Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Year 2: The Advancing of Shadows
Chapter 18: Slithering Snitches
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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December 15, 1992
The Headmaster’s Office
Daphne had never expected to find herself sitting across from the Headmaster in his office. If she planned to break any rules, she knew she was more than intelligent enough to avoid getting caught, and she had never dreamed that she would ever take her concerns to Dumbledore of all people. Her father had never been fond of the man and he had his reasons.
But Daphne had never anticipated most of the things that had happened this year. She was usually excellent at predicting the actions of people and the situations evolving around her, but this year had proven to be a test and she had deduced what might be going on much too late.
“I must admit, Miss Greengrass, I was most surprised to receive your correspondence.”
I bet you were, thought Daphne. She had no doubt Dumbledore knew exactly what her family thought of him. Hopefully, that would mean that he understood going into this meeting exactly how severe the situation at hand really was.
“I’m sorry to have disturbed you, Headmaster,” said Daphne, “but you were the only person who I felt comfortable bringing this to.”
She thought she saw the corners of his lips twitch. He had obviously spotted the half-truth as easily as she had spoken it. “I’m glad to hear it,” said Dumbledore. “You were quite vague in your letter, though you did a marvellous job of professing the urgency with which you needed to speak to me. I am curious, Miss Greengrass, what is it that brings you to this enchanting room this evening?”
“It’s about the Chamber of Secrets, sir. I think I might know who is behind it all.”
“Do you now?” Dumbledore reached up and readjusted the half-moon spectacles resting upon his nose so that he could peer over the top of them at her with those deep, piercing eyes. “Tell me then, who is it you suspect of being the Heir of Slytherin?”
“I see.” Dumbledore’s face had become expressionless the moment Daphne had uttered her first syllable and his voice gave away little more. “That is quite the accusation to lay at the feet of a fellow student. You seem quite a confident young woman with a mind as sharp as any who has ever walked these halls. Why is it that you are so confident in suspecting Harry of committing these crimes?”
Daphne bit her lower lip. “Sir… Headmaster. Anything I tell you… can you promise me that the fact I told you will never leave this room? No matter who asks you or what happens, can you promise that you will never tell anyone that I’m the one who’s told you this.”
Dumbledore tilted his head and studied her for a moment. The spectacles began to slip off his nose, so he reached up and righted them once more. “If you wish, Miss Greengrass. You have my word as the headmaster of this school that anything you say will be taken in confidence and that if I see fit to share the information with any other, I will do so without revealing your involvement in any way.”
Daphne could see no flaw in the words and she was well-versed in finding them. “I’m not sure if you know, sir, but Potter and I became friends back in September. We started spending more time together as the year went on and once he had a falling out with Draco Malfoy and his group of friends.” Dumbledore nodded to show that he was following along. “Well, one of my friends is Tracey Davis.”
“Ah, I see. I must offer my condolences for her absence. Fear not, she will be put to rights before the school year is at its end.” He drummed his long fingers upon the surface of his desk. “May I ask how Harry treated Miss Davis?”
“He seemed to treat her well, I suppose.”
She could have lied but had seen no reason to do so. What she had to offer was more than enough in her opinion to condemn Harry Potter as the Heir of Slytherin. She was only frustrated that she hadn’t seen it sooner and that he had not drunk from the goblet… that would have made things so much easier. There would have been no need to prove anything; he would have confessed his guilt or innocence for the entire hall to hear. The fact she mourned for the loss of that opportunity more than she did for the waste of Veritaserum said a great deal about her confidence in the conclusion she had come to. Prodigious in the subject or not, that had not been a swift or simple potion to brew.
“That’s not why I suspect him, though,” Daphne went on. “Tracey… well, she’s a muggleborn.”
“I am aware of Miss Davis’s blood status,” Dumbledore said softly.
“Yes, well, I’m not sure if you’re aware what it’s like in Slytherin, Headmaster, but muggleborns don’t exactly have an easy time of it. Tracey read up on Hogwarts and the wizarding world before coming and realized that her life would be hell if she didn’t convince the house she was at least a halfblood. She still got sneered at by some of the more elitist students, but most of them left her alone, especially once we became friends. Blood matters in Slytherin. Had she just come out and said she was a muggleborn, I’m not sure being friends with me would have helped her any.”
The light that seemed to constantly twinkle in Dumbledore’s eyes had been cast into sharp relief by the torch sitting upon his desk that Daphne assumed he had been using to aid him in reading. Nothing seemed to dance there now. The light seemed only to show her exactly how old the man really was now. Every line of his face looked as though it had been etched deeper into the flesh in the seconds that had passed and she noticed for the first time exactly how old his silvery hair made him look.
“It saddens me to hear such tales,” he said at last. “I have spent years since the downfall of Lord Voldemort wondering how best to mend the divide his tyranny caused within the school.” He grimaced. “I must admit that as of yet, I have been unable to come up with any ideas I view as satisfactory. Each and every time I hear of tales such as this, it reminds me that I must find time in my schedule to devote to such things.”
“So you understand why she was keeping it a secret, then?” Dumbledore nodded in a way so slowly and stiff that it looked as though every inch caused him unimaginable pain. “Well, someone must have figured it out. The Heir of Slytherin wants to rid the school of muggleborns — that’s what the old stories say, at least. If Tracey was attacked, it makes sense that the Heir figured out about her blood status.”
“And you think that because Harry spent so much time with her, he was in an ideal position to deduce such truths?”
“Yes, but there’s more than that. I’m not sure if you were told, but Harry was sent a package full of bubotuber pus.”
“I am aware of the incident, yes.”
“Well, Harry knew who it was right away. I confirmed it on my own later, but he knew from the beginning just by looking at him.” She let her words hang in the air, hoping that Dumbledore would pick up on their meaning.
He was looking at her now in a way more calculating than he had before. “An interesting observation,” he admitted. “Can I presume you believe that he used this same ability to deduce the truth about Miss Davis?” Daphne nodded. “I can understand why that may appear to you as though he might be in a position to strike,” said Dumbledore. “My contention with your theory is that, for however talented Harry may be, I do not believe any second-year student capable of casting magic powerful enough to achieve what the Heir of Slytherin has thus far accomplished.”
“Would it change your opinion if I told you that Potter has a power that hasn’t been seen in Britain for years?”
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. “And what power is this?”
“He’s a Parselmouth. Last night in the common room, he animated some of the snakes on a couch just by hissing at them. They obeyed his every command and he set them loose on a first year. Cadmus Yaxley was his name. I’m sure he’ll tell you if you question him yourself.”
“I do not doubt you, Miss Greengrass,” Dumbledore assured her. “I am unsurprised that Harry is a Parselmouth.”
“Magic is a funny thing. I have heard rumours of your own explorations of magic and suspect much about your mind; I am sure you have come to this realization about magic as well.” His expression hardened and just like that, Daphne no longer saw the old, wise man sitting behind the desk atop a tower at Hogwarts. She was looking at the general who had led a small army against the Dark Lord during the Purity War, a man who had duelled the most evil dark sorcerer in a thousand years to a standstill. “What took place the night Lord Voldemort attacked Harry was unlike anything we have ever seen. Dark magic of the sort that Voldemort used… it leaves a mark, whether it did its job or not.”
Daphne’s eyes widened. “You think the Dark Lord might have transmitted the ability to speak with snakes to Potter?”
“It is possible. I admit that I am unsure, but it is possible. The Potters are an old and mysterious family. It would not surprise me to learn that somewhere down the line, they have a lesser-known or perhaps even an altogether hidden link to Slytherin.”
“Sir… if the Dark Lord transmitted the ability to speak with snakes, is it possible he passed other things along to Potter as well?”
“If you are asking me whether or not the curse that touches Harry’s forehead that night made him liable to act more like Lord Voldemort, then my answer is no. Magic of that sort can do many things, but I do not believe that to be one of them. Harry is very much his own person and he makes his own decisions.”
“But him being able to speak with snakes and being a natural Legilimens, it is a little bit suspicious with everything going on, isn’t it?”
“It is certainly suspicious, yes. I would remind you, however, that many things seem suspicious when we are spending so much of our day jumping at shadows.” He smiled kindly towards her. “I will take what you have said to heart, Miss Greengrass. Rest assured that it will not go unconsidered, nor will it be ignored. I thank you very much for your courage in bringing this all to me and I will do with it as I see fit.” He glanced up at the clock on his wall. “Now, I do believe the hour draws late. If you have nothing else to share with me, I think it best if you return to your common room.”
Daphne was already on her feet and crossing the room with a blank expression upon her face. She had the strangest feeling that Dumbledore knew much more than he was letting on. What she was even more confident in was the fact that he wasn’t going to act. She would give him time to prove her wrong, but if he didn’t… she might have to intervene once more.
December 17, 1992
The Great Hall
The drone of voices in the Great Hall was so loud and constant that Harry could hardly decipher one from the other. It was like the sloppy beating of a thousand deep, booming drums. Bodies were clustered here and there. Harry had entered the hall under his invisibility cloak, but finding a spot to slip it off and into his bag without being noticed proved to be more difficult than he had expected.
It was the first time he had ever seen the hall so packed with people whilst a meal was not in session. Then again, it was a first on many fronts for never before had Hogwarts organized a club exclusively for duelling and defensive magic.
With the rising danger and tension around the school, Dumbledore had seen fit to authorize the creation of a duelling club to help students improve both their skills and their confidence. Professor Flitwick had taken the lead, seeing as he was a former European Champion as a duelist. He would have other professors assisting him in the endeavour, too. Who they were, Harry wasn’t sure. He hoped only that the Headmaster’s sadist of a brother was not amongst them.
He shook his head slowly as he faded into the crowd and tried to avoid getting buffeted around like an unnoticed pinball. He had felt off all day. It was entirely Grindelwald’s fault, as usual, for the memory he had shown Harry had hit him in a different sort of way.
The previous night…
We regret to inform you that Durmstrang has received correspondence from the magical authorities in relation to you and your situation outside of this school. It is my obligation to inform you that your father Johan was found dead in your family home last night. He appears to have died of completely natural causes whilst in his sleep.
On behalf of all here at Durmstrang, I offer my deepest and most sincere condolences and wish only the best for you moving forward.
Gellert stared blankly down at the sheet of parchment in his hands as though it was written in a foreign language. The words seemed to swing before his eyes and flicker in and out of his line of sight. It was like the parchment was enchanted to befuddle his mind or play some sort of sick and twisted trick on his eyes.
Yet the words were there. They were staring right back up at him and there was no way he could ignore them.
Grindelwald did not feel fear, or anger, or an overwhelming sensation of sadness as he stared down at the parchment. He thought he ought to, but he didn’t. He was sure that in time, it would come. He loved… had loved his father more than anyone else in the world. It had been he who had rescued him that day at the church. It had been he who had warned him of what was to come and taught him what it meant to be a wizard, and it was he who had cared for Gellert above anyone else he had ever met.
Yet Gellert felt none of those things as he stared down at the parchment in his hands.
He just felt blank and empty. The only odd feeling was the sensation in the pit of his stomach. It was not painful, nor was it even uncomfortable. It was just… strange. It was like a piece of something had been there and had suddenly disappeared; like he was all of a sudden one piece short from completing a puzzle he had been at for hours.
Other than that… he felt nothing until that very revelation caused a feeling he was much more familiar with to rise up within him.
Fear… Gellert feared, but not because his father was dead. He did not fear what he would do going forward. He did not fear what would happen to him, nor did he fear for his father now that he was beyond the grave.
Gellert feared for none of these things — what scared him was that he knew he should be feeling more.
It scared him that he wasn’t and he remembered without difficulty the way some of the other students whispered in the halls as he passed by with his cloak billowing behind him. The way the younger students cast furtive glances his way and the way some of the older ones paled any time he drew near.
He had realized a long time ago that it was because they feared him. He knew he was better and more talented, but he had scoffed at the notion of fearing a fellow student then.
But now… maybe they were right to be so wary of him? Maybe it wasn’t his magic or his might they feared, but instead, the man who commanded it. If he couldn’t even feel for his dead father… what did that mean for him? What did that make him?
The letter was smoking in his hands and before he knew it, it had been set ablaze and curled into ashes on his lap. He had not remembered setting it on fire, but he needed to stop looking at it. It was making dangerous thoughts race through his mind and his heart pump much too fast. If it had been allowed to continue, he might well have gone the same way as his father.
Back in the present…
Harry only managed to cease reminiscing when he noticed that the general chatter in the hall had briefly risen before dying down altogether. He was grateful for how highly elevated the stage was at the front of the hall. If not for the fact, he would have been unable to see it whilst trying to look around many taller students who stood stubbornly in his way and seemed as immovable as ancient mountains.
Three men were making their way on stage. One was much shorter than the others, adorned in thin-looking robes of a deep blue. They somehow seemed to flow with every step he took, and Harry could not help but wonder if they were enchanted to allow for a greater range of motion. Snape was dressed the same as always; his black robes billowing behind him as he marched behind Flitwick with a scowl. Harry’s blood boiled at the sight of the third. Aberforth Dumbledore was dressed in grey to match much of his hair, though his eyes were every bit as piercing as his brother’s.
“Gather round, everyone, gather round!” It was the most excited Harry had ever heard Flitwick, and that was saying a great deal. Harry suspected that the Headmaster may not have been the one to initially propose the idea, after all. “Welcome to the first meeting of the newly-formed Hogwarts Duelling Club! Now, the goal of these meetings will be to hone your skills with combat magic. Given the… current troubles, Headmaster Dumbledore and I thought this was the perfect time to revive a long-gone tradition of the school.” He stepped aside and allowed his companions to move forward. “Professors Snape and Dumbledore will be assisting me in the running of this club. Both of them are exceptionally talented duellists in their own right.”
Harry could picture Flitwick duelling professionally just fine. Darting in and out, deflecting spells, and returning fire. Snape… Harry had a feeling the man fought with a very different style. One that was likely much more frowned upon than that of their Charms Professor. As for Aberforth… he had no idea.
Flitwick had them pair up and practice the Disarming Charm — Expelliarmus. It was one Harry had known for ages. He ended up paired with Lillian Moon, which was a touch awkward after what had happened with Daphne. He shot a glance in the blonde’s direction as Lillian scrambled to fetch her wand. She was not looking back at him and if she felt his stare upon her, she gave no indication.
Most in the hall had no troubles with the Disarming Charm, but some of the younger years’ groups had descended into chaos once it had become apparent they couldn’t perform the spell in question. Granger had found herself in some sort of headlock courtesy of Millicent Bulstrode, and Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy looked as though they might consider dropping their wands and deciding their duel the muggle way.
Given the chaos, it was wise of Flitwick to try and teach them the most basic shield charm — Aegis Vocar — which led to considerably less chaos. He ran the entire club well and except for the early tussles, it ran smoothly right up until the point he decided to allow them to test themselves against one another in live duels.
Lillian was shuffling before Harry, clearly very nervous for the duel to begin. Harry remembered what Aberforth had said during their last detention whilst goading him. About how Daphne might have thought him the Heir of Slytherin. If it was true, had she told her friends? Was Lillian worried he might petrify her if the duel didn’t go his way? Or was she worried that Harry had powers the rest of them couldn’t dream of and he planned on obliterating her right there in the centre of the Great Hall.
“Potter!” The voice lashed at him like a whip. Harry turned with a scowl, for he recognized the voice. “I’ve seen what you’re capable of,” Aberforth said with a stern expression. “The point is to test yourself. Over here with Weasley.”
Harry thought for a moment that he meant Ron but quickly realized that was not the case. He was directed not towards the tall, gangly redhead whom he had beaten to the snitch, but one of the broader fourth years who had flown around the pitch that day whilst wielding beater’s bats.
Harry’s heart began to quicken. The only student the twins’ age or older he had duelled was Cassie. Those duels had never gone favourably for him, but she was supposedly a prodigy when it came to combat magic. The twins though… they were devilishly clever, the both of them. They had also been malicious bastards ever since Halloween, but particularly since Colin Creevey had gone missing and Slytherin had bested them on the Quidditch pitch. It said a lot about their antics that — until Dobby had appeared before him in the hospital wing — Harry had seriously considered the Weasley twins as the culprits behind the cursed bludger that had landed him a night’s stay with Madam Pomfrey.
Harry wasn’t sure which of the twins he was looking at, but it hardly mattered. The boy was leering down at him with a dangerous look in his eye. A shiver ran up Harry’s spine, but he fought down the urge to shudder. He wouldn’t give the bastard the satisfaction. He had seen what the twins had done to normal Slytherins — he hardly wanted to imagine what this one was about to try and do to the one who some suspected of being the Heir of Slytherin.
“When you hear the gong,” said Flitwick, “the duels will begin. Remember, nothing that can lead to any injuries, please. Now, get ready!”
Harry tensed and prepared to spring to the side. He could see the twin leaning forward and he was sure the boy would rush him.
The older boy lunged forward and Harry dove out of the way. Three spells sailed through the space his head had been a moment earlier and Harry was all of a sudden very grateful for the time Cassie had spent teaching him how to learn an opponent’s body language. High-level duellists would usually either show nothing at all or potentially even mislead their opponent, but it was clear that for however clever the twin in front of him was, he wasn’t necessarily experienced as a duellist.
Not that the fact was helping Harry much. His casting was swift and his intent was brutal. Cutting Curses, Bludgeoning Curses, Banishing Hexes, and a number of spells Harry didn’t recognize were among the boy’s favourites. His casting was rapid and he was so offensive that Harry was struggling to find a pause in his casting to fire back with an offence of his own. He was constantly on the back foot and all the dodging and shielding was more fatiguing by the second.
That was when he realized a third option. Harry dodged two jets of purple light and recognized the twin’s next spell as a Stunner. He brought up his wand and batted the spell back towards him. The twin shielded, but Harry fired off three Bludgeoning Curses in quick succession. They slammed into the boy’s shield one after another and it sparked out. Harry’s next three spells were a Disarming Charm, a Cutting Curse, and a Stunner, but none of them found their mark.
The boy dove to the side, but Harry had anticipated it. Weasley knew more spells than him and was more physically fit, but Harry knew what to watch for and he didn’t. It was the second time it had cost the older boy, and Harry hoped it would be the last.
The spell caught the boy in mid-dive and he was sent sailing through the air in a fashion similar to how Harry had managed to beat Cadmus Yaxley last week in the Slytherin common room. The difference was that Harry’s opponent tonight was clever enough to hit the ground rolling and avoid having the wind knocked out of him. Harry mentally cursed. With all of the ill-thought decisions the Weasley twins made, it was perfectly in character for both of them to know how to take impact as well as professional stunt doubles in the muggle world.
Harry’s wand had not been idle and he was sending another volley of spells soaring towards his opponent. The boy’s expression had changed now. He was no longer looking like a cat who had cornered a mouse. He now had the look of a predator who had been taken off guard and backed into a corner. Harry knew how bad it would hurt the boy’s pride to lose to a second year and he wanted nothing more than to win.
Yet he knew the second he saw a gleam of mischief dance into his opponent’s eye that something was wrong. He prepared to shield or deflect, but the incantation the boy shouted was not one he recognized.
The snake that seemed to leap from the tip of the boy’s wand had to be nearly ten feet long. Its skin was a dark green that resembled fallen leaves, but its scales seemed to gleam more sinisterly in the torchlight of the hall than any bit of foliage could ever achieve.
It was spitting and hissing as it slithered towards Harry, but the boy was frozen. There was nothing he could think of to counter this. He could throw a Cutting Curse towards the snake, but he doubted it would be strong enough to do a great deal of damage and it would probably do nothing but set the creature even more on edge than it already was. He had no doubt the Lacero Curse would cut it cleanly in half, but that wasn’t exactly a spell he wanted to use in public.
He glanced up towards Weasley and saw the shit-eating grin the boy was wearing. Anger seethed in Harry’s stomach at the sight of it and he suddenly realized through some sort of strange instinct what the boy was hoping for. If Harry really was the Heir of Slytherin, he would be able to call the snake off with little more than a hiss. That was undoubtedly why he hadn’t tried to disarm him whilst he was distracted. If he did, the duel would end and the snake would be dispatched before Harry could reveal himself.
It was a master stroke, Harry would grant the bastard that, but he wasn’t going to play into the boy’s scheme. He would let the snake bite him before he allowed the entire school to turn against him.
Snape’s voice sliced through the tense atmosphere of their duel like a knife through dripping hot butter. The snake vanished as soon as the man had uttered his final syllable and Harry did not fail to notice the scowl that crossed Weasley’s face as his plan was foiled.
Harry’s wand snapped up to continue the duel; now he was furious and even more desperate to win, but Snape wasn’t finished.
“Enough, both of you!” Harry lowered his wand with great reluctance only when he saw Weasley do the same. Only then did he realize that the entire hall was quiet. They had been the final two combatants and everyone had been watching them with rapt attention. “Weasley,” Snape spat, “what exactly did you think you were doing when you conjured a snake that was very clearly poisonous? What part of trying not to inflict a serious injury did you fail to understand? I thought the instructions were quite clear, but do we need to be sharper in our instructions going forward? Maybe then, they might have a chance of penetrating that thick head of yours.”
The boy stared back at Snape completely unabashed and Harry took the opportunity to fade back into the crowd, though his eyes never left the boy who had for all intents and purposes bested him. If the Weasley twins were out to prove that he was the Heir of Slytherin, he was going to need to tread even more carefully going forward.
December 18, 1992
The Headmaster’s Office
“I believe that will do for tonight.” Dumbledore’s statement was like music to Harry’s ears. They had been at it for nearly two hours, though he knew great progress had been made. “Congratulations, Harry,” said Dumbledore. “I do believe you have progressed through this stage in the development of your psychic defences.”
Harry could not help but smile. “Thank you, sir. I really do appreciate all the time you’ve spent helping me.”
“There is no need for thanks, dear boy. It is a pleasure to watch one with your talent improve. How have your studies in Transfiguration progressed?”
Harry had come to Dumbledore seeking advice in Transfiguration once he had seen exactly how quickly Grindelwald had been moving through the Durmstrang material. The man had been an invaluable aid in his own progression. He had been well behind where Grindelwald had been at the same age, but the gap between them at the same point in their education was closing drastically. Harry was even confident he could edge ahead of the former dark lord by the end of the school year if he kept at it.
“They’ve been going really well, sir. Your help has made a massive difference and has really helped me improve.”
“I am glad to hear it. I do so love teaching. I am quite fond of these sessions for that reason and I am more than happy to instruct in other things as well.”
“I might ask you about something with Charms and Runes after the break if you don’t mind.”
The man’s eyes twinkled. “Runes, you say? An ambitious goal for one who is not eligible to begin classes on the subject until September.”
Harry shrugged. “I’ve heard they’re really useful.” He had done more than hear. Runes had been how Daphne verified Harry’s suspicions about Travers being the one to send him the envelope full of bubotuber pus.
“They are one of the foundational branches of magic and their usefulness cannot be overstated,” Dumbledore agreed. “Do not mistake my surprise for disappointment, Harry. It brings me great joy to see you taking an interest. Your ambition is just unusual for one your age.”
“Most people my age didn’t see what I saw at the end of last year, sir.”
Dumbledore sighed. “No, fortunately, they do not.”
“Sir, can I ask you something that I probably shouldn’t?”
Dumbledore’s lips twitched. “I may elect not to answer, but you may ask.”
“I heard a rumour that there was another attack today. Somebody said something about a ghost being petrified, but a bunch of others said that wasn’t possible. Were they true?”
Dumbledore sighed very deeply as he rubbed at his eyes. “I am afraid they are very much true, yes.”
“How is it possible, sir? For a ghost to be petrified, I mean?”
“I must confess to you that I have no idea. There can be no physical interaction with beings beyond the veil, so the weapons that can be used against them are quite limited. Of the few I know of, none would match the effects this Heir of Slytherin has achieved.”
“Do you have any idea who the Heir might be, sir?”
Dumbledore did not so much as blink as he stared straight ahead. Harry had the impression that the man was not puzzled by the question, but that he was deciding exactly how much he wanted to reveal in his answer.
“I have a common theme that I am looking for in my investigation,” was what he eventually decided upon in place of an answer. “I am quite certain I know who opened the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago, so it gives me somewhere to start.”
“Half the school thinks it’s me.” Harry wasn’t sure what made him say it, but he supposed it was probably the weeks of pent up frustration over the whole thing and the stress he had been under for almost the entire year.
“You are an interesting case,” said Dumbledore.
Harry’s heart fluttered. “What do you mean by that, sir?”
“You are a person who is very easy to suspect in many ways. I can understand exactly why so many people are suspicious of you.” He raised a hand just as Harry opened his mouth to speak. “Please don’t mistake my meaning, Harry. I do not believe you are in any way responsible for any of what has happened this past year. I simply understand where the others’ suspicion stems from.”
“I don’t,” said Harry. “I sort of understand Colin, since people think I had a motive, but Tracey? She was one of the only friends I have. Why would I attack her?”
“To throw the masses off of your trail, perhaps, or else because you learned some sort of secret or had been masquerading as the girl’s friend all along.” Dumbledore smiled thinly at the thunderstruck expression Harry knew he must be wearing. “What you must understand about people, Harry, is that they will believe exactly what it is they want to believe. Once an idea blossoms in a human being’s mind, most of us have a very nasty habit of framing everything we see in the context of that idea. Really, we would be much better off to try and frame that idea with everything it is we see, but alas, we are creature’s composed of many biases and desires. Chief amongst the latter is the urge to be correct.”
“But it’s stupid,” said Harry. “How could I be the Heir of Slytherin?”
Dumbledore watched him very closely. “Some people believe that on the night Lord Voldemort attacked you, the horrid curse that touched you did much more than rebound upon its caster.”
“Do they think it changed me or something? That sounds like utter rubbish.”
“It is, but utter rubbish, as you call it, is often rooted in some form of logic or truth.” Dumbledore leant forward. “Tell me, Harry, can you by any chance speak to snakes?”
Harry’s throat seemed to constrict in unison with his heart. It was like the muscles in his chest had coiled around his heart, which had risen to the challenge and was now beating so fiercely it was like it thought it could force its way through the walls of flesh and muscle.
Telling Dumbledore this secret was dangerous. It implicated him as the Heir of Slytherin and might change the man’s opinion in regards to his guilt. There was also the past to consider. Harry had trusted Draco with a great many things and the boy had betrayed him. Daphne had been no better.
Dumbledore though… he was known as the greatest wizard alive. Could men like him fall victim to such folly? Was it likely he would betray Harry if he knew such a damning secret? Thus far, Dumbledore had been one of the most positive influences Harry had ever known, but there had been a time when he’d thought the same thing about Draco…
But there was more to consider here. It was… an oddly specific question. It was like Dumbledore already knew. It was as though he wanted to confirm or else test him. But how? How could Dumbledore know that he was a Parselmouth?
Unless one of his housemates had snitched? Perhaps one of them had come forth and spilled the story of him speaking Parseltongue in the common room. If that was true, he thought he knew which one, and it meant that Aberforth’s jab about Daphne suspecting him had been more true than the man had known.
Harry met Dumbledore’s stare head on as he answered the man’s question. “Yes, sir. I can.”
“May I ask when you became aware of the ability?”
“I… think I might have spoken to snakes in the garden when I was little, but the first time I really remember noticing something was weird was when I talked with a snake at the London zoo.” He averted his eyes. “I also made the glass disappear.”
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “A most excellent piece of accidental magic, if I do say so myself.” His expression became more serious. “Have you ever thought about why, Harry? Why it is you can speak with snakes when the Potter family has no known connection to Slytherin — who all Parselmouths in Britain are said to descend from?”
“The thought’s crossed my mind,” he admitted.
“It is my belief that you can speak to snakes because Lord Voldemort can speak to them,” said Dumbledore. The fingers of his left hand drummed atop his desk as he used his right hand to stroke his long silver beard. “The curse Lord Voldemort used against you is unique in many ways. Its effects run deeper than the skin and touch the very soul. Very few spells can do this and it makes the ones that can both mysterious and unique. Nobody has survived that curse before you, so I am guessing here, but I do believe that the spell forged a connection between yourself and Lord Voldemort. A connection that may run deeper than any connection two witches or wizards have ever shared before.”
“So you think the spell let me speak to snakes because he can?”
“I think it is a great deal more complicated than that, but that is a simple and succinct way of saying it, yes.”
Harry ran a hand through his hair as he cast his eyes about the room, trying to decide how to ask his next question. “Sir… is there anything else I should know about that night? Anything else the spell did that should worry me? Voldemort didn’t imprint on me or anything, did he? The spell isn’t going to make me more like him, is it?”
There was desperation in his voice as Harry remembered the nothingness Grindelwald had felt at the loss of his father and how eerily similar it was to how Harry felt about his own parents.
“Come… come to me… let me rip you… let me tear you… let me kill you…”
A shudder ran up his spine as he remembered the voice inside his head the first night he had spent in Aberforth’s office? Could the voice be some form of Voldemort lurking inside of him? Could this explain the coldness he had felt as of late? The way he had snapped with Yaxley and why he was sympathizing so deeply with Grindelwald.
Dumbledore met his gaze with the same intensity Harry had when revealing his Parseltongue ability. “No, Harry. There is nothing else about that night that needs to concern you. You have my word.”
Later that night, somewhere in Albania…
A soft and bitter breeze sent dry leaves hissing across the yellowing grass as it swept across the lands, bringing with it the biting chill of winter. Several crows rose into the air and squawked as though the wind had disturbed them. Their protests echoed across the otherwise quiet land, but they eventually lowered in the sky and rested back in their perches high in the vast number of trees at the edge of a great, open clearing.
Until a loud and sudden crack tore through the silence and sent them scattering. Their squawks were louder and more indignant this time, but they died in the wind as every last one of them fled, scared off by the sudden and unexplained noise.
The man beneath a black travelling cloak watched the crows leave before making sure the Disillusionment Charm he’d cast upon himself before the final jump of apparition needed to take him here was still active. It had wavered slightly, but it was still in place. He made sure it was at full strength before he cast his gaze around.
He stood at the edge of a vast clearing. There was virtually nothing on his left or right and he knew that there was a great deal of empty land behind him. Before him, however, stood a great forest. Trees taller than buildings stood close enough to one another that their branches were tangled so tightly it appeared as though they were tied in great knots. The foliage was so thick that even here, on the edge of the forest, the man beneath the cloak could hardly see ten feet into the great mass of trees.
It did not deter him as he stepped forward and slipped into the vast cluster of trees. He had known all too well when he had departed for this place that he would have his work cut out for him. Men like him did not fear the dark nor the unknown, so he wasn’t going to let the potential of getting lost or trapped dissuade him from his purpose.
Props to those who can figure out what is going on with that last scene. I don’t think it’s overly complicated, but I’m sure some will miss it.
Next chapter will take them all up to the end of the winter break and will end with quite a bang.
Please read and review.
PS: The next password will be released next Tuesday for all Discord members. The next SEVEN CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW FOR ANYONE WHO SIGNS UP TO MY PATREON PAGE! Patrons will get the rest of book 2 this week!
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