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Warning: Strong Violence and Torture in this chapter




 

Under no circumstance should you ever turn your back on your brothers.

That's what his father always told him.

Ron Weasley took that advice to his heart and while his brothers may have never been the nicest or even sympathetic bunch, he would never turn his back on them. An extension of that sort of loyalty was soon to be tested.

The first thing Ron noticed when he cam to was that he was still blindfolded. Able to breathe normally, Ron concluded that the black bag wrapped around his head had been removed and replaced with a dark blindfold. He opened his mouth, his tongue dry and swollen from dehydration as he struggled against his bonds.

The chair beneath him was cool and a slight shiver passed through him. Wherever he was, it was cool and damp, unlikely to be seen by any wandering bystanders. As he registered all his faculties, he suddenly realized that this situation wasn't normal. His brain fired repeatedly, but he suddenly processed the situation.

"Help!" Ron called out.

"Ron, shut it!" A voice shushed him.

"Draco?"

"Yes and if you keep yelling, they're going to come back," Draco sounded annoyed and tired.

"Who's going to come back?"

The loud creak of a door swiveling open was heard clearly by Ron and the answer to his question was immediately addressed. The hard click of expensive boots against he floor rang harshly in his ear and Ron struggled a bit with his bonds as the apprehension started taking full control of his nervous system.

"Unbag him."

Ron closed his eyes as the flood of light momentarily blinded him. After a moment of furious blinking, he carefully opened his eyes and saw a man in a mask standing above him. The mask was strangely familiar and it only took a few moments before Ron remembered where he had seen the mask before.

Death Eaters.

Privy to information from his father and subsequently his brothers, Ron had seen several pictures of the masks that Death Eaters wore to conceal their identities. Though they didn't seem all that scary at the time, the masks were now symbols of death in his eyes. He immediately struggled with the bonds behind his wrists, fright taking control of him.

"Quit struggling, Mr. Weasley," said the distorted voice. "It will only further harm you."

Ron stilled at the garbled voice, skeptically wondering if he was actually causing further harm by struggling. The mask looked down at him and Ron could see eyes peering out from behind the slits. There were two similarly dressed men behind the person talking to him. They stood with their legs separated at shoulder's length and their hands folded behind their backs.

"Do you mind telling us what you were doing at Emoorn?" the man in the mask asked.

Ron looked at Draco and presumably Harry, but they still had the bags over their heads. He looked back at the mask and answered, "We were just visiting."

"Your friends have already told us otherwise. Tell us the truth, Weasley."

Ron tried to not look shocked at the revelation. He doubted that Harry and Draco would give in so easily. They were both stubborn to a fault. How long had he been out compared to them anyways? He didn't feel like his body was too fatigued. He couldn't have been unconscious for too long.

"I am telling the truth! We were just going to there to see what it was like," Ron told the truth or as much of it he could.

The man in the mask cocked his head and then snapped his fingers after a moment. Ron jumped at the sound and heard the man in the mask chuckle ever so slightly. One of his goons departed the room but returned soon after with something peculiar in his hand.

A chess set.

"I've heard that you like to play chess, Mr. Weasley. Is that correct?" he asked.

The man must have some knowledge of Hogwarts. Ron concluded, though, that it would have been easy to find out he often played chess. But that meant contact with his friends at Hogwarts! Or worse, his family!

"I do," Ron gulped as he answered.

"Then let's play a little game, shall we? If you win, you're free to leave. If I win, you have to answer some questions," the man in the mask proposed.

Ron looked at the chess set with apprehension and desperately hoped that either Draco or Harry would pipe up and tell him what to do. Draco was moving his head around, but he wasn't speaking. Harry was slumped forwards, his chin touching his chest in an apparent sign of unconsciousness.

"Wh - who are you?" Ron bewilderedly asked.

"I believe we both know the answer to that question. Now play."

The man in the mask gave no further instruction as he shoved the chess set, hovering in mid-air, in front of Ron. At the same time, the two guards picked Harry and Draco up and set them on either side of the board, perpendicular to Ron and the man in the mask and across from each other. They were situated in a manner where Ron and the man in the mask were facing each other and Harry and Draco flanking them.

"You are white. I am black."

Ron licked his lips, terror hammering through him as he looked at the faceless guards and the dark dungeon. What happened? Why were there Death Eaters at Emoorn and why did they capture them? A brief moment of anger flashed within Ron as he deduced that it must have been Hermione, Seamus, and Dean that tipped the Death Eaters off. It still didn't answer the question as to why Death Eaters were at Emoorn though.

"How do I know you'll let me go?" Ron fearfully asked.

"You don't," the man in the mask ominously responded.

"Shit," Ron muttered.

"Pawn to D4," Ron decided to open.

"You know what I like about chess? The sheer brutality of it. Nothing is left to chance. It's just pure calculation," the man in the mask postulated.

"Pawn to D5."

"Pawn to C4."

"Ahhh, the Queen's Gambit. A tactical opening, one with hopes of quickly winning this game. I accept. Pawn takes C4."

There was movement in Ron's peripheral and he looked up to see one of the guards slug Draco across the face. The boy moaned in pain as a fist connected to a jaw and Ron cried out in dismay.

"What are you doing?" Ron cried out.

"For every piece you lose, your friends will receive a form of punishment. Let's call it…an incentive not to draw this game out," the man in the mask leaned back in his chair, his tone seemingly pleased.

"Your move, Mr. Weasley."

Readjusting his strategy, Ron willed himself to settle down. If there was any truth to what the man was saying, the only thing Ron could do was comply with the situation and hope that the Death Eaters weren't going to kill a bunch of kids.

"Pawn to E3."

"Pawn to E5," the man in the mask responded.

Ron was faced with a dilemma. Black was threatening the center of the board and was certain to be aggressive to provoke Ron into acting more quickly, but if Ron fell into that trap, who knows what he could open himself up to. There was nothing else he could do but play.

"Bishop takes C4."

"Pawn takes D4."

This time, it was Harry who got the punishment and Ron winced as the guard landed a haymaker across Harry's jaw, waking the other boy up. Harry moaned, stirring from his unconsciousness as pain awoke him. Ron wondered why neither of them said anything, but he had to strike that thought from his mind as he concentrated on the game.

"Pawn takes D4."

"Bishop to B4. Check."

The black response was expected. The man in the mask wanted to keep Ron under pressure and force him into a mistake, but Ron didn't beat everyone in his year and above for no reason. He knew how to play and intended to keep his friends as safe as he could by ending the game quickly.

"Knight to C3."

"Knight to F6."

He moved quickly, anticipating Ron's responses ahead of time. Of course, the man in the mask had the added advantage that he wasn't under threat of some sort of potential harm. Still, Ron pressed onwards, willing the sudden silence away.

"Knight to F3."

"Castle."

Ron scrunched his nose at the castle, expecting another aggressive move. Perhaps the man in the mask wasn't as willing to let himself lose as he originally thought. Thrown off by the defensive posture, Ron decided to let the man in the mask continue dictating tempo.

"Castle."

"Bishop to G4."

The man in the mask attempted to pin Ron's queen down by trapping his knight. He had to take time to calculate his next move as he knew the man in the mask would start attacking quickly.

"The game is a metaphor, Mr. Weasley," the man in the mask drawled. "Do not take too long."

Throwing a murderous glare at the man, Ron moved again.

"Queen to B3."

"Bishop takes F3."

A guard muttered a spell with his wand and Draco howled in pain as boils erupted on his hand. Ron struggled in his chair, the screams filling the chamber.

"Stop it, you bastard!"

"Quiet yourself, Mr. Weasley. The value of your loss pieces reflect the type of punishment," the man in the mask crossed his arms and Ron swore he could see the smirk from behind the mask.

"Queen takes B4."

"Knight to C6."

"Queen to A4."

"Pawn to A6."

"Pawn takes F3."

"Pawn to B5."

The man in the mask seemed unconcerned with his bishop and focused on attacking Ron's queen. In Ron's eagerness to eliminate a piece though, he missed the obvious play that black was going to do. The pawn now threatened his bishop and his queen, certain to take one of them. Ron could only imagine the punishment of losing his queen.

"Bishop takes B5."

"Pawn takes B5."

Harry paid the price of losing the bishop with a harsh Stinging Hex that caused a red welt to appear on his hand. He hissed in pain, bucking in his chair with a stifled groan. Ron could only guess that Harry was still gagged. He pressed on.

"Queen takes B5."

"Knight takes D4."

"Queen to D3."

"Knight to H5."

Draco only got a blow to the face from Ron's pawn sacrifice and Ron had now lost the center of the board. They were transitioning into the midgame and Ron was back on his heels. Worse yet, he had opened up his king to attack by losing his pawn structure. The next moves were crucial.

"King to H1."

"Queen to H4."

"Knight to E4."

"Knight to E6."

The retreat of the knight befuddled Ron. It seemed as if the man in the mask struck and then retreated for his next attack. Gritting his teeth, Ron stared at the board, trying to conjure all the possible permutations of moves.

"You play well, Mr. Weasley, but you make the common mistake of not being aggressive enough. You are trying to protect your friends. It would be easier if you just…confessed."

"Rook to G1." Ron did not have an answer sufficient enough to the man in the mask.

"Pawn to F5."

Moving his knight away would only further enhance black's dominance on the king side of the board. Ron could not continue letting him stagger so easily. He grit his teeth as he made his next move.

"Queen to B3."

"Pawn takes E4."

It was an unknown spell that hit Harry but judging by the sudden arching of his beck and the anguished cry escaping his mouth, it wasn't a spell intended to heal him. Ron quickly made his next move, hoping his expediency would be sufficient enough apology to Harry for sacrificing his bishop.

"Queen takes E6. Check."

"King to H8."

"Queen to G4."

"Queen takes F2."

Ron had him! He was trapped in just a few moves if it fell correctly. He didn't want to make too many sudden movements, tipping his hand away, but if the man in the mask held his word, they would be able to escape! He registered that Draco absorbed a punch, but it was just a small sacrifice to escape.

"Queen takes H5."

"Pawn takes F3."

"Bishop to H6."

The man in the mask stilled as he realized his folly. Checkmate was all but a formality at this point and extending the game would only be for show. Ron had won. He unfolded his crossed arms and clapped slowly, his gloves hand lightly touching each other in a mocking fashion.

"Congratulations, Mr. Weasley, you are as good as they say you are. It seems you took advantage of my over aggressiveness."

Ron could only hope that the 'they' was not his family.

"Will you let us go now?"

There was a pause of anticipation, the answer on the tip of the man's tongue. Ron hoped he would hear the words that would free him from his bonds and release his friends. The man looked up at one of the guards and nodded ever so subtly. Inside, Ron rejoiced as the man seemed to keep his word.

But then the world went black.






The throbbing in his head refused to go away as Ron awoke again, this time without a bag over his head. He was in the same darkened room and his stomach was starting to rumble from hunger. Judging by the fact that he wasn't starving yet, it had to have been less than a day they were trapped in here. Pulling his hands apart, Ron hoped that his bonds were gone but found no such luck.

Looking around, Ron had time to take in the small details. The walls were made of cobblestone, indicating they were somewhere old. It was cold, but it was winter and everywhere was cold this time of year. There was only one solitary door and no windows, so Ron had no idea what terrain they were on.

"Thanks for trying."

Ron whipped his head, the stiffness in his neck preventing him from moving too quickly. It was Draco that was speaking and he had the bag over his head removed as well at some point. His hair was disheveled, a uniquely un-Draco-like appearance. His sported multiple bruises on his face and a cut lip, no doubt from the punishment of losing pieces.

"I'm sorry about that," Ron indicated to his face.

"Don't be," Draco spat on the floor. "The bastards were just trying to get to you."

"Did you tell them?"

"Of course not," Draco shook his head. "Harry and I woke up before you and they start going at us about what we were doing at Emoorn. Harry gave up a tough fight and they shut him up with a hex some time ago. Guess it still has him knocked out."

Ron looked to his right and saw that Harry was indeed still slumped forward. There were dark stains on the bag around his head and Ron could only surmise that it was blood. The slight rise and fall of his chest indicated that he was at least still breathing.

"What do they want with us, Draco? Are they…Death Eaters?"

"Reckon so," Draco sniffed through his bloody nose. "They came in here just asking about Emoorn, nothing else. They knew all our names and didn't care about finding out anything else."

"Don't you think that's suspicious?"

"Think? It is suspicious. Bet it was the fucking girl Harry seems to be in love with," Draco shook his head at their unmoving compatriot.

"But Death Eaters at Emoorn? That doesn't make any sense, Draco," Ron reasoned.

"No," Draco admitted. "It doesn't."

Frustrated, Ron pulled at his constraints, flexing his muscles as he tried to break out of them. Groaning with exertion, he gasped heavily as he failed to break his binds. He tensed his body to try again but was interrupted by Draco.

"Stop it, you idiot, they're not going to break. The only thing you're going to end up doing is accidentally shitting yourself."

Indeed, Ron found himself on the verge of an accidental bowel movement by clenching just a bit too hard. He ceased his movement, resting back against the chair and rolling his neck to relieve the ache that had built there. Truth be told, Ron was a bit frightened.

They were sitting in a dark room, captured by a supposed fringe group hell-bent on doing…well…what they were doing evaded him at the moment, but it was unlikely it was anything good. Furthermore, they were captured at what was supposed to be a benign site in Emoorn.

Yet, they were being held captive by some unknown entity.

"Are you sure they're Death Eaters?" Ron asked again.

The usually calm and collected Draco sighed in frustration as he flipped his unusually messy hair. He pressed his tongue against the side of his cheek, a tell that he wasn't pleased with his thought process.

"They have to be. The masks give it away."

Ron turned to Harry and stamped his foot, trying to wake the other boy up.

"Oy, wake up!" Ron half-yelled.

"I don't know. Something," Draco answered after Harry refused to return to consciousness.

Opening his mouth to speak again, Ron was interrupted by the door swiftly opening. Three men walked in again, their faces covered in the same masks as they approached the trio. Ron bit his lip, preparing for more mind games or possible abuse. He recognized the chess player as the one that stood in front of him.

"Legilimens."

Memories flooded his internal vision as Ron shut his eyes to try and block the spell, but it was no use. The Burrow and his childhood rose through his mind and so did the various rooms and siblings that lived in them.

NO!

Ron tried to block the intrusion into his mind again and he heard a distant voice in the background pleading for them to stop, but the chess man pushed on. It fast forwarded to various events in his life, from meeting Harry and Draco on the Hogwarts Express to their several illegal forays into Hogsmeade. The roll of images suddenly stopped and focused on one object.

Spiders.

Soaked in sweat and gasping, Ron fell back against the chair as the chess man lifted the spell. The chess man nodded towards one of the other men in silent code and the other man immediately left in a hurried walk. The two other captors remained in the room with them.

"My father will -"

"Your father will do nothing, Mr. Malfoy," chess man responded.

Chess man turned to Ron and stared at him silently, coaxing a response out of him. Ron fidgeted as much as he could with his hands bound behind his back. That same growing sense of apprehension started crawling up his spine again as if his body were trying to tell him there was imminent danger.

"This is your last chance, Mr. Weasley. Tell me what you were doing at Emoorn."

Ron looked down, avoiding eye contact and hoping he wouldn't use that spell again. Whatever the spell was, it could easily read his mind and find the answer itself. Why didn't chess man just use that?

"We were just looking," Ron mumbled.

"Excuse me?"

Ron looked at Draco out of the corner of his eye and Draco, ever so subtly, shook his head. Taking a deep breath, Ron responded, "We weren't doing anything there."

Chess man closed his eyes and exhaled, shaking his head as he paced in front of them.

"Mr. Weasley, I am urging you to respond truthfully. If you don't…"

The sound of approaching footsteps filled Ron's ears and drowned out the chess man's request. The guard that had left earlier entered the room with a large glass box in his hands. If Ron was paying attention, he would have noticed a circular shape in the bottom of the box that extended inwards and that there was a small glass door within the box.

But it was not the box that held Ron's focus. It was the spiders within.

Tarantulas as giant as his fist filled the glass box from top to bottom. They were so crammed that they were crawling all over each other for room. Goosebumps and shivers raced through Ron's body as he immediately started pushing his feet to move away from the spiders. He could see the arthropods wiggling around, their eyes all reflecting the same horror etched in Ron's face.

The guard brought the box closer and closer as Ron panicked and scrambled his feet to somehow escape. Yet, the chair did not move for whatever force that kept it glued to the ground was strong. In Ron's eyes, the spiders moved even faster as the box neared him, sending him into hyperventilation.

"Mr. Weasley. Just tell us why you were at Emoorn. Give us anything and we will stop this."

"Don't listen to him, Ron!" Draco shouted. "They can't do anything to you!"

"Weasley, these spiders hold sacs of venom that will kill you slowly as they claw away at your face. They will try to inhabit your mouth, dig through your nostrils and pluck your eyeballs from your sockets. You can escape all of this! Just give us something," the chess man urged Ron to speak.

"No….no….get them away…." Ron murmured as he shook his head back and forth, stretching his neck further away from the box of spiders.

Chess man waved the guard over and the guard approached the kicking and flailing Weasley. In the distant background, Ron could hear Draco yelling vile obsceneities at chess man and struggling against his constraints with threats of death and mutilation. Yet, it was Ron that was supposed to be punished for holding a not so important secret. Frozen by fear, Ron watched as the guard placed the glass box around his head and his vision was suddenly engulfed with the arachnids.

"Mr. Weasley!" chess man yelled over Draco. "I will release the small opening that is holding these deadly spiders away from you if you do not cooperate. We just need one little thing."

Ron could see the ocelli of the tarantula that was clawing at the glass door. All chess man would have to do is utter a spell and they would be crawling all over his face. It was his worst nightmare and the box was visibly shaking on Ron's shoulders. He tried shaking his head, hoping to throw the box off his head, but it was too heavy and the angles were too tight.

"HELP!" Ron bellowed as outright frenzy descended upon him.

"Speak, Weasley!"

"Help!"

"Just tell us something!"

Ron struggled within the almighty moral compass that was frantically spinning inside his body. He could see the spiders bare his fangs as they anticipated an unusual meal. Venom was dripping everywhere inside the box and Ron could see nothing but eyes looking at him. There were eyes everywhere, tearing through his soul and demanding an answer. The most basic human feeling was rearing through his body, bucking against his mind.

Fight or flight.

"IT WAS HARRY'S IDEA!"






Harry woke up, his head throbbing as if someone had repeatedly bashed it with a hammer. The last thing he remembered were the men in the mask demanding answers and subsequently hitting him with an unknown spell. The spell must have knocked him unconscious for some time because he mouth was extremely dry and his stomach was cramped from hunger and lack of defecation. He lifted his head, but found he could see very little from behind the black bag.

"Hello?" Harry called out.

He heard movement to his left and turned his head towards where he thought the sound was originating.

"Good of you to join us."

Draco's voiced pierced through the silence and provided a ray beacon of hope in this confusing situation. Harry didn't quite understand what the masked men wanted from them and why they were at Emoorn in the first place. The last thing he had felt before being suddenly knocked out was the intense feeling that something was amiss about Hermione.

"What happened, Draco?" Harry asked as he licked his chapped lips.

A pregnant pause filled the airwaves and Harry could practically hear the hesitation in Draco's voice.

"Nothing. They came in asking again."

"No one said anything, right?" Harry didn't know why secrecy was of utmost importance, but if the masked men were as malevolent as they seemed, it was in their best interest to hold on to their one playing card.

"No."

There was something definitely amiss about Draco's answer, but Harry decided not to push the issue. He was about to ask another question when he heard the door open again. He could hear a gasp and the sound of footsteps and prepared himself to fight, but when the bag was pulled off his head, he was as surprised as the person who gasped.

"Professor Goebbels?" Harry half-asked, half-shouted.

With a swish of his wand, Goebbels freed them from their bondages and turned towards the door.

"Come on. Let's get you healed up."

Draco's jaw was hanging while Ron looked incredibly indifferent. In fact, if it weren't for the slight blinks, Ron could have passed as weirdly comatose. Stretching his arm to loosen his muscles, Harry rung his hands as he gingerly touched the side of his face. There were several bruises and Harry vaguely remembered being punched in the face, but couldn't remember why.

"What the hell is going on?" Draco bewilderedly asked.

Harry shook his head, concerned that Goebbels was somehow involved with the masked men. Was Goebbels a Death Eater? The idea was preposterous. He worked at Hogwarts!

"Ron, come on," Draco hauled the redhead to his feet, snapping the second to youngest Weasley out of his stupor.

Taking the initiative, Harry stepped outside of the room and recognized the familiar walls of Hogwarts. The revelation that they were being held and even tortured within the school shocked him. What were they playing at?

"This way," Goebbels waved at them from the end of the hallway.

Harry looked back at Draco with mounting concern, "Should we trust him?"

Draco shrugged. "What else are we supposed to do?"

Walking forward, Harry approached Goebbels uneasily, staring apprehensively at what he thought was their History of Magic professor. Goebbels nodded towards the door facing him and Harry looked inside to see a witch he didn't recognize.

"That's Healer Thompson. She's going to take care of your wounds."

Harry narrowed his eyes at Goebbels.

"What are you playing at? Why did you beat us down there?"

Goebbels arched an eyebrow, amusement playing across his face, "You left school grounds and broke several rules when all three of you were already under probation. You should be expelled. Now, will you listen?"

"You can't do that to us. You can't keep us prisoner like that," Draco snarled.

Goebbels turned towards Draco, his hands still behind his back in a completely composed manner.

"And who's going to believe you?"

"My father," Draco raised his chin defiantly.

Goebbels snorted in derision. "If you think your father will believe you after you have been expelled and disgraced the House of Malfoy, you are absurdly wrong. I will not ask you again. Enter the room."

Harry weighed the decision in his head but found zero alternatives. It was foolish of them to think Riddle wouldn't have immediately caught on to them. If Goebbels was leading this charade, then Riddle must have known about the beatings and the general shadiness, not to mention the Death Eater masks.

Entering the room without another word, Harry found himself immediately attended to by Healer Thompson. He could hear Ron and Draco filling in behind him and figured they accepted the strange and frightening request that Goebbels had given them.

"This will sting," said the blasé Healer. She seemed unconcerned that they were students that had just undergone slight interrogation.

Goebbels entered the room behind them and watched as the Healer attended to her patients. He crossed his arms and looked at Harry as if he were diagnosing him. Harry, despite the respect he was supposed to show for Goebbels, fixed him with a glare.

"I'm sorry to have to put you through that," Goebbels spoke as if he were reading Harry's mind. "After we had word that you three had arrived at Emoorn, we didn't quite know what to do."

"Who sent word?" Harry asked.

"Do not worry, Mr. Potter, it was not your friends," Goebbels assured them. "After a short debate, we decided to enter you three into a sort of a…program."

"We? Program?" Draco demanded. "You just beat us and forced Ron through -"

Draco frustrated cut himself off, gesturing against the wall as he muttered more vulgarities under his breath.

"I assure you, Mr. Malfoy, that you were never in serious danger. Any of you," Goebbels pointedly looked at Ron.

Harry looked between them in confusion, wondering what they were implying. Before he could ask what they were referencing, Goebbels continued speaking.

"As I said was saying - despite the numerous rules the three of you had broken, one of them possibly being expulsion, we decided to take this opportunity to enroll in something that Headmaster Riddle has requested."

"And what is that?" Curiosity got the better of Harry.

"If you accept, and the choice is entirely yours, we will need you to…procure…some information for us," Goebbels chose his words carefully.

"What the bloody hell are you talking about?" Draco was clearly frustrated by the doublespeak and vagueness.

"I believe I can be of some assistance?"

Headmaster Riddle strode in behind them and momentarily surprised the trio. While Goebbels surely needed approval to undergo this interrogation, it was another thing entirely to see the Headmaster stroll into the room without so much as an iota of surprise.

"I am sorry again for having to put you through that interrogation, but we had to be sure if the three of you were worthy. After all, the only other path from your actions is expulsion from Hogwarts and the snapping of your wands."

"Snapping of our wands!" Harry and Draco both cried.

"That is the price of expulsion. It is an offense so great that your magic will never be the same without the wand that is uniquely tuned to you. Of course, all of you can keep practicing but your lives will be…difficult," Riddle spoke without stuttering or without a hint of sympathy.

It was only then that Harry realized what it meant to decline their offer. No one would believe the administration at Hogwarts imprisoned, interrogated, and tortured their own students. Yet, there was enough evidence that three troublemakers had left school grounds and entered Emoorn. The Wizengamot were not the most advanced when it came to civil rights and Riddle and Goebbels would surely be immediately exonerated by any, frankly ridiculous, charges that would brought to them.

"I can assure you that your studies will continue and we will not speak a word of your transgressions to your parents or your pupils," Riddle informed them. "While your actions broke several rules and, in fact, laws, we saw potential."

Riddle paused and while Harry and Draco showed blatant disrespect towards Goebbels, they could not bring themselves to say a word against Riddle. The suggestion that they could speak out against him was something they both would have laughed at if the situation weren't so dire.

"The three of you showed a dedication and commitment to discovering the reasoning behind why we do thing the way we do at Hogwarts. Very few students would have second guessed the reason why you are not allowed to contact Emoorn. Even less students would have had the conviction to carry out such a daring surveillance of the Muggleborn school. These traits are things not to be taken lightly nor should they drown in the red tape of…rules."

Riddle uncrossed his arms and gestured towards them with an open palm facing upwards. He looked at each of them in the eye as he spoke his next sentence.

"It is, of course, your choice, but should you join us, it would be of great importance for this school and for the future."

Harry looked back at Draco, unsure as to what to make of the situation. Draco looked equally at unease while Ron simply looked blank and in shock. Draco shook his head ever so slightly and gave the barest of shrugs as if Goebbels and Riddle couldn't see every movement.

As Healer Thompson moved on to Draco (Ron had little physical injuries), Harry turned towards the powerful Headmaster and addressed him.

"What kind of things would we be doing?" Harry couldn't help but ask.

Riddle bowed his head and Harry swore he saw the faint trace of a smile on his pale face, but when he lifted his head, all that remained was the same passive façade.

"The night has been long and the three of you must be more than famished. Return to your quarters for some nourishment and we can reconvene later in the week with more specifics," Riddle nodded once towards Goebbels and started walking towards the door.

He paused halfway and spoke without turning towards them, "Again - I am sorry for putting you through this but the process was necessary."

"Necessary, my arse," Draco muttered as the Headmaster left.

Goebbels smiled bemusedly at Draco's utterance and looked towards Healer Thompson. The Healer nodded at him, indicating she was finished with Draco. Goebbels spoke again as he handed them all pieces of chocolate.

"It is implied that you do not speak of this with your fellow classmates. The…sensitive nature of your future plans depend upon utmost secrecy. Is that clear?"

Harry and Draco nodded their heads, still unsure as to what they were about to do. Goebbels dismissed them wordlessly, his hand waving towards the door.

"Mr. Weasley, a moment if you will."

Harry looked back at Ron, the concern over his friend's passive nature returning. He mouthed to Draco, "Is he alright?" His friend shook his head, motioning that he would tell them once they were out of Goebbel's sight. Harry patted Ron on the shoulder and looked him in the eye.

Later that night, after they all retired and Draco told him of the horrific plot involving the glass box of spiders, Harry was still unable to shake the look of horror in Ron's eyes as he saw they were about to leave him alone with Goebbels.






Goebbels entered the Headmaster's chambers, taking the winding staircase slowly. Inside, Riddle was patiently sitting at his deck, filling out useless and tedious paperwork for the Ministry.

"Weasley did not pass," Goebbels informed him.

"He gave up Potter when pressed with the final test."

Riddle's quill paused in mid-stroke, the inkblot heavy at the tail end of a letter. He looked thoughtful as he stared down at the parchment, his lips slightly pushed together. Dipping the quill back for more ink, Riddle nodded to himself.

"Good," said Riddle. "And did you inform him of his separate meeting with me?"

"Yes," Goebbels answered. "He won't tell Potter or Malfoy either."

"Excellent."

Riddle procured an envelope and neatly folded the parchment so it would fit snugly. His tongue snaked out to lick the dried glue. Every single inch of the seal was covered with his saliva as he diligently applied the moisture to ensure proper concealment. Placing the envelope in a separate stack, he resumed writing another letter.

"The boy will prove useful."

 

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