeared to extend all the way up to the top of the Great Hall. And even though he had a signed permission slip, he still needed a way to get past it if he wanted to enter his name. There was no way, after all, that Dumbledore would simply accept his entry form without at least checking with his parents before tossing it in.
Nearby, Luna noticed his expression and turned to follow his gaze towards the Goblet and the protective spells that surrounded it.
"Such pretty wards," she said. "I wonder if they go all the way to the top."
"They obviously do, Luna," said Lavender Brown dismissively. "I mean, you can see them splashing against the ceiling."
Luna shook her head. "No, you can see them splashing against the fake ceiling. The illusion of the night sky that's projected up there. But the real ceiling is about a foot or so above that."
"What?!" exclaimed George Weasley louder than he'd intended. He and Fred looked around quickly and then leaned in towards the blonde Third Year. Meanwhile, the young French girl tried unsuccessfully once more to get someone's attention.
"Could you … expand on that, Luna?" asked Fred.
Luna shrugged. "The fake sky is projected off of runes that are inscribed on the actual ceiling and hang about a foot below it. It was all in Hogwarts: A History. Hermione told me about it once. Possibly more than once. She really likes that book."
"Hmm, very interesting," said Fred and George in unison. Jim said nothing, but he found that fact interesting as well.
A few feet away, Fleur Delacour simmered. She was so very tired of feeling ignored all the time. It was bad enough at Beauxbatons, where at least she was a respected student with good grades (but not quite good enough for any awards or a prefect's badge). But for these little boys to ignore her so rudely was unconscionable. She turned towards the Head Table and noticed that her Uncle Gabriel was looking the other way while talking to one of the other dignitaries. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and spoke once more.
"Excusez-moi," she said once more, and not even as loudly as before. But this time, there was something else in her voice. A faint subliminal sound like the peal of a delicate chime. Instantly, nearly every male within ten feet (plus at least one female) stopped what they were doing and turned towards her with wide eyes. She smiled demurely.
"Could someone please pass zee bouillabaisse?"
There was a flurry of motion as several boys raced for the bowl of fish stew, but Lee Jordan won the race by stomping on Cormac McLaggen's foot. Jordan gallantly conveyed the bowl to Fleur with a befuddled look on his face. She thanked him politely as he ladled some soup into her bowl. Then, she looked back up towards her uncle, who now was looking at her with a stormy expression. She shrugged to herself and prepared for a scolding later.
Nearby, Luna looked up and around in wonder. "Ooo, look at all the Nargles. I don't think I've ever seen this shade before!"
Still further down the table, one of the male Beauxbatons students leaned in towards Lavender Brown, who had been assigned as his campus chaperone.
"Did she just say … Nargles?!"
Lavender gave the boy a longsuffering sigh. "That's Luna Lovegood, Rolf. Best not to worry too much about whatever she's saying at any given time."
Rolf Scamander nodded and tried to go back to his own meal. But he never stopped glancing towards Luna out of the corner of his eye.
After the feast …
At the conclusion of the feast, Dumbledore made his closing remarks. In particular, he restated that the protective wards surrounding the Goblet of Fire would remain up until the night before Halloween except for the Age Line, which would remain in effect until the following night. During that 24-hour span, anyone who was of age could freely pass the line and enter their names. Those who were not of age but still had parental consent to enter the competition were to give their entry forms (signed by both the student and a parent) to the Headmaster of their respective schools or, in the case of Hogwarts students, their Heads of House. After the parent signatures were verified, any such underage participant forms would be entered into the Goblet by the Headmasters just before the Goblet's selection.
At that point, Dumbledore looked towards the Slytherin table and added that even emancipated students who were still underage would need to submit their names for later entry, as the Age Line would not distinguish between an underaged student who had been emancipated and one who had not. Harry simply looked back at the Headmaster with an expression of bored innocence.
Then, everyone was dismissed for the evening, with the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students returning to their respective vessels. Once outside the Great Hall, Harry heard a familiar voice calling out to him. It was Sirius.
"Harry! Wait up!"
Harry upped his Occlumency shields and assumed an expression of "happy to see you, Sirius, but also rather sleepy and ready for bed, and no, I'm fine, thank you." Then, he turned towards his godfather and smiled with far greater enthusiasm than he felt.
"Sirius! I wondered if I'd get the chance to speak with you. What's brought you to Hogwarts? Other than a free meal and the Countess's company?" He waggled his eyebrows suggestively at the older man.
Sirius laughed. "She's been a lovely dinner companion, thank you very much. Listen, I know the news about Lily must have hit hard, and Archie threatened to clap my ears if I bugged you about it. But if you want to talk, please, mirror-call me or at least go see Ted, okay?"
Harry nodded. "I will. But I promise you, I'm fine. And anyway, the DMLE interviewed her and cleared her. Or if they didn't clear her, they declined to arrest her. If there's anything to Vernon Dursley being murdered, I doubt she had anything to do with it."
In point of fact, Harry was by this point nearly certain that Lily had murdered Vernon, even if he was weirdly ambivalent about it. But he had no desire to discuss with his godfather the reason for that ambivalence, and so for the time being, he was going with "She's innocent, so there's nothing to worry about" as a way to avoid unpleasant conversations with the well-meaning but ultimately annoying adults in his life.
"And while I'm here, Harry…" Sirius looked around and then leaned in closely. "Are you going to enter the Tournament? I mean, I know that legally you can. But the challenges are supposed to be all NEWT-level material. I don't want you to be disappointed or feel inadequate if you do put your name in and don't get picked."
"Believe me, Sirius. I have zero desire to waste my time on the Triwizard Tournament. You and I both know that I have too much going on this year to get distracted by some stupid academic competition. I may compete in the dueling competition they're supposed to be having later in the year, but that's it."
Sirius nodded in understanding. The two talked for a few minutes longer before separating, with Sirius letting Harry know that he'd see him in a week at the Goblet Selection Ceremony. Harry grinned and said he couldn't wait. Sirius never saw the grin fall away like it had never been there as soon as his back was turned. Then, Harry pinched his brow in an attempt to ward off his growing headache before setting off for his next meeting.
Ten minutes later, he'd made his way to a seldom-used boys' restroom on the second floor where Blaise Zabini was waiting for him.
"You sure about this?" Zabini asked.
"Quite sure," Harry replied. "But you don't have to go along with this if you don't want to."
"No, no," Blaise said sourly. "In for a Sickle, in for a Galleon."
With that, the two entered the restroom to find Fred and George Weasley awaiting them. Each of the twins was holding a vial containing a thin blue liquid.
"Hello, Slytherins!" George said cheerfully. "Glad to see neither of you chickened out!"
Harry snorted. "And that's it? The secret formula to learn all the meanings and formulations of the Elder Futhark runes? Including the special rune that only you two, Bill, and the Goblins know about?"
"Well," said Fred, "we can't really speculate on who all knows about the Vohldo rune. Because whoever does know, they're obviously not talking about it."
He gave Blaise an appraising expression. "We were a bit surprised when you insisted on telling Zabini here. And ordering a second batch just for him."
"We're both in Ancient Runes together," Blaise said. "And if Harry says I need this potion, I believe him.
Meanwhile, Harry studied the twins intently, especially George, who was the dedicated "runes master" of the duo.
"And after all these years, you've never even tried to actually use the 37th rune?"
"Nope. There's a limit to our craziness. But from the way that Bill talks about his job, we get the feeling that Gringotts doesn't want its curse-breakers to use the rune so much as be able to recognize it when they see it and be forewarned that, as the Muggles say, some shit's about to go down."
Harry blinked and turned to his Slytherin friend. "Is that something Muggles say?"
Blaise laughed. "American Muggles, maybe," he said.
"Yeah," George replied with a smirk. "Bill picked it up from some American curse-breakers when he was 19 and still living at home mostly, and he said it around Mum. Once."
The Slytherins chuckled as well before Harry reached into a pocket and pulled out an envelope. "Here you are, gentlemen. A Gringotts bank draft for 100 galleons. Don't spend it all in one place. Now, is there anything we need to know about this before we take it? Other than the fact that it's illegal?"
"Not really. We recommend taking it Friday or Saturday night just after supper, because you'll be sick for a whole day afterwards. And you won't be able to miss classes without going to Pomfrey. We don't know that she'll be able to figure out what you took, but best not to take the chance. Besides, you don't want to take a Stomach Soothing Potion with it, or it will negate the effects of the language potion before it takes. You'll just have to suffer through a night and a day of vomiting. Oh, and stay close to a chamber pot."
"Charming," Blaise said ruefully.
Harry looked down at the vial in his hand suspiciously. "Okay then. If there's nothing else, we wish you both a good night."
Harry turned towards the door when Fred called out.
"Actually … there is one other thing we wanted to talk about."
Fred looked to George. And then, they both turned to Harry at once and shouted in unison.
"PLEASE PUT YOUR NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE!"
Harry did a double take. "What?! Why? There's no way I'd get picked as a Fourth Year, and even if I could get picked, I don't want to be in it!"
"We don't care whether you get picked or not," said George. "We just want you to enter your name. And specifically, we want you to break the Age Line and enter your name in secret without giving your entry form to a teacher or to Dumbledore!"
"What in Merlin's name for?!" Harry exclaimed. Beside him, Blaise studied the Twins speculatively.
"I'm going to hazard a guess and say this is about the betting odds, right?" Blaise inquired.
After a second, both Weasleys nodded, and George spoke first.
"If you do put your name in, Harry, the odds of you getting picked are only 10-1 against. Which are actually great odds for a 4th Year. Better than any 4th Year except for Jim, in fact. And unlike Jim, everyone knows that you can just hand in your entry form to a teacher and get it added."
"But!" said Fred, taking over. "Lee Jordan says the odds of you being able to get past Dumbledore's Age Line and enter your name personally are 50-1! If we give him the 100 Galleons you just gave us to put on 'Harry Black to break through the Age Line,' and you do it, that's 5000 Galleons!"
"You want me to try to break through the Age Line so you can win 5000 Galleons?! George, I have literally offered your family 100 times that amount just to resolve the life debt I owe you!"
"Yeah," George said while waving his hand dismissively. "But that's just money changing hands. This is winning it through gambling!"
"Which makes it a much cooler story to tell!" Fred added.
Harry ran his hand over his face. "Wait. Lee Jordan? How does he know so much about the betting odds for the Triwizard Tournament?"
To everyone's surprise, it was Blaise who answered. "Jordan's uncle on his mother's side is a figure of some importance in magical organized crime."
"How did you know that?" asked a startled Fred Weasley. Blaise just raised his chin imperiously.
"Because I am also related to figures of some importance in organized crime." Then, Blaise gave a mischievous smile. "And please ask Jordan, when he next owls to his Uncle Mundungus, to add that the Montessi Heir sends his regards."
"Okay," said George uneasily. "I have no idea what that means but it sounds bloody intimidating. We'll pass the message along."
Meanwhile, Harry was covering his face with his hands while muttering to himself.
"Merlin, Merlin, Merlin, Merlin!" Then, he looked up at everyone with an angry expression.
"Everyone, please, get it through your skulls. I have too much to deal with right now. So much to deal with, in fact, that murder allegations against my own birthmother are, at best, fourth on the list, even if it's the only one I can talk about publicly. I have zero interest in this stupid tournament and refuse to get dragged into it. George, if you want money, let me know and I'll send you whatever you need. But otherwise, leave me out of all this … Gryffindoring!"
With that, Harry Black turned and stormed out of the restroom. Blaise shrugged in the direction of the Twins before following him out.
"Well," said Fred. "That was bollocks, wasn't it!"
"Yeah. Shame. It would have been hilarious to see people's reactions when it came out that he beat the Age Line. I'd give anything to see Dumbledore's face!"
The other twin laughed. "Me too. Hey, if his mum murdering that Muggle was only fourth on his list of problems, what do you reckon are in the top three?"
Before George could answer, both twins were startled when the door flew open and Harry charged back in, his eyes flashing. Just a few seconds later, Zabini followed him back inside. If Harry had been annoyed when he left, he was visibly furious now.
"What exactly do you mean," he snarled, "that 'the odds against me being able to get past Dumbledore's Age Line are 50-1?!'"
"Well," Fred explained nervously. "That's an expression of how improbable people think it is that you'd be able to do that. Seeing as how you're a Fourth Year and he's, well, Dumbledore."
"How … improbable?"
"Yes," Blaise added. "As a basis of comparison, the odds of Jim being able to get past the Age Line are 20-1 and only 8-1 to get picked if he does so. But the odds of him actually winning are 30-1. And even that's because of idiots who worship the Boy-Who-Lived and think he can do miracles."
Harry looked from one face to another as if trying to comprehend the incomprehensible.
"Fifty?! To one?!" he asked incredulously. The other boys simply nodded.
He lifted his chin defiantly. "Well! That's just a bloody insult, isn't it!
The Three Broomsticks
There was a firm knock on the door, and Rita Skeeter took a moment to adjust her hair.
"Enter," she called out confidently.
Regulus Black (back in his Archie Goodwin guise) opened the door and stepped inside, only to pause and take in the scene. Skeeter had booked the best suite in the inn for the foreseeable future, one with a sitting room, a separate bedroom, and even an en suite bathroom. When Archie entered, the woman herself was standing across the room next to a lit fireplace. Nearby, there was a table with a brocaded tablecloth and two comfortable chairs. On the table were a bottle of champagne on ice, two glasses, and a lit candelabra. The setting was obviously meant to suggest romance, which only set Archie's teeth on edge.
Both Archie and Skeeter had attended the opening ceremony earlier that evening, and he'd managed to corner the reporter and ask when she would be available for a brief one-on-one meeting to discuss "a private affair." She'd batted her eyelashes and asked if that was meant as a double entendre before giving her room number at the local inn and setting an appointment for 10:00 p.m. Apparently, she'd used the time between the end of the ceremony and now to freshen up. She was now wearing a diaphanous black gown, and her hair, while still platinum blonde, was in a different style than earlier. Unusually, for a British witch (or anyone, really), she was smoking from a cigarette holder.
"Mr. Goodwin," Rita said pleasantly. "Do come in. May I call you Archie? Or, if not, any of your other names? You have quite a few to choose from."
Archie didn't reply at first. Instead, he closed the door, pulled out his wand, and cast every detection spell he knew, followed by every secrecy ward he knew (including the Animagus Detection Charm that Lucius had taught him just hours earlier). That last spell identified Rita as an Animagus but detected no others. Satisfied that no one was present or able to listen in or even able to record the conversation, he finally addressed his host.
"I would prefer to keep things professional, Miss Skeeter," he finally said. "This is, after all, a negotiation arising from an extortion attempt."
"If you insist, darling. Though that still doesn't answer the question of which surname you would like for me to use. Mr. Goodwin? Mr. White? Mr. Black? Mr. Cato? Or perhaps, for old times sake, Mr. Lockhart?"
Then, she looked thoughtful for a second before smiling even more broadly.
"I think I interviewed Gilderoy Lockhart once. Was that you? Or was it the other one? The lobotomy case who's squatting in the Janus Thickey Wing trying to remember his own name."
Archie grimaced at that description of the real Gilderoy Lockhart. "It was me. Part of the press tour for Gadding with Ghouls, as I recall."
"Ah, yes! I think I still have a copy at home. I should bring it next time we meet and get you to autograph it for me. It'll be a collector's item."
She sat down at the table and set her cigarette holder aside.
"Champagne?" she offered.
"This isn't a date, Skeeter. I'm here on business."
"Yes, yes, darling. Serious, serious business … no puns relating to your brother intended. But,as you said, this is a negotiation of sorts. Unfortunately, negotiations always make me thirsty."
She tapped her wand against the bottle and the cork shot out with a pop. Then, she poured two glasses.
"And I hate to drink alone."
Archie rolled his eyes and sat down at the table before picking up his glass.
"To fruitful negotiations," Rita said while holding her glass aloft. They each took a sip.
"A good vintage," Archie thought idly. "Rita likes to live well, it seems."
"Although," Rita continued after swallowing her drink, "I don't see why you need to use such an ugly, vulgar word like extortion. I have made it quite clear that I have no interest in exposing the Azkabal's activities, all of which I support completely."
"No interest at this time," replied Archie. "My understanding is that you plan to write a book about our … activities at some point in the future. A book revealing secrets pertaining to Azkaban-worthy crimes that we may or may not have committed."
"Nonsense, darling. I know my readers and I have a lot of them. Yes, you've done some unethical things to be sure. But once everyone knows it was all part of a bold and heroic scheme to track down and destroy You-Know-Who's Horcruxes …"
"Horcruxes," Archie interrupted, "are an Unspeakable topic."
Rita froze midsentence for a few seconds before abruptly snapping her mouth shut.
"… Hmm. Horcruxes. Are. Unspeakable. Well, I suppose that does change things. Many thanks for the warning, darling. It would be a pity for me to poke a hornet's nest by asking the wrong person about them and then vanish in the night, never to be heard from again."
She picked up her cigarette holder and took a few puffs while seemingly lost in thought.
"Very well," she finally said. "Here is my proposal. I'll put Secrets of the Azkabal aside. When the last Horcrux is destroyed and You-Know-Who is gone for good, I'll finish the manuscript and carefully edit it to remove anything the DoM would consider objectionable. Wouldn't want them to threaten my publisher with censorship or, Merlin forbid, execution! Then, I'll submit it to the members of your conspiracy for review, before locking the whole thing away in Gringotts to be published after we're all dead. How does that sound?"
Archie actually flinched in surprise. "After … we're all dead? But … what would even be the point of publishing it then?!"
She shrugged dismissively. "To have the satisfaction of knowing that I would have the bestselling posthumously released book in Wizarding history? Like I told your young friends this afternoon: For me, the joy of learning and revealing secrets is far more important than just the financial benefits I can reap from them."
Then, she leaned forward. "But … if I do that, I will naturally expect remuneration. Since, you know, the Azkabal has the backing of four of the six wealthiest families in Britain."
"Name your price," Archie said at once.
Rita took a sip of champagne as she pretended to think about the matter.
"One-hundred thousand Galleons," she answered.
"Done," Archie said even faster than before.
The reporter's eyes widened. Then, she let out a laugh.
"I should have asked for twice that amount, shouldn't I?"
Archie smiled but didn't reply.
"Very well," Rita said. "That's certainly the most I've ever been paid for not doing my job, so it's a fair trade. However, money isn't all I want in exchange for my silence on this matter. If I can't publish Secrets of the Azkabal, there's another writing project I have in mind."
"Oh?" said Archie cautiously before he took another sip from his drink.
"Yes. The working title is The Life and Times of Regulus Black!"
Rita was rewarded for her timing by a coughing fit from Archie that stopped him from responding for several seconds.
"WHAT?!" he finally gasped out.
"Oh, I think the title speaks for itself, doesn't it?" Then, she leaned in closer. "Look, Archie or Reggie or whatever you prefer, I know Lord Black has Hestia Jones looking into the mysterious and tragic death of his younger brother. I assume that's because you're laying the groundwork for Regulus Black's miraculous return from the grave. And I can help with that!"
"… Go on."
"It's a tragic and moving story. Regulus Black flees the Death Eaters and starts a new life in Australia. Naturally, we leave out the Locket Horcrux and you being a Metamorphmagus. There are many other ways to change one's identity besides Metamorphmagery. We can attribute the altered appearance of Lazarus White to some obscure Australian potion or some arcane Charm from the vaults of House Black. The details don't matter for our purposes. The established history of Gilderoy Lockhart says that he killed Lazarus White in a botched attempt to steal his fame for killing the Wagga Wagga werewolf. We just tweak it a bit to say that Lockhart left White for dead in the Australian Outback, but you survived albeit with total amnesia caused by a botched Obliviation. You've spent all the years since in some Muggle asylum or something with no idea who you were or that you were a wizard. Or at least, that's where Sirius Black will find his younger brother when the time comes!"
Archie stared slack jawed at the woman. Then, he picked up his champagne glass and slammed it back in one shot.
"If there's no Horcruxes in this story," he finally said, "why did I even leave Britain and fake my death in the first place. What, I just chickened out of becoming a Death Eater?"
"Oh, no, darling! That's the best part! Regulus Black faked his own death and fled Britain because his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, came to him and revealed that she had secretly had a daughter. But she was still so devoted to serving You-Know-Who that she thought raising a child would interfere with her service as a Death Eater. Or maybe she was afraid that You-Know-Who might want to kill the child as part of some gruesome ritual. We can fiddle with the details later. But the important bit is that she gave the child to you to raise in another country under the fake name of Delphini White! Who, of course, will return to Britain alongside Regulus Black to take her place in British Wizarding society!"
Archie stared at Rita some more. Then, he looked down at his empty champagne glass.
"We're going to need something stronger than champagne."
Rita laughed at that. "I'll order some firewhiskey. Mind you, I won't be able to start on that story in earnest until next summer. I'm under contract to cover the Triwizard Tournament for the Prophet, and I'm still doing publicity for Fall of the House of Potter. Plus, if I have my way about it, there will be a juicy murder trial in the next few months that will drag the Potters' name through even thicker mud than I've dragged them so far."
Archie tilted his head at the last remark.
"Your really do hate the Potters, don't you," he said. "On a personal level."
Rita took a few more puffs from her cigarette holder.
"I wouldn't say I hate them, darling. Hate, after all, is a very complex emotion. What I feel for them is very simple: Contempt."
"Uh-huh. And by any chance would that contempt date back to something that happened during your school days … Margarite?"
Her eyes widened for a second and then she nodded her head. "Very good. You lot are in rare company to have figured out that secret. Still, we're all on the same side, and I know so many secrets of yours, so I don't mind putting my cards on the table. I really am serious about wanting to work with your conspiracy, so I suppose a degree of trust is important."
She poured herself another glass of champagne before standing up to pace around the room, glass in one hand, cigarette holder in the other.
"Margarite Scarabee was a Ravenclaw in the same year as Lily Evans and James Potter. And James was as much an arrogant, stuck-up obnoxious prat to me as he was to most non-Slytherin students. The Marauders pulled a few pranks that I got caught up in. Embarrassing but not too awful, and anyway, we went to the Ravenclaw prefects, and next thing you know, all four Marauders were cursed with uncontrollable flatulence triggered by the sound of hearing their own last names."
Archie laughed out loud. "I think I remember that incident. It was especially bad for Sirius because he had both a younger brother and a cousin there at the time. Plus 'black' was a commonly used word, so that particular curse hit him constantly until it was reversed."
"Which took about two weeks, as I recall, because the countercurse had to be given in 17th Century Swedish!" Rita added with a smirk.
"So is it a problem that Sirius was a part of that? No grudge against him?"
"Not for school-days hijinks," she said, though her expression darkened then. "And if I did hold a grudge, I would consider it satisfied by thirteen years in Azkaban because his best friend was a witless clod who was completely enthralled by a secret Death Eater. No, my disdain for Lily and James Potter didn't commence until later."
"When the uppity Muggleborn married the high-born future lord?"
"Well I'm not a blood purist, if that's what you're implying!" she said hotly. She took another sip of champagne to calm herself.
"If you know who Margarite Scarabee is, I'm sure you know that my own mother was a Muggleborn Ravenclaw named Louise Campbell. In her last term at Hogwarts, she attended a party in the dorms, had a bit too much Firewhiskey, and lost her virginity in a broom closet to a rakish Gryffindor named Claude Scarabee. They both neglected their contraception Charms, and so I was born nine months later … and six months after their wedding. 'Shotgun wedding,' I believe, is the Muggle term. My father was intermittently employed by the Daily Prophet as a sportswriter in between drunken benders. My mother, on the other hand, was a strong, intelligent woman who earned five NEWTs, three of them O-level, which was enough to get her a job at the Ministry … serving tea in the canteen!"
She stabbed her cigarette out in an ashtray angrily.
"Of course, by 1964, even that job opportunity was out. You see, my mother made the impulsive mistake of carrying a pro-equality sign at one of Alexander McAvity's Mudblood Pride rallies. Her bosses at the Ministry found out, fired her, and blacklisted her from government employment. And Claude Scarabee, who had always been a useless, shiftless layabout, used that as an excuse to abandon us both and scurry back to his family in France. My mother spent the next seventeen years cooking and cleaning at the Leaky Cauldron until my royalties for Armando Dippett: Master or Moron started coming in. At which point, I sent Old Tom an owl informing him that my mother would not be coming in to work that day or ever again."
"And that's why you wrote those articles attacking Lily as a gold-digger," said Archie.
"Honestly? At first, I wrote those articles hoping to provoke her into doing something with all that Potter wealth and status she'd married into. Understand, my mother went to her grave worshiping McAvity and holding out hope that one day, another Muggleborn would follow in his footsteps and pave the way to equality between the blood classes. And then, along comes beautiful, effortlessly brilliant Lily Evans. Twelve OWLs, all Outstanding! Ten NEWTs, nine of them Outstanding! There were rumors in Ravenclaw that she was being scouted by the Unspeakables!"
She gave a wistful smile. "To be honest, I generally don't swing that way, but I very nearly had a crush on her at one point."
But then, Rita's expression hardened. "And then? She chucked it all to be James Potter's trophy wife! It was … offensive! And that was all before Halloween of 1981!"
Her eyes practically burned as she regarded Archie/Regulus.
"I know you were already in Australia by then, so you can't imagine the frenzy it caused. You-Know-Who, destroyed by the power of a miracle babe! Something unprecedented in our history. And damned if Lily and James Potter didn't immediately decide to milk it for all it was worth. They practically made Jim's birthday into a national holiday, with every important person in the country coming to their home to bask in that child's reflected glory! They sold books, preposterous fairy-tale books depicting the exciting adventures of a little boy who, as far as I know, rarely was even allowed out of the house! There were Boy-Who-Lived dolls! While the real-life Jim Potter was groomed his first press conference at the age of seven. Meanwhile, James Potter parlayed his son's fame into becoming the youngest Chief Auror in history despite his obvious incompetence, while Lily Potter spent her free time managing the nation's largest charity organization which she controlled without any meaningful oversight. And the whole while, they had a Death Eater running everything behind the scenes!"
"And you … took all this somewhat personally?" Archie asked cautiously.
Rita raised her chin almost defiantly. "I was raised by a single mother who sacrificed everything for my happiness and to ensure that I had the best opportunities she could win for me. And she did so after my Pureblood father walked out on us when I was four. I have issues with parents who fail in their responsibilities to their children. Which, at last, brings us to Harry Black, the child James and Lily abandoned to truly horrific circumstances for the awful crime of not being as valuable to them as Jim was!"
Archie started to respond, but she interrupted.
"Do you have any idea of how proud Petunia Dursley was of how they treated Harry? Do you know about him sleeping in a boot cupboard? Can you imagine what it was like for him to be cast bodily out of their home into a swarm of doxies?!"
At that, the former Gilderoy Lockhart winced. He'd seen it firsthand in Harry's Boggart fear, after all.
"All that may be true," he said. "But it's in the past now. Harry is free from them and dragging his past history out in this manner is only hurting him more."
Rita's expression softened. "I know. I'm sorry about whatever harm comes to him, and I promise I am doing whatever I can to protect him from any fallout. I couldn't help to save Harry who, as it turns out, was quite able to save himself and gain a measure of revenge against the parents who wronged him. But I can still help to save Jim! I'm sure you and the Azkabal know how important he is, and how much more important he will become if You-Know-Who returns before you've destroyed his Horcruxes. But right now, James and Lily Potter are unfit parents to the Boy-Who-Lived! The father is an utter fool who has impoverished the family, the mother is a murderess, and they both have allowed Death Eaters access to Jim for years! The best thing for Jim Potter, in my opinion, is to get him away from those people so that his older emancipated brother can assume guardianship over him and so that your brother, Lord Black, whose devotion to Harry has been inspirational, can help raise him. No doubt with the help of the rest of the Azkabal who, aside from being the only people in Britain seriously engaged in defeating You-Know-Who, all appear to be excellent, loving parents!"
Rita finished the last of her glass. "That's the last thing I'll ask for in exchange for keeping your secrets. Stay out of my way while I finish off the Potters. And hopefully, one day when they're older, Harry and Jim will thank me for it!"
And just like that, Rita Skeeter's vengeful expression faded away to be replaced by a coquettish smile as she picked up the bottle.
AN1: Check out the Sinister Man's web presence on the POS wiki, the POS TV Tropes page, and my Discord server (through which you can see advance previews of this story as it is being written). Also, the Sinister Man would be profoundly grateful if you checked out my P*****n page and supported my original fiction. Patronage is not necessary to get the free POS previews via Discord.
AN2: I am informed the scene between Harry and Viktor echoes a similar scene between Phoebe and Joey from Friends, but if so, it was unintentional as I don't remember that scene at all.
AN4: What the Sinister Man is reading:
Warded by Anomalist, and its sequel, Harry Potter and the Hidden Mind: A WBWL story in which Harry is raised by basically decent Potters who nevertheless impress on him a desire to help and protect, his brother the BWL. But when Harry is Sorted Slytherin and the BWL rejects him, the "kindly" Headmaster tells Harry that he can still be helpful … as a spy in Slytherin.
Draco Malfoy and the Mirror of Ecidyure by starbrigid. A Time Travel fix-it fic in which it is an embittered post-Deathly Hallows Draco Malfoy who is accidentally sent back to right before he went to Hogwarts. And immediately starts screwing things up. This is a complete fic with 7 complete books that takes Draco et al through all 7 years.
AN5: Special thanks to my Discord editors: AjithSen, apooooop, Constance, DontBanMeImScared, Empathize_Not_Advise, EssayOfThoughts | Aich, Hazard, Idefix, Jiiti, kean, Nemo's Flower Song, ohana, onlyonesane, PrettyPinkCupcake, Sakkiko, and StillPossible. Thanks guys!
AN6: Vital Statistics: Reviews: 18,708. Followers: 20,608. Favorites: 18,923. Communities: 253 Discord followers: 5,506! Go Team POS!