Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 1: The Fracturing of Foundations
Chapter 11: Of Detentions and Dreams
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Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 1: The Fracturing of Foundations
Chapter 11: Of Detentions and Dreams
May 26, 1992
The Entrance Hall
It was abnormal for Ron, Hermione, and Neville to be out of bed this late. Curfew had come and gone some time ago and now, the castle was eerily quiet. It was because of this silence that they could hear each shuffling footstep from the squat man who approached them, holding aloft what appeared to be a gas lantern of some sort.
“Come with me,” growled Filch, walking straight towards the castle’s exit without even making sure his four charges followed.
They did, but not before exchanging nervous glances.
Glances that only grew all the more furtive as they were led down the sloping lawns, drawing closer and closer to both Hagrid’s hut and the outskirts of the dark forest that stretched beyond it.
“Sir,” asked Hermione in the most polite tone of voice one could possibly imagine. “Where exactly are we going, if you don’t mind my asking.”
Filch took the time to glance at them over his shoulder. The moon was bright in the clear sky and so was his lantern. In their combined light, the four children had no difficulty making out his twisted, cruel expression.
“The forest is where you’re goin’.” He sounded extremely satisfied as if nothing could have brought him more pleasure.
“The f-forest?” asked Neville.
Filch suddenly seemed annoyed. “Yes, the forest. Maybe if you opened your ears and listened the first time, you wouldn’t have to ask the second.”
Neville flushed a colour as crimson as the hair belonging to the tall, gangly boy who walked alongside him. “S-sorry,” he stammered, “it’s just… the forest is supposed to have all sorts of dangerous creatures, isn’t it?”
Filch shrugged in an unconcerned sort of way, though all three of them could tell he was greatly amused by the whole thing. “Shoulda thought of them creatures before you went and broke the rules, eh?”
Ron opened his mouth, but he closed it promptly when Hermione stomped painfully on his foot. They had not only violated school rules, but they had quite literally broken the law. As far as she was concerned, they had gotten off easy. It wasn’t something she wanted to risk making worse, particularly in light of that fact.
“Is that you, Filch?” It was a voice none of the Gryffindors had heard before. A voice that sounded rough, but also as though it belonged to an old man.
“The first years, Professor Kettleburn,” Filch said oily. “Here for their… punishment.”
“I know why they’re here, you cantankerous old lump.” Filch flushed a deep shade of crimson whilst the other man huffed indignantly.
“They’re here to be punished, remember,” Filch gritted out through clenched teeth. “You mustn’t be too nice to them—”
“I haven’t even spoken to them yet, you miserable old prune.” Filch spluttered, looking more and more furious by the second. “Just because I enjoy making you look like an arse doesn’t mean I don’t know what detention is. Really, I think that’s your problem. What would you have done with them, you greasy codger? String them up by their wrists and ankles while you whip them until their skin is raw?” He huffed. “Honestly between you thinking I can’t hear and don’t understand what the hell a detention is, and the tossers on the board of governors thinking I can’t teach just because I’m missing a finger or two, this job is getting old very fast.
“Now,” he said, gesturing sharply in the direction of the castle. “If you can’t tell by now, your pitiful presence isn’t wanted. Off with you.” Filch looked livid, but he shuffled back up the lawns and towards the castle’s hulking outline nevertheless.
“Pathetic,” the professor muttered under his breath. “He’s as useless as that Merlin-forsaken poltergeist. Honestly, we have house-elves for a reason. Why can’t we just bin the git?” He shook his head as if realizing where he was and who was standing in front of him. “Right, sorry about all that, lads and lass. I’ve never gotten on with that useless sack of dragon dung.”
Ron and Neville were too busy trying to not crack up to respond. Hermione looked utterly appalled, but she managed to compose herself and speak nonetheless. “It’s… okay, Professor?”
“Kettleburn,” he said. “I’ve been teaching Care of Magical Creatures since before any of your parents were even thought of.” Neville gave an odd twitch at this. Ron didn’t notice and Hermione didn’t quite understand why, so she did not comment.
“Sir,” asked Ron, finally over his amusement and now shifting back and forth in obvious discomfort. “Are we really going into the Forbidden Forest?”
“Yep,” said Kettleburn, sounding entirely unconcerned. “I’m just gonna get that old hound from Hagrid’s hut, make sure you lot at least know how to shoot up sparks, split us into two groups, and we’ll be off.”
“But… why are we going in there?” Ron asked. “Isn’t it supposed to be really dangerous?”
“Most of what’s in there is harmless to us. Just don’t piss it off and we’ll be alright.”
“Hm? Oh yes, that. Something has been attacking unicorns and one’s been injured for days, just stumbling around and waiting to die. We’ll be finding it and hopefully saving it.” The man grimaced. “More likely, we’ll be putting it out of its misery.”
Neville gulped. “And… what if whatever’s killing unicorns finds us before we find the one it’s been hunting?”
Kettleburn waved his hand, which did indeed appear to be missing two fingers. “Semantics, my dear boy. Now, come with me; let’s get this fat old dog some exercise.”
A few hours later, in the Slytherin dorms…
Harry stood in a dark, cavernous room; the likes of which he’d never seen before. The closest comparable he had were the underground tunnels at Gringotts. Somehow, he could tell that this room was situated far beneath the earth’s surface too. Harry oddly felt that the ceiling was very high, though the room itself was so dark, he couldn’t possibly be sure.
As if the thought had spurred them on, gas-fuelled torches burst into light all around the room, flickering ominously and casting long, dark shadows across the floor and walls; all of which seemed hewn from the same, rough stone.
Then, something else caught Harry’s attention.
There was but one thing in this vast, mysterious place, but Harry recognized it at once.
An ornate mirror taller than he was, one which showed him only the barest outlines of shadowy things he could not identify. The mirror’s surface sparkled invitingly in the torchlight but this time, Harry averted his eyes. He remembered what Professor Dumbledore had told him about this particular mirror.
“This mirror will give us neither knowledge nor truth, Harry. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible. The mirror will be moved to a new home tomorrow, and I ask you not to go looking for it. If you ever do come across it again, you will now be prepared. It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. Remember that.”
He averted his eyes from the mirror just as a rushing sound erupted from behind him. He spun to see towering black flames roaring and impeding what seemed to be this place’s only exit.
Or, perhaps, they were an attempt to block its only entrance, for the silhouette of a figure could be seen in the fire not a moment later.
Before Harry could identify the hooded man whose face was cast in shadow, he almost gasped at the sight of glowing red eyes. Then a wand was brandished and there was a horrible flash of blinding green light. Harry jolted awake in the Slytherin dormitory, shaking and sweating as if he had a horrid fever.
Harry stood shakily to his feet, trying to gain control of his breathing as he made sure not to wake Draco. His eyes fell on his treasured cloak.
He needed a walk.
Later, in the Forbidden Forest…
The foliage only grew thicker as Neville, Hermione, and Fang strode deeper and deeper down their chosen path. Ron and the eccentric Professor Kettleburn had gone in a different direction, but not before encountering several centaurs. Kettleburn had merely greeted them, inclined his head, and moved on, though all of them could feel the creatures’ eyes following them as they continued on their respective paths.
It had been difficult to track the unicorn blood for quite some time. The forest canopy obscured much of the light coming from above, which was mostly limited. Though the moon shone brightly, the thick veil of clouds seemed to scud in its way, obscuring its luminescent light.
Thankfully, the blood itself was a silvery colour that was hard to miss. It was now growing thicker as, up ahead, the two students and one boarhound could make out a break in the foliage.
They stepped into the clearing just as the clouds seemed to take pity on the moon, allowing its silvery spotlight to reach them once more.
The scene the light illuminated before them was as majestic as it was appalling.
A brilliant creature laid prone and helpless in the centre of the clearing, legs jutting out at odd angles and head lulled. It was clear the creature was dead, though judging by the blood still gently oozing from the gaping hole in the unicorn’s side, it hadn’t been that way for long.
The silvery substance pooled all around it, sparkling in the moonlight in magical ways, seeming to send impossible sparks of light dancing incomprehensibly, as if the very photons were mourning the death of such a precious manifestation of purity and happiness.
Naturally, the scene of morbid tranquillity set out before them could not persist for long.
There came a rustling from across the clearing, like some great serpent slithering menacingly across the fallen leaves. Hermione instinctively clasped her hand over the boarhound’s mouth to stop it from crying out as it had earlier that night when a similar sound had made itself known.
This time, they got to see exactly what was causing it.
A figure strode purposefully forward. It was of average height for a man and was donned in a black, hooded cloak. The cloak was long; it covered the figure’s hands and the garment was obviously what had been rustling the leaves all along.
It crept slowly towards the fallen unicorn without a glance around the clearing. That at least was fortunate, for it most definitely would have spotted the two youths watching it, as well as their four-legged companion.
Speaking of, Fang shook free of Hermione’s grip just as the figure bent its hooded head over the gaping wound and began to drink the creature’s blood.
Neville gagged and Hermione paled, but Fang’s booming bark was what immediately alerted the figure to their presence.
By the time it had stood, Fang had bolted, pulling Hermione — who had attempted to take hold of his collar — to the forest floor, where she lay, prone and terrified.
Neville felt panic tear at his innards, but the boy suddenly had an epiphany that he would later credit as the beginning of a much-needed shift in his character.
He wasn’t going to let his friend die here in this forest.
He was the son of Frank and Alice Longbottom, two of the best aurors the Ministry of Magic had seen in decades. He was the heir to not only their legacy, but a Founding Twelve family, and he was also a Gryffindor. It was times like this when one needed to choose between what was right and what was easy.
Neville chose what was right.
He drew his wand and stepped forward, levelling it at the figure and hoping it didn’t see the way his arm shook from worry. “Who are you and what do you want?”
The figure didn’t respond. It instead reached into a pocket of its robes and withdrew its own wand. It was long and dark, and it was what the figure aimed at Neville with.
Neville simply reacted, firing off a Leg-Locker in hopes it might take the figure off guard.
Since he had purchased his new wand, Neville’s performance in class had indeed improved. He wasn’t all of a sudden Merlin or any such nonsense, but he had definitely progressed in his ability. Transfiguration still gave him problems, to say the least and he was far from outstanding at Charms. Potions was really best left unspoken of, though he was at least good at Herbology.
As well as Defence Against the Dark Arts… Neville seemed to have a talent for that class.
The spell he chose was an early second-year incarnation, and it flew towards the figure at top speed.
Neville was somewhat surprised he’d gotten it to work so well, but all pride died in his chest when the figure casually batted it away with but a flick of his wand, the tip of which was now glowing a vibrant red colour as it aimed directly at Neville, who realized by now he would die at any moment.
But he never did.
Before the blow could come, the foliage exploded and out of it charged a creature Neville had only seen once before. It had been earlier that very night, in fact.
The centaur leapt through the air, lashing out at the figure with its hoof. The cloaked being barely evaded, casting several spells to hold the centaur at bay before it fled from the clearing at a run, leaving the half-man, half-horse creature alone with a shaking Neville and a quietly sobbing Hermione.
“Are you alright?”
Its voice was deep and smooth, and it spoke of concern and worry. More than anything though, it stayed calm and did not waver, which was exactly what the two children before its owner needed to hear at the moment.
“Y-y-yes,” stammered Neville, his eyes still fixed on where his assailant had stood. “What-what was that?”
The centaur didn’t answer. He had astonishingly blue eyes, like pale sapphires. He looked carefully at both Neville and Hermione— who was once more on her feet — his eyes lingering on the former.
“You are the Longbottom boy,” he said. “You had better get back to Kettleburn. The forest is not safe at this time. Can the two of you ride? It will be quicker this way.
“My name is Firenze,” he added, as he lowered himself onto his front legs so that both Neville and Hermione could clamber onto his back.
There came suddenly a sound of more galloping from the other side of the clearing. Two of the centaurs from earlier that night came bursting through the trees, their flanks heaving and sweaty.
“Firenze!” the more fierce-looking of the two thundered. “What are you doing? You have humans on your back! Have you no shame? Are you a common mule?”
“Do you not understand who these humans are, Bane?”
“What have you been telling them?” growled Bane. “Remember, Firenze, we are sworn not to set ourselves against the heavens. Have we not read what is to come in the movements of the planets?”
Ronan pawed the ground nervously. “I’m sure Firenze thought he was acting for the best, ” he said in a gloomy sort of voice.
Bane kicked his back legs in anger. “For the best! What is that to do with us? Centaurs are concerned with what has been foretold! It is not our business to run around like donkeys after stray humans in our forest!”
Firenze suddenly reared onto his hind legs in anger, so Neville had to grab his shoulders and Hermione had to grab Neville to stay on.
“Do you not see that unicorn?” Firenze bellowed at Bane. “Do you not understand why it was killed? Or have the planets not let you in on that secret? I set myself against what is lurking in this forest, Bane. Yes, with humans alongside me if I must.”
Firenze whisked around; with the pair of first-years on his back clutching on as best they could. They then plunged off into the trees, leaving Ronan and Bane behind them.
“What was that about?” asked Neville once they were out of hearing range. “Why are they so upset? And what was that thing you saved us from?”
Firenze slowed to a walk, warned both of his passengers to keep their heads bowed in case of low-hanging branches, but did not answer Neville’s question. They made their way through the trees in silence for so long that Neville thought Firenze didn’t want to talk to him anymore. They were passing through a particularly dense patch of trees, however, when Firenze suddenly stopped.
“Do you know what unicorn blood is used for?” he asked the two of them.
“No,” said Neville, startled by the odd question.
Even Hermione seemed perplexed. “We’ve only used the horn and tail hair in Potions.”
“That is because it is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn,” said Firenze. “Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenceless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.”
Neville stared at the back of Firenze’s head, which was dappled silver in the moonlight.
“But who would be that desperate?” Hermione wondered aloud. “If you’re going to be cursed forever, death is better, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Firenze agreed, “unless all you need is to stay alive long enough to drink something else — something that will bring you back to full strength and power — something that will mean you can never die. Do either of you know what is hidden in the school at this very moment?”
“The Philosopher’s Stone! Of course — the Elixir of Life! But I don’t understand who —”
“Can you think of nobody who has waited many years to return to power, Miss Granger? Nobody who has clung to life, awaiting their chance?”
It was as though an iron fist had clenched suddenly around Neville’s heart. Over the rustling of the trees,
There had been rumours for years among the most well-educated of Britain’s wizarding population. Rumours that an event so integral to the country’s history hadn’t quite gone exactly as the media had portrayed it. Why even his gran had her doubts as to whether that fateful night had been quite as magical as some had thought.
But surely, Firenze couldn’t mean…
“Neville, Hermione!” It was Ron’s voice calling to them as he, Kettleburn, and Fang — who must have found them after bolting off into the forest — approached.
“Go to them, but remember what I have said,” intoned Firenze. “Remember all you have heard and remember that Mars shines bright tonight. It is a herald of things to come.”
Just like that, Firenze prompted their dismounting and bolted back off into the forest; befalling a state of awestruck shock, disbelief, and terror on the both of them.
Could it truly be possible that Lord Voldemort was seeking to return to power?
Sometime later, atop a balcony overlooking the grounds…
Harry had wandered the school for some time before he realized sleep wasn’t going to be an option. His mind was now active and reeling, thinking on a great many things; a great many things that most certainly did not lend themselves at all well to the realm of Morpheus.
He tried to get his mind off of the dream he had experienced. Exploring the castle had worked for a time, but the thoughts would only be held at bay for so long before they reared their ugly heads with renewed vigour and resolute determination.
The problem was that even before that time, his default thoughts — not associated with the dream, that is — were of his friends. While that wasn’t a bad thing in and of itself, it made him think of his current predicament with Draco.
That was… complicated, and it was most certainly not what he wanted to think about at this time of night while less than emotionally stable.
It was that thought which had brought him to the same balcony he had shared twice with Diana earlier in the year whilst they had spoken of things which had, at the time, left him in a state not too dissimilar to the one he found himself in on this night.
It was only now that Harry realized this place had become a sort of haven for him.
The sun had not yet risen, but it had begun to tease the horizon with its bright halo of light. The moon could still be seen high in the sky, but its light was less vivid now. The sky around it was becoming brighter, and Harry was beginning to be able to see the grounds once and all that they contained more clearly.
What they contained on this morning appeared to be a precession of four walking towards the castle.
This piqued Harry’s interest and he squinted.
It was difficult to tell exactly from this height, but he could definitely make out the vivid red hair of a Weasley, and he thought one of the figures looked an awful lot like Hermione Granger.
The question was, what on earth were the two of them — and presumably Longbottom — doing out on the grounds at this ungodly hour of the morning?
Harry knew it was a question best left unanswered and one that he certainly didn’t have the necessary pieces to solve.
But still… he couldn’t help but feel it was oddly significant somehow. He couldn’t help but feel he was missing something important.
Something that was connected to why they were there in the first place.
Several hours later, at Malfoy Manor…
Malfoy Manor’s immaculate informal dining room was mostly quiet aside from the occasional clattering of cutlery as the lord and the lady of the house finished their meals in silence.
Narcissa was not a morning person so Lucius was surprised she was even awake. He would have been even more surprised if she were talkative at this time of the morning, and he himself never had an aversion to spending time with his own thoughts. It was often when many of his more ingenious ideas would come to him.
He could have sighed aloud when one of the infernal creatures that manned the house appeared before him, as if summoned by the mere thoughts of his enjoyment of solitude.
He took a long, languid sip of tea, enjoying how the pitiful thing squirmed before him, obviously worried what mood it might find its master in this morning.
“What is it?” When Lucius finally spoke, his voice was cool and emotionless.
“A letter, sir and miss,” said the elf, his tennis ball-sized eyes looking anywhere but at his masters.
“Give it here.” The elf levitated the envelope onto the table. By now, it knew it wasn’t to touch anything its master might touch soon after. That had led to punishments in the past.
Lucius opened the envelope with a lazy flick of his wand and withdrew the plain-looking bit of parchment within.
Its contents were anything but plain.
By the time Lucius had finished reading the very brief missive, he was deathly pale. His wife leant over to read it as well but before she could, the envelope burst into flames, curling into ash on the table.
Ash which briefly rested in a very distinct shape on the table before it too vanished.
A skull — one with a serpentine tongue protruding from its mouth.
Two more chapters left to go in year 1!
I apologize for how short this one is, but ending it here was far too tempting. Plus, the next chapter really just flows better on its own.
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