PoP 27

Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity

Year 2: The Advancing of Shadows

Chapter 14: Folktales and Follies

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 editors Fezzik and Athena, as well as my other betas 3CP, Luq707, Raven, Regress, and Yoshi89 for their incredible work on this story.

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Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity

By ACI100

Book 2: The Erosion of Innocence

Chapter 14:

March 29, 1893

Kirchdorf, Upper Bavaria, Germany

9:22 PM

The fire crackled merrily in the corner of a small, dark room. Its warmth flowed through the space and had a calming sort of element to it. Gellert was huddled under his blanket, enjoying its warmth along with the fire. It was an unusually cold March, though the snow was finally beginning to melt. The fire and blankets offered him some reprieve from the biting chill. His father often coated the house in Warming Charms, but they only helped so much against the bitter winds that sought to slice across one’s skin like a freezing razor. 

Gellert had only just come inside with his father. He had spent most of the day reading, but the two of them had enjoyed their time in the snow whilst they still could. It was why Gellert was so grateful for the stifling heat of the room and it was why he still shivered against his blanket.

His father, Johan, sat in a chair near his bed. The man seemed to have aged a decade in the years since he and his son had fled what was supposed to have been the site of Gellert’s execution. 

Gellert could understand why his father looked the way he did — it had been a long four years. Gellert remembered nothing for several hours after the near-death experience at the church. He had fainted whilst his father apparated him away, but he had woken up in a small hut somewhere he hadn’t known. Johan had taken a few of his most prized possessions from their old family home, but not many. One of which was the chair he now sat in; which he had shrunk down and later enlarged for easy carrying.

That first night had been a whirlwind. Johan had explained everything to Gellert. He had explained about how he himself was a wizard capable of performing feats of magic Gellert would never have been able to dream of. He told of how Gellert also had the ability to wield magic; it had even been why the muggles had tried to execute him. 

None of that had been the part that had been most painful. The part which had tore at him was the knowledge that it had been his mother who had sold the secret to the church. She had been willing to watch him die just because he could do things she would never be capable of doing. The thought had made him sick. Bile used to rise in his throat at the very memory, conjoining sickeningly with the stabs of pain he had often felt in his chest, as if his heart was being pierced by a hundred sharpened daggers.

That pain had lessened over time and now, the memory of his mother meant almost nothing to him. She was just one of many muggles who had tried to wrong him because of their jealousy and their spite. He had been no different than Wylla Nurmen and hundreds or thousands of other unnamed victims. This was the only fact that still bothered him. All of his personal demons had been long-since executed, but the idea of the muggles treating wizards like vile criminals… it was one of the only things that made him angry every time he thought of it. It was like his stomach acid heated up and morphed into scalding lava at the very thought. The flush of heat and anger even rose up his body and tinged his face with its mark.

He had promised himself then that he would never trust a muggle again. Not after they had betrayed him and so many others so utterly. He hated all of them and had not so much as spoken to one since that day out of anything other than obligation. He and his father lived on the outskirts of a small German settlement nestled in the centre of vast flatlands carpeted in a thick expanse of trees. It was a muggle settlement. It was unfortunate, but his father said that Germany just didn’t have the type of wizarding population needed to support entirely wizarding settlements. Gellert wished that was not the case; he wished for it above most other things.

He had spoken to several wizards over the years who were not his father. There were a few of them who lived not too far away from them and there had been the men who had come the day after his father had rescued him. They had been representatives of the German Ministry of Magic coming to inform his father that he had violated the International Statute of Secrecy. Gellert had been as worried for his father as he had been for himself whilst standing atop the pyre, but the following trial had passed with little drama. It had been unanimously agreed that Johan’s use of magic was in defence of himself and his son, and it had been deemed an exceptional circumstance. Gellert certainly thought that was one way of summarizing a hoard of muggles trying to burn an innocent child alive. 

The two of them had settled down after the trial. His father did random jobs here and there to financially support the two of them. Gellert suspected that magic had done most of it, or that he used magic to supplement what it was they had at their disposal. The home they lived in was small, but comfortable and well-furnished. There was a fireplace in each of their bedrooms and one in the living room, though the walls were a touch drafty and the house could grow cold when assaulted by the chill of winter.

It had been the best four years of Gellert’s life. He had wanted to learn everything he could about magic. His father was not a rich man who owned many books, nor was he a brilliant sorcerer who could tutor him in all branches of the overarching art of magic itself. Johan was patient and committed though, and those things counted for something. Gellert had been to see Mr. Gregorovich and get his wand at the age of eight. He hadn’t been able to perform many spells, but just being able to feel the wand and practice moving it had been a big help.

He was now ten and his father seemed to think that when he entered Durmstrang later this year, he would have a leg up on the rest of the children. All the wizards Gellert knew were adults, so he couldn’t say, but he knew he was more intelligent than a boy his age had any right to be. He was curious and observant, and he had a strange knack for remembering things. It had always come easily to him, as had grasping new concepts and just casting magic in general. Hyper-fixating on his interests hadn’t hurt him either. He was just excited to go off to Durmstrang, one way or the other.

“Do I have to sleep?” Gellert asked. “I’m not tired — I still feel full of energy.”

“You just spent two hours running around in the freezing cold. Of course you’re full of energy. All the more reason to stay in bed and let yourself calm down. With the heat of this place, it shouldn’t take long.”

Gellert glanced around restlessly. “But I don’t want to sleep.”

Johan cast his own eyes about the room as though looking for the thing that would win him this argument. “What if… I read you a story?”

Gellert scrunched up his face. “I’ve read all the books in this room. There’s nothing in here that would be new to me.”

“I’m not talking about a book in this room.” Gellert felt interest fill him despite himself. He found himself sitting up and leaning towards his father. “There are some books I don’t let you touch,” he said with a smile.

“I thought you said you didn’t have many books before we moved here?”

“Only a few. You’ve never touched any of them.”

“Are they dangerous?” Gellert had heard of dangerous magics. Curses and dark spells that most people feared to mention. It quickened his pulse just thinking about it; it made him feel much like he had in the heat of the snowball fight he’d just had with his father.

“Not dangerous, no,” said Johan. “They’re just old, expensive, or precious.”

Gellert frowned. “What’s the difference between expensive and precious? Aren’t they just synonyms?”

“Sometimes,” his father admitted. “If something is expensive, that just means that somebody will pay you lots of money for it. If something is precious… that can mean all sorts of things. The book I’m talking about now is precious to me. It’s one of the first I remember reading and I’ve kept it ever since.”

“And you were worried I would damage it?”

Johan shrugged. “Worried about the possibility, yes.” That was a thing Gellert liked about his father. He never lied to him; though maybe that was because Gellert picked up on things that most children his age would have no hope of picking up on.

“And that’s also why you’ll read it to me but you won’t let me read it on my own?”

“Right again.”

Gellert’s interest was piqued. “What is this book?”

“A book of stories. Would you like to hear one of them?” Gellert nodded; he was hardly one to turn down such things. “If I read you one of the stories, you have to promise me you’ll sleep.”

Gellert made a face but waved his hand. “Yes, yes, I’ll sleep.”

His father left the room, leaving Gellert alone with the crackling sound of the fire and the soft patches of shadow it cast around the room. The way they moved as the fire flickered almost made them look alive from where Gellert was lying on the bed, though he wasn’t alone with them for long.

His father was carrying a small, leather-bound book. It looked entirely unremarkable but for its title. Gellert squinted at its cover, but he couldn’t read it. It was written in Runes, he knew. His father had started to teach him some basic Runes several months ago, but it was slow going. Johan had never been strong in the subject and books on such magics were expensive. His father did seem to know enough to read this book though, so that was at least something.

“What’s it called?” asked Gellert.

“The Tales of Beedle the Bard.”

“The… what?”

His father smiled. “It’s a collection of old stories. It won’t teach you magic, but there are things to learn from it.”

Gellert’s patience was waning — it had never been something he had been good at maintaining. “So, you’re going to read one of them?”

“I am.” His father paged through the ancient-looking book. Gellert could see the delicate care with which his father handled the tome and only became more interested. “What about a story about three exceptionally powerful wizards and Death?”

“And… Death?”

“Death as in the being, not the thing.” Gellert could tell Johan was trying to resist smirking. “Well, there’s a good deal of the thing, too.” The man looked back down to the pages. “Or I can find a different one if you’d like?”

“No,” said Gellert, “I want that one.” He wanted to be a powerful wizard in his own right, and the idea of Death sounded interesting enough. His father had effectively managed to capture his attention.

Johan paged back to the story and cleared his throat. Gellert looked down at the page as he did. He knew almost none of the runes, but there was one symbol that caught his eye. It was no Rune he knew of and it didn’t resemble what he thought a Rune ought to look like. It was a roughly sketched triangular symbol with some sort of circle and line enclosed within it. He tried to look closer, but there wasn’t much to see. Yet somehow, Gellert felt drawn to it, as if there was more at play here than simple shapes.

Before he could ask about the mark, his father began to read.

Harry sat slowly up in bed. These visions did not jolt him now the way they had when he had seen Wylla Nurmen put to death. He had not experienced one for a while now, but he found himself unsurprised when he had appeared in a room he had never known. It was just a thing he had to deal with now. Something that he could not escape and something that weighed on him every bit as heavily as Aberforth’s cruelty, Draco’s betrayal, and the mystery of Dobby and the Chamber of Secrets.

Yet he did not despise them as he once had. The first vision had caused him to vomit more violently than ever before. It had felt like his very stomach was trying to force its way up his throat to no avail and he had hated every single second of it. He still had his own nightmares about what Grindelwald had felt whilst dreaming of being burnt alive. He was sure he would never forget the burning pain. The fact it had not been his own was of no consequence; he still often woke and had to fumble his hands over his chest just to make sure his skin wasn’t running down his body like fallen droplets of water.

He found the more of Grindelwald’s memories he saw, the more conflicted he became, yet he did not hate them, nor could he find it within himself to hate the boy. It was impossible for Harry to imagine that boy doing all of the things Grindelwald had done, though he was starting to understand exactly why the one-time dark lord may have done all of those things. The motivations were there and Harry found he couldn’t begrudge him for the way he thought and the way he felt. He didn’t know if it made him just as evil as Grindelwald, or just a child sympathizing with a man he had never known.

He leant more towards the former, for now, as he found himself almost hoping to see more of these visions. They were an escape from his own problems, even if they did burden him in an entirely different way. They were a way for him to see a world he would never see and live a life he would never live. They taught him history, of muggles, and of magic, and they interested him more than any of his classes. Only his lessons with Cassie on duelling and with Dumbledore on Occlumency rivalled the visions on the front of interest.

It scared Harry. He was terrified that these thoughts came to him. It horrified him every time he went to sleep at night and wished, even in the back of his mind, to see another excerpt of Grindelwald’s life. Cold fingers seemed to run up his spine every time the desire prodded seductively at the corners of his mind, making him shiver more effectively than any Scottish winter could ever dream of doing.

It was all too much, yet he wanted more. He should not want anything more on his plate and he worried he might soon crack under the pressure of it all. Yet still, he craved more information and more experiences. He wondered then — as he laid in his hospital bed and tried to get back to sleep; trying to ignore the way his very bone seemed to have broken apart into a hundred jagged rocks all seeking to pierce his skin at every opportunity — whether or not Grindelwald had meant for this all to happen and whether or not breaking Harry was exactly what the former dark lord wanted to accomplish.

Later that day…

Having the bones in one’s arm regrown via Skelegro was hell. That was the only thing Harry could definitively say he had learned from his most recent stay in the hospital wing. There were many pieces he had been presented with pertaining to the Chamber of Secrets, but he felt as though that puzzle was far too complicated to even consider solving. Dobby had seemed to be worried for him, for some strange reason, but until those worries found any grounding in reality Harry was staying well away from the entire thing. Everything had been going so well during his first year until he had tried to get involved in the year’s mystery. That had led to the death of his fellow student as well as a hospital stay of his own. He had no interest in repeating the incident this year, and he had more than enough on his plate without dealing with something as dangerous and complicated as Salazar Slytherin’s fabled chamber.

He kept glancing over his shoulder as he left the hospital wing and edged his way towards the dungeons. He wasn’t sure the end of the Quidditch match had ended the heated encounters between Gryffindors and Slytherins. Perhaps it had, but it was a chance he wasn’t going to take. Not after seeing what the likes of the Weasley twins had done to some of the more vocal upper-year Slytherins. Not that he was complaining. A few of them had been among the number who had given him hell earlier in the school year but he doubted the red-headed demons would know that Harry didn’t get along with them. He didn’t suspect the twins, or most other Gryffindors, discriminated. If they saw green robes, that was likely all the proof of an enemy they needed.

He neared the marble staircase before he heard footsteps. His ears pricked up. He had been exploring the castle as of late to find any other passages that could be accessed via Parseltongue. He had found one in an alcove under the staircase he was now approaching that led him quite close to the Slytherin common room. He could perhaps slip into the passage before whomever was coming drew too near in case it was an unfriendly lion. If he misjudged the timing and they saw him though… it was a risk he could not take.

His fingers twitched and he reached for his wand as he turned, but he had no need for it. “Thank Merlin I found you.” 

Diana looked slightly more disheveled than usual. That was still relatively close to immaculate, but it was less so than Harry was accustomed to. Her chest rose and fell rhythmically as she breathed a touch faster than was necessary and several locks of her platinum-blonde hair were out of place.

“Why were you looking for me?” Harry asked, eyeing the older girl up and down.

“Not here,” she said, glancing around the hall. “Come on, we can talk outside.”

Autumn was aging in Scotland. As its time to dwell drew shorter, so did the days. The season seemed to wane as the temperature fell and with it went the last vestiges of what had been a smouldering hot summer. The leaves were still strewn across the grounds like splatters of vibrant paint upon a lush green canvas, but that canvas was dotted with white now. It had yet to snow properly, but frost coated what appeared to be each and every blade of grass in Harry’s field of vision. He shivered against the frigid air, though there appeared to be no wind today. He had not been dressed for such weather.

“You couldn’t have picked a warmer time to drag me outside? Or at least let me grab my cloak?”

Diana’s lips twitched as she led him off towards the lake. “You’re a wizard, are you not? If Draco knows how to cast a Warming Charm, I’m sure you do as well.”

His face suddenly felt a touch less cold as colour rose to his cheeks, but he withdrew his wand nonetheless and cast the charm that had been mentioned. Casting it felt like the first few seconds after one sat in a bath of perfectly warm water. The warmth unfortunately fled as fast as that of the water did once one took to their feet and stepped out of the tub, so it needed to be applied more often than Harry would like. He had heard some of the older students talk about tying the spell into their clothes, but he knew such magic was currently leagues beyond him. 

“So,” asked Harry, watching Draco’s sister carefully. Diana had always moved with a sort of grace that couldn’t be taught, but she seemed to move more stiffly today. Where normally she flowed from one movement to the next, now every shift of her body seemed rigid, forced, and tentative, as though she was unsure what might come next. “You wanted to talk to me?”

“I wanted to warn you, more like, but I guess talking is one word for it.”

Harry’s heart quickened its beat. He actually fought down a sigh; what the hell had happened now? “Warn me about what?”

“A student was found petrified last night,” she began. 

Harry thought about telling her that he knew about Colin Creevey, but he thought better of it. He would have to come up with a slightly altered story convincing enough to fool the extremely perceptive Malfoy heiress, else he would need to explain to her all the other things he thought best kept to himself. He could tell her about Dobby… he had deduced whilst lying awake the night before that it had likely been the elf who had cursed the bludger if it wasn’t one of the Weasley twins, but he wasn’t sure how he wanted to handle that quite yet. He wanted to make sure it wasn’t one of the twins, first, for one thing, and then he would decide what to do.

“It was a student this time?”

“A Gryffindor first year.” She was watching him very closely, he realized. Her grey eyes seemed locked onto his green ones and there was an intensity there Harry had never seen before. “Colin Creevey — he was the mousy-haired muggleborn boy who was trying to take photos of you after the game.”

She waited for something, but Harry didn’t know what. He frowned as the gears began turning inside his mind. What in Merlin’s name was she waiting for? The way she watched him carefully… nervously…

Oh… no, surely not.

“You can’t mean… nobody thinks—”

“That you did it,” Diana finished. “Nobody with a brain, no. The problem is, most people here don’t seem to have one.” Harry opened his mouth to speak, but Diana raised a hand to forestall him. “Most people don’t think you’re the Heir of Slytherin, to be clear. I don’t really think anyone actually believes it, but a bunch of the Gryffindors have practically been shouting it from the rooftops.”

“Why?” Harry struggled to keep his voice steady, but even he could hear the way it wavered with a note of anger he failed to suppress. “How could anyone think it’s—”

“I told you, Harry, I don’t think that most of them actually think it’s you—”

“Okay, then pretending to, or whatever. Even then, why? I haven’t done anything to any of them—” 

“You beat them at Quidditch.”

He spluttered. “But that’s… that’s…”

“Ridiculous?” Diana asked. “Childish? Petty? Yes, it’s all of those, but I don’t think it’s the only reason. Turnabout is fair play and all that. Every Slytherin worth their green tie has been prancing about the school calling Weasley the Heir for the last week. I don’t think anyone actually believes he’s the Heir, but we still all went around saying it. I think it’s the same thing here.”

“Some people really do believe Weasley is the Heir, though. I heard some of the first years talking about it the other night. A couple of Hufflepuffs were doing a horrible job of whispering about it in the library, too.”

Diana frowned. “I wonder how thick a human can get sometimes. Then I remember that Hufflepuffs exist.”

Harry tried to suppress a snort, but he was only partially successful and ended with him hiding a half variant behind his hand. “Didn’t you tell Draco not to talk down to the badgers back in Madam Malkin’s?”

“Oh, come on, Harry, you’re smarter than that. I was telling Draco not to come off like an arrogant toerag the first time he met you; I just didn’t say it in those words.” 

A tense silence stretched between them. The cold air seemed to rush down Harry’s throat all at once and solidify into a frozen block of ice in the back of his throat. He found that words would not rise to his mouth or form on his tongue. The mention of Draco had imposed a gag seemingly formed from the manifestation of awkwardness itself.

“Anyway,” said Diana, “the point is that the Gryffindors are trying to tell everyone that you’re the Heir of Slytherin. None of us are going to stand for it, of course. I’ve heard the chasers scheming all day; I think they’re trying to decide the best way to send Wood, or Weasley, or both to the infirmary. If people really are thick enough to believe that Weasley is the Heir though, they might actually start listening to the idiots in red.”

Harry reeled with the injustice of it all. He found there was no need to cast the Warming Charm now. His blood felt as though it was steaming beneath his skin now. Cold seemed to dissipate as soon as it touched him; he was surprised he wasn’t surrounded in thick clouds of dense, misty steam.

“So, I’m going to have to deal with every Gryffindor and any gullible idiot without a brain coming for my head? Is that what you’re saying?”

“That’s the right of it, I think, yes.”

Harry ran a hand through his hair. He thought about bringing up Draco and the upper years. Whether the latter would take this chance to come after Harry again and whether the former would perhaps use this as a bridge to cross and start rebuilding their friendship. He knew that thought was wishful even as it formed, but he could not help hoping. 

He asked neither of these things, though. “Is there anything else?”

“Nothing that you can’t figure out on your own. The rivalry has gotten even worse since the match. The Weasley twins set up some sort of rune cluster trap outside the Slytherin common room last night. A group of fifth years leaving to go and get more food from the kitchens for the party ended up in the infirmary with horrible burns. The runes on the floor lit their robes on fire as soon as they stepped on the floor outside the common room.”

That… was an escalation. All the cases of students in the infirmary so far had been relatively minor. A couple of concussions had been the worst of it, but this… this was taking the conflict to an entirely new level.

“So, the Gryffindors want to frame me for a crime and probably make my life a living hell. Some people might actually be stupid enough to believe them and try and curse me in the back, and the Weasley twins might want to actually kill me just because I’m wearing green?”

Diana shrugged. “I’m not sure if they actually wanted to kill or if they’re just careless idiots, but it all works out to the same point, I suppose.”

“Right,” Harry said bitterly, making a conscious effort not to scowl. “Is there any good news?”

Diana smiled. “That the bad news is over and we can just spend some time out here before Scotland decides that going out onto the grounds is an offence punishable by frostbite?” 

Despite himself, Harry could not help but laugh. Draco might be a childish prat, but he still liked Diana.

That night, in the hidden room…

Ron was breathing heavily by the time Cedric’s voice rang through the hidden room that their group practiced in and called for a stop to their spell casting. They had focused on casting jinxes and hexes whilst moving tonight. It had actually been Susan’s idea. Her aunt was the Head of the DMLE and had been an auror for a brief time. She had seen many aurors through training so Susan had written her for basic ideas to start improving as a duellist. This had been one of the drills she had suggested. Ron thought the woman either needed to be given an Order of Merlin or be beaten over the head with a broomstick. He had noticed marginal improvements already, but his legs felt like lead and his lungs as if they were full of smoke. His chest heaved with the effort of breathing and he felt as if he would throw up at any moment.

He had spent several months working on spells and all the rest, but he had never realized how bloody tiring any of this could be. Perhaps he should have been running instead of reading… or maybe that was just the part of his brain that wanted to be on a broomstick every time he opened a book. It was persistent, but pretty easy to shut up. Calling forth the image of Neville’s grave usually did the trick quite effectively.

“Good practice, everyone,” said Cedric, turning to the auburn-haired Bones heiress. “Thanks again for the help, Susan. Write your aunt and tell her the same, if you don’t mind.” Susan smiled and nodded. Cedric raised his wand and caused the time to display in front of him. “A few minutes before we need to worry about curfew,” he said, turning to Ron. “How are you feeling after yesterday’s game?”

Ron scowled. “Like a bumbling troll,” he spat. “Potter had a bludger after him the whole bloody game and the git still beat me to the snitch.”

“You looked like you were going to beat him to it,” said Susan, “what happened?”

Ron’s face flushed as he turned away. He didn’t want to look at them as he recalled the emotions rushing through him as the bastards in green and silver chanted about him from the stands. When the song had begun, he had first thought it was coming from the Gryffindor section, but as the lyrics grew more and more incendiary, he quickly realized that was not the case. The wankers even had the nerve to chant about him being the Heir of Slytherin! Sure, they might not have said it in those words, but Ron knew he was no genius and even he had figured that part out.

“I… I fumbled it,” he said after a moment. He turned back to them all, looking to the floor. His cheeks were still warm, but his skin no longer felt like it would melt off of his face from the heat of his blush. “I… it was that stupid song! I got distracted and… and…”

Cedric rested a hand on his shoulder. “It’s just one match,” he said kindly. “You almost had him, too. You beat seekers much older than you last year.” He grinned. “I would say you could win the Quidditch Cup if Slytherin loses, but you would have to beat me to the snitch.”

Ron shoved him back, hard, and the older boy laughed. Even the youngest male Weasley was grinning now. “Prat,” he said, hiding his own laughter behind his hand as it rose up within him.

“What do you think about what they’re saying about him?” asked Hannah. She sounded nervous, but she often did. She was definitely the shyest of the group.

“It’s more likely than Ron,” said Hermione with some disdain. 

“It’s rubbish,” said Cedric. “The rest of your house just want to get back at Slytherin for the match.”

“Do they, though?” asked Susan. “That boy goes and tries to take photos of Potter while he’s embarrassed and injured, and then he just shows up petrified that night?”

“He is also a Slytherin,” Hannah muttered darkly.

“That doesn’t mean he’s some kind of child dark lord,” argued Cedric. “Just because You-Know-Who was a Slytherin doesn’t mean they’re all bad.”

“Haven’t met many good ones, though,” said Ron. He had nothing against Slytherin as a general rule, but most of them had treated him like rubbish ever since the first day he had arrived at the castle. 

“Sirius Black was a Gryffindor.” Ron grimaced at Cedric’s words, but nodded. The boy had a point there that could not be disputed. “Anyway,” continued Cedric, “there’s no way Potter’s the Heir. No second year could do any of what’s happened.”

“They thought nobody could survive the curse You-Know-Who hit him with either,” Hermione reminded them all. “Some people say that Potter must have had some sort of power that even he didn’t have.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Cedric, “he was a baby.”

“A baby who destroyed the most powerful dark sorcerer of all time.”

Cedric sighed. “Look, believe what you want, but don’t go spreading this nonsense about Potter around. If you believe it, then fine, but don’t go spreading it.”

“I’m not saying I believe it,” Hermione said quickly, “just that it seems silly to just pretend it isn’t possible.”

“Do what you like,” said Cedric. “I’m confident that it’s not Potter. If I’m wrong, I’ll eat my words.”

November 18, 1992

The Library

8:43 PM

Harry’s neck ached as he straightened up in his chair. He had been leant over a book on intermediate Transfiguration for hours and every muscle from his shoulders up seemed to have tied themselves in a painfully throbbing knot. Every time Harry moved his neck it felt as though his muscles collided and entangled with one another, ripping and tearing as they went.

He enjoyed Daphne, Tracey, Blaise, and the others, but the group was rarely all together in one place. They would more often break off into smaller groups and do their own individual things. Harry went to the library any time this happened. Those times had been more frequent this month and he had sloped off on his own more than ever before — whether it be to explore the library, practice spells in abandoned classrooms, or explore the castle, Harry seemed to be off doing his own thing more often than not these days. 

It was probably because there were just so many things plaguing his thoughts. The whole moral dilemma involving Grindelwald, his detentions with Aberforth, and the fact that a good third of the school was set so vehemently against him. He could scarcely walk down a corridor without having some form of magic hurled at his back. Some of the older students were even bold enough to do it to his face, but none of the younger ones. Not after he had sent a large third-year boy to the hospital wing and sent his second-year friend scampering when he had tried to attack him after the fact. That had earned him some respect, but the respect had manifested as wariness, not admiration. It had strengthened the idiots’ case against him, if anything, and it just meant that people planned their strikes more carefully.

He was sick and tired of all of it and it was weighing on him too heavily. He felt like fresh iron twisted to its breaking point. He was stubborn and unwavering, but eventually, he would break. If he wanted to avoid that, he was going to have to do something, but he would not get involved this year… not directly.

He had put a great deal of thought into the matter of the Chamber of Secrets over the past number of weeks. If he wanted to go back to not living a hellacious existence at Hogwarts, he was going to have to somehow prove he was innocent. He was also going to have to do that without putting himself in the line of fire this time, and the easiest way to start was by figuring out what the hell was going on.

He planned to ask Dumbledore about the Chamber of Secrets the next time they practiced Occlumency. He doubted the Headmaster would be all that forthcoming, but he had always encouraged Harry’s questions and they had now reached the state of practice at which Dumbledore was launching actual probes into his mind. They were weak and blunt, easy to detect and easy to deflect, but it was a start. If he seemed particularly fatigued after one of these lessons and Dumbledore was in a good enough mood… well, the old man was known for his generosity. It wasn’t out of the question that he might allow his tongue to loosen for a brief bit of time.

But that was far from a sure bet and Harry needed to know what was going on. If not Dumbledore, he needed someone else who knew anything. McGonagall had sounded every bit as confused as Harry when she’d spoken with the Headmaster in the hospital wing that night and Harry would never have gone to her anyway. The same went to the rest of the staff, which left him with only one option.

Dobby had known something. Perhaps at Malfoy Manor, Harry might have thought the elf was bluffing, but not now. The bludger had been examined and the staff had concluded that the ball had not been tampered with by any means that they knew of. The Weasley twins were good, but not that good. Daphne had told him once when discussing house elves that their magic worked differently than witches and wizards. It would explain why none of the professors had been able to unearth anything and it would explain why Dobby had been watching him that night in the hospital wing.

He could have told Diana, but something held him back. There would just be a lot to explain and it felt… outside of their current dynamic. He would have told Draco at the school year’s start, but that was now firmly out of the question. Lord Malfoy had always encouraged Harry to write, but he was the member of the family Harry thought most likely to have been manipulating him the whole time. Daphne’s words had struck home with him and there really were a startling number of coincidences. Most of them were absolutely well within Lucius Malfoy’s capabilities to engineer. 

But he had not been the only member of the Malfoy family to encourage Harry to write.

He rolled his head to work out the cramp in his neck as he reached down and withdrew a sheet of parchment from his bag. A quill followed and he pressed its tip to the parchment.

Lady Malfoy…

Author’s Endnote:

We have now reached the point of the year at which I start breaking up planned chapters into two because there is a lot being set up at once… Oh well, the pacing has picked up a bit already and it will continue to do so. Next chapter will end with a bang, so look forward to that.

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