Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Year 2: The Advancing of Shadows
Chapter 15: Unfortunate Timing
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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August 25, 1883
Gellert’s feet slammed into the ground with more force than he had been expecting. Summer was still in full bloom back in his native homeland of Germany. The grass was still a lush green and the ground was softened by the sun’s warm glow.
None of that was true here.
There was no give to the Earth that his feet slammed into. He might as well have landed on solid concrete for how tightly packed the ground was beneath him.
That was the first thing he noticed. The next was the biting cold. September had not yet spread its wings and flown into prominence, yet the air was as frigid as most German winter days. The wind seemed dormant, but it was a small mercy. Even bundled up in so much fur that Gellert thought his legs would buckle from the weight, he shivered.
It was dark, too. Much darker than it would have been in Germany. It appeared to be the middle of the night and he thought he would have been lost had it not been for the thin layer of shining white snow that coated the ground all around him and the splendid sight laid out before him.
He had landed a ways up what appeared to be one of many mountains that formed a perfect ring around a vast expanse of frozen land. The mountain he found himself on had a path carved roughly into its side. The path led down the mountain and continued all the way across the grounds, leading for some time until it reached the building Gellert knew he was here for.
It was a great castle, though not in the way many castles of myths were great. It was squat compared to most of them and it was not made of any bright and shiny stones. It was comprised completely of hard grey rock and had only four floors, though the ceilings of each did not seem high. There was not a great deal to say of the structure. It was solid and seemed as though it had stood forever and would endure forever more. It looked ready to withstand a siege at any moment, though it was perhaps unfit to hold great and splendid banquets for men and women of the highest esteem.
The only reason Gellert could make it out in such detail at all was because of the vantage point he had thanks to the mountain, for the castle itself was surrounded by a high wall of the same solid grey stone that it was crafted from. The wall rose up about half as high as the castle and there appeared only to be one, gated entrance through the impenetrable wall of stone.
Yet the defences did not end there. He could hear rushing water from all around him. It seemed to roar like a lion and clap against the shore like a hundred thunderbolts in the relative silence of the night and it was everywhere. He could see four lakes spread across the grounds from here alone and there was a great moat that enclosed both the castle and its wall. There were a number of bridges across that were all lowered, as far as Gellert could see, but he doubted that was often the case.
The castle itself might not have been the most dazzling sight in the world, but the path that led to it was positively enchanting. The entire path was lined by knights made completely from ice on both sides. They stood nearly ten-feet tall and held the largest torches that Gellert had ever seen. Yet the mechanisms in their hands did not flicker with the orange glow of fire. They shone with a pale magical light that was almost as bright as the snow. Snow and magical light seemed to try and outshine one another, painting the long, straight path in a pale halo of magical light that took Gellert’s breath away. The lakes on either side of the path shone ghostly in their light. If not for their restless churning, Gellert suspected the light would have rendered them every bit as transparent as the shining surface of Lake Konigsee all the times he had peered down from atop the mountain and looked wondrously into its depths.
There were sounds all around him as his fellow classmates landed. Their feet hit the ground every bit as hard as his and they all wore the same uniform that he himself was adorned in. They all looked at one another but did not say so much as a word as more and more of them appeared.
When the constant bluish blurs of portkeys finally ceased, the lot of them were left huddled at the mouth of the path and shivering against the biting cold. Gellert wondered why none of them moved towards the castle, but he too found he did not have the impulse to do it. He was frozen by the cold and the air of such a place. Magic seemed to hum all around him and the way the light shone made the entire thing feel completely and totally surreal.
A noise from below drew their collective attention and they all turned. The two nearest knights had moved forward as if they were alive. They held their magical torches aloft in one hand and hefted long, great swords in the other. It was with these that they beckoned all of the first years forward. No one moved for a moment until Gellert took a deep breath and became the first to step forward. Once he moved, the others followed all at once, and the icy figures turned. They stood side by side and walked in perfect unison, marching the new crop of students like a procession of well-trained soldiers down towards the castle nestled in the centre of this frozen expanse of land.
The walk was long and cold. They had to walk past much water along their trek. It had seemed windless on their perch high on one of the mountains, but the air seemed to slash across their faces like whips of ice as they passed by the water. It left Gellert’s cheeks stinging and his nose running, but he did not react. His father had told him to stay strong and vigilant and he planned to do just that.
The descent to the castle seemed as though it took forever, but they had eventually crossed the moat and passed through the gate. There were two more knights of ice standing guard at the castle’s front entrance, but they moved aside to allow the first years and their enchanted escorts to pass.
Torch brackets hung along the walls of a long and narrow corridor that greeted the first years as soon as they stepped into the castle. The brackets shone with the same magical light held by their escorts. Gellert thought the corridor would be nearly pitch-black if not for the light, but he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t have preferred that. It cast strange, leaping shadows about the walls. They seemed to lurk just out of sight before lunging forth. Several times during the walk down the hall, Gellert had taken them for sudden movement out of the corner of his eye.
Finally, the corridor ended. There was another to the left and right, but before them was a massive room that they were led into by their two guards of honour. This room was lit more scarcely than the corridor outside, though perhaps it only seemed that way because of its size. There were no windows, but it was a very long room. At its front was a long table of rich, dark wood, at which sat men who must have been the professors. Less comfortable tables spread across the rest of the hall. They were longer than the professors’ and lined up one behind the other like rows of desks in a classroom. There were seven of them in total and he knew at once that each of them were for a separate year. Gellert and the rest of the first years were led to the back of the hall. Only then did their guards of ice march to the front of the hall, bow in perfect unison to an old, hard-looking man who sat in a black, throne-like chair on the other side of the professors’ table, and leave the hall. There were a number of other knights of ice all throughout the room; it seemed that the service of these two was no longer required.
Gellert’s eyes seemed to devour the room as the man who sat the black throne took to his feet. Gellert hardly noticed. His eyes darted from one knight of ice, to a magical sphere of light, and back again. He watched the older students, too. Some of them watched the first years, and others still conversed in low voices, but these students were scarce. Most of them sat with straight backs and polite expressions, their complete and undivided attention fixated upon the tall, old man who had taken to his feet.
Gellert cared naught for old men. Gellert cared for the castle and the magic and all he would learn. Gellert cared for all of the dreams he would fulfill. Gellert cared for one, undeniable truth. He was finally at the place he had belonged for all of his years.
November 20, 1992
The Headmaster’s Office
Harry resisted the urge to groan as he sat back in his chair. His head felt as though someone had stabbed him behind the eyes with something sharp and scalding. He often felt like this nowadays after he completed a lesson in Occlumency with the Headmaster. They had progressed to the point at which Dumbledore was actively deploying Legilimency probes against him. He was becoming more and more proficient at fending off his attacks. He knew they were deliberately weak and blunt, but it was a start.
“You are doing well,” Dumbledore said as though still reading his thoughts. “Your progression is exponential. Your leaps grow further and your bounds higher the longer these lessons progress. It is really quite astonishing.”
“Thank you, sir.” Harry couldn’t help but feel warm at the sentiment. He wasn’t usually one to allow compliments like this to touch him. Compliments about him as a person were one thing — those had been non-existent whilst on Privet Drive and were still nearly as alien to him as Diagon Alley had been that first day with Hagrid. He had been praised enough in the last year by professors to take academic compliments for what they were. When they came from the greatest wizard alive, however, and referred to something he was genuinely passionate about… “Thank you again for the help.”
“I owed you that much,” said Dumbledore. “I could hardly refuse you point-blank after what you went through last June.”
Harry allowed a deep frown to spread across his face. He would need to tread carefully through this bit of the conversation. “I was hoping that would be the last thing like that to happen at Hogwarts.”
The light behind Dumbledore’s eyes seemed to dim by a margin. “As did I, dear boy, as did I.” He cast his eyes about the room. “It is interesting the patterns that befall this school.”
“Yes, indeed.” The man’s fingers tapped rhythmically upon the surface of his desk as his lips pulled tightly together. It appeared to Harry as though he was pondering something very deeply. “Hogwarts has been a safe haven for many years. Its reputation as being one of the safest places in Britain is well-founded. Yet you and I both know all that transpired last year and we are just as painfully aware of what is currently taking place within our very walls.”
“Is… is there a reason, sir? You said that Hogwarts was safe for a long time. Is there a reason that this is the second year in a row that it isn’t? One could have just been a coincidence, but two in a row seems a bit off for a place that’s supposed to be so safe.”
“It does, yes. I have my suspicions, but I am afraid I cannot present any true evidence for any of them beyond the patterns I spoke of earlier.”
“Can you explain those, sir?”
“I can, though some would argue doing so would be unwise.” His fingers tapped upon the desk once more. “You see, Harry, the last time Hogwarts experienced anything like the last two years was half a century ago. There was a year much like this, but it was not the only thing of note. There were… troubling things taking place for a number of years. Troubling things that all seemed to happen around a young, brilliant boy.”
Harry’s frown deepened. “I’m not seeing the pattern, sir?”
“Aren’t you?” Dumbledore smiled thinly. “You are the pattern, Harry.”
Harry’s mouth went dry. “Me?”
“In a way, yes. You see, you are the closest thing Hogwarts has seen to this boy in all of those years. Both halfbloods, both Slytherins, why, both even orphans. There are other things, too. This boy displayed an aptitude for magic the likes of which I had not seen for many years. You have a similar gift, I think. A natural ease with which you wield the force and shape it to match your will. It is a rare talent, but one that cannot bloom truly without the proper mind to give it fuel.”
“Professor Flitwick said something like that last year,” Harry remembered. “We talked about it in the library. He said I was by far the most talented student in the year but that I needed to focus more on magical theory.”
“Yes, I do remember Filius mentioning a conversation of the like. Tell me, Harry, did you focus more on the more subtle facets of magic?”
“Yes, sir — I’ve been doing all I can to get ahead.”
“Very good. Do feel free to come to me with any questions if you find yourself stuck. I understand if you do not wish to trouble your professors with more advanced material — though any of them would be glad to assist you. I do so love magic, just as I really do miss teaching. Alas, my schedule is quite full these days and time makes fools of even the greatest of men.”
Harry’s mouth was dry again. He wanted something from this conversation, but that had not been it. It had not been what he had expected, but it was a resource he would most certainly be leaning on in the future. He would be foolish not to — what kind of idiot would turn down help from the most brilliant magician alive?
“Thank you, sir. I… appreciate it. I’ll think of some things you might be able to help with.” And he would.
“Splendid,” said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling once more, “now, where were we?”
“You were talking about me and the boy from fifty years ago.”
“Ah, yes, indeed I was. There was much that happened at Hogwarts during his time here, yet the castle grew quite quiet once he left.” His lips twitched. “Well, it was far from quiet whilst your father and his marauding group of friends and admirers dwelled here, but it was never truly dangerous in the way it is now. The castle remained perfectly safe until your first year, and I am afraid it has not grown safer since.”
“So… you’re saying that when students with higher potentials come to Hogwarts, it gets more dangerous?”
“Something like that, yes. Great men attract greater things, Harry. People fair and foul flock to them like moths to an open flame. It can lead to prosperity, but it can also lead to danger. Of course, the fact that you are the defeater of Voldemort and the most famous student to ever walk the halls makes you even more highly sought after.”
Harry remembered the way Dobby had spoken of the plot at Hogwarts and he remembered the way the elf had specifically wanted him to stay far away from the great castle. Was it possible that something about the Chamber of Secrets being opened had something to do with him?
“Sir… is me being here causing these things to happen?”
“Perhaps, though it is through no fault of your own if that is the case. You certainly had nothing to do with the petrification of poor Master Creevey.”
Well, at least Dumbledore wasn’t blinded by the Gryffindors’ baseless accusations. It was only natural, of course, but part of him had still been holding tension throughout the entire meeting. That small part of him that wondered whether Dumbledore thought him the Heir of Slytherin.
“Sir… have you or any of the other teachers found anything about the Chamber of Secrets?”
“I am afraid not,” said Dumbledore. The lines etched upon his aged face suddenly seemed deeper and more pronounced. “I am hopeful that will change, but not entirely optimistic. I will not be the first Headmaster who has looked for Salazar’s fabled chamber, nor will I be the last. Why, it will not even be the first time I go looking for such a place. Let us hope that I am more successful than I was all those years ago.”
“Is this the first time the Chamber of Secrets has been opened?”
Dumbledore watched him very carefully. “It is not,” he said at last. “I did say that dangerous things happened at Hogwarts all those years ago, did I not?” Harry’s eyes widened. “Yes, indeed.” Dumbledore looked up towards the clock upon the wall. “Goodness me, the time grows late and curfew draws near. You’d best be off to bed, Harry. I would not wish for you to be late on my account.”
Harry made for the door, recognizing his dismissal, his thoughts whirling. He had gotten more than he had bargained for in this meeting… now, if only he knew what to do with any of it.
November 21, 1992
The Slytherin Common Room
Harry’s body ached with every step he took. He was grateful for Cassie walking alongside him as they neared the smooth stone steps that led down into the Hogwarts dungeons. He thought it unlikely he would topple down them, but he would not completely discount the possibility. Tonight had been one of their more taxing practices. There had been a great deal of mock duelling. Harry was still a very long way off from even competing with Cassie, but he was improving greatly. The older Slytherin was confident she was the best duelist in the school, so she wasn’t exactly who Harry should be comparing himself against. Not to say that he wasn’t doing that, but it did make the bruises sting less and the sore muscles ache a touch less.
“Unitatis,” said Cassie as they reached the common room minutes later, causing the stone wall to slide aside with it’s usual groan that for some reason seemed unusually ominous.
The air in the common room was tense. Harry knew something was amiss as soon as he stepped inside. His eyes swept around the room and did not immediately recognize what exactly had created such tension. Most students were lounging in chairs as usual. The first thing he noticed was that none of them seemed buried in their homework, or books, or other pursuits that necessitated their eyes to be cast downwards. Their heads were all raised and titled in the same direction. Only when Harry followed the pattern did he see the commotion, though it was hard to make out exactly what was happening for a larger cluster of students enclosed the action so tightly that seeing through their ranks was nearly impossible.
Cassie — who was years older and much taller than Harry — must have seen. She strode forward without a seconds’ hesitation, flicking her wand back into her hand. Harry followed curiously behind her, drawing his own wand in the process. He wasn’t sure whether it was the older girl’s status as a prefect or reputation as a duelist that encouraged the crowd to move aside, but they did so nonetheless.
When they parted, Harry wasn’t sure what he had expected to see, but what he saw was not it. Two first years had been enclosed by the circle, but one was standing and one was lying face down. His robes were torn and blood pooled around him like a dark crimson puddle as he tried to rise. The one standing over him had the same golden-blond hair as Cassie and his wand was raised. He was halfway through another slash when Cassie grabbed his arm.
The boy whirled and tried to bring his wand up to fire a spell, but he was frozen in place by his older sister’s stare before an incantation could form on his tongue. “And what exactly have you been doing?” Cassie’s voice was soft, but dangerous. It was a stark contrast to her usually outgoing and borderline bubbly persona. It took Harry aback, but her brother did not waver.
“Putting this prat in his place.” He gestured towards the fallen boy who was still struggling to rise. Judging by the way his leg kept buckling, the gaping wound just below his shoulder blades wasn’t the only damage he had taken in the conflict. Harry would be remiss to call it a duel; it had been much too one-sided by the look of it.
He remembered what Lucius had said about the Yaxleys and what Corban Yaxley had affirmed. They were a family renowned for duelling. It was a sort of tradition for members of House Yaxley to spend several years post Hogwarts on the duelling circuit. They were trained in the art from an early age and Harry knew first-hand that both Corban and Cassandra were excellent instructors. It was no surprise that the youngest of them, Cadmus, was the better of the two first years, but this had not been a victory — it had been a bloody massacre.
“There is a time and a place.” Cassie spoke in the same tone of voice she had before, but still her brother remained far from cowed. “You could have killed him, you idiot.” She glanced around at the gathered crowd. Most of them were first years, though a few were second and third years; Harry even thought he saw a few older students gathered among them. “Why did none of you stop this?”
Every pair of eyes in the gathered crowd seemed to fall to the floor when Cassie spoke. The only exception Harry saw were two pairs of dark brown eyes belonging to girls who looked startlingly identical to one another. The Carrow twins, he remembered. He wondered not for the first time if witches and wizards were somehow more likely to have twins than muggles, but he was a touch more distracted by the way Cadmus Yaxley was glaring at him as though he had done the boy a great personal disservice.
He met his stare unflinchingly and raised an eyebrow. Yaxley’s eyes narrowed as he turned back to his sister. “I wasn’t going to kill him,” he spat. “I know what I’m doing. I don’t need you to teach me or lecture me on how to do things.” He threw one last disdainful look at Harry before storming off. Harry watched him leave warily, his hand not far from his wand. He wasn’t sure what he had done to draw the younger boy’s ire, but he was not going to be attacked by him whilst unaware. It was typical, he thought, that he would have to watch for yet another viper lurking in the shadows.
Cassie dispersed the crowd and ordered the other first year — a slight boy named Martin Harper — to be taken off to the hospital wing.
“So,” Harry asked Daphne and the others when he took his seat alongside them, “what exactly did I miss?”
“Children being children,” answered Daphne. “Harper said something about how Yaxley’s father was overrated at the ministry. Yaxley said something about how at least his wasn’t in Azkaban and things spiralled.”
“Charming,” said Harry. “Any idea why the younger Yaxley was looking at me like I had just tried to curse him in the back?”
“Probably because you walked in with the older one,” said Daphne.
Harry frowned. “Why would that make him want to curse me?”
“Jealousy, spite, all kinds of childish things.” She shrugged. “Don’t ask me to explain how a normal eleven-year-old’s mind works. It’s kind of depressing and I try not to think about it.”
Harry snorted. “Naturally.” He glanced around at the rest of his friends and wondered whether Cadmus Yaxley’s outburst had been the only thing of note to happen whilst he was gone. All of them were looking between him and Daphne as though they were waiting for something to happen. “Did I miss anything else interesting?”
Daphne’s lips curved up into a cruel smile as she leant forward, a gleam dancing in her sapphire eyes. “As it happens, you did…”
November 25, 1992
The Great Hall
Thank you for writing me about the elf. The creature should never have been at Hogwarts. I’m sorry for all the trouble it caused you. He has been dealt with, but not before he was questioned. It was him who enchanted that wretched bludger, so you don’t need to worry about anyone else having done it.
I’m afraid he didn’t know anything about what’s going on at Hogwarts. He was a mad and ill creature who hadn’t been right in the head for years. There wasn’t much he had to offer beyond paranoia, I’m afraid.
I’m glad that you wrote to me and hope you would consider continuing to do so. I’ve heard even less of you lately because of your argument with Draco, but it’s lovely speaking with you again.
Write soon and enjoy the rest of term.
Harry put down the letter and tried to force down his disappointment. He had been hoping that Dobby might know something about the Chamber of Secrets. Especially now that Dumbledore’s cryptic history lesson had given him pause as to whether or not the whole fiasco might be somehow linked to him. He was happy the elf wouldn’t be trying to kill him with any other enchanted bludgers, but he’d had other hopes for writing to Narcissa.
And the bit about writing more often…
Harry wasn’t sure how to feel. Much of what the Malfoys had done screamed of manipulation. Could he trust Narcissa? He had continued to trust Diana and she had not led him astray. She had always counselled him well and he still counted her among his closest friends. She was his oldest friend now that Draco and he were no longer speaking with each other. He distrusted Lord Malfoy most of all. He was the one who pulled the strings in the Malfoy family. If they had manipulated him, he at least was a part of it.
He thought back to every time he had spoken with her and the memory of their first interaction floated to the forefront of his mind. It had been on Platform Nine and Three Quarters. His stomach had been filled with excitement despite the dreary and monotonous weather, for that had been the day he’d been set to travel to Hogwarts.
She had mentioned how the two of them were family and she had encouraged him to write her about that. He had never taken her up on it, but why not now? It wasn’t really something she could use to manipulate him and it might allow him to get to know her better.
He nodded silently to himself and leant over to reach into his bag and pull out a piece of parchment, but a horrible sound from someone near the centre of the table drew his attention.
Glass shattered and sprayed everywhere. Several students cried out as it pierced their legs and coloured the hems of their robes crimson. Others manage to scramble out of the way as Damian Travers’s older brother swung a knife this way and that. People practically dove for cover as he batted more silverware apart. He used one hand to slash at the air with the knife whilst he clawed at his own face with the other. Blood was blossoming on his cheeks and running down his face.
Harry would have thought that the boy might claw his own eyes out if he wasn’t careful, but nothing about this screamed of caution. It was clear that Travers was out of his mind. He must have been bewitched, or poisoned, or influenced in some other way.
His posture straightened so fast it was as though he had been shocked. He remembered suspecting Travers of sending him bubotuber pus all those weeks ago and he remembered the few people he had told.
He doubted it was a coincidence this had happened after last night, either. Suddenly, Harry knew exactly who had poisoned the elder Travers brother.
The previous night, in the Slytherin common room…
“Oh?” asked Harry, eyeing Daphne with a mixture of interest and suspicion.
“You remember telling us that you thought Travers was the one to send you the pus?” He nodded — it had not been long after he’d seen the boy staring at him the day the foul substance had been sent. “Well, I told you that I would be finding out who did it, and I have.”
He blinked. “How?”
“Ancient Runes,” she answered. “I… convinced one of his friends to draw a very specific set of runes onto a random page in one of his textbooks that he wasn’t likely to look at. I carved a corresponding set and had them tied together. It lets me listen into anything he says so long as the book is nearby.” Her expression was predatory. “Today, he finally slipped.”
Back in the present…
Harry watched as the boy writhed and clawed at his own face. Professors were rushing over now and he knew it would end at any moment, but he could not help but be transfixed by the grotesque spectacle. Two thoughts crashed over him as swiftly as the poison must have flowed through Travers’s veins.
The first was that he really needed to start putting much more time and effort into Ancient Runes, and the second was far more pressing and a touch more disturbing.
He felt no desire to look away from the sight before him. On the contrary, he could feel nothing as he watched. There was no pleasure, it was true, but nor was there any empathy or regret. There was only cold indifference. Conjoined with all of the other questions Harry had been asking about himself as of late, he was unsure how to feel about such a fact.
November 28, 1992
The Slytherin Common Room
A sense of déjà vu washed over Harry as he stepped into the Slytherin common room. He had finished yet another night of practice with Cassie. He was less battered this time, as the practice had consisted mostly of honing spells and techniques. The girl was also absent from him. She had gone off on her own to find something in the library before calling it a night. She had hoped to beat curfew, but Harry doubted she was worried about being caught if she wasn’t fast enough.
When he re-entered the common room after the practice, it was tense once more. He wondered whether the same sort of thing had happened for a moment, but he quickly realized that it was not the same. Similar, perhaps, but there were noticeable differences.
Nobody’s eyes were cast towards an ongoing spectacle. Everyone was either looking down quietly or their heads were together as they conversed in low whispers. Harry cast his gaze about the lowly-lit room. This time, he failed to identify exactly what was causing the problem, which only made him tense all the more.
He looked for his friends but found only one of them. Blaise was seated in his usual spot in the room, but Daphne, Tracey, Millicent, and Lilian were all absent. Harry’s heart quickened as he made his way towards the quietest of their group. The very air seemed so thick that his movements felt impeded as he tried to close the distance between them. Something was undoubtedly wrong, but he had no idea what it might be.
“Blaise,” he asked in a low whisper when he took the seat to the boy’s left, “what’s happened? What’s going on?”
Blaise gave him a long, hard look. “You might want to go and see our Head of House, Harry.” His voice was as pensive as the smooth surface of the sea. It gave away nothing as to what might dwell beneath. A chill ran up Harry’s spine. Blaise was always guarded, but never had he spoken so carefully or with such clinical coolness.
But then, all confusion and worry over Blaise was wiped swiftly away when the boy uttered his next words.
“Tracey’s been attacked and Snape is looking for you.”
And here’s the part of the year where everything speeds up and the stakes all of a sudden rise by several levels. They will only grow higher from here, so I hope you are all ready for the chaotic path we now find ourselves on. There are many high-speed twists and turns to come.
Also, Patrons should note that the description of Durmstrang is subject to change. I am rather torn on the guards of ice and may remove them at a later date.
Please read and review.
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