PoP 21

Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity

Year 2: The Advancing of Shadows

Chapter 8: The Erosion of Innocence

By ACI100

Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter universe. All recognizable characters, plots and settings are the exclusive property of J.K Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to my editor Fezzik, as well as my other betas Athena Hope, Mr. 3CP, Luq707, Raven, Regress, and Yoshi89 for their incredible work on this story.

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Author’s Note:

I don’t usually do these at the beginning of chapters, but I would like to issue a trigger warning for this first scene. It is darker than anything I have written so far and shows graphic depictions of restraint, violence, and gore. It also directly involves a child. I took no pleasure whatsoever in writing it, but it is an integral part of one of the story’s most significant characters. More than one, really, so it needed to be shown. 

This is probably the only trigger warning I will ever do because if you haven’t realized what you’re in for with this fic, you will after this, but I thought I would do it this once.

February 17, 1889

Königssee, Germany 

12:00 PM

A small boy stood among a group of many others, most much older and taller than he. Through a gap in the taller figures, he could make out the spectacle they were all gathered here to see, though his young mind struggled to grasp exactly what his sharp, bluish-silver eyes were watching.

It did not help that it was bitterly cold. 

The last thing the boy wanted was to be here of all places, bundled uselessly against the ceaseless wind that seemed to try and penetrate his very skin. Least of all when he hadn’t even an inkling why he was here.

The group of onlookers stood near St. Bartholomew’s church, which rested atop one of many snow-capped mountains overlooking Lake Königssee.

The mountains rose high and stretched far, encircling the lake in their centre in what might have looked like an effort to prevent the water’s escape. They formed a sort of protective ring around the body of water that had frozen over not long ago. A thin sheet of ice coated its surface, though one could still see the vividly blue water still churning beneath. 

It was a fair day and the sun beamed down upon them, bathing them in its light; a morbidly ironic fact on such an occasion. It gleamed off the snow atop each mountain, making the many peaks look like distorted blurs high above one of the region’s most beautiful bodies of water. The rays of light reflected off the mountain and were redirected down onto the icy surface of the lake. The light danced across its surface as if it were but a sheet of glass, gleaming and sparkling like a bright star in a not-yet pitch-black sky.

The church stood atop one of the highest mountains, which allowed the wind to bite, free and unimpeded, at everyone present. It ripped at their nerves and tore at their skin, blowing the light dusting of snow from the night previous around like some pale sand in a windy desert.

It was truly a majestic scene, even if it was not at all a comfortable one. Even the young boy realized that this was a particularly beautiful morning, though he had a great deal of trouble appreciating its majesty as he was too curiously entranced by the scene before him.

The onlookers formed a tight semi-circle around the front of the church. To any observing from afar, it might look as though they were trying to trap something or someone within their midst; and to be fair to such an onlooker, that was not at all far from the truth.

The tranquil scene was soon punctuated by a child’s high, terrified screams. Two tall men wearing long furs half dragged, half carried her towards the church. She was being completely restrained and neither of the men spared her so much as a glance as she screamed out for her mother and her father.

The small boy saw the girl’s eyes pleading with two figures who he thought must be her parents. They had her bright blonde hair and deep blue eyes, and their features were not at all dissimilar. What unnerved this young boy was how detached they seemed from the proceedings. It was as if their daughter’s cries meant nothing to them; like they were nothing more than the harsh whistling of the wind — which was not nearly loud enough to drown out the child’s terrified wails. 

Neither of them came to her aid.

The girl’s next scream was cut painfully short as it cut off in a gasp. The boy watched as the two men slammed her hard against the wall of the church. She slumped to the ground, all of the air knocked out of her lungs; light bits of snow clinging to her long dress as her chest convulsed up and down while she struggled to breathe. Hot tears streamed down her face, leaving lasting impressions before they fell onto the snow and created little bits of mist as the two substances met and their opposing temperatures clashed.

The sounds of her cries had not yet returned by the time the two men each fished something from their pockets. One of them grabbed the girl around the waist and hoisted her small, frail body into the air. She flailed, kicked, and even tried to bite the man, but it was to no avail. She was slammed hard against the wall once more. This time, the man continued holding her aloft as his partner bound her wrists. The other man let her feet graze the ground before they too were bound to the stone wall of the church. 

Only now, with the girl held in a vertical, crucifix position could the youngest of the crowd examine her properly. 

She would have been pretty had her face not been marred by the horrible tracks of her many tears. Her bright blonde hair fell to her shoulder blades and her eyes were the most shocking shade of blue this boy had ever seen. He remembered the water in the lake far below, before it had succumbed to the forces of winter and frozen over. Her eyes were as blue as that water in the peak of summer — or perhaps even as blue as the perfectly clear sky that stretched out far above them. She was thin and even in her bindings, she managed to shake badly. The watching boy did not know why, but he had the strangest impression her shudders had little to do with the biting cold that was making him shake.

The crowd was rustling now. Every movement of their feet was audible as it displaced the snow. Soon, their collective muttering had drowned out even the girl’s terrified screaming. 

The boy felt someone grab his hand and he looked up to see his mother. She had his own hair — not even half a shade brighter than the bound girl’s angelic blonde locks — though his mother’s eyes were brown instead of his blue. She was normally bubbling with energy, but today the boy could not help but notice how she seemed to lack any of her normal exuberance. It boggled his young mind but he could only assume it had something to do with why they were here. He wondered if that particular oddity had something to do with the girl.

“Come,” his mother said in soft German, looking at him properly for the first time since their arrival.

Her face showed no signs of a smile as she gently pulled him in the same direction that the crowd was now heading. They had left the little girl to walk to their left, where a peculiar something sat waiting for them. 

He had been here many times. His mother was an avid church goer and he had been going with her for nearly as long as he could recall. He hated church; he found it dreadfully boring. He was a very intelligent child — everyone, even him, knew that — and he understood things he had no right to understand at his age, despite only being close to six. Understanding what was said did not make it any less dull, and he could not for the life of him comprehend why everyone loved a man they had never seen before so dearly. 

In all of his trips to this church, nestled high in the mountains, he had never seen the massive stack of stones that the crowd was now converging upon. The rocks ranged in size from pebbles to small boulders, and the stack was nearly as tall as his mother and several times as wide.

People began collecting these stones and making their way back into formation, regrouping into the tight circle they had stood in not a moment earlier. He and his mother were among the last to collect their own stones. She forced a small pebble into his unoccupied hand with a distracted air about her. A part of him looked about for his father, but he knew the man wasn’t here. He did not know why, but his mother had seemed upset when telling him that her husband didn’t want to come. He had wondered whether or not that had been what the two of them were shouting about just a few days ago while they thought he had been asleep.

Their formation re-established quickly, but the atmosphere was different now. Before, it had been tense, but now, it was something more savage. Anticipation seemed to vibrate through the crowd. The young boy found it oddly reminiscent of when the children at school got excited about playing a new and interesting game. 

The level of noise was different, too. There was no more mumbling. People spoke much louder. Their voices rose and rose, coalescing into a chorus of vicious jeers that echoed against the many mountains sprawled out around them. The boy could understand little of what was said. There were too many voices and so many words he had never before heard.

As the chants grew still louder, the boy’s heartbeat seemed to quicken. He frowned deeply. He wasn’t sure what this meant. He knew it sometimes happened after he had run for great periods of time and was starting to get tired. But he did not feel tired, just… nervous. Nervous in a way he could not explain; how could he possibly be nervous when he had no idea what was going on?

The crowd had begun chanting as one now, their savage roars tearing across the land like feral battle cries; the loud echoes only adding to the effect as the opposite mountain peaks seemed to scream their words back at them, as if daring them to do better. Now that the chorus was but one word, the boy could make out exactly what it was. It was a word he had heard once or twice before. He had read it in books he should not have been reading at his age, but his understanding of the word was limited and he could not, for the life of him, understand why they would all be chanting such a thing on such a lovely day.


Their voices grew louder and louder as the girl began to scream again. It was different this time. Not only more urgent, but it was of a higher pitch, and the boy could see her eyes darting around this way and that, as though she were a desperately cornered animal. 

She must have understood their cries, too, and the boy wondered whether or not she might have actually realized what they meant for her. She did look to be a year or two older than him, so it was possible such a thing was true.

All thoughts on the meaning of things like chants vanished from the young boy’s mind the second stones began to fly.

He did not see who threw first, but someone must have drawn back their arm and let their weapon fly.

The first stone hit the girl in the chest. The sickening crack of her bones breaking was drowned out by the bloodthirsty jeering of the crowd. The floodgates had been opened and stone after stone flew towards the girl. It was like the very Earth had deemed her foul and revolted against her very existence, so many rocks flew towards her in such a short period of time.

Her screams had been interrupted when the first stone had found its mark, being replaced by a gratuitous blend of a groan and a choked cry of unadulterated agony. Moans, grunts, and retching coughs could barely be heard over the excitement of the crowd for a brief time before they ceased altogether.

He wasn’t sure exactly what had happened, though he suspected nothing good for the girl. It was now impossible for him to see, as the tight formation had been broken. Bodies were strewn here and there as people ruthlessly tried to push to the front of the queue, all seemingly eager to throw their own stones for reasons the boy did not at all understand.

He was more confused than ever before. Why had they been throwing stones at a little girl? Especially one who seemed so completely and utterly afraid? It made no sense to him. It was not something people did to one another and he knew it was terribly wrong, but he just didn’t understand why it was happening in the first place.

The crowd slowly thinned as he and his mother drew closer and closer to the front of the queue. When they at last reached it, his mother briefly released her tight grip on his hand and threw her stone. 

He thought it somehow right to throw his own, since everyone else had done it, but the sight before his eyes froze him in place more effectively than any wind could ever have done.

The girl was no longer bound to the wall. The boy would later wonder if the stones that had pummeled her had also struck her shackles and set her free.

Her body lay face up in the snow and it was a horrific sight. He could hardly process what he was seeing. Her body did not look like a body should look, nor did her head resemble anything he had ever seen on a human being.

If she had been thin before, now she was practically flat.  It was as though someone had let the air out of her body, the distance between her chest and her back seemed non-existent. She appeared as one-dimensional as a bit of parchment, but that was far from the most grotesque thing he saw. Nor were her arms and legs, which were bent and splayed at twisted angles the boy hadn’t known existed. Not even the jagged, oddly flat-looking bits of bone sticking out from said limbs, her chest, and her shoulders were the worst things he saw. They had punctured her skin at odd angles and resembled the world’s most gruesome pincushion… if the pins had pierced the fabric from the inside. 

The worst part of the girl was doubtlessly the thing that used to be her head. 

Where it had at one time been an enclosed shape, it was now barely held together. The top was gone entirely, taking her luscious hair with it. Even the white bone inside had been horribly broken, exposing an odd, mushy thing he had never seen before. It looked as though it had at one time been something vaguely solid, but it was now a puddle of strange, chunky liquid which smelled vaguely like the fresh meat from the butchers. He saw one of the bits of her head that had used to be attached. One of the stones must have gone right through it and forced it to cave in, for it floated slowly in the fluids it had once protected.

The soup-like substance was slowly pouring out of her skull, like slow going water from an especially stubborn well. It seemed not to exist once it left her head, however, for another substance monopolized the space around her, drowning all competition in its gory depths.

Thin, red liquid streamed from all imaginable places on the girl’s body. It poured from her skull, from the places her bones had pierced her skin, and many other places the boy could not will himself to look at. The substance he knew to be called blood flowed like a crimson river, staining the pearly white snow a red as vivid as summer wine spilled upon a fine, linen cloth.

The pebble in his hands fell from numb, nerveless fingers. The sensation had nothing to do with the frigid cold, but everything to do with the sight before him. For no less than thirty seconds, he stood there and just looked at her. His expression was blank and admirably calm, given the situation, but inside, there was nothing. His thoughts had just ceased once his eyes had devoured the sight. It no longer seemed to work and neither did the rest of him, for that matter.

Not until, slowly, something replaced the numbness. A horrified transfixion on the sight before him. He was fascinated and a part of him knew it was wrong, but he could not help it. He had never seen anything like this before, and it intrigued him as much as it terrified him; for it most certainly did both.

He knew these thoughts were wrong, so he closed his eyes in a bid to rid himself of them, but it was to no avail. The image seemed to be printed in his memory in details vivid enough to match their real life counterpart.

He opened his eyes once more and peered down at the grotesque thing that had used to be a girl. 

This time, he noticed something else on the ground, lying in a puddle of congealed blood and snow.

A lone bit of parchment that the boy swiped while his mother’s back was turned. There was but a single name on the parchment, one the boy instinctively knew belonged to the now desecrated girl. He knew he would learn about her, one day. He knew he would learn what kind of monster had orchestrated this, and he would try to understand. Then and only then could he really know how he felt about all of this. He knew he should feel horrified, but he felt next to nothing, and it scared him. One way or another, he would know and he would feel. That was his promise as he peered down once more at the single name on the blood-soaked parchment in his hands.

Wylla Nurmen


Harry sat bolt upright in his four-poster in the Slytherins dorms. He was breathing heavily and his throat felt like someone had attempted to tie it in a knot, it was so constricted. His chest wasn’t much better and he could feel bile rise in his throat. He knew the sick was coming, but freeing himself from his sheets had become a task in and of itself. His fingers were as lifeless as the girl’s eyes in his dream and they were as useless as the boy’s who had dropped his pebble. Sweat gleamed all over his body, causing his bedsheets to stick to him like a second layer of skin.

He managed to pull free less than a second before the horrible sensation mounted.

His mouth opened on its own volition and sick violently rushed forth. It was unstoppable and the wet, splattering sound of it smacking into the stone floor was easily discernible. In a brief moment of lucid thought, Harry found himself especially grateful to Narcissa, despite his argument with Draco. She had taught him a very basic silencing ward over the summer. If not for his instinctual use of that spell, the entire dorm would have heard him projectile vomit in his sleep, and the experience was not yet over.

Exhausting his stomach’s contents onto the floor around him did nothing to stop the heaving and his body continued to desperately attempt to expel his internal organs. All that came up was small amounts of bile as Harry choked on nothing. By the time it had finally ceased, Harry had been unable to draw air for some time.

Deep breaths wracked his body. He felt as though he had just run a marathon while being pelted by the very stones he had seen in his dream. Every part of him seemed to ache — especially his head, which felt as though it might well explode from the pain. He was shaking as badly as the girl had in the dream. Every time he tried to hold still, his body seemed to go against his wishes. 

He felt tears begin to stream down his face and he scowled. He had not cried in many years and he was not proud of this. None of this was anything to be proud of, but what the hell had he just seen?

He had seen it all through the eyes of the boy, but it had very clearly not been an ordinary dream. He had the distinct feeling what he had seen really had once transpired atop that mountain. He thought he remembered the boy thinking of its name, though he could not remember. It was very clearly not one of his memories and it was something he hoped had been abolished long ago.

The crowd had been chanting something that Harry hadn’t known, but the boy had. It had sounded German, but Harry somehow knew they had been calling for the girl’s death. 

He began to shiver violently once more as he thought of her and, unwillingly, he leant back over and added a considerable shower of his bodily fluids to what now resembled a stinking heap beside his bed. 

He had thought nothing could be worse than the mutilated corpses he’d seen while at Nurmengard, but this put those people’s fate to shame. 

He had never imagined anything so grotesque before. He could not imagine a crime worthy of such a punishment, nor could he imagine anyone cruel enough to inflict such horrible damage upon a child.

Yet all in the crowd had thrown their stones. 

All but the boy whose eyes Harry had watched through. A boy who Harry remembered reflecting on not yet being six. The boy had seen that when he was less than half of Harry’s age.

Harry felt a pang of pity for the boy; this had destroyed him now, he could only imagine the effects it would have on a not-yet six-year-old child. They would be immeasurable, and he could only imagine what something like that could drive one to become…

And then it hit him.

He was wearing the pendant — he was wearing Grindelwald’s pendant.

The crowd had been speaking German, a language which had made itself known in the former dark lord’s accent. His thoughts — though jumbled — had been surprisingly rational for one so young, something that indicated a startling amount of intelligence. And if someone saw something like that at an early age… why, it was not at all difficult to see how they might have been driven to do unspeakable things.

It had been Grindelwald… the only outcome that made sense was that Grindelwald had shown Harry one of his oldest memories while sleeping. He supposed it made sense from a magical standpoint. If Harry could seek out his presence in dreams, it stood to reason Grindelwald could access the connection as well. He was also probably a master practitioner of Legilimency, which likely made the whole thing even easier.

The question was why.

Harry had an answer, one that terrified him and, to his mild disgust, intrigued him.

Grindelwald had wanted him to understand. He had wanted Harry to learn what he had truly fought for and likely why he had thought it necessary. 

Perhaps this was his way of making him understand. 

And, perhaps, even gaining the youth’s sympathy.

Harry hated the fact that it was already working.

He conceptually knew that Gellert Grindelwald had done things more horrible than almost any person who had ever lived. He knew that the man had killed thousands and subjugated just as many. He knew first-hand that his methods were twisted and cruel, yet he still sympathized with him.

Yet even more so, he sympathized with Wylla Nurmen. Whatever she had done to earn her execution, she hadn’t deserved that.

And he feared it was much worse.

A part of him knew that no seven or eight-year-old girl could ever do something deemed worthy of that, and a horrible suspicion was creeping up in the back of his mind.

He had to know, but he could think of only one way to learn and it was not something he was yet willing to do. Not after what the bastard had just put him through.

But if he was right…

If he was right, the current state of affairs in the world that he disagreed with more strongly by the day was much more egregious than he had ever realized.

Merlin, he hoped his hunch was wrong.

September 18, 1992

The Headmaster’s Office 

8:02 PM

Harry stood before the gargoyle guarding Dumbledore’s office with a puzzled expression plastered on his face.

It had been a very long week. The dream he’d had days earlier still haunted his nightmares and he had been extremely distant with just about everybody since.

Not that it really mattered.

Draco had not so much as spared him a glance since their altercation the previous Sunday. Crabbe and Goyle went along with him, as they always did. Pansy also seemed to have sided with Draco, but Harry caught her throwing pained glances his way every now and then. Nott spent all of his time in public with Draco, but he had snuck to Harry’s table in a far off corner of the library once or twice. The message was very clear, though it remained unspoken. Theodore would not abandon Harry as the others had, but he also wouldn’t publicly show his support and risk the ire of not only Draco but the upper years — who Harry was still more than a little bit worried about.

None of them had thus far made a move against Harry, but he could practically feel it building. Many of them just hated him on principle. His blood status, what he had done to a man many of their families had worshipped as though he were some sort of god, and all he stood for hurt his case with many. Others had just seen the way he had fallen out with Draco and had assumed he must have committed some sort of faux pas. 

He did not blame Theodore for playing it on the safe side and he appreciated his private support. He just hoped Cassie got back to him about those duelling lessons in a swift and prompt manner.

Not that he was thinking any of this right now.

He was actually quite befuddled. It had not been an easy task finding the entrance to Professor Dumbledore’s office. It had taken the help of several portraits and even the Fat Friar, but he had finally arrived.

Not that it helped any. The gargoyle seemed to be in need of a password and Harry hadn’t the foggiest of ideas what that might be.

He fished Dumbledore’s letter from the pocket of his robes and read it over carefully. There was no password, but the postscript did capture his attention.

Surely not…

“Sherbet… lemon?”

He nearly smacked a hand to his forehead or let out an exasperated sigh when the gargoyle bowed and stepped aside. Harry swore the thing was smirking at him as he passed by and began ascending the long, spiral staircase that moved of its own accord and led up to an ornate oak door far above. 

“Enter,” called the voice once Harry had knocked, and he pushed open the door and stepped into Dumbledore’s office for the very first time.

The office itself was large and circular. Many portraits hung on the walls. Harry would have had no idea who exactly they depicted, but golden labels on their dark frames told him they had all at one point been a headmaster or headmistress of Hogwarts. The largest of these frames hung behind Dumbledore’s desk. It depicted a very old, very frail-looking man with wispy white hair that had nearly all succumbed to his age. Much unlike most of the horribly acting portraits, this one really did appear to be asleep.

There were many windows in the room, and they offered a breathtaking view of the Hogwarts grounds. From here, one could see almost everything; from the vast, green lawns, to the lake — which looked dark and deadly still at this time of night — to the ominous and sinister-looking forest that sprawled out beyond all else, stretching on further than the eye could see.

The view was not the only interesting thing about the office. Instruments were strewn haphazardly about the room. Some lay carelessly on surfaces that did not look fit to hold them, while others rested snugly in cases or shelves. Some of these devices did nothing, while others omitted a soft whirring sound, and others still let out sporadic puffs of what seemed to be randomly coloured smoke.

A noise drew Harry’s attention away from the instrument. He had heard nothing like it before. It was clearly the squawk of a bird, but it was unlike any other he had heard. Most were loud and obnoxious; the calling of crows came swiftly to mind. 

But this one was different.

It was clearly a squawk, but it was like this bird spoke a language completely different from its brethren. An enchanting language of music and magic, for only through a combination of those things could one ever hope to hear anything so intrinsically beautiful.

The bird itself sat atop a golden perch off to the left of Dumbledore’s desk, from Harry’s viewpoint. It was larger than most birds he had seen, though not massive like an ostrich. The bird could have been the most impressive Gryffindor mascot to ever exist. Its feathers were a crimson which perfectly matched the lions’ Quidditch robes. Its tail — which was as long as a peacock’s — was a bright, eye-catching gold; the exact same colour as its beak and claws. Black eyes met Harry’s as the bird seemed to study him before letting out a strangely sad note.

“Beautiful creatures, phoenixes.”

Harry’s head snapped around. In the presence of such a magical creature, he had almost forgotten the man who must have owned it and the reason he had requested Harry’s presence in the first place.

“Sorry, sir,” Harry hastened to say. “I didn’t mean to ignore you, or anything.”

Dumbledore did not look upset at all; he was just smiling benignly. “Think nothing of it, dear boy. As I say, phoenixes are beautiful creatures, as well as being exceptionally rare. Most witches and wizards never see them beyond their depictions in all sorts of books. I have a great deal of respect for art, but I think you would agree after seeing Fawkes that not even the most skilled of artists could ever match a phoenix’s majesty.”

Harry knew at once Dumbledore was right. Being in the presence of a creature like Fawkes was entirely different from seeing one on the page of something like a textbook.

“Alas,” said Dumbledore, “we are not here to discuss my loyal friend, but to discuss you and see what progress we might be able to make on our little project. I would not wish to keep you for too long. You have had a busy first two weeks, it seems. What, with a detention under your belt already.”

“Ah,” said Harry, trying to grasp for something to say.

He had indeed earned himself a detention for the Cutting Curse he’d hit Ron Weasley with out on the Quidditch pitch. Madam Pomfrey had healed him in minutes, but the fact still stood Harry had used a potentially dangerous curse on another student. He took some mollification in the knowledge that Weasley had not gotten off unscathed. Aberforth Dumbledore had given them both detention. Ron for cursing Pansy and starting the whole affair, and Harry for escalating things with more dangerous magic. The detention had not yet been scheduled, but it would take place at some point in the coming weeks.

“I do not wish to punish you further, Harry,” Dumbledore assured him. “Though I would advise you to avoid my brother’s bad side in the future. Aberforth is a man of many talents, but controlling his temper has never been among them.”

“I’ll… keep that in mind, sir.” He had an odd feeling that their Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher would not be terribly happy with his brother sharing tidbits about him.

“Please do. Keep in mind, too, that magic like what you used should not be used against others without very good reason.”

Harry nodded. “Sorry, sir. I won’t let it happen again.”

“Very good. Now, with the niceties out of the way, I shan’t make you wait any longer. You are here to learn Occlumency and I am here to teach you.” The man steepled his fingers. “What do you know about Occlumency?”

“Next to nothing,” Harry admitted with no small amount of bitterness. “Just what you told me, really. It stops people from using Legilimency and reading my mind. I’ve tried to find books on it, but I haven’t really been able to.”

He thought he might have had he really looked around in the Malfoy family library, but perhaps those books had been among those nearest the far wall Harry had been told not to intrude upon. He hadn’t seen any in the rest of the room, though he hadn’t looked too closely. He had looked around the Hogwarts library, but he had so far found nothing. 

“I would think not,” Dumbledore said quietly. “Occlumency is not something to learn lightly.” He pierced Harry with a deep gaze. “It is actually not legal to learn in the first place.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “It’s—”

“Illegal in a sense, yes.”

“What do you mean by in a sense, sir?”

“Well, you will find that, according to the Ministry of Magic, it is perfectly legal to know Occlumency and even to use it. Just as surely, however, you will discover, upon a bit of reading, that learning Occlumency is forbidden. The same way that buying books on the subject is illegal, as are selling them, but possessing them in the first place is well within the law.”

“That… doesn’t make any sense.”

“To you, it may not. To a more seasoned politician, it is actually clever in many ways.”

“Like what, sir?”

“Very few people learn Occlumency, Harry. Only the most important of people in the Ministry of Magic ever do so. Some of the lords of important Wizengamot families do as well, but even their numbers are scarce. Even fewer people who are neither of these learn of it. At Hogwarts, I think you will find that only two of the professors are well-versed in such magic beyond myself.”

“Who are they, sir, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Aberforth and Severus. Minerva and Fillius know the basics, but I would not trust either of them to reliably repel a legilimens of any real ability.”

“So… it’s illegal, but you’re going to teach it to me anyway?”

Harry was, of course, not opposed to this. He had made it onto the Slytherin team through bribery, after all, and countless Slytherins owned books that were less than legal. For some reason, Dumbledore just hadn’t struck him as the type so flagrantly violate the law.

“Why, Harry,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “I would never dream of doing such things. We are, after all, only here to discuss your extracurricular interests.”

Harry’s eyes widened briefly before he smiled broadly. “Of course, Headmaster.”

“Very good. Now, let us begin working on that, shall we?”

Harry was not repelling any Legilimency attacks that first night. As a matter of fact, Dumbledore was not using any. 

There were stages to Occlumency, according to the old man. The first stage was the understanding of one’s own mind. Harry would go through a rigorous routine of meditative and discovery-based exercises which would allow him to isolate and understand his emotions. The idea was that he would be able to identify all of them as soon as they cropped up and easily internalize them. More than anything, he would gain a mastery over them. Once that happened, they could advance to actually repelling psychic attacks.

Harry found this more than a touch challenging. Mostly because these exercises necessitated the closing of his eyes. This would normally be a non-issue but normally, he would not see the broken form of a girl or her brains and blood every time he closed his eyes. 

Dealing with that vision had not grown a whole easier in the past few days. He was at least past the point of vomiting and shedding shocked tears, but he still shuddered and became withdrawn every time the memories resurfaced. This made focusing difficult, which limited his success; something Harry was not at all happy with.

“That will do for tonight, I think,” Dumbledore decided after more than an hour had passed. Harry sighed and leant back in his chair, opening his eyes and casting his eyes hastily around the room. He needed something to focus on that wasn’t the blackness of his eyelids; that only brought forth the images he wanted to avoid so much.

His eyes eventually found the phoenix that had so entranced him upon his entrance, and he watched it with a vacant expression. The bird, which had been sleeping just seconds before, raised its head and met his gaze once more. It seemed to appraise him, tilting its head to the side before letting out a note more forlorn than any so far. It actually felt a pang through Harry’s chest, as though it had a directly physical effect on him.

“Are you quite alright, Harry?” 

Dumbledore’s voice brought him back to the present and Harry shook his head slowly, blinking several times to refocus.

“I’m… fine, sir.”

The old man tilted his own head much like how his bird had done a moment earlier. “How are you dealing with the events which took place at the close of your first year?”

“I think I’m pretty much over it, sir. I still wish I hadn’t seen it, but… it’s settled in now.”

The bit with Grindelwald at Nurmengard had still haunted his nightmares before they had, this week, been monopolized by Wylla Nurmen — but that was another matter altogether. A matter that, if Grindelwald was right, would not arise. The magically binding contract that had been triggered by taking the pendant back in the prison was supposed to keep that secret against even Legilimency. As for telling Dumbledore what had happened… that had never been on the table. The man would probably think he was crazy, or he would ask Harry so many questions he either couldn’t or didn’t want to answer.

Dumbledore pulled down his spectacles to examine him head-on with those deep, blue eyes. “Is there anything you wish to tell me, Harry?”

Harry kept his face completely blank as he deliberately shook his head. “Nothing, sir.”

“Very well, then,” said Dumbledore. “It does appear that time has not been considerable enough to slow down for us tonight. I advise you return to your common room, lest curfew draw too close.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Harry as he took to his feet and made for the door.

“Harry,” called Dumbledore just before the Slytherin stepped out onto the office’s landing. “Do come to me if the answer to my last question changes. My door is always open to the likes of you.”

“Thank you, Headmaster,” Harry said with a bow of his head. “It means a lot.”

And it really did, for very few adults had ever offered him anything similar. 

The fact that one of the only others was a former dark lord… well, Harry wasn’t sure what that said. And if that was true for the mere truth, he did not want to know what was implied by his growing urge to contact him and ask exactly what the hell had happened the night of his most haunting nightmare.

Author’s Endnote:

I am just going to be upfront and honest from the start. The Mind Arts have been done to the other side of the Earth and back. Regardless of how I implement them, I will almost certainly be copying someone’s interpretation, whether it is advertent or not. 

It is with that in mind that I will be using a system relatively similar to the one in The Sinister Man’s Harry Potter and the Prince of Slytherin. I will not be implementing the mind palace approach, but I will be borrowing a great many of his ideas. I won’t go as deep into Mind Arts theory in this fic as I do in Ashes of Chaos, but I may still flesh out and rationalize the borrowed bits of his system a bit more. It won’t be a carbon copy, but I do enjoy a lot of the sub skills and the general system he employed and once more, I am going to be copying someone no matter what. I might as well copy some of the best ideas I have seen and give the author the proper credit they deserve. 

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