Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 1: The Fracturing of Foundations
Chapter 3: Walking the Path
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.
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Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 1: The Fracturing of Foundations
Chapter 3: Walking the Path
September 1, 1991
The Great Hall at Hogwarts
A heavy and impenetrable silence more total and absolute than most present had ever experienced fell over the Great Hall as soon as the hat had uttered its final syllable. The dumbstruck expressions that marred most faces dotted throughout the room might have led one to believe that an otherworldly deity had appeared in the hall’s centre and suddenly revealed the deepest, darkest secrets of the universe. Secrets the likes of which mere humans could simply never comprehend.
Harry felt every decibel, or lack thereof, as he stood and made his way towards the Slytherin table, trying to look as though the reaction of the hall hadn’t fazed him. Each of his footsteps echoed ominously against the ancient stone floor no matter how lightly he trod. Harry fancied that he could hear his own breath and heartbeat as he drew ever nearer to the table bedecked in green and silver.
Just as he was sure he would reach the Slytherin table before a peep escaped from the masses — who seemed to somehow be imprisoning all sound in the world — a single, steady set of hands began to clap. Harry realized that the set of weathered hands belonged to the same twinkly-eyed man he had seen on the back of that chocolate frog card on the way to Hogwarts.
It was Albus Dumbledore.
Very slowly and with the hesitation one might expect of a particularly frightened skydiver, the hall began to clap. Harry could not help but notice how muted the applause seemed. Not only compared to the likes of that which had come before it, but even to the tumultuous muttering that had followed him up to the spindle-legged stool.
“Rivers, Oliver!” called Professor McGonagall, obviously and successfully attempting to draw the majority of the hall’s attention away from Harry, who was beginning to noticeably fidget as he took his seat at the end of the Slytherin table.
All of the first years were at the far left end of the table, as it was the only spot that seemed to have been left for them and none of the older students seemed to be moving.
The seating order was obviously alphabetical, with Bulstrode and Crabbe at the very end sitting across from one another and the others following to their right in ascending alphabetical order. Harry sat directly across from Pansy Parkinson and beside Theodore Nott, who sat across from a small, timid-looking blonde girl named Lillian Moon.
“RAVENCLAW!” shouted the hat, pulling Harry forcefully from his observations and thrusting his psyche roughly back into reality with a resounding jolt.
“Well done, Harry!” congratulated Pansy, beaming at him as though he had just been awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class.
Harry barely had the energy to respond, choosing instead to simply nod along, allowing the ever-building exhaustion brought on by the night’s events to seep out of him, yet still somehow managing to look somewhat composed.
Draco looked extremely smug. “As if there was ever any doubt,” he drawled. “I did tell both of you he would be in Slytherin, didn’t I?”
“You did,” admitted Theodore, “but the Potters have been Gryffindors for centuries. We just had to make sure the apple wouldn’t fall right under the same tree.”
“Such a lack of faith. You should put some trust in me, Nott. Things might run smoother that way.”
Theodore scowled and shook his head just as the final boy to be sorted — Blaise Zabini, a tall, dark-skinned boy with sharp, slanted features — joined them at the Slytherin table. Before the conversation could continue, the man from the chocolate frog card had taken to his feet; his arms were outstretched as though to embrace the lot of them, who had all fallen silent as soon as he’d made his stand.
“Welcome,” he said. “Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you!”
The man retook his seat, but Harry was hardly focused on that. His attention was effectively captured by the hundreds of plates of food that had appeared on all tables. Heaps of pasta, piles of potatoes, stacks of roast beef, and mounds of pork chops, chicken, and steak, as well as vast numbers of other things that Harry didn’t know. Many of them he was sure he would never have known, even if the Dursleys hadn’t been intent on ensuring he ate the bare minimum of a select few choices.
They were, after all, perfectly normal, thank you very much. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number 4 Privet Drive would never have been caught dead eating anything that was even remotely out of the ordinary.
“Mental,” muttered Theodore from beside Harry, cutting quite ruthlessly into a piece of beef. “Old codger is losing it.”
“Is he… a bit mad?” asked Harry.
“Mad hardly does it justice,” sneered Draco. “Father’s been saying for years anything so great about Dumbledore faded ages ago. He doesn’t even think he’s fit to run the school, you know.”
“But he beat that dark wizard, didn’t he?”
“Grindelwald, yes,” Theodore admitted. “There’s a lot more to that than was said on the frog card, though. And that was years ago. Dumbledore isn’t the same man he was when he fought Grindelwald. I doubt he’s even the same man who fought against the Dark Lord.”
“You mean Vol—”
“Don’t say the name,” Theodore hissed furiously, glancing sharply around the table to ensure nobody had heard him.
It appeared that no one had.
“Potter, whatever you do, don’t say that name. There’s a reason witches and wizards fear speaking it.”
“Why do they?”
Draco and Theodore exchanged veiled looks, but it was Pansy who answered. “Harry, the Dark Lord was a great wizard. A terrible wizard, but a great one. He did things with magic that most people didn’t think were possible. Some of the things he did… well, Theodore is right. There is a reason people fear his name. No one ever managed to stand against him. He took on the entire Ministry and Dumbledore. He might have even won had it not been for you. Even after he attacked you, plenty of people don’t think he’s actually dead.” She glanced nervously around the table to make sure nobody was listening in on them. “Plenty of people believe he’ll come back one day.”
Harry had to resist the urge to shutter. That was ominously similar to what Hagrid had said about Voldemort. How when he wanted somebody dead, they died.
“No one ever lived after he decided ter kill ’em, no one except you, an’ he’d killed some o’ the best witches an’ wizards of the age — the McKinnons, the Bones, the Prewetts…”
Harry remembered yet another thing Hagrid had told him about Voldemort. Another thing that tied into Pansy’s monologue, and a thing that actually made him shiver.
“Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die. Some say he’s still out there, bidin’ his time, like, but I don’ believe it. People who were on his side came back ter ours. Some of ’em came outta kinda trances. Don’ reckon they could’ve done if he was comin’ back.
“Most of us reckon he’s still out there somewhere but lost his powers. Too weak to carry on.”
The two sentiments were eerily similar, just with one, glaring difference.
Hagrid had been sure Voldemort was powerless and for all intents and purposes — finished.
Pansy, Draco, and Theodore seemed much less sure of that fact, and it caused the hairs on the back of Harry’s neck to stand on end.
Or perhaps that was the intense stare he could feel, practically burning a hole in the back of his skull.
He glanced up to the staff table and quickly located the source of the stare. It was coming from a man who was speaking with Professor Quirrell — still adorned in the same ridiculous-looking turban he had worn in the Leaky Cauldron. This other man wore far more standard-looking black robes. He was thin and sallow-skinned, with long, greasy hair as black as night and deep, intense eyes as dark as endless tunnels. Where Hagrid’s black eyes seemed to emanate warmth, this man’s radiated the opposite and drew all warmth into them, as if they were gaping chasms or vast, black holes.
The man turned away from Quirrell for but a second to meet Harry’s own eyes, and a white-hot stab of pain shot across his scar like the very bolt of lightning it was shaped after.
“What is it?” asked Draco.
The pain had gone as quickly as it had come. Harder to shake off was the feeling Harry had gotten from the teacher’s look — a feeling that he didn’t like Harry at all.
“Who’s that teacher talking to Professor Quirrell?”
If any of his new friends were surprised he knew Quirrell, they didn’t say it. “That’s Professor Snape,” said Draco. “He’s our Head of House and Hogwarts’ Potions Master.” The boy smirked maliciously. “He’s supposed to be terribly biased towards us. I can’t wait to see how our first Potions lesson goes.”
Harry nodded along slowly, much less enthusiastic to spend time with this man than Draco.
He was sure Snape intensely disliked him, even if Harry had absolutely no idea why that might be. It wasn’t as if he had done anything to the man.
Harry spent the rest of the meal mostly in silence, ignoring the concerned glances Pansy shot his way every so often. He was content to alternate between watching Snape up at the staff table and listen to the conversations going on around him.
When both dinner and desert were finished and had vanished from the tables, the venerable Hogwarts Headmaster was on his feet once more, his presence alone commanding complete and absolute silence.
“Ahem — just a few more words now that we are all fed and watered. I have a few start-of-term notices to give you.
“First years should note that the forest on the grounds is forbidden to all pupils. And a few of our older students would do well to remember that as well.”
Dumbledore’s twinkling eyes flashed in the direction of a set of red-headed twins at the Gryffindor table.
“I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, to remind you all that no magic should be used between classes in the corridors.
“Quidditch trials will be held in the second week of the term. Anyone interested in playing for their house teams should contact Madam Hooch.
“And finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death.”
Many in the hall laughed, but most at the Slytherin table just snorted or shook their heads in disgust at what they obviously viewed as a tasteless joke.
He didn’t say it aloud, but he had the oddest, yet most persistent feeling that Professor Dumbledore was being serious.
September 2, 1991
The Potions Classroom
Harry had risen bright and early the day after they had arrived at Hogwarts. He was used to rising early, for it had been expected of him to make the Dursleys breakfast most days.
The Slytherins had all made their way down into the depths of the Hogwarts dungeons after the feast on that first night and been led through an entrance concealed behind a brick wall that slid aside like a muggle sliding door when the correct password was spoken.
Their common room was dark with a low ceiling, and the walls appeared to be hewn straight from ancient stone. Except for the centrally-located fire blazing merrily at what seemed to be all times of the day and night, the lone lights in the common room were bright green orbs that seemed to cast a pale, ghostly light over the room. It added to the haunting feel brought on by the dark view they had out into the lake outside, as well as the long, deep shadows that the lights sent flickering across the walls.
On either side of the common room, dark tunnels lit by torches led off to the dorms and bathrooms. Each year had its own dorm section, and within each section were a number of rooms which each housed two students.
Draco had offered to bunk with Harry, who had readily accepted. That left Theodore Nott with the Zabini boy, and Crabbe with Goyle on the boys’ side. Daphne Greengrass bunked with Tracey Davis, while Pansy had practically demanded her own room, seeing as there was an odd number of females. Bulstrode and Moon hadn’t objected, choosing to bunk together and leave Pansy the privacy she had so clearly desired.
Harry had taken the bed nearest the door, leaving Draco to the one nearest the small porthole that looked out into the lake. He had been asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow; though he’d had the oddest dream of Professor Snape, a talking turban, and a flash of green light; though he hadn’t remembered it when he had awoken that next morning.
Draco had still been fast asleep, as had the others, so Harry had decided to go out and explore the castle.
He hadn’t really found much aside from the Potions classroom and Professor Snape’s office, but it was a start.
The former actually came in quite useful.
After breakfast with his friends, who had been mildly worried about where he’d run off to, they were all given timetables. Their first class would be Potions with the Gryffindors, so Harry had led the way down into the dungeons and to the classroom he had found earlier that day. He sat with Draco, while Theodore sat with Pansy one row in front of them.
Draco had wanted to sit in the front row, but Harry had insistently refused to sit anywhere but in the back. The idea of people behind him was something he was not at all comfortable with. This had made no sense to Draco, but he had eventually accepted. It wasn’t as if it made a world of difference to him.
Most of the first-year Slytherin contingent was present in the classroom before the first Gryffindor not named Hermione Granger arrived, though none dared to be late. The tall, red-headed boy who had been going on about a troll and his sandy-haired companion had cut it close, but they had just made it.
The door slammed open not ten seconds after they had taken their seats, and Professor Snape strode into the room with his robes billowing as if caught in a non-existent wind.
It was quite the image.
He started class by taking the attendance and his dark eyes paused when they reached Harry’s name. “Ah, yes,” he said softly, “Harry Potter. Our new… celebrity.”
Nobody dared to make a sound as Harry fruitlessly fought against his fast-rising blush. Snape studied all of them with his dark, tunnel-like eyes before his monologue began.
“You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making.” He spoke in barely more than a whisper, but they caught every word. Snape had the gift of keeping a class quiet without effort. “As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don’t expect you will truly understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses… I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death — if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.”
More silence followed this little speech. Harry sat stock-still, not willing to do so much as move. Hermione Granger was on the edge of her seat and looked desperate to start proving that she was not, in fact, a dunderhead.
“Potter!” said Snape suddenly. “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”
Harry had no idea.
He knew what both ingredients were, but he had never heard of combining them. It was odd. Harry had read most of the first-year section of his textbook, but couldn’t for the life of him remember any potion that combined the two ingredients. Everyone else in the room looked stumped, too; sans Daphne Greengrass, who looked strangely surprised. Even Granger no longer looked so eager, seeming much more put out and a whole lot more apprehensive now than she had a moment earlier.
“I don’t know, sir,” Harry admitted quietly, trying not to redden even more than he already had whilst Snape had taken the attendance.
The professor’s lips curled into a sneer. “Tut, tut — clearly, fame isn’t everything.” He was obviously trying quite hard not to smirk. “Let’s try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?”
Hermione stretched her hand as high into the air as it would go without her leaving her seat, but Harry knew the answer to this one, small mercy though it was.
“In the stomach of a goat, Professor.”
Snape’s jaw seemed to tighten. “Indeed you would. You should have no problem then, Potter, in telling me exactly what a bezoar is?”
“It’s a small stone that forms from the goat’s bodily fluids, sir. It cures most poisons.”
Hermione Granger hadn’t even had the chance to raise her hand that time, and she appeared very put out about it.
Snape’s expression did not change. “Correct,” he said silkily. “And what, Potter, is the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane?”
Granger stood up, her hand stretching toward the dungeon ceiling. Harry noticed that Draco, Theodore, and Pansy were all glaring at her for a reason he couldn’t entirely decipher. He supposed it was a bit rude to assume he wouldn’t be able to answer, but if looks could kill…
“There’s no difference, sir. They’re the same plant. I think it’s also called aconite.”
Snape looked oddly cross and he whirled on Granger. “Sit down!” he snapped, and she fell back into her seat with the swiftness of one commanded by a drill sergeant. “Three points from Gryffindor for your deplorable behaviour, Granger. I would expect any civilized child with an ounce of dignity to remain in their seats while class is proceeding, and to not attempt to steal the praise of their classmates like a pathetic pet begging its owner for scraps.”
Granger briefly looked as though she might actually cry, and Draco, Theodore, and Pansy were caught up in fits of laughter. Harry didn’t join in, but he didn’t laugh very often, anyway.
“Weasley,” snapped Snape, “what exactly is the plant I have just mentioned?”
“Uh… aconite, sir?”
“Not the name of it, Weasley. What is it? What are its properties?”
The boy flushed as red as his hair as many of the Slytherins laughed. Harry could not help but grin, though he hid it behind his hand.
“I dunno, sir.”
“Speak up, Weasley. I couldn’t hear you.”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“Shame. For your information, aconite, otherwise known as monkshood and wolfsbane, is a leafy and poisonous variety of plant that is particularly dangerous and quite difficult to detect. Powdered root of asphodel when added to an infusion of wormwood creates a sleeping potion so powerful it is aptly named the Draught of the Living Death. The other questions were answered by Potter, and I will not repeat him. Well?” Snape barked. “Why aren’t any of you writing this down?”
Harry couldn’t help but notice, ten minutes later, when Draco and Pansy were each rewarded with five points to Slytherin for answering questions far simpler than his own.
He hadn’t been awarded so much as a point, and he was quite sure the Draught of Living Death was not a first-year potion.
Later that afternoon, in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom…
After Potions, the Slytherins had attended Charms, which was taught by a diminutive man named Professor Flitwick. He was so short, he needed to stand on a stack of books just to see over his desk.
That class was nowhere near as eventful as Potions.
Professor Flitwick had fallen off his stack of books when reading Harry’s name aloud and he had made some objects fly around the room at high speeds. Outside of that, he had covered the year’s curriculum and mostly spent time going over safety precautions.
After Charms, they had lunch and then one of the classes Harry was most looking forward to.
Defence Against the Dark Arts.
It was by far the strangest classroom he had seen up to this point, though he supposed a man who marched around in a purple turban with no apparent justification would inevitably have his eccentricities.
It was a stiflingly hot room, with the windows veiled and the walls lit by floating spheres of magical light — similar in colour to the ones that hung in the Slytherin common room. Everything seemed to smell vaguely of garlic despite the presence of a vast number of burning incenses. Pansy told them that Quirrell was apparently afraid of a vampire he’d fought off while on his travels the previous year.
When they had all taken their seats, Professor Quirrell began to speak and Harry found himself taken aback.
The horrible stutter the man had been plagued with back in Diagon Alley was gone as though it had never existed, and his low, smooth tones were spoken with what sounded to Harry like a shocking amount of confidence.
It was such a drastic shift that it left his head spinning.
Or perhaps that was the smell of garlic or the odd pain that seemed to be emanating from the scar on his forehead, of all things; it was impossible to tell.
“Welcome to your first lesson in Defence Against the Dark Arts. The single most important class you will attend while at this school, since it is the only class that can prepare you for any and all situations you might one day find yourselves trapped in.”
Professor Flitwick had also made valid arguments about the validity of his own subject by preaching its versatility. He had said it had roots in all sorts of things from duelling to household upkeep, and everything in between.
But to Harry, Quirrell’s point was far more compelling.
He knew all too well what it was like to feel helpless in situations one would rather not be in, and that opening line drew his complete and undivided attention.
“In order to defend yourself against something, you must first understand what exactly it is that is attacking you in the first place. In this instance, you must know what the Dark Arts truly are. According to the Ministry of Magic, the Dark Arts are any number of magics that they deem to be illegal.” Harry couldn’t help but notice the obvious distaste Quirrell used to state that fact. “According to the more educated among us, the Dark Arts are powerful magic that is used with the intent to harm, maim, or even kill. The ministry’s classification is categorically flawed since I could cause great harm — and even potential death — with a wide number of spells that they are perfectly happy for each and every one of you to learn while at this school.”
That… was a shockingly valid point, actually.
“The Dark Arts are a monstrous branch of magic. A branch of magic that is so vast and ever-evolving that it is likely you will often be completely unaware of what exactly you are fighting. The best way to defend yourself against the Dark Arts is by having as many different ways of defending yourself as possible. The more complex and multi-layered your defence, the better chance you stand at defending yourself against magics that are quintessentially complex and intrinsically multi-layered themselves. In what I would like to think is my own, well-educated opinion, I think a spell often isn’t made by how much damage it can cause, or how well it defends against a potentially damaging spell. I think it is, or, more aptly, should be measured by how many ways it can cause damage, or how many ways it can protect you.
“But when speaking about things so naturally complex, I’m afraid we must slow down. Complex structures don’t appear overnight. If they did, they would crack, crumble, and never be seen again. They are built on sound foundations, and that is the only way they will continue to stand at all. This is no different. This year, I will be helping you to build foundations as solid as I can so that, as you continue your education, you can continue to expand upon them and one day hopefully have defences as flexible as the arts that would seek to undo them.
“Now, I will be teaching you a very basic spell for today’s purpose. You will all have no trouble with it. It isn’t the most useful of spells, but today, we will be working on hitting your target and, if you just so happen to be the target, not getting hit. Now, pair up and we shall begin.”
And so they did.
They were taught the Stinging Hex, which gave Harry no trouble at all. He even managed to cast it on his first try. Theodore and Zabini had as well, and Draco and Davis had got the spell to work on their second. What was marginally more difficult were the drills Quirrell put them all through, but Harry did well.
He had spent enough time dodging in his life to have the basic principles down. Watch the chest of your opponent to see which way they might move, and then react. His aim was accurate and he managed to hit more targets than anyone else, except for maybe Zabini, though Theodore wasn’t terribly far behind him.
By the time the class had ended, Harry was exceedingly eager to learn more.
So eager, in fact, that he planned to rush off to the library at his earliest convenience.
What can I say, competent Quirrell is fun. You’ll see through another character’s POV in a few chapters that I’ve put a slight spin on it, but that will come then.
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