Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 1: The Fracturing of Foundations
Chapter 13: An Unexpected Detour
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Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 1: The Fracturing of Foundations
Chapter 13: An Unexpected Detour
June 8, 1992
The Hospital Wing
When Harry finally awoke from many long and torturous dreams, the first sensation he felt was a burning pain behind his eyes. Probably because after so long without light, the copious amounts of which flowed into his eyes was jarring to say the very least. Without his glasses on, the sensation was even worse as he could make out nothing around him but a bright blur closing in on all sides.
He wasn’t sure how his glasses found their way into his hand, but they did, so he put them on; at which point he finally became aware of his surroundings — though he was still blinking furious from the onslaught of sudden light.
He was in an unfamiliar room with white walls and ceiling. Harry couldn’t make out much of it, since he seemed to be isolated from most of the room. He was lying on a white, well-made bed, but there were curtains of the same colour all around him, closing him and his bed in on all sides.
“Good afternoon, Harry.”
Harry almost jumped at the voice. He did jolt, but he quickly slumped back down against his pillows when it sent a horrible stab of pain through his head.
“Do be careful,” the voice said. “I would hate to be thrown out of my own hospital wing by an angry matron due to injuries you suffered on my account.”
“Professor Dumbledore?” Harry asked, recognizing the voice from the few times he had heard it before. He glanced towards it. Dumbledore was indeed there, sitting in an armchair that looked remarkably out of place. Somehow, Harry had a feeling the Hogwarts Headmaster had conjured it himself.
“It is good to see you awake at last,” the man said, and Harry couldn’t help but notice how old and weary he appeared.
He hadn’t looked this way when they had spoken in front of the Mirror of Erised. Not even in that conversation’s darkest moments.
Harry thought back to the last time he had been conscious. It was all really quite fuzzy and it took him at least a minute to begin putting the pieces together.
When he did, dread filled his stomach as something horrid ripped at his heart, trying to rip the strings like a vengeful child taking out their frustrations on an old, weathered guitar.
“Neville,” said Harry, voice breaking. “Is he… I remember—”
“It is likely that you remember correctly.” Dumbledore’s voice was completely flat, which affirmed to Harry more than anything else that he did indeed have a clear memory of the events. “I am sorry, Harry. I know you did your best to prevent that very thing from happening, and what took place on that night is nothing a child of your age should ever see.”
“It was my fault,” Harry whispered. “He said that if you attacked him, he would kill L-Neville. I… I thought he was focusing for magic. I thought… I thought—”
“That if you surprised him with a physical assault, you might break the control he had over young Neville and create an opening for me to intervene?” Harry nodded morosely.
Dumbledore sighed deeply. “First and foremost, I must dissuade you of any notions that this is in any way your fault. You did what you thought was best. It is true that it wasn’t the most well thought out course of action I have ever seen, but such things are perfectly reasonable. You are still so very young, much as I know you hate to hear that. I said before that no child your age should ever see such things. Things like that… well, they make well-trained adults panic and do things that are not always wise. What you did was not the most appropriate thing in the moment, but it was perfectly reasonable given the context of such events. It would have been ridiculous to have expected anything different from you.”
“I still shouldn’t have done it,” whispered Harry. “He said exactly what would happen if someone attacked him and I just ignored it.”
“You did not ignore it,” Dumbledore said kindly. “If you had ignored it, you would not have acted the way you did. You would not have realized the precarious position I myself was in, so it is likely you would have allowed me to react.”
“I don’t want it to ever happen again.” Harry’s voice shook and though he hated the fact, he could do nothing to stop it.
“Let us hope you are never again in a situation like the one you found yourself in that night.”
“But that isn’t good enough,” Harry argued. “What if I am? What happens then? I… I don’t want to panic again. It… it scares me. Making mistakes like that… Neville is dead because of it.”
“You think too singularly,” said Dumbledore. “There is no one reason Neville Longbottom is dead. Did your attacking the vessel of Lord Voldemort have an impact? Of course it did. Did a great many other things have an equal or greater impact? Yes, they did.”
“What other things?”
Dumbledore didn’t answer at once. “Where to begin?” he said at last. “I could really start with all of the things that made Lord Voldemort the monster he is today, but I will not bore you with such things. Not unless it one day becomes necessary. Instead, I will go back to Halloween of 1981. The very second Voldemort’s power was broken, it was inevitable he would one day seek to return. It is not in his nature to accept failure and so long as even a part of him survives, he will always seek to return by any means necessary.” Dumbledore’s face suddenly scrunched up. “And then, of course, there are my own mistakes to account for.”
“Your mistakes, sir?”
“Oh yes, Harry, and what a great number of them there are. You see, if there is any one person who should be blamed for the death of Neville Longbottom, you are looking at him.”
“I… don’t understand.”
“No, I’m sure you don’t.” Dumbledore took a minute to ponder his next reply. “You remember the analogy that was made in that corridor about chess?” Hesitantly, Harry nodded. “It was… closer than I would like it to be. I’m afraid that when dealing with this particular situation, I tried to play so many moves ahead, that it cost others dearly in the short term.”
“I’m… missing some bits.”
“Hm? Ah yes, I suppose you are. You of course know that Lord Voldemort was after the Philosopher’s Stone?” Harry nodded. “Did you also happen to know that the stone was created by one named Nicholas Flamel?”
Harry shook his head but scrunched up his face. “I’ve… heard that name before.”
“I’m sure you have. He is quite famous. I myself worked with Nicholas on alchemy for many years.”
“That’s it,” breathed Harry. “He’s on your chocolate frog card.”
Dumbledore actually chuckled despite the mood. “He is, yes. An interesting introduction to a most intriguing man. Yes, he is. Nicholas is a man of many great achievements, but by far his greatest is the Philosopher’s Stone.”
“So… he asked you to keep it, or something?”
“In essence, yes. Nicholas became worried for the stone not long before the school year was set to start. You see, there was an attack on his property in France and it was deemed by both him and myself as too well-orchestrated to be the work of any but a most skilled practitioner of the darkest of arts.”
“So you moved it to Hogwarts?”
“It was much more complicated than that, but yes. It was actually first sent to Gringotts while I ensured certain protections were in place at the castle. Other things were considered, too. The Fidelius Charm was taken under strong consideration, but I dismissed it. Nicholas has participated in the charm’s casting as many times as a person can and I confess, I wanted to save my available usages for a later date.
“So, I decided it would be best for the stone to be hidden at Hogwarts.” Dumbledore sighed. “I had my suspicions even then that it was Voldemort who was after the stone. I was sure the protections I had set forth at Hogwarts were infallible and that he would not be able to pass them. Not through all of them, at least.”
“You were sure you could keep Vol-sorry. You-Know—”
“Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.”
“Yes, sir. You… really thought you could keep Voldemort away from the stone?”
“I did, yes,” sighed Dumbledore. “If you will forgive my saying, some of the traps really were quite ingenious. Professor Snape had a most compelling puzzle but I will admit, I was most fond of my two additions.”
Harry felt an odd sense of curiosity. He was sure he wouldn’t understand them now, but he wondered exactly what kind of protections the greatest wizard since Merlin would have come up with. He already hadn’t understood one bit of the conversation — something about a Fidelity Charm, or something — but he was interested nonetheless.
“Can… can I ask what your ideas were, sir?”
“Certainly. Between the two of us, a man like myself does grow bored of having his own genius stroked. In saying that, it is nice to explain one’s thoughts to others from time to time.
“If you pushed past that door and stepped into the corridor, you would come face-to-face with a cerberus.” Dumbledore studied Harry. “Do you know what makes that specific beast so deadly?”
Harry shook his head. “The only thing I know about them is that in muggle myths, they have three heads.”
Dumbledore’s lips twitched. “They do indeed have three heads, but there is far more to it than that. You see, a cerberus is a very unique and powerful creature. Every single one of them is different. They cannot be killed nor even severely harmed by almost any magic we know of. Why, even the spell that took your parents away from us would be completely ineffective against a cerberus — though many don’t realize this.”
Harry looked surprised. “So they’re invincible? How did Voldemort get past it then?”
“Ah, no, they are not invincible. Magic is, at its core, all about balance. The cerberus cannot be harmed by almost any magic so long as and only if they are protecting something, but they all have a weakness. It is different for each beast. No two cerberuses will have the same weakness, but they all have one. For Fluffy — Hagrid’s beast and the one who guarded the stone — that was music. Play even a semi-competent attempt at a tune, and the beast would be asleep in seconds. Where magic comes in and balances these beasts is one of the things I find most fascinating. You see, if you have something valuable to protect, a cerberus will never be loyal to you. It is truly an interesting dichotomy. A creature that is tailor-made to protect will never be loyal to any who has something that is in need of protecting.”
“But it worked here because Hagrid didn’t need the stone protected, Flamel did?”
“Precisely.” There was an odd twinkle in Dumbledore’s eyes as he spoke.
“And the other protection?”
“Ah, that one will take much less explaining. I told you back months ago that the Mirror of Erised would be relocated, do you remember?” Harry nodded; he was unlikely to ever forget anything about that mirror. “Well, it was relocated and served as the final obstacle protecting the Philosopher’s Stone. Above even the cerberus, this protection was why I was so sure Voldemort would be unable to get his hands on the stone.”
“Why’s that, sir?”
“Think about how the mirror works, Harry, and now imagine for a moment that I have placed the stone within the mirror. I did some… tweaking of the artifact’s enchantments and by the time I was done, it would have been impossible for Voldemort to remove the stone. You see, only those who did not want to possess the stone for any selfish reason could have looked into that mirror and had the stone given to them.” He sighed deeply. “I did not, unfortunately, account for the possibility that students might go looking for it and that Voldemort might use one of them to remove the stone for him.
“Do you see my mistake, Harry? I was so focused on combating the genius of Lord Voldemort that I forgot to account for the spontaneity of circumstance. It is a mistake I should not have made after so much time on this earth, but alas, I am the furthest thing from perfect.”
“You could never have known though,” defended Harry.
“True,” sighed Dumbledore, “just as you could never have been expected to react in any way differently than how you did.” There was a long, awkward pause. “I believe we have come to an impasse,” said Dumbledore. “Let us cease this foolish game of trying to assign a force so arbitrary as that of blame. I am sure you have questions after the ordeal you went through.” Harry nodded with a considerable amount of reluctance. He had never exactly been encouraged to ask questions by adults before. “Ask away then, dear boy, and I shall answer; for I believe you have the right to know a great many things. Particularly in the wake of Master Longbottom’s tragic and untimely passing.”
“What… what’s going to happen with Neville’s family? What will his parents do?”
Harry wasn’t sure why, but he immediately knew that he had said something wrong. Or at the very least, something that spoke of far deeper implications than he realized.
“Nothing will change for Neville’s parents.” Dumbledore’s voice was suddenly as hard as steel. Harry had never heard him like this; not even while confronting Voldemort.
“Are-are they dead?”
“No, death would be far preferable to what Frank and Alice Longbottom went through.” When Harry only looked at the headmaster with wide, curious eyes, the man relented with obvious reluctance. “Neville’s parents were aurors — they’re something like the wizarding police, but they are only for the best of the best. They were very good ones, too. They defied Voldemort directly on multiple occasions and lived to tell the tale.”
His expression darkened. “Unfortunately, this painted a target on their back. In the days following your defeat of Voldemort, many of his followers grew restless in their search for their fallen master. Some of the worst of them attacked Neville’s family, obviously hoping they had information as to where their master might be. Neither of them did, but their attackers cared not. They were both tortured into insanity and currently reside in a very specific ward in the magical hospital of Saint Mungoes. A ward for those whose minds have been torn so asunder by magic that they are not fit to live in society anymore. Those in this ward have no hope of ever recovering.”
“Does… did he have any family?”
“His grandmother, yes. I have spoken to her already. It… was not an easy discussion to have.”
“Does she know what happened?”
“She does not.” Dumbledore pierced Harry with his blue-eyed stare. “The public does not know that Lord Voldemort survived that night. Many of them believe him dead and some are better for it. If it ever became public knowledge that he hadn’t died that night, people might rally around him once more. At the very least, panic would sweep across the nation and do irrevocable damage. I know you must not understand, but the fear felt when Voldemort was at the height of his powers was unlike anything these isles have ever seen. It is imperative the secret of his survival stays between the two of us. I will not bind you to this secret by any means I know, but I will ask you, man to man, whether or not I can trust you to keep this secret?”
Harry hesitated for only a second. He loved this new world far too much to see it fall into complete and total disarray. “Yes, sir; you can trust me.”
“Very good. Now, I’m sure you have more questions?”
“Voldemort still hasn’t really gone then, is he? He’ll try to come back again, won’t he”
“No, Harry, he has not gone. He is still out there somewhere, perhaps looking for another body to take over… not being truly alive, he cannot be killed. I would say he left Quirrell to die, but there was none of him left. You never knew Quirinus Quirrell. You know only Voldemort, for it was merely Quirinus’s corpse under that monster’s complete and total control. He was weakened greatly by this form, but it was better than death, and so what if it cost an innocent man his life?.
“Lord Voldemort shows just as little mercy to his followers as his enemies. Nevertheless, Harry, while you may only have delayed his return to power, it will merely take someone else who is prepared to fight what seems a losing battle next time — and if he is delayed again, and again, why, he may never return to power.”
“How… what happened when I tackled him? His skin, it… it burnt.”
“Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.”
“Voldemort will just try and use the stone again, won’t he?”
Dumbledore suddenly became very interested in a bird on the windowsill outside. “That isn’t something we will need to worry about in the future, no.”
Harry blinked. “What?”
“Nicholas and I have had a chat about this very subject, and we both thought it best for the stone to be destroyed.”
“Destroyed?” Harry asked, incredulous. “But… that means… he’ll die, right? And his wife, too?”
“They have enough elixir stored to set their affairs in order and then, yes, they will die.”
Dumbledore smiled at the look of amazement on Harry’s face. “To one as young as you, I’m sure it seems incredible, but to Nicholas and Perenelle, it really is like going to bed after a very, very long day. After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. You know, the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all — the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”
“Sir?” asked Harry, trying to stall for time whilst he worked out how to phrase a… riskier question. “How long was I unconscious?”
“A little over three days, I’m afraid. Your friends have been quite worried. You will no doubt have noticed the tokens of worry and friendship they have sent you.” He gestured to piles of sweets and other confections lying around the room that Harry had failed to notice up to that point.
That gave him another idea for a question to ask while he tried to put his thoughts into safe words. This one really was something he did want answered.
“Sir… what’s going to happen to Hagrid?”
“I wish I could be sure myself. He will stand on trial at some point in July. The Wizengamot will decide his fate, and I can only hope they will be merciful.”
Finally, Harry felt comfortable in attempting to phrase this next question.
During the confrontation, he had wondered about his parents. He had wondered of their ideologies and how they compared to Voldemort’s. He had wondered how it was they had differed and now, he wondered what they would think of Harry’s inherent distrust of muggles. A distrust that Voldemort had effectively cast into sharp relief during their short but enlightening — if terrifying — discussion.
“Sir… why did Voldemort attack my parents and I?”
“What is it that inspires this line of questioning, if you do not, of course, mind my asking?”
“Just… some things Voldemort said.”
“I see.” There was a pause of a few seconds during which Dumbledore seemed to be considering something. “I should not tell you,” he said. “You are far too young for such truths, but you are also far too young to have seen what you have already seen. I will not tell you today, but I will make a bargain with you.
“Starting at the beginning of next year, I will teach you — if you are willing, of course — to protect your mind. Once I am satisfied with the progress you have made on that front, I will give you an overview. I will state from the onset the details will not be revealed to you until you are older. There are things it’s really best you don’t know just yet, but I will at least answer your question in general terms. Is this agreeable to you?”
It wasn’t the answer Harry was hoping for, since it really didn’t answer his question at all. If Dumbledore was only going to give a vague idea, it might not answer his question in the long-run, either.
But something the man had said had piqued Harry’s interest. “Defend my mind, sir?”
“Yes, indeed. There is a branch of magic known to men like Voldemort that allows them to manipulate the minds of others. I won’t go into detail here, but I think with the threat of Voldemort reemerging once more, it is important for you especially to learn this fine art.” His eyes began to twinkle once more. “It also provides a number of other benefits that are most useful if properly applied. I will warn you though, these benefits are nastily tricky to learn.”
The choice was a foregone conclusion. Just like when Theodore had told him about obliviators, Harry’s imagination ran through all the horrid things he didn’t want somebody to be able to do to his mind. If there was a defence of any kind, he would be learning it.
“I’ll learn it, sir.”
“Excellent!” Dumbledore glanced at a clock on the wall. “I do believe I have overstayed my welcome, unless you have any final questions?”
“Um… a couple?”
“Do you know who sent me the invisibility cloak?”
“Ah — your father happened to leave it in my possession, and I thought you might like it.” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “Useful things… your father used it mainly for sneaking off to the kitchens to steal food when he was here.”
“And there’s something else…”
“Can I stay at Hogwarts over the summer holidays?”
Dumbledore’s face fell. “I am afraid not, Harry. Much as I do not believe them to have treated you with the kindness you deserve, the Dursleys are your family. Perhaps that is another mistake I have made over the years. I was the one who allowed them to obtain guardianship over you in the first place. I can only say that at the time, I had genuinely believed they would treat you with the utmost kindness. Alas, the deed is done and undoing it would be a great deal of trouble for all involved. You are also safe there; more safe than anywhere else in the world. Powerful magics are in place on that home. Magics that draw directly from the power of your mother’s sacrifice. So long as you reside there, no outsider who means you harm can lay so much as a finger on you.”
Harry had to try hard not to let the anger, bitterness, and frustration show on his face. So it had been Dumbledore who had gotten him stuck there. He couldn’t really blame him, he supposed. It wasn’t unreasonable to assume Harry’s only living family would treat him well. The Dursleys were entirely to blame, but that didn’t mean Harry had to like going back to them.
“I understand, sir,” he said in a bland voice that came out a touch cooler than intended.
If Dumbledore noticed, he made no comment. “Very good. Now, how about you begin on the mountain of sweets your friends have left for you, hm?” He reached out and picked up a package of Bettie Botts Every Flavour Beans. “Beans! I was unfortunate enough in my youth to come across a vomit-flavoured one, and since then I’m afraid I’ve rather lost my liking for them — but I think I’ll be safe with a nice toffee, don’t you?”
He smiled and popped the golden-brown bean into his mouth. Then he choked and said, “Alas! Earwax!”
June 19, 1992
The Great Hall
It had been nearly two days before Harry had been allowed out of the hospital wing. He had lightly protested, but he actually hadn’t minded that much. His books had been brought to him so he could at least read. Not for too long, or his head would begin to ache — but it was a nice distraction. More than anything though, he had wanted to spend time alone.
He needed time to process all that had happened. The revelation that Voldemort had not only survived but was threatening a return, the death of a fellow student despite his intervention, and all the other things that had transpired since his last bout of consciousness.
That wasn’t to say he was alone.
His friends were allowed to visit him the day after he awoke. Draco, Crabbe, Goyle, Pansy, and Theodore poured in alongside Diana, Cassius, and the rest of their friends.
There had been an awkward moment during which Harry and Draco had stared intently at one another before the blond finally broke.
“I was an idiot, alright? I should have never done it. You told me not to and I gave you my word. I’m not sorry I did it, but I’m sorry I did it without telling you. I should have at least been honest and said what I was doing. I’m sorry, Harry. I hope we can be friends again and that I can earn back your trust. I promise, I won’t lie to you again.”
Slowly, Harry nodded, though he hadn’t seen the pleased look Diana shot in Draco’s direction as he did so.
Things had been tense between Harry and Draco for the next few days, but they had mostly smoothed over. Harry didn’t trust Draco nearly as much as he had before the incident but then again, he wasn’t sure he trusted anyone nearly as much as he once had. This year had left a deep and lasting impression on him. Draco was just more directly under his line of scrutiny than most because of what had already transpired between them.
The day before the train was set to bring them all back to London, the leaving feast was held in the Great Hall.
When they entered, it was clear there was more at play, and Harry had very little doubt of what that was.
The hall was decorated in Gryffindor colours despite Slytherin’s House Cup victory. The decorations were muted though. Dark, tasteful reds as opposed to vivid scarlets, and any gold that was used was done so very sparingly.
Light colours just wouldn’t reflect the mood of this gathering.
The school had of course been made aware of Neville’s passing, if not the specific details that had accompanied it. As always, the Hogwarts rumour mill had been running roughshod. Most had linked his death to Quirrell’s sudden disappearance. Some had even gone as far as to group Harry in somehow, since he had spent a number of days in the hospital wing directly after the fact.
The mood of the school had been heavy, though there had been a brief break in that mood when — on the back of their captain, Oliver Wood, and their star seeker, Ron Weasley — Gryffindor captured their first Quidditch Cup in seven years. Weasley had, according to some, almost not been medically cleared to play, but he had persevered and beaten the young Ravenclaw seeker to the snitch.
It had served as an apt tribute to Gryffindor’s fallen hero, though the mood in the hall was heavy in spite of that.
The hall was deathly silent even before Dumbledore took to his feet at the staff table, but he still waited a moment before speaking.
“Another year gone,” he began. “Though this was no ordinary year. As you will all by now be aware, we lost one of our own in the closing weeks of this otherwise magical year.” His eyes roamed the hall and fell on the Gryffindor table, where there were plenty of muted expressions and downcast faces.
“Neville Longbottom was a boy who personified everything it means to be a Gryffindor. Godric himself would have felt great pride at having young Neville in his house. This was not publicized at the time, but I think it only right now to give the son of Franklin and Alice his credit for he, like them, was a hero.
“It was Neville who took down the troll on Halloween when it invaded our castle.” Muttering erupted through the Great Hall at this, ranging from awed to disbelieving. “He did so at great personal risk and with the safety of his friends in mind. He was undoubtedly brave and stunningly kind. He put his friends before himself until the very end. He chose to do what was right instead of what was easy and for that, he will be fondly remembered by all.
“In dark times like these, I think it only prudent we learn all we can, for it is best to make light of any and all situations. Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, so long as one remembers to follow the light. Whether you knew Neville or not, I urge all of you to take the time and effort to hold each other up. Use this as an opportunity to unite together and grow stronger. Do not allow his loss to weaken your resolve or your friendships; it is the opposite of what a boy like Neville would have wanted.
“Before we move onto the awarding of the house cup, I think it only right we stand and take a moment of silence for a boy who was good, kind, and brave.” All in the hall stood, glasses in hand as they followed the lead of their Headmaster. “To Neville Longbottom,” Dumbledore thundered, and the students chorused back. Even the Slytherins chanted along, and Harry did not see even a single person sitting down.
“Now, as I understand it, the house cup here needs awarding, and the points stand thus: In fourth place, Gryffindor, with three hundred and twelve points; in third, Hufflepuff, with three hundred and fifty-two; Ravenclaw has four hundred and twenty-six and Slytherin, four hundred and seventy-two.”
A storm of cheering and stamping broke out from the Slytherin table. Had it not been for the mood befallen on Harry by the rousing speech about Neville, he would have joined Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle in banging their goblets against the table whilst the rest of the house stomped and cheered.
“Yes, Yes, well done, Slytherin,” said Dumbledore. “However, recent events must be taken into account.”
The room went very still. The Slytherins’ smiles faded a little.
“Ahem,” said Dumbledore. “I have a few last-minute points to dish out. Let me see. Yes… First — to Master Ronald Weasley, for the best-played game of chess Hogwarts has seen in many years, I award Gryffindor house fifty points.”
Gryffindor cheers nearly raised the bewitched ceiling; the stars overhead seemed to quiver. From across the hall, Harry could see Ron Weasley’s multitude of brothers dogpiling on top of him as if he had just won them the Quidditch Cup for a second time that month.
Dumbledore cleared his throat and the hall fell silent once again. “Second — to Miss Hermione Granger… for the use of cool logic in the face of fire, I award Gryffindor house fifty points.”
Gryffindors up and down the table were beside themselves — they were a hundred points up, even if they were still sixty points behind Slytherin.
“Third — to Master Harry Potter…” said Dumbledore. The room went deadly quiet as the Slytherins’ ears perked up. “For pure nerve and outstanding courage, I award Slytherin house sixty points.”
The din was deafening. Those who could add up while yelling themselves hoarse knew that Slytherin now had five hundred and thirty-two points — once more up on the lions by over a hundred points.
A hundred and twenty, to be exact.
Dumbledore raised his hand. The room gradually fell silent.
“To Master Neville Longbottom, for the ultimate form of bravery that can never be measured and will never be forgotten, I award Gryffindor house one hundred and twenty-five points.”
Someone standing outside the Great Hall might well have thought some sort of explosion had taken place, so loud was the noise that erupted from the Gryffindor table.
Many of the Slytherins were furious and confused for their part, but not Harry.
He knew all too well what Neville had sacrificed trying to stop Voldemort. Even if he still wasn’t sure what he thought of the objective, that kind of bravery deserved far more than a house championship trophy.
“Which means,” Dumbledore called over the storm of applause, for even Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were celebrating the downfall of Slytherin, “we need no change of decoration.”
And so the feast itself began.
When it finished some time later, many of the Slytherins were muttering harshly as they exited the hall. Harry stayed quiet, not so much as looking up until a hand rested on his shoulder.
“I do apologize for the loss in the standings,” said Dumbledore. “You really did deserve more points than you received, but I thought a Gryffindor victory more… thematically appropriate.”
Harry’s expression didn’t change. “I understand, sir.”
“Very good. I do hope you enjoy your summer.”
And then, he was gone.
June 20, 1992
The Hogwarts Express
It had been a rough few weeks for Ron and Hermione, who now sat alone in a compartment on the Hogwarts Express as the train raced back towards London.
Losing Neville had been very hard on the both of them. Ron was quite popular, especially after the win he had secured Gryffindor in the Quidditch final, but most of the people who followed him around didn’t really captivate his attention. He enjoyed the attention and happily basked in it, but he wouldn’t really call any of those people friends.
Hermione didn’t have many, either. Her bookish nature turned most people off of her, so she treasured the few friends she did have.
Neville had defined what it had meant to be a friend. As the year had drawn on, the boy had begun to come out of his shell, and both Ron and Hermione had been glad for it. He was the kindest of all of them, and Hermione couldn’t help but remember the way he had stood between her and the figure in the forest, or the resolute expression he had worn before they departed for the final time down in the catacombs on that fateful night.
Even now, more than two weeks later, both of them were quiet as the train departed from Hogsmeade Station. They didn’t speak for twenty, long minutes.
Not until a knock came from the door and it opened to reveal a tall, handsome boy the two of them recognized as a Hufflepuff. Two slightly younger girls followed in his wake. One had blonde pigtails whilst the other had dark red hair pulled back in a loose ponytail.
“Hi,” said the older boy, who was clearly the ringleader. “Can we sit here?”
Ron and Hermione exchanged glances before hesitantly nodding.
“Thank you,” said the boy, levitating all of their trunks up and into the overhead compartment with well-practiced precision. “I’m sorry for your loss; I know you two were closest with Neville. I didn’t know him well, but he was always kind to me and he was a great model of exactly what Gryffindor should be. I wish I would have known him, but I’m hoping I can get to know who he called friends. If he thought you two were worth hanging around, then I’m sure we’ll get along fine, if you’ll let us.”
He held out his hand, first to Hermione. “I’m Cedric Diggory. This is Hannah Abbot and Susan Bones. I hope we can become good friends in the future.”
Ron and Hermione couldn’t help but smile. There was just something about Cedric Diggory that spoke of a potentially happy future as friends.
About ten hours later…
Harry had spent most of the train ride back to London in silence while his friends discussed a wide number of things and played games of all sorts.
He didn’t even read; he just stared out of the window, watching the lush green fields and quaint little towns race past as they sped down the tracks for hours and hours.
There was nothing he dreaded more than returning to Privet Drive and his anxiety was higher than it had ever been before. It had only gotten worse when, before leaving the leaving feast, they had all been given a reminder that magic was not to be performed out of school unless they were of age. Harry had known this already, but seeing the reminder in his hand really drove the point home.
He would be at the mercy of the Dursleys once more and forced to live like a common muggle for the next two and a half months.
“Don’t worry,” Draco had told him. “I’m sure Father will get you out of that dump quickly enough. He’ll need to confirm some things, of course, but I’m sure he’ll have no trouble… convincing the muggles to let you out.”
Draco’s words hadn’t reassured Harry as much as they probably should have, but he was grateful for them nonetheless.
By the time the door to their compartment slid open just minutes before they were set to arrive at King’s Cross Station, Harry’s heart was beating unnaturally fast.
“Your end-of-year grades,” said Gemma, who had stepped through the door to deliver their missives. She levitated the envelopes to each of them, but her stare didn’t leave Harry. “Can you come with me for a moment, Potter?”
Harry stood and followed her out of the compartment, opening his envelope and peering down at the parchment within as he did so.
Dear Master Potter,
Please find enclosed your end-of-year results. We thank you for your dedication this year and would like to sincerely congratulate you on all of your achievements.
On the next piece of parchment, the truth was held.
O = Outstanding.
E = Exceeds Expectations.
A = Acceptable.
P = Poor.
D = Dreadful.
T = Troll.
Harry James Potter Has Achieved:
Astronomy – A
Charms – O
Defence Against the Dark Arts – O
Herbology – E
History of Magic – O
Potions – E
Transfiguration – O
Harry internally thanked Professor Flitwick for what must have been the hundredth time for making him see the importance of magical theory. He was gifted enough in Transfiguration and Defence Against the Dark Arts that it honestly might not have mattered. In Charms though, he would never have scored an O without the dedication to theoretical material. He was very good at Charms, but Flitwick’s class had a heavy emphasis on magic’s theoretical components.
His Astronomy grade was not great, but he cared not at all for the class. As far as he could tell, its only applications were in knowing when certain potions ingredients were at their most optimal. He doubted he would ever be a master potioneer and if he somehow ever became one, he would be using a star chart anyway. As a whole, he really just viewed the class as being useless and couldn’t wait to drop it entirely after fifth year.
Herbology was useful, but it had never been of great interest to Harry. The same could be said for Potions. History was really just a joke. Harry spent most of the class studying magical theory while Binns droned on and on in the background. Harry had just read thoroughly through the relevant portions of the history textbook. He had actually read through much more than that, since he genuinely did find the subject interesting when Binns wasn’t teaching.
Next year, he thought, he would just stop attending History lessons and see if anyone of importance even noticed. He would still get an O; of that, he had little doubt.
Gemma cleared her throat, drawing Harry’s attention back onto her. “I won’t be seeing you next year,” she said. “Not with me going off into the world and you going back to Hogwarts. I wanted you to know that you were a pleasure to teach and that you have the potential to be special.” Her eyes gleamed. “I’m not the only one to see it, either. Other people see it in you, Harry. When you meet them, I think you should listen to what they have to say.”
This made absolutely no sense to Harry, but he nodded along anyway as Gemma removed yet another envelope from the pocket of her robes.
“Something to remember me by.”
Harry reached out and took the envelope, immediately feeling as though something was wrong. It seemed to… tingle under his fingertips.
Gemma Fawley’s barking proclamation was the last thing Harry heard before the oddest sensation gripped him.
It was as though a hook had attached itself right underneath his navel and was pulling him forward at break-neck speeds. The world blurred around him as distorted colours and shapes raced past faster than the eye could perceive. He was spinning like a top, faster and faster as he travelled through space and time so quickly he was sure he would explode at any moment…
But he didn’t.
After a couple of minutes that felt much longer, Harry’s feet slammed hard into the floor, sending him sprawling.
He didn’t know where he was, but he knew it was not the Hogwarts Express.
The air in this place was different. Drafts of wind seemed to whistle through its halls as if the space within was open and vast. Harry glanced up but it was dark. There were no windows facing him and even if there were, it was night outside. The only light came from a scarce number of dim torches hanging in ancient-looking brackets dotted conservatively on the walls.
This place reminded Harry of a dungeon; though he had the distinct impression that, wherever he was, it was at least above ground.
Then, he saw the bodies.
There were three of them lying nearby and for a moment, he thought they had been deposited here like him.
He crawled towards the nearest one and reached out to shake his shoulder, keen on asking if any of them knew what the hell was happening.
It became immediately clear none of these men knew anything now.
When Harry got closer, the gruesome sight laid out before him made itself known It was only all the more nightmarish by the fact the bodies were cast in shadow, and the red pools around their heads were only visible at all because they were just barely illuminated by the flickering torchlight.
Harry wanted to gag.
Not even the smell of Quirrell’s burning flesh or the feeling of his fingers moulding and tearing through his eyes a child’s through bubble wrap had given him this sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. He hadn’t eaten all day out of stress but still, the very acid of his stomach threatened to rise at the horror scene he was now a witness to.
All three bodies were prone as if asleep, but the truth was much, much worse.
Their heads had all been twisted so far their necks had not just broken, but the top of their spines had pierced their very throats and the bone could be seen jutting up and out of their skin. One of the heads had been inverted a full one hundred and eighty degrees, and the top of his spine stuck straight up and pierced through his jaw like a morbid caricature of a tongue, exposing that bone and muscle as well.
It was like something out of a horror movie, and it made anything Voldemort had done this year at Hogwarts seem tame by comparison.
Only a monster could do something like this. It would have made Jack the Ripper proud and whomever was responsible was surely the magical equivalent of him — or even worse.
“We meet at last.”
The voice came from the shadows behind Harry, where he had yet to look as he was so transfixed with horror by the scene that had greeted him.
The voice was accented. Harry was no expert but to him, it sounded vaguely German. It was soft, smooth, and amused of all things.
It was amused by all of this!
Harry did not stand. He couldn’t, for he knew his shaking legs would have given out beneath him from fear, nausea, and horror.
But he did turn himself around and look into the shadows from where the voice spoke.
Between him and it were a set of bars so close together that not even a skeleton could have fit through them. It was difficult to see inside the cell, but Harry thought he could make out the vaguest outline of a bed near a window that overlooked a dark, churning sea far below.
And there was a figure on the bed… a shadowy figure that was standing and moving towards him.
Harry tried to get to his feet, but couldn’t. His legs gave out, just as he knew they would, and he was left to stare in transfixed terror at the man approaching him.
Just as he neared the bars, the man held out his hand and in it, light burst into being, casting his weathered face into sharp relief.
He had the look of a very handsome man who had not aged well. His face was thin and gaunt, but Harry could see where it had once doubtlessly been chiseled and youthful. The man was mostly bald, but there were a few whips of white hair remaining, dotted haphazardly upon his skull; with skin stretched so tight the head resembled that of a skeleton.
Except for the eyes.
His eyes shone with so much intelligence that Harry immediately knew this man had orchestrated all of it. From inside his very prison cell, he had somehow orchestrated the death of these guards, and probably even Harry’s arrival.
“A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mister Potter, and welcome to Nurmengard,” the man said in that smooth, accented voice, his eyes dancing with unmasked hunger. “I am Gellert Grindelwald, and the two of us have much to discuss.”
TO BE CONTINUED IN
HARRY POTTER AND THE ADVANCING OF SHADOWS
First year is a difficult one to make interesting, largely because it always seems to end in the same way. I have obviously not done that, so I hope you found the first year — its final few chapters, in particular — to be both unique and entertaining.
A shoutout for the cerberus lore is extended to my beta, Regress. I can take almost no credit for any of that, and it is one of the cooler magical theory ideas I have heard in quite some time.
As I said, we will be diverging further and further from canon as the story progresses, so I hope you enjoyed its opening instalments.
My advice to those reading on is simple.
Expect the unexpected.
Please read and review.
Discord Editors: Asmodeus Stahl
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