Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 1: The Fracturing of Foundations
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Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 1: The Fracturing of Foundations
Chapter 12: A Song of Death and Disarray
May 30, 1992
On the Way to the Slytherin Common Room
It had been an odd few weeks for Harry since the dragon incident had been not-so-peacefully resolved.
None in the castle had seen Hagrid since that night, causing many rumours to spread like hissing wildfires. If Pansy was to be believed — and she was rarely wrong about such things — Hagrid would be put on trial in July. Until then, he would be held in a ministry holding cell. The wizarding government of Magical Britain apparently wasn’t all that concerned with making this trial punctual. Pansy said it just wasn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things, but Harry didn’t see why they couldn’t at least do Hagrid the favour of a quick trial.
He hadn’t spoken with Draco since that morning in the Great Hall when he had inadvertently set his newspaper ablaze and caused the youngest Malfoy’s mug of tea to explode. Allegedly, Draco needed a burn salve from Madam Pomfrey, but Harry surprisingly wasn’t punished for the incident. He had been asked to stay behind in Potions the next time the class arose on his timetable, but Snape had just advised him to keep a much firmer grip on his emotions.
It had really been awkward ever since that morning. Theodore had been the one who had stuck most closely with Harry. They spent most of their time in the library; with Theodore mostly studying for the fast-approaching exams and Harry looking ahead to the second-year material. Pansy flitted between Harry and Draco, trying to play diplomat between the two of them. Draco apparently felt quite awful about what had happened, if she was to be believed, but Harry couldn’t bring himself to care. Unless Draco had the stones to come and tell it to him in person, Harry would be having none of it.
Diana had briefly approached him, but she hadn’t pressed about the incident with Draco. It had just a reminder that her brother could be a right prat sometimes and that if Harry ever needed to talk, she was always available.
Tonight was one of the rare instances Harry was alone. Theodore was studying in the library, but Harry hadn’t been all that interested. He had been more inclined to explore the castle under his invisibility cloak; an activity which had become a favourite pastime of his, ever since he had received the magical artifact on the night of Yule.
He was nearing a staircase that would take him down to the castle’s ground floor when he stopped. He had an odd feeling he was no longer alone; a feeling that was validated not seconds later when Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Neville Longbottom came around the corner.
Harry’s attention suddenly piqued for reasons he could not entirely articulate. Their heads were pressed together and they were discussing something in frantic, hissing whispers. More than that though, Harry could feel it was important. The same way he could tell when somebody was lying — feel their unease and guilt as they spoke — he could feel the nervousness, anxiety, and downright fear rolling off these three first years in waves.
He wasn’t sure what made him follow them, still under the guise of his cloak, but he wanted to know what it was that terrified them so much. Especially after spotting their ascent up to the castle at such an ungodly hour earlier in the week. What was it that could make those who dwelled within the house of the brave so very worried?
“…he’s not going to hold out much longer,” Granger was whispering as the three of them stepped into an abandoned classroom. Harry just managed to follow stealthily behind them right before the door closed.
“What happens if he gives in?” Longbottom’s voice was frantic, panicked, even.
“We‘ll have to do something,” said Weasley. “It might get us into trouble if the teachers find out how much we know, but we can’t let Snape get the stone. Especially not if he really is going to give it to… him.”
The… stone? What on earth could Professor Snape want with a stone? A bezoar, perhaps, but if they were talking about that particular stone, surely they would have called it by name.
“I think we’re all forgetting something,” said Granger. “If it really is You-Know-Who that’s coming after the Philosopher’s Stone, wasn’t it said that Professor Dumbledore was the only one he was ever afraid of?”
“Yup,” said Ron while Harry felt a wave of shock bowl straight over him. “Even when he was strongest, the dark git never attacked Hogwarts.”
“Well, there you go,” said Hermione. “So long as Professor Dumbledore is here, we should be safe, right?”
Harry knew she didn’t believe it and he was pretty sure neither Weasley nor Longbottom were fooled either.
Though he couldn’t be certain.
He was far too busy reeling from that last revelation.
You-Know-Who, after a Philosopher’s Stone?
The only Philosopher’s Stone he had ever heard of had been featured in muggle myths. A stone so fantastical that Harry couldn’t even believe it existed in this wild world of magic. If he was remembering correctly, it had the power to turn any metal into gold and make the drinker immortal.
If such a stone existed…
If Granger, of all people, was talking about such a stone, it wasn’t terribly far out of the question that it may well exist.
And if it did…
Voldemort going after a stone like that… Suddenly, he was back in the shack on that rock again, and Hagrid’s words were ringing in his ears once more.
“Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die.”
Could it really be possible that Voldemort was alive and seeking the Philosopher’s Stone? He knew that the official stance was that Voldemort had died that night he attacked Harry and his family, but he also knew that some — like Hagrid — were more skeptical of that conclusion.
But if he was back…
He had wanted to kill Harry and his parents before. Was it possible he would try and kill Harry again? Even if he hadn’t been the true target the first time, he had sought to kill him. More importantly, he had failed. Harry didn’t know much about Voldemort, but from the little he did know, he could easily see vengeance being a powerful motivator. After all, if Hagrid was to be believed, many thought the reason he’d attacked the Potters in the first place was that they had refused to join him.
That made the idea of him attacking Harry as soon as he returned to power all the more possible.
But surely, this was all ridiculous.
Weasley, Granger, and Longbottom were all schoolchildren, just like Harry. He knew too well the tendency most schoolchildren had to exaggerate events. It was far more likely that they were making fantastical tales out of things they didn’t really know.
Yes, that would probably be it. If Voldemort really was alive and on the prowl once more, it wasn’t as though Weasley, Granger, or Longbottom would know about it.
That was what Harry told himself, anyway. He needed to tell himself something to keep the terror at bay, even if that thing wasn’t entirely successful at doing that.
June 4, 1992
The Entrance Hall
The sound of bustling students could be heard all throughout the castle. Most of the students in question were flooding into the castle’s entrance hall and out the large, oak front doors.
It was only natural, of course. Exams had just concluded and with their passing went any educational obligations the students had until September. This alone would have driven most out of the castle. Add to that the fact the sky outside was a vibrant blue so bright and unblemished, its presence would not have seemed out of place in some fantastical utopia, and it was really a no-brainer for the students to flock out onto the ground.
Such was the case for almost all in the castle, but there were a few notable exceptions.
Namely, a trio of first-year Gryffindor students who had just sat their final exam of the year — History of Magic — and who were actually just as stressed as they were relieved.
Days had passed since they had overheard Quirrell wilting under the pressure applied to him by Snape and they knew the Potions Master’s time was running out. If he or Voldemort were to make a move on the Philosopher’s Stone, it would need to be made soon.
And something seemed auspicious about this day.
Perhaps it was the utopian feel of it all. Maybe it just felt too perfect and the fact was triggering the youths’ paranoia. Or perhaps it really was the most Slytherin thing to do — striking on a day like this — and all three of them knew it.
They just felt like something was going to happen, and they felt it finally time to make the man in charge of the castle they resided in aware of such things.
They had all spoken at length about the whole situation quite frequently over the past few days and had come to a number of disturbing revelations.
Not least of which was that it had been distinctly odd how Hagrid had gotten his massive hands on the egg. The thing he wanted most in the world just so happened to show up right in front of him, just as the person delivering it seemed to have been oh so interested in something the giant man himself owned.
It was a touch too odd for the trio’s liking.
“What if it was You-Know-Who under that hood?” Ron had asked. “It seems the obvious thing to do, doesn’t it?”
Neither Neville nor even Hermione had been able to dispute the logic of such things. Hermione had, with difficulty, managed to convince the others to wait until exams were over before running off to Dumbledore, but the time for stalling had now officially come to an end. They could not wait idly around any longer, as far as they were concerned.
What are you three doing inside?”
It was Professor McGonagall, carrying a large pile of books.
“We want to see Professor Dumbledore,” said Hermione.
“See Professor Dumbledore?” Professor McGonagall repeated with narrowed eyes. It was clear even to the three Gryffindors that their unusual request had raised the woman’s suspicion at once. “And why exactly would you want to do that?”
“It’s sort of… secret,” said Ron, unable to think of anything better on the spot. He suddenly wished he had, because Professor McGonagall’s nostrils flared.
“Professor Dumbledore left ten minutes ago. He received an urgent owl from the Ministry of Magic and flew off for London at once.”
“He’s gone?” said Neville frantically. “Now?”
“Professor Dumbledore is a very great wizard, Longbottom, he has many demands on his time—”
“But this is important,” cut in Ron.
“Something you have to say is more important than the Ministry of Magic?”
“Look,” Ron continued, throwing caution to the winds. “Professor… it’s about the Philosopher’s Stone—”
A resounding crash echoed through the hall, clear remnants of Professor McGonagall’s most recent action, which had been dropping the stack of books that had been precariously balanced in her arms a second earlier. She looked both livid and shocked, and it was a combination that put all three students on edge.
Hermione spoke next, obviously realizing that allowing Professor McGonagall to begin on a tirade would be unwise.
“Professor, we think — we know — that Sn-that someone’s going to try and steal the stone. We’ve got to talk to Professor Dumbledore.”
McGonagall now looked a mixture of dazed and annoyed, as well as more than a tad flustered. “Professor Dumbledore will be back tomorrow,” she said finally. “I don’t know how you found out about the stone, but rest assured, no one can possibly steal it. It is far too well protected.”
“Granger, I know what I’m talking about,” she said shortly. She gathered up the fallen books with a wave of her wand. “I suggest you all go back outside and enjoy the sunshine.”
But they didn’t.
They did a far more Gryffindor-like thing than simply following orders.
They acted, and made a plan of their own.
Meanwhile, out on the grounds…
It really was a beautiful day, Harry thought as the warm summer breeze rustled his unkempt black hair and teased his skin. He bathed in the warmth and light of the day as he flew like a bird through the sky, laughing and shouting alongside his older companion, who flew beside him and basked in the glow with an equal amount of delight.
Harry had just finished his final exam and with it, his first year was all but in the books. Now, he had only to wait for the final weeks to pass and for his marks to come back.
There was a small part of him that dreaded the year’s end, fast-approaching as it was, because with it, he might well need to return to the Dursleys. The best thing about the year hadn’t been the magic, nor the people, nor even the castle itself; though Harry had immensely enjoyed all of those things. The absolute best part of the year had been that, for its duration, he had been free of the people who had made his life hell since before the age of two.
He still planned to ask Dumbledore whether or not he could stay at Hogwarts over the summer holidays, but his hopes weren’t high. He had subtly brought it up to Draco a couple of months back when they had still been on speaking terms. The blond had responded by saying that, as far as he knew, no one had ever stayed at Hogwarts during the summer.
Despite the dread and worry that threatened to flood into his chest, Harry managed to stay feeling light and free. A protective bubble of happiness seemed to be keeping those dark thoughts at bay, and it was something Harry was very grateful for.
“Down there!” shouted Cassius, catching Harry’s attention and gesturing to a large tree near the lake.
Beneath the massive tree sat Diana and her friends as well as Draco, Pansy, Theodore, Crabbe, and Goyle. Harry and Cassius swooped around the tree and came in for a landing much the same way Harry and Draco had all those months ago when Cassius had first seen Harry fly.
When they landed, Harry’s emerald eyes briefly met the stormy grey of Draco’s, but they didn’t linger long. Instead, Harry’s attention was drawn to Diana, who was laying out a full-scale picnic for all of them, whilst her friend — Yaxley — spread out a blanket large enough to accommodate all present.
“To the end of another year,” said Diana once everyone had a beverage in hand. “And to many more good ones to come.”
They all toasted and drank and in that moment, Harry couldn’t perceive a thing that would effectively manage to burst his bubble of euphoric happiness.
It truly was just a day worth celebrating.
Later that night, in the dungeons…
Harry breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Draco slipping off towards the dormitories. He had been pursuing Harry for the better part of the day, but the last Potter just wasn’t at all interested, at the moment. He had been having quite an enjoyable day. The last thing he wanted at the moment was to have a deep, potentially emotionally-charged conversation. He would talk it out with Draco and he really did hope they would re-establish their friendship. He just knew that today wasn’t that day and that it would need to wait until he was in a different state of mind.
He had also been experiencing rather horrible headaches for the last day that he couldn’t quite explain, so having that discussion right now really wasn’t the best of ideas.
Once Draco had gone off to bed, Harry decided it was time to go exploring. He had discovered many secret passages and other interesting oddities of the castle over the year. Rather than satisfy his thirst, they only made him all the more insatiable, which was how he found himself stalking out of the dungeons under the invisibility cloak on this particular evening.
One floor he hadn’t explored quite so thoroughly was the third. There was of course the out-of-bounds corridor on the right-hand side, so Harry had avoided the floor as a general rule. Before he’d had the cloak, he had been worried about getting caught anywhere near the off-limits corridor. That was of course no longer a problem, but the habit had already been long-established by the time he had received his most prized possession.
With exams for the year over, however, Harry suddenly felt bolder than he had before, so he thought tonight was the night.
After arriving on the floor in question, it took about three seconds for him to find something of interest.
Muffled voices were coming from around a corner, and Harry snuck towards them stealthily, curious to see what it was that was happening.
“I heard you,” Peeves was saying in a sing-song voice, eyes flitting all around the corridor. “Peevesey knows he heard you. Come out, come out, wherever you are, little students. Peevesey just wants to play.” No one moved and the poltergeist crossed his arms. “If you don’t come out and Peevesey finds out, he’ll turn you into the greasy old caretaker.”
Still, no one moved and this time, the poltergeist actually huffed before zipping off down the corridor, clanging every suit of armour as he went; probably as a way of venting his obvious frustration.
Harry wondered what that was all about until three figures stepped out from an alcove Harry actually hadn’t found. He was somewhat taken aback by how unsurprised he was to see Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom, and Hermione Granger. It was as if these three were everywhere.
“That was close,” he heard Weasley mutter. “Imagine we’d been caught by Peeves. Wouldn’t even make it to the bloody corridor.”
“Shh,” urged Granger, briefly covering Weasley’s mouth with a hand before leading them off towards what Harry immediately realized to be the off-limits third-floor corridor.
He actually found himself incredulous a moment or so later when the very door that had for the year’s entirety been shrouded in such mystery yielded to a simple Unlocking Charm.
The three Gryffindors were in the corridor and had closed the door before Harry could see what it was that lurked inside, but his heart was racing as his brain began to connect the dots.
Weasley, Granger, and Longbottom had been talking days earlier about the Philosopher’s Stone and of how Snape — or maybe even Voldemort — could potentially be after it. At the time, Harry had dismissed these comments as heresy. He still found the idea of either Snape or Voldemort going after the stone ridiculous, but it was said that oftentimes, the truth laid between two extremes.
So was it possible at least part of the trio’s tale had been true?
Was it possible that the famous Philosopher’s Stone was the treasure situated in the corridor?
A lot about that hypothesis was problematic, but Harry decided it was best to at least pretend it could be viable.
He wouldn’t actually be risking his life to find out, but there surely couldn’t be any harm in waiting outside the corridor to see what happened when the trio eventually emerged.
Or didn’t, he supposed. Out of bounds to all who do not wish to die a very painful death, and all that.
Harry shrugged; he supposed he would just need to wait and see. He was hidden under his cloak, so getting caught wasn’t exactly a risk he needed to worry about and by now, he was much too curious to turn back.
Sometime later, in the catacombs beneath Hogwarts…
Neville faced the black fire before him with a resolute expression.
He still thought Hermione sending him of all people forward was one of the craziest ideas anyone had ever had, but he hadn’t been able to come up with a good enough argument off the cuff. He was better at Defence Against the Dark Arts and it was true she could probably get back up to the main castle to search for a professor faster than he could
That still didn’t mean he adored the prospect of facing down what could potentially be Lord Voldemort. It might only be Snape, but that was hardly a favourable challenge, either.
He wasn’t sure what it allowed him to do it. He couldn’t entirely quantify it; all he knew was that it was the same fire that had filled him to the brim back in the forbidden forest that previous week.
Just as he couldn’t let his friends die, he couldn’t let Voldemort get the Philosopher’s Stone. Not after the monster had left so many families like his own in his wake of death and destruction. Even if he ignored the atrocities of the past, Neville could not allow a future to exist where Voldemort has returned. Not only would the country be in disarray once more, but people like Hermione would be hunted to extinction if the mass-murdering psychopath had his way.
So Neville Longbottom made a choice.
He drank the potion and walked forward, marvelling at how the black flames — which completely obscured his vision — did little more than tickle his skin. It felt more like submerging in a pleasant bath than walking through ten-foot-high flames.
Soon enough, the sensation had passed entirely, for Neville had entered what he instinctively knew to be the final room.
It was dark and vast, like an ancient cavern, with a high ceiling and ancient stone floor and walls. The room was entirely empty except for its two notable exceptions.
The first was a tall, ornate mirror with an odd engraving that Neville couldn’t make or tails of. It was unlike any mirror Neville had ever seen.
The other exception to the room’s emptiness was a hooded figure who stood directly in front of the mirror. Neville quickly realized the cloak it wore was eerily similar to the one he had seen in the forest.
He raised his wand, hand shaking, and aimed.
“You can come out,” called a soft voice from near the mirror. “I know you’re here.”
Cursing, Neville fired off three spells in quick succession, but they all splashed harmlessly against a lazily conjured shield.
With another swish of the figure’s wand, fire raced towards Neville, who dove to the side. The flames followed him but just before burning him to death, their tendrils cooled, solidified, and morphed into rough ropes that bound Neville’s arms and legs together, sending his wand clattering to the floor at his feet while he himself collapsed in a heap directly next to it.
“So it’s you, is it?” asked the voice that Neville actually hadn’t been able to identify until now. He had heard it plenty of times, but it had stuttered around him.
It was Professor Quirrell.
“I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure who to expect. I was hoping for Potter, though I knew it was a slim chance at best. He seems to have more sense than to rush off into battles he can’t win.” His eyes gleamed. “You though… you may actually be better suited for what I need. I’m not quite sure Potter actually has the heart for this little trick to work.”
Quirrell twitched his wand and Neville was jerked to his feet and dragged forward by the ropes that bound him.
“Why you?” he asked, knowing he had to keep him talking. “We were expecting Snape!”
“Were you now?” asked Quirrell, sounding obviously amused. “Severus is many things, but I do not think him loyal to me any longer. I think that bridge was burned a great many years ago now.”
Loyal to… me?
Snape had never been loyal to Quirrell, but according to Neville’s gran, he had at once time at least been rumoured to be loyal to another.
The man or monster wearing Quirrell’s skin tilted his head. “What an interestingly complex question,” he mused. “I am, and I’m not. I’m certainly not Quirinus Quirrell, but I don’t think I can say that I am Lord Voldemort quite yet, either.”
“Then who… what—”
“Enough talking,” the assailant snapped. “What I want from you, Neville Longbottom is your compliance. Look into that mirror while thinking of the Philosopher’s Stone and tell me exactly what it is you see. Do not lie to me. I will know if you lie.”
“Why should I listen to you?” Neville bit back defiantly.
“Because if you don’t, I will simply have to force you to do it with magic. I am not a man of many morals, but I am not a liar. You can trust me when I say it will be much easier for you if you look into that mirror of your own free will.”
“It won’t matter,” gritted out Neville. “Hermione’s off to get the professors, maybe even Dumbledore if he’s back. You’ll never get out with the stone, even if you do get it.”
“By the time Albus Dumbledore reaches this castle, I will be gone. Anyone short of him will be swiftly and easily dealt with. Now,” he snapped, “look into the mirror and tell me what you see!”
Neville felt the ropes contract painfully around his throat and he immediately realized he had no choice but to comply.
When he glanced into the mirror, he first saw the smiling face of two people who he recognized very well, though he had never seen them this healthy in life.
Then, the image slowly changed.
Those people were lying in hospital beds, looking much more like how Neville knew them. He was there, too, but there was something different about him. He looked more confident than Neville had ever felt and he reached into the pocket of his robes and produced two vials of golden liquid. He handed one to each of his parents before reaching into his robes once more.
He withdrew a blood-red stone, turned it over in his hands, winked, and plopped it back into his pocket.
And that was when Neville felt the stone appear just where his mirror-self had put it.
“Excellent,” said the man behind him with satisfaction and Neville could only feel complete terror at the fact he had immediately known when the stone had appeared to him. “I’m afraid your questions will remain unanswered, Longbottom. Your words of the other professor hold true and this will be much easier if I make haste. I thank you for your assistance… both willing and unwilling.”
A flash of red light illuminated Neville’s vision and then he saw no more.
The man masquerading as Quirrell deftly removed the stone from the boy’s pocket, slid it into his own and began for the chamber’s exit, the still bound form of Neville Longbottom floating behind him.
He could have killed the brat — he was the other potential child of prophecy, after all — but it was better this way. If Dumbledore really did show up, he knew he couldn’t best the man in this weakened form.
But he knew Albus’s one true weakness.
He couldn’t let those who didn’t matter die.
Minutes later, back outside the third-floor corridor…
Harry had begun to seriously consider just going back to the common room after so much time had passed, but he was rewarded by something of interest, not minutes after those contemplations had begun.
Not that said interesting event made any sense to him.
He actually found himself beyond perplexed when a frantic-looking Hermione Granger exploded out of the corridor and charged down the hall at a flat sprint, disappearing quickly around the nearest corner and running still further out of sight.
This made Harry frown, but he was at least reasonably sure something more was going to happen that might pique his interest.
Granted, if he had known what said thing would be, he would never have waited there in the corridor.
It was some time before the door leading to the forbidden hall opened but when it did, it was no panicked school child that exited.
It was a hooded man who Harry recognized nonetheless, as the nearest torch did indeed manage to cast his face into sharp relief.
Seeing his favourite professor exit from the forbidden corridor might have been surprising enough, but that wasn’t the sight that made Harry gasp aloud.
That was the sight of Neville Longbottom, helpless, bound by ropes, and clearly unconscious while he floated alongside the professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts.
The same professor froze at the sound of Harry’s gasp. It would have been impossible to discern for most, but this man had been under the effects of a Super Sensory Charm for some time now. While the cloak of invisibility may have hidden Harry from sight and detection in every way imaginable under most circumstances, it did not mask the sounds one made.
“Who’s there?” asked Quirrell in a voice as sharp as steel. Harry did not so much as move as he watched Quirrell’s wand raise.
His heart stopped beating for a second. Never had he put his cloak to the test against actual detection spells. He knew they existed, but nobody had ever suspected his presence while he had been wearing his most precious piece of clothing. He had no idea whether it would stand up to whatever Quirrell was about to cast, nor did he want to know.
He liked Quirrell; the man had actually been his favourite professor — even despite the constant headaches Harry oddly felt while in his class — but Harry was no fool and he thought he had a pretty good idea of what was going on here.
He, like every other student at Hogwarts, was all too aware of the supposed curse placed upon the Defence Against the Dark Arts position many years ago. Not one professor had lasted the entire year in decades and Harry had heard the term “When in doubt, blame the Defence professor” more than once.
And here was Quirrell, a competent but also quiet and mysterious man, exiting the forbidden corridor that may or may not house the Philosopher’s Stone at such an ungodly hour.
Oh, and he had a hostage. There was also that.
Harry may have liked Quirrell, but he wasn’t delusional.
It appeared that the Gryffindor trio may have actually been half-right in blaming a professor after all, even if their mention of Voldemort now seemed foolishly far off the mark. They had just guessed the wrong professor, by the looks of it.
Harry just stayed hidden, pressed firmly up against a wall and hoped beyond hope his cloak would ward off whatever detection spell Quirrell chose to cast.
Harry could… feel something. Like a wave rolling out from Quirrell, but nothing happened.
The man actually looked very surprised for all of a second before his jaw hardened.
What seemed to Harry like hurricane-force winds erupted from the end of Quirrell’s wand. His cloak may have protected him from the previous spell, but it was not impervious to physical effects. It fluttered in the wind and came straight off of Harry when the boy himself was flung through the air like a carelessly discarded ragdoll.
He hit the ground hard, feeling the air leave his lungs as Quirrell dispersed his spell with a sweep of his wand.
“Ah, Potter,” said the professor with a gleam in his eyes. “I had wondered whether or not I might run into you. Fate does have a funny way of meddling in the affairs of greater men.”
“S-sir,” stammered Harry, doing his best to play dumb, “what’s—”
“None of that from you, Potter. You are too sharp to suddenly be ignorant and your mind is as open as a book. I know you have correctly interpreted the situation and I must say, your deductions are quite impressive, if not entirely accurate.” The man’s face hardened. “Unfortunately, that only makes you all the more dangerous. You know too much and I won’t have you be my undoing yet again. You have two choices, Potter, and I urge you to choose wisely. Join me and forever hold your tongue, or oppose me and die.”
Harry only half heard the final bit of Quirrell’s monologue.
“I won’t have you be my undoing again.”
That didn’t fit Quirinus Quirrell. Harry had never done anything to oppose him. It wouldn’t have fit Snape, either. The man clearly didn’t like Harry, but the Slytherin youth had never done anything to warrant such an opinion.
No, that statement would only hold true if this was one man. A man who many thought to be dead and a man who Weasley, Granger, and Longbottom had seriously considered as a legitimate suspect.
“Voldemort,” Harry breathed in little more than a hissing whisper, his throat constricting as his heart beat faster and faster.
“In a sense,” the Dark Lord mused, all urgency seemingly forgotten as he fixated on the boy who had held his quiet interest for the better part of the year. “I am far from what I once was, thanks to you. Do you see what you have done to me, Harry? For years, I have been little more than a vengeful spirit hoping beyond hope he might one day find a way back to the glory he once basked in. Even now, so close am I to what I have sought for so long, I must poach off the bodies of lesser men and drink the blood of unicorns simply to keep this body from failing.”
The Dark Lord’s eyes were practically boring a hole in Harry now as if trying to memorize every detail. For his part, the youth in question was frozen and unable to move from fear. His limbs felt as though the blood within them had been frozen solid and they now weighed a hundred pounds each.
“But that all ends tonight,” hissed Voldemort. “I will have my own body once more when the elixir of life is mine and for that to happen, I need only to escape this castle with the stone in hand.”
He looked positively demented and even whilst in another’s body, Harry had no difficulty envisioning this man as a mass-murdering psychopath simply from the look on his vessel’s face alone.
“But… how?” he breathed. “Your power was supposed to be broken.”
“Oh, it was, but the greatest among us always find a way. Those who have pushed the boundaries of magic further than any other aren’t bound by the same restraints as the mere mortals cowering around them.
“But you are different,” Voldemort purred. “I have seen it in you this year. You remind me more of myself than any child I have ever met. Potential the likes of which have not been seen since my departure from this castle and a beautiful inner darkness that can be honed into so many wonderful things.
“You don’t need to suffer the fate of those foolish enough to oppose me, Harry. You can be greater than them, but only alongside me will you fulfill your true potential. Do not waste it by throwing your life away so carelessly. Not after your parents gave their lives for you. Do not repay them with a deluded sense of morality that will only see their sacrifice be for not.”
“You… want me to join you?”
“I do… very, very much.”
“Even after you killed my parents?”
Quirrell’s face tightened. “It was a necessary evil. I take no pleasure in ripping families apart and especially not when spilling pure, magical blood like that of your father. I will not apologize for what I have done. You do not deserve to be lied to by your parents’ murderer, but I will apologize for all of the hardships my actions have caused you. Allow me to atone for those evils by giving you things you could never have without me.
“Standing alongside me, you could help forge the world anew. You could tear down the corrupt system that would have seen your mother relegated to little more than a mere housewife. And the muggles… I know you have no love for them. Surely, you see the threat that they pose after having lived under their mercy for so long? You have seen their evil, seen how they live in constant conflict, and seen how they destroy anything they fail to understand? You must see the threat they pose if the Statute of Secrecy was ever to fall?”
“But it hasn’t,” countered Harry. “The Statute has been strong for three—”
“Lies,” hissed Voldemort. “That is nothing more than perpetuated propaganda. The Statute of Secrecy is weak and it has nearly crumbled on a number of occasions. Both world wars saw it come scarily close and Gellert Grindelwald nearly tore it down single-handedly more than once.
“There have been others, too. The French Revolution had its worrying moments and it has come so close to collapsing in America that wizards are forbidden from associating with muggles of any sort.”
This was… a revelation for Harry.
He had no love for muggles, as Voldemort had correctly assumed. He had seen their cruelty first hand and he knew all too well that the Dark Lord spoke the truth.
One thing in particular that Voldemort had said hit home with Harry.
How they destroy anything they fail to understand.
That had been the crux of the matter, hadn’t it?
Nobody had understood him, and thus everyone had lashed out against him. The Dursleys had been the worst, but they hadn’t been the only and it could be argued that, if others had spent as much time with him as his wayward relatives, they might have done just as much damage.
The Dursleys were not exceptions, from what Harry had seen. They might have been the worst he had seen, but no muggle had ever treated him with anything resembling kindness. The other kids had labelled him a freak and his teachers had been neglectful and only helped feed into the Dursleys’ abuse. The child services had failed, as had every other system ever put in place by muggles.
All because they failed to understand.
And wouldn’t that be the case for each and every wizard from what Harry had seen? What would happen if Voldemort was right and the Statute of Secrecy really did fall? The muggles would surely wage war on the wizards and though the magicals were, of course, superior in every way imaginable, there would surely be massive amounts of death and destruction. It would probably be more devastating than either world war, and the effects of those were still being felt all across the globe today.
All of these thoughts formed solidly in Harry’s mind for the first time and now, he saw the world in an entirely different light. Just like that, his entire worldview had shifted and now he stood, dazed, confused, and frozen before the Dark Lord that had destroyed so much.
But had he been acting for a noble cause?
Did that excuse his actions? Did it excuse the horrible truth that he had murdered Harry’s parents and sent his life into a downward spiral that he was only now just beginning to recover from? And what of his parents? What had they believed? Did it even matter? Could Harry possibly side with their murderer even if he did agree with their ideologies?
He had become so lost in thought he only now heard the frantic pounding of footsteps racing towards them down an adjacent corridor. He could practically feel the magic in the air as they drew closer.
“Your time is up,” snarled Voldemort, suddenly looking worried for the first time. “Choose!”
Voldemort slashed his wand towards Harry. There was clear regret on his face but he knew that now, he could no longer wait.
Harry dove to the side and managed to avoid the spell, but he landed quite painfully on his wrist.
Voldemort made to sprint from the corridor, but he was too late.
“A pleasure seeing you tonight, Quirinus.”
Harry recognized the voice and he wasn’t sure how to feel about its arrival, likely because he now wasn’t sure how to feel about the man who had just attacked him.
“Dumbledore.” Quirrell’s voice escaped in a hiss, but it didn’t sound fearful. Just unbelievably hateful.
“That is my name, yes,” Dumbledore spoke calmly and politely, but there was the unmistakable undertone of steel. “I must admit, I find myself less confident that Quirinus is the name most appropriate for you. Can I assume that in a warped sort of way, the brilliant young Slytherin I taught all those years ago really did get the Defence Against the Dark Arts job he once claimed to want after all these years?”
“I tire of your games, old man. Step aside, allow me to pass, and nobody needs to die.”
“If I am correct about a great many assumptions, I’m not sure you are in the position to make threats. You most certainly are not at full power in your current form, else you would never have sought Nicholas’s stone in the first place. I’m also not sure it would be wise for you to cast the Killing Curse in such a form. Least of all when your unsteady balance has been so reliant on unicorn blood as it is.”
“I don’t need that curse to kill.” When Dumbledore didn’t budge, Quirrell’s lips twisted up in a terrible smile. “You always were a stubborn old fool, but your weaknesses have always been as glaring as the hideous robes you enjoy so much.”
Voldemort twitched Quirrell’s wand and Neville was thrust between himself and Dumbledore. The boy inverted so that he was upside down and very slowly, his head began to bend backwards.
“Enough,” said Dumbledore and Voldemort stopped. Neville’s head was positioned at a horrible angle, but his neck had not yet broken. Any with eyes could see, however, that another couple of centimetres would do it.
“I am going to count down from five,” said Voldemort, speaking in much the same way he might if discussing the day’s weather. “If you do not step aside by the time I am done counting, this boy will die faster than you could possibly hope to prevent it.”
“If I agree, you will leave him—”
Voldemort laughed. “That isn’t how this works, old man; you’re losing your touch. I will be taking him with me to the gates of this castle. All the while, I will be waiting. If I sense so much as a bead of magic form on the tip of your wand, this boy will die as quickly as he would have had you simply failed to stand aside. When I reach the point from which I can apparate away, I will leave the boy, healthy, for you to retrieve.”
Quirrell’s eyes were dancing with mirth as the monster who occupied his body smirked cruelly at Dumbledore. “What’s wrong, Dumbledore? Is your convoluted game of chess not as fun when you’re playing a fellow grandmaster? Surely by now, you’ve learned that to win the game, you need to sacrifice some pawns?” Dumbledore didn’t answer and Voldemort laughed again before becoming much more businesslike. “My patience has thinned; your move, old man.”
The pain in Harry’s head — which he now realized was somehow emanating from his scar, of all places — had reached a fever pitch so intense he thought he might vomit.
But even through the pain, one thing was glaringly clear.
This was wrong.
He agreed with Voldemort that the muggles were a real threat that needed to be dealt with. This was a startling revelation he had come to over the past number of minutes, but he couldn’t support the death of an innocent child. Perhaps it was because he was young and naive, and perhaps he would grow out of it in time.
For now, though, it reminded him far too much of the way he had suffered. Nothing more than collateral damage in a bigger game. It was like the Dark Lord said. He had been a pawn Voldemort was willing to sacrifice.
He didn’t want that to happen to Neville.
It wasn’t even so much choosing Dumbledore’s side as it was choosing to not allow one of the few things Harry held as evil from taking place.
Slowly, Harry began to crawl towards the Dark Lord.
“Very well,” said Dumbledore, sounding as though he had just swallowed a poisonous lemon. “You may go.”
Voldemort used Quirrell’s face to grin in a way that spoke of a long-awaited victory as he marched forward with the air of a prince who was about to ascend to the throne he had sought for so long.
Until a small form belonging to a young, bespectacled boy launched itself forward and tackled him around the middle, sending them both sprawling.
Harry really had thought he was helping. He thought that by catching the Dark Lord by surprise, he might save his hostage’s life.
What he failed to account for was that Voldemort could react much faster than other men.
When he made impact with Quirrell’s body, something horrible sounded out from in front of them. It was as if a child had become bored playing with the delicate branch of a tree and chosen to snap it, but so much worse.
The sound echoed through the corridor, seeming to reverberate in impossible ways, speaking of the death and implications it brought with it.
Harry wasn’t entirely sure how he would have reacted if rational thought was possible, but it was most certainly not. Even in the best of situations, he was reasonably sure, in hindsight, that he would fallen into shock.
On this occasion, he didn’t even do that, for his head exploded with unadulterated agony.
Harry hadn’t thought the pain in his head could get worse, but by Merlin it had.
When he touched Quirrell, the very scar seemed to explode open, releasing years of pent-up agony and torture which all rolled over Harry at once.
Years later, Harry would vehemently claim the pain he felt in that corridor was far worse than the Cruciatus Curse, but he somehow soldiered on.
Voldemort — whose wand had been knocked from his hand — had reached for Harry’s throat, only to cry out. The skin on his hand began to sizzle and burn away, revealing the very bone underneath.
And that’s when Harry knew that Voldemort couldn’t touch him.
At this point, Harry wasn’t even really sure why he was still fighting. He supposed it was just a natural feeling of paranoia, now. Voldemort had gone for his throat. Any time someone had done that in the past, it had ended badly.
So Harry went for a vital point of his own.
He buried his fingers so deep into Quirinus Quirrell’s eyes that they embedded themselves knuckle deep in the man’s eye sockets, tearing through Quirrell’s eyes as if they were no more than styrofoam.
The pain was too much for both of them.
Harry and Voldemort both gave one final scream of united agony before, almost in unison, their bodies slumped, unmoving, to the floor, leaving all in the corridor but the wizened headmaster lying motionless.
I did say this fic was going to be dark… I warned you.
I had a few things I really wanted to accomplish with that last scene, so I hope I did it. I find the year 1 climax by far the hardest to make interesting, so I hope I at least succeeded in doing that much.
One more chapter left to go for book 1! It will wrap things up quite nicely, and then we will be onto book 2.
Please read and review.
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