Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Year 2: The Erosion of Innocence
Chapter 23: The Rallying of Forces
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Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 2: The Erosion of Innocence
Chapter 23: The Rallying of Forces
March 22, 1993
The Hospital Wing
Harry seemed to glide as he moved down the hall, his feet not making so much as a sound. It was late and the halls were void of bodies and noise. The torches still flickered in their brackets hung upon the walls, but they seemed dimmer somehow. Almost like the thicker than usual darkness of this place was swallowing as much of their blazing light as it could.
Harry rounded the next corridor and froze in mid stride. Red writing was splattered on the wall and the corridor smelled unmistakably of blood. Its coppery scent hung so thickly in the air that Harry almost gagged. It was hard to breathe through it. Its smell filled his nostrils as its taste inexplicably invaded his mouth and its thin, sticky texture seemed to run down his throat.
Then he noticed the bodies on the floor and looked down. Diana and Cassie stood out most. Their blonde hair was the brightest thing in the corridor, despite the skin of each fallen victim having grown as pale as the full moon. Cassius was there, with his throat torn open and the same substance that splattered the wall having run down his body like a thick layer of sweat before soaking through his robes and staining them with its mark. Pansy and Theodore laid there, still and unmoving. If not for the unnatural pallor of their skin, they could have passed for two people in a deep and peaceful sleep.
After what felt like a stunned age alone in silence, a sound reached Harry’s ears. It echoed loudly through the corridors of Hogwarts as it drew nearer. By the time Harry recognized it, its source was upon him.
It was Draco. His skin too was as pale as the victims on the floor, but his eyes were different. Their normal grey had been replaced by an unearthly scarlet that gleamed in the low light of the hall. It had invaded his iris as well as his pupil — there was no telling where one ended and the other began.
“Draco? What… what’s happening here?”
More bodies appeared around them then. Harry recognized all of them. The mangled guards from Nurmengard with their twisted necks, spines that pierced their skin like the handle of a child’s lollipop sticking out from it’s wrapper; even the inverted head on the third, with his spine protruding up through his skin and stuck straight through his jaw like an embedded arrow shaft.
They were not the most gruesome sight. The boy from Grindelwald’s final vision was there. He must have clawed his very skin away trying to suppress the pain wrought by what Grindelwald had done, for pale bits of bone showed all about his skull. The little skin that remained was peeling away like aged and weathered paint subjected to a harsh torrent of rain.
Yet the most horrific and tauntingly familiar body was the smallest of all. Wylla Nurmen lay there in the corridor with her horribly punctured body and the shattered remains of her skull. The part of the corridor she laid upon was not made up of stone, but pale, shimmering snow that was beginning to darken as her blood stained it a dark and vivid red.
It was all too much.
Harry fell to his knees and screamed. He screamed like he had never screamed before as he pressed his fingers against his temples and wished for it to end. Let him take one of their places if it meant this misery would be over. Let it be finished for good.
“Harry! Harry, it’s okay. You’re okay.”
The corridor was gone, but he was still screaming. Why was he screaming? Everything ached or stung like it never had before, but the pain was not so unbearable that he needed to scream loudly enough that he had surely woken half the castle. What had happened?
Then the dream began to come back to him and he shuddered violently as if bent against the strong and bitter winter wind outside of Gellert’s house. The room he was in felt stiflingly warm, but a cold sort of sweat clung to him in spite of that fact. The pale sheets that cocooned him in warmth were twisted all about him like a child’s swaddling clothes; he must have been thrashing around horribly in the midst of his nightmare.
Which begged the question — where was he now?
Pale sheets, pale ceilings, pale walls, and a feminine voice that had woken him. It was certainly not the Slytherin common room, but he began to suspect something else.
“Hospital wing,” he muttered. “Something about statues and explosions.”
“Harry, are you okay? You woke up screaming.”
He let his eyes follow the source of the voice and shivered more violently still. It was Diana. Her hair was every bit as bright as it had been in the dream, but her skin was flushed with the natural sheen of life and did not resemble a marble statue. Cassie was there, too. Both girls sat side by side. The first voice — the one that had jolted him — had been Cassie’s, Harry realized.
“I’m… fine. Just… delayed reaction, I guess.”
“Delayed is one word for it.” There was a certain edge to Cassie’s words that Harry had never heard there before. It made him frown as he glanced about the room.
“What time is it?”
“Almost 4:00 in the morning,” answered Diana.
“So I’ve been out… what? Six hours?”
The two girls exchanged glances. “Harry, you’ve been out for a day and a half. We’re surprised to see you awake so soon.”
His eyes bulged. “A day and a half?” Both girls nodded as Harry tried and failed to free himself from the sheets. Just them moving against his skin caused unimaginable pain. It was like somebody had scraped him with a razor the day after he’d received the world’s most painful sunburn. He grit his teeth against it and let himself fall back against the soft mattress underneath him.
“Don’t try and move too much,” said Diana, standing to help gently untangle the sheets from Harry. It hurt like hell, but much less with her aid.
“What happened?” Harry asked once she had finished. “Why does…” his voice trailed off when he caught sight of his right arm. The skin was raw and tinged pink all over. He wanted to look away, but couldn’t. There was a certain sick fascination about it.
“Somebody set up a trap for you,” Cassie explained. “On the way back from our last practice, you walked into a trapped corridor. There was a message on the wall kind of like what the person behind the petrifications seems to do. I’m guessing the suit of armour exploded when you were nearby because I heard something go off and rushed ahead but by the time I got there, it was in pieces and you… were in a bad state.”
Harry winced. “How bad is ‘bad’, exactly?”
“There were shards of the armour embedded in your skin,” Cassie went on with a grimace. “Your torso looked like a pin cushion.”
“Lovely, is that why it hurts to move?”
“No,” said Diana, “Madam Pomfrey fixed that pretty quickly. It’s the burns that were the problem.”
“You were caught in the explosion,” said Cassie. “Whoever rigged the suit of armour either wants you dead or underestimated the blast radius. You were on fire when I came into the corridor.” Harry saw a slight tremor in the girl’s shoulders and her voice wavered, if only for a second. “It was all I could do to put you out and get you to the hospital wing as fast as I could.”
Harry spared her a slight smile. Perhaps she would not betray him. If she had the desire to, surely she would have let him die in that corridor, for it sounded like that was what would have happened had she not intervened.
“Thanks, Cassie,” he said with a blush, looking away and swiftly clearing his mind of all memories of being forced to say those words for far less genuine things. “You probably saved my life in that corridor.”
She spared him a thin and tired smile.
“You should sleep,” said Diana. “I know you’ve been out for a while, but I don’t think it was restful and you’ll need your strength. You’re not recovered yet, as I’m sure you can tell.”
Harry grimaced but did not argue as the two girls quietly filed out of the room, Diana removing the Silencing Charms she had placed around Harry’s bed as they did so.
What a mess. Now he not only had to deal with everything, but he ought to find out who had tried to kill him and why.
Later that day…
Harry wasn’t sure what he had expected to feel after someone had done their best to murder him. Anger, perhaps? Overwhelming rage that would set him on a warpath? Fear, maybe? It would be logical to be wary of more attempts in the future.
He felt none of those things, which struck him as odd. Even more so because the only thing he felt was an overwhelming sensation of nothing.
It was like he was numb to it all. Perhaps he was lost to shock, or perhaps years of horrendous treatment at the hands of the Dursleys had prepared him for this. Maybe he was not as suprised as he ought to have been that someone had tried to murder him whilst at school.
Not that he didn’t care. He most certainly did and his top priority at the moment was piecing together exactly who had been behind the attack.
It hadn’t been the alleged Heir of Slytherin. Harry was relatively sure of that, at least. This was too different from their style and Harry had not forgotten the way the writing on the wall had shimmered with the crimson light of the Gryffindor crest. The Heir of Slytherin was prideful, if they were indeed the Heir of Slytherin at all. They took credit for their work and would not have hidden behind something that implicated anyone but them.
Yet if it was a Gryffindor, Harry was having trouble coming up with who could be behind it. The Weasley twins were the obvious candidates, but would they really try and kill him? Their antics had become more and more troubling in the subsequent weeks and months, but never had they tried anything like this. They were malicious bastards, sure, but murderous ones? They had never struck Harry as psychopaths, but he supposed he didn’t know them.
His bets currently rested on one of the upper-year Slytherins — and wasn’t that a fun thought? The knowledge that someone who shared a common room with him each and every night may have tried to kill him was not one that put Harry’s mind at ease. Yet it made sense. None had dared to oppose him after his Parseltongue ability had been revealed, but striking from the shadows… it made sense. It was probably what Harry would have done if he had been so inclined to attack himself in their spot.
It was all a complete and total mess.
Harry heard someone clear their throat from nearby and looked up. It was Madam Pomfrey and for a moment, Harry dreaded she would look over him again. She had already done that four times today and he was not so eager for the fifth.
“You have a visitor who would like to see you,” she said instead. “I don’t like it, but he’s an important man who’s come a long way, so I’ll allow it if you’d like for me to let him in.”
“Who is it?” Harry asked, thrown by her phrasing.
Lord Malfoy had come to Hogwarts? It was almost an inconceivable fact, but he remembered suddenly that the man was the Head of the Hogwarts Board of Governors.
Harry’s heartbeat quickened.
“The Malfoys might view you as a tool, but that doesn’t mean all of us do.”
Could he trust Lord Malfoy? He was the one who Harry had the most doubts about. The man had seemed a saint to him once and had always treated Harry like royalty, but had Daphne been onto something before she had betrayed him? Was it all for his own game and only so Harry could be used as a pawn in the man’s machinations?
“I’ll see him,” Harry decided. Whether he was being used or not, Lord Malfoy had always been generous. Perhaps he would be again. Harry could take advantage of the man’s generosity without buying blindly into everything he said.
That… was actually quite the revelation. Harry from the start of the year would never have had that thought, but now? It seemed so glaringly obvious. He didn’t need to cut all ties with the Malfoy family or to be the best of friends with them. There was a middle ground that could be of great benefit without leading him too far astray.
Madam Pomfrey had disappeared, but Lord Malfoy was sweeping into the room now. His blonde hair was immaculate as ever, as were his dark green robes.
“It’s good to see you again,” said Lord Malfoy, taking a seat next to Harry’s bed. “I do wish we were meeting under more… favourable circumstances for you.”
“Thank you, sir, and it’s good to see you again, too.”
“Can you explain to me what happened?”
The man sat attentively as Harry explained everything Cassie had relayed to him.
“I think it might be one of the upper-year Slytherins,” said Harry. This much, at least, he trusted with Draco’s father. There was no reason the man wouldn’t give him am honest read. If he wanted to use him, he needed Harry alive.
“You think one of your own housemates did this?”
“I don’t see who else could have. They’ve been making my life hell for most of the year and I don’t know any Gryffindor who would have done this.”
Lord Malfoy’s eyes darkened. “Do not underestimate the lions’ penitent for maliciousness. Sirius Black was a Gryffindor and there were many atrocities on Dumbledore’s side of the last war as well. I think you will find that Gryffindors are perfectly willing to put the morals they are so very proud of aside if it’s to further a cause they themselves believe in.” He was smiling, but there was no warmth to his smile. Just an edge so sharp it could cut through steel. “Funny how that works out, isn’t it?”
“So you think it really was a Gryffindor?”
“I haven’t the foggiest idea. I am much too removed from the castle and its dynamics. What I will say is that you should never dismiss a suspect because of virtues you believe them to hold. Your parents did that and it cost them dearly.”
Harry felt his heart skip a beat. “My parents?” he asked. “What about them?”
“Oh, dear,” Lucius muttered, twirling a lock of hair. “Another time,” he decided, “you have quite enough on your plate right now. This summer, I will tell you the story. It is not a pleasant one.”
Harry wanted to argue. He had to wait to know why Voldemort killed his parents, he had to wait until he would be able to force the connection between him and Voldemort closed, and now he had to wait to learn of what his parents had done. It was maddening and he was sick of waiting, but he held his tongue with great difficulty.
“I do have some good news for you pertaining to the summer holidays,” said Lucius. Harry waited, watching Lucius with wide and curious eyes. “Do you remember the conversation we had about your poor treatment and unacceptable living arrangement?”
Harry swore his heart stopped beating for a full two seconds. He opened his mouth and tried to speak, but it was to no avail. Something seemed to be obstructing his airways, so he simply chose to nod.
“I have begun making headway on remedying that problem. My political influence was quite tied up forcing amendments to Weasleys’ damnable Muggle Protection Act, but now that that is done I will be focusing my full attention on shifting your guardianship off of those filthy creatures who you have been forced to live with.”
Harry’s heart went from not beating at all to pounding so hard he thought it might explode. It was quite the jarring shift and suddenly, the room seemed to spin all around him.
“It’s… actually going to happen?” he asked quietly.
He almost leapt up from the bed when Lord Malfoy startled him with a hand on his shoulder. “There are many things that can be said about the Malfoy family,” said Lucius, “but we always keep our word.”
April 2, 1993
The Entrance Hall
The Easter holidays had arrived and never had Harry seen so many people leaving the castle for the occasion. Not that he could blame them. He would have joined that if he could, but for now, the Dursleys still presided as his official legal guardians. And wasn’t that just the most pathetic thing in the world? He could take them all apart in minutes if he so chose. Grindelwald had been right about one thing. Wizards allowed the muggles to lord over them in many ways, and it made no sense. It infuriated Harry and the talk with Draco’s father had brought all those emotions to the surface once more.
There had been no new attacks since Blaise Zabini had gone missing, but Harry suspected a large portion of the departing students wished to flee from the alleged Heir of Slytherin and the chaos they had brought down upon the school. Everything had kicked up a notch the night Professor McGonagall had gone missing and it had not gone back down since.
The one positive thing to come out of it all was that Dumbledore had been teaching Transfiguration for more than two months now. McGonagall was an excellent teacher, but Dumbledore had a way about it and pushed Harry in ways McGonagall never had. When he saw that Harry could complete a task without issue, he would give him something different and more challenging to do. Harry could also ask him questions about the subject both in class and in his office each Friday evening. That was something he had begun doing more often; asking Dumbledore about Transfiguration and about magic in general. The Headmaster had been a great help in all areas, but Harry’s rapid progression in Transfiguration had been nothing short of astonishing.
Diana and Cassie were leaving for home once again, as were Pansy and Theodore. The only friend Harry would have left at the castle was Cassius, but he didn’t mind. The air outside had begun to grow less frigid with the coming of spring and the snow had thinned so much that by now, it was almost gone. Harry and Cassius intended to spend more time flying this break than they had in months, discounting Quidditch, and Harry was greatly looking forward to it.
One person he did not see leaving the castle was Draco. He wished his friends a happy Easter and then turned on his heel. Harry had not watched him go, but he suspected Draco had returned to his dormitory to brood. Harry still didn’t understand why Diana returned home each break whilst Draco remained at Hogwarts. It was very unlike what he had seen from Lucius Malfoy to treat either of his children like anything short of royalty.
Harry and Cassius began moving away from the castle’s main doors once their friends had left. “Look on the bright side,” said Cassius, “a lot of the dickheads in red who have been giving you a hard time are gone for a week.”
Harry’s expression was somewhere between a smirk and a grimace. “There’s that, at least. Honestly, if I could just get—”
“Harry, watch out!”
Harry dove to the side on instinct alone and he heard Cassius follow. Something rained down from above and splattered against the hard stone floor where Harry had been standing a moment earlier.
He rolled to the side and leapt to his feet, wand in hand. The floor was covered in a horrible green substance with a consistency that somewhat resembled sick. It hissed and seemed to writhe on the floor. No one was around, but this strike was clear. None in the castle other than the Weasley twins would rig something like this. What that green something would have done had it covered Harry, he did not wish to know.
He glanced towards where the voice had come from and came up short. Draco was standing in an alcove, watching Harry with an odd look in his eyes that the raven-haired youth could not place. Draco must have been watching them from the shadows. It was an odd thought, but not nearly as odd as his former friend saving him from impending disaster.
The two of them stared at each other for a long and awkward moment while Cassius continued to scan the corridor for any sign of the twins.
“Uh… thanks,” Harry said after a minute, not quite knowing what to say.
Draco nodded. “We’re even,” he said. “You spared me from a disaster on Yule. I didn’t forget.” He waited for Harry to say something, but the boy himself kept quiet. Harry thought he saw a strangely sad look appear in Draco’s eyes after a minute, but it was hard to say. “Have a happy Easter, Harry,” the blonde said before turning on his heel and striding away from them down the corridor.
Harry watched him go with warring emotions and a blank expression.
April 11, 1993
He had grown stronger in the months since he had regained some semblance of a body. He still sat upon his hostess’s lap, but he no longer fell back into her and hadn’t the need for constant support any longer. He was now able to lean forward and survey the few followers that remained to him here with the woman maintaining only a soft hold on him to ensure he did not fall.
They sat at the head of the table, with the four chairs nearest them occupied by men in dark robes. There were two of them on each side of the table sitting across from one another. On his left sat Lucius with his blonde hair gleaming in the light of the lantern that sat just in front of him. Beside him sat Tiberius, who was aimlessly twirling his wand whilst he waited for the meeting to begin. The man’s eyes never left him even as he did so. Tiberius was one of the only ones who looked at him now. Him and the man across from Lucius were the only two not so repulsed that they looked away. Harry could not blame them. He had become a disgusting excuse of a creature. That would cease being true in due time.
Across from Lucius sat Regulus. His gaze was on him as always and it was unblinking. Harry thought Regulus may well be his most valuable follower as of now. He was nearly as loyal as Bellatrix, commanded the influence held by his family, and was one of the foremost experts on archaic magic alive. His knowledge could not compare to Harry’s or that of the old fool, but the only other he knew with knowledge to rival him had turned traitor more than eleven years ago. His time would come.
Perhaps it would come at the hands of the fourth man if Harry himself did not choose to do the deed. Corban Yaxley had always been an outstanding duellist. Whether or not he could beat the traitor in open combat remained to be seen, but if any of his followers could, it would be him, Bellatrix, or Dolohov. The latter two still sat imprisoned on that hovel of an island, but they would be free in time. Their patience would be rewarded, but not now. He was much too weak to even stand.
“An update, Lucius?” Harry asked in that high, cold voice. It was clearer than the last time he’d heard it. Less filled with cracks.
“I am making progress, My Lord. It is difficult to hint at these things without being too heavy handed.”
“Err on the side of caution. They will know when I have returned. I simply wish to ensure they make the wisest choice when that beautiful day comes.”
“Yes, My Lord.”
“And what of your other plan, Lucius?”
“It will not be as easy as I had hoped,” Malfoy said with a bitter scowl. “Dumbledore will fight tooth and nail to keep the boy away from me. The man distrusts me and I have no connection to the boy. Narcissa, yes, but not I.”
“I may have a solution if I may, My Lord?” Regulus seldom spoke at these gatherings, but people listened when he did.
“My brother was the boy’s godfather and my aunt was his grandmother. Dumbledore will have a harder time dismissing my claim.”
Harry could practically feel his own eyes gleam. “Very good. See it done then and ensure it happens before the solstice arrives.”
“Yes, My Lord.”
There was excitement now, excitement unlike anything he had felt in years. Soon, his power would return alongside all the sniveling cowards who called themselves loyal. But Harry would not need to rely on them for long. Not when his true loyalists were free and not when new blood had been captivated.
Everything was going to plan — now, he just had to ensure that it stayed that way. Now, he just had to hope that all inside the castle went to plan when the time came.
That last scene was an odd mix of blunt and subtle foreshadowing, so I’m curious to see what you all take from it. I did split my initial draft of this chapter, so there will likely be one more chapter in this book than I had planned. 40 or 41 should be the last of them.
Please read and review.
PS: Chapter 36’s password will be released next week. THE NEXT NINE CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW FOR PATRONS — THAT’S THE REST OF BOOK 2 PLUS THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS OF BOOK 3! If you don’t want to wait to see what happens in book 2 or to start the third year, feel free to sign up to my Patreon page.
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