Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Year 2: The Erosion of Innocence
Chapter 29: Wading Through the Wreckage
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Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 2: The Erosion of Innocence
Chapter 29: Wading Through the Wreckage
May 30, 1993
The Great Hall
It had been two weeks since Harry, Ron, and Draco had united to slay Slytherin’s monster, vanquish his heir, and close the Chamber of Secrets. Hogwarts had by now well and truly realized what had happened, and their certainty only swelled that night.
The Mandrake Draught had been brewed at long last and so the basilisk’s petrified victims were finally awake and well again. Dumbledore had decided that a feast would be thrown to celebrate and Pansy had practically hung off both Harry and Draco all night. It was a miracle, really. Harry sat with both his older set of friends and Draco’s group. It was blissful to speak with Pansy and Theodore so openly, though Harry and Draco still scarcely shared a word.
They had not spoken since the blonde had returned four days after the Chamber of Secrets had been closed. They had only shared a single glance when Draco had walked into the common room and seen Harry and Theodore sitting together. The youngest Malfoy had watched the both of them for a moment before slowly nodding to Harry and making his way over towards Crabbe and Goyle. That had effectively been him giving his blessing for Harry to openly associate with his group again and Harry had taken full advantage of it — not that he needed it.
He had missed Theodore and Pansy, but he hadn’t realized how badly until now. Between their company and the lack of students trying to kill him in the corridors, Harry felt lighter than he had since his argument with Draco all the way back in September. It was like his shackles were free and he could move again, or like he was a bird who had forgotten how to spread its wings and now finally remembered how to fly. It was liberating in a way that only escaping the Dursleys could match.
That had been one oddity over the past two weeks. Harry had written to Regulus more often than not since being released from the hospital wing after spending two days at Madam Pomfrey’s tender mercy. Being told to call him Regulus had been odd, but not nearly as odd as writing to an adult so often. He and Narcissa had written to each other frequently enough, but nothing like this. Harry thought he liked Regulus, but the verdict had not yet been finalized. There was also still his allegiances to consider and what that could mean for Harry.
If people inside the castle had thought they knew what had happened before this feast, they were even more certain now. Dumbledore had opened the festivities with an uplifting speech before cancelling the exams for everyone who was not a fifth or seventh year due to everything that had happened. This had gotten him tumultuous applause so loud that Harry feared the cliff beneath the castle might well tremble so hard it would collapse.
That had only been the beginning. Harry, Ron, and Draco had then all been ambiguously presented with awards for ‘special services to the school’ and had each been given two hundred points for their respective house. The Slytherin table cheered so loud that Harry swore he saw the windows quiver. This practically guaranteed them the House Cup unless anyone did anything monumentally stupid.
They all feasted, chatted, and celebrated after that. It was the most fun Harry’d had all year, but it was also exhausting. People were something he had all but avoided since being freed of the hospital wing with the exception of those he actually liked. Now, everyone and their sister seemed to want his attention. Either to congratulate him on the award or, in most cases, to ask him what had happened in the Chamber of Secrets. That last question had been easy to shrug off before regardless of what the school thought, but it wasn’t so easy now. It was hardly difficult to put together. Harry, Ron, and Draco go missing in the middle of the night, the Chamber of Secrets allegedly closes, and the three of them get shiny trophies two weeks later.
Harry found that he needed a break from it all. The chaotic hustling and bustling was beginning to wear on him. He found that sweat was clinging to him and that his muscles were beginning to tire from being tense for so long.
The air felt thinner and easier to breathe outside of the Great Hall. The further away from the drone of voices he got, the more and more he began to relax.
It was a wonderful feeling.
“I thought I’d find you out here eventually.”
Harry startled at the voice and reached for his wand, but then the figure stepped out of the shadows and the torchlight made his blonde hair gleam like pearly fire.
The boy glanced around the Entrance Hall. “Can we talk?” he asked.
Harry clamped down hard to try and keep his mind clear. “If you’d like,” he answered.
“I made a mistake,” Draco admitted with the same air one might expect from somebody confessing to murder.
“Just one?” asked Harry.
“I was jealous.” The words sounded like chalk on Draco’s tongue; Harry was surprised he hadn’t choked on them.
“Jealous of what, Draco?” Harry asked, his voice rising. This had been building for months, just like the confrontation he’d had with Draco’s father.
“Me?” Harry actually laughed; he couldn’t help it. “What were you jealous of that I had? Not the fact I grew up with the scum of the earth and never knew about magic—”
“Not the fact that my parents are dead, surely. You seem to get on with yours well enough—”
“It’s not like that—”
“Then what is it like, Draco? You have everything anyone your age could ever want. Was it the stupid Quidditch position? Or the ring? Do I want to know how many gifts your father has bought you from Knockturn Alley?”
“It was stupid,” Draco said with a grimace. “It… felt like Father was shoving me to the side and focusing only on you.”
There it was again. Another sign that Lucius Malfoy had been playing him the whole time. Though if Draco hadn’t known — and Harry was sure he had not, for Draco could not act nearly this well — then that was something. Perhaps it meant Diana had not been tainted by his schemes, or even that Narcissa was innocent as well. It was impossible to say.
“What do you want, Draco?” Harry asked bluntly. “I doubt you came here to talk about how awful a person you were. You’ve never been good at anything but praising yourself.”
“To apologize,” said Draco. “I… realize what I’ve done. You’ve forgiven me once and I’m not sure you’ll do it again, but I’m sorry. I’d like to at least be on good terms again if we can be.”
Harry watched him very closely. He remembered all the times he had enjoyed with Draco. That first practice session when they and the others had chased around the abandoned classroom playing tag with Tickling Charms. He remembered how innocent they had been, how their laughter had filled the room until there was none of it left. It was so odd to contrast Harry then and now. He knew much had changed and he shivered at what he had been back then. It would be so easy to do what Harry of those days would have done and forgive Draco.
But the boy was right — he had forgiven him once already and this year had taught just how fickle people really were. Lucius Malfoy was using him, the student body had abused him, and both Draco and Daphne had betrayed him. Now one of them was asking for forgiveness just weeks after the school had suddenly forgotten all about their past claims and hailed Harry as a hero once more.
It all made him sick.
“I don’t forgive you,” Harry said coolly and Draco flinched back and lowered his head. “I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive you… but I won’t hold it against you.” That head of blonde hair rose again so that Harry could see his grey eyes once more. “We start from the beginning. I’ll treat you decently if you treat me the same. We’ll see what happens from there. I’m sick of getting stabbed in the back, Draco. I won’t be letting it happen again.”
“Deal,” said Draco, stepping forward and extending his hand. Harry realized how much he’d grown this year. Harry’s body was very slowly shrugging off the years of neglect on Privet Drive, but Draco had grown even more than he had. These were the sorts of observations that passed Harry by when the two had scarcely spoken all year.
Draco left him alone in the hall once their handshake was complete. Maybe Harry had been too easy on him; it was difficult to tell, but he remembered what he had told himself that day in the hospital wing while talking to the boy’s father. If people were going to use him, sometimes, it was best to let it happen whether he liked it or not. Draco was a Malfoy — there was much a relationship with him could bring — so Harry would at least try to humour him for now.
For the second time, Harry startled — he really needed to learn how to detect people nearby. This voice was gruffer than Draco’s and belonged to a man who sounded far older.
Harry recognized it and glanced over his shoulder. “Good evening, Professor.”
“Evening, Potter,” said Aberforth Dumbledore. “Come with me.”
“Where are we going, sir?” Harry asked carefully as he trudged several feet behind the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor with his hand still on his wand.
“Just out for a stroll on the grounds. I want to talk to you and I don’t want anyone hearing.”
They walked in silence until the two of them passed through the large oak doors and out onto the grounds. It was a breezy night for late spring, but the wind was warm and pleasant. It licked more than it bit and its tongue left a comfortable sort of warmth behind him.
“What is it you wanted to talk to me about, Professor?” Harry asked once they had travelled some distance from the castle.
“I wanted to talk about you and teach some history.”
“About me, sir?”
“Yes, Potter, that’s what I said, isn’t it?”
“Of course, sir.”
The man paused in the shadow of a large oak tree and turned to face Harry. He was glaring. “I never trust anyone who speaks all that wish wash,” he said with distaste. “My brother’s no better. Most of them are hapless arse kissers who won’t make a thing of themselves, but it’s the ones who aren’t you gotta worry about.”
“You don’t trust me,” Harry said bluntly.
“Yes and no,” said the professor. “I don’t think you’re malicious.”
“But there’s something about me you don’t like.”
“I don’t like the path you’re on and I don’t like some things I see.”
“Things like going straight to curses over school yard spats, things like hiding your emotions behind that damned hogwash my brother’s been teaching you, things like how your only friends are upper years from shady families who supported Voldemort last time around.”
Harry was almost surprised to hear someone other than the Headmaster use Voldemort’s chosen name. Dumbledore was the only other person he’d ever heard speak it. He would have been taken aback had it been anyone else. For all the things he could say about Aberforth Dumbledore, he was no coward and his lack of regard was admirable, if foolish.
“Voldemort killed my parents,” said Harry. “What do you expect me to do? Become his right-hand lieutenant?”
“Shared traits make for strange bedfellows,” Aberforth said darkly. Something sinister loomed behind his eyes; Harry was taken aback by how grim he looked. “Trust me, boy, I know better than anyone.”
“So you’re worried I’ll side with Voldemort if he comes back?” Harry didn’t ask how Aberforth seemed so certain the man was alive.
“Join him, take up his ideas, model some things after him. Nothing would surprise me. Not after the things I’ve seen.”
“You keep hinting at that but you aren’t saying anything. I’m taking it that’s the history you want to teach me?”
“It is,” the man agreed. “You’re not the first kid I’ve seen with talent. There’s my dear old brother, but his friend might have been better than he was. It’s hard to say.”
“Something like that,” Aberforth muttered. There was a stiffness about him now and his eyes appeared almost clouded by something. Sadness? Anger? Grief? It was hard to tell. “You all know my brother as this wonderful hero, but none of you know how close it was.”
“How close it was to what?” Harry asked.
“How close he was to running off and making himself worse than Voldemort has ever been — all because of a stupid goal that didn’t even matter. All because he thought he was right over something that he wasn’t. All because of him.”
“I have a hard time imagining the Headmaster being worse than Voldemort,” Harry said carefully.
“Oh, I’m sure, but you wouldn’t if you knew what I knew. Hell, you might know soon enough with that Skeeter woman hovering like a damned vulture.”
“The biography she’s writing, you mean? You don’t think that’s all going to be lies?”
“It doesn’t need to be. She has all the material she could ever want. All she needs to do is find it. If people only knew what my brother did, what our family dealt with.” He shook his head. “We’ve strayed from the point. The point is that you walk down paths in life all the time. You think they’re right but sometimes, they’re not. The more talented you are, the worse those wrong paths get. Ask my brother about that some time; he’ll wax poetic until the skin’s rotted off of him.”
“I’m not your brother,” said Harry.
“You’re not — most people don’t come back from what he almost did.”
“What are you trying to tell me, Professor?”
“I’m trying to warn you. Monitor yourself and be honest about it. Don’t lie to yourself; that’s when the real problems will start. Once they do, they’re hard to stop. You’re talented, Potter. I reckon you’ll be damn good by the time you graduate — maybe even as good as my brother was. Use that talent for the right things or you’ll have big problems on your hands.”
Harry’s eyes narrowed as his fingers twitched towards his wand. “Are you threatening me, Professor?”
“Just warning you. It’s the freedom and the confidence that kills. They think they can do anything, then it all comes crashing back down.” He shook his head. “I came here to watch you. I’m telling you what I see and giving you more honest advice than anyone else before I’m gone.”
“Gone?” asked Harry. “Why would you be gone? Nothing’s happened to you; you’ve beaten the curse.”
Aberforth chuckled darkly as he pulled his black cloak more tightly around him. “Wait for Skeeter’s book and then tell me I beat the curse. My brother has enough titles to give up. He’ll give away one of them to appease the rioters when the storm blows in and then wait for it to blow over, but he’ll never give this up.” He gestured to the shadowy outline of the castle behind them. “Me… I won’t be sticking around for all of that nonsense. Albus and his wise old ass can keep it.”
Harry didn’t know what to say as Aberforth walked away and back up towards the castle. It was one of the stranger and more ominous conversations he could ever remember partaking in.
June 4, 1993
The Black Lake
Harry had awoken from another vivid dream. This was one he could hardly remember upon waking. Voldemort had spoken to someone about their commitment. He had questioned whether they had what it took to do what must be done in the end. The man had looked more terrified than Harry had ever seen anyone look before. Harry thought his face had been familiar, but it was little more than a blinking shadow in his memory now.
Not remembering somehow made it worse. Humans fear the unknown for a reason. It’s a great and monstrous thing — cloaked in shadow, immeasurably large, and unimaginably powerful. Its claws reach out every now and then and trap humans in its vices. Only when the time comes for it to reveal a part of itself does it relinquish its hold. That time had not yet come and Harry found that his heart was having a difficult time slowing down.
Harry’s memory must have been faulty that night. He hardly remembered dressing and leaving the dungeons, throwing on his invisibility cloak for good measure.
It was even later than when he typically explored and the castle was as quiet as death. Not even the reanimated Mrs. Norris stumbled across his path and since gaining back life and mobility, she had stalked around the castle with renewed vigour.
It was much the opposite of the night he had spent traipsing around the grounds with the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor. The grounds were as quiet as the castle. It was a hot, windless night. The loudest sound Harry could hear was that of his own feet moving as quietly as they could throw the grass as he walked down the sloping lawns and towards the Black Lake. There was not a cloud in sight. The grounds may have been quiet, but they were flooded with moonlight.
Harry saw him from far away thanks to said light. A figure sitting near at the edge of the Black Lake. No stones were thrown, no water was disturbed, and not so much as a blade of grass seemed to shift around him. The boy was sitting so still that for a moment, Harry thought he had fallen asleep.
When he drew closer, he began to understand. His red hair seemed darker than it usually was tonight and he looked gaunter than Harry had ever seen him.
“You couldn’t sleep either, huh?”
He didn’t know what made him say it. The two of them had never shared a friendly conversation even though they had never quarrelled the way Weasley had with Draco. The closest they had come was whilst playing Quidditch against one another, but Harry had spent the vast majority of that match trying not to die.
The boy looked up at him with glassy eyes that quickly cleared as recognition filled them, followed by something akin to trepidation. Harry could see the hesitation, see the pondering over what to say or whether to speak it all. Finally, Weasley nodded.
“I’ve barely slept since the chamber.”
“Mind if I sit?” Weasley shook his head and moved over to allow Harry a seat. It was a nice view. “Did you know her?” Harry asked.
Weasley took a shuddering breath. “My little sister did. She was around the orchard near our house a couple of times, but I never really talked to her. She was… weird.”
“That doesn’t make it any easier.”
There was an odd fire in Weasley’s eyes, almost like Harry had offended him. “How would you know?”
Harry pondered for a moment, drumming his fingers upon his knee as he considered Weasley. What he wanted to do was foolish, but it made sense to him. The one thing he had never managed to let go from first year was the way Longbottom had died. Not the death itself, but the way it had come. It had been his doing and this would be the best chance Harry had to morally wash his hands of the deed.
“You’re not the only one who’s seen someone die.”
“You remember?” Weasley asked.
Then, Harry realized what he meant. “I wasn’t talking about my parents, but I remember… bits of that night. Not much of it.” Harry actually saw Weasley’s mouth open before he forced it closed. Doubtlessly, he wanted to ask some kind of question. Harry was in a morbidly cynical mood, so he obliged him. “I remember Voldemort more than them.” Weasley recoiled from the name and Harry sighed. “Grow up, you’ve fought against some form of him twice and survived both times. I don’t understand why you’re so scared of his name.”
“Sorry,” Weasley said, blushing. “It’s just… I’ve only ever heard Dumbledore say it.”
“Dumbledore told me to say it. He said that fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself. Anyway, I remember him more than anything else. His laugh and his eyes. That’s really it other than a bunch of green light and a bad pain where my scar is.”
“Why are you telling me all this?”
Harry cocked his head to the side. “Entirely selfless reasons, I promise.”
Weasley snorted. “Slimy git. I doubt the lot of you have done anything selfless in your lives.”
“Draco and I went into the chamber,” Harry countered. Weasley looked away from him. “There’s something else bothering you,” Harry said slowly.
“What do you mean?”
“Something happened in the chamber while I was duelling Riddle. I… kind of lost track of everything. Something else is bothering you; it’s more than just seeing Lovegood die.”
Weasley gave him a strange look. Harry could see that the boy wanted to tell him. He probably hadn’t told anyone and was filled to bursting with whatever it was.
“Promise me you won’t go blabbing about it? Not even to Dumbledore?”
Harry narrowed his eyes. “That bad, huh?” Weasley just nodded. “If you promise to do the same for something you deserve to know, then you have a deal.”
The two of them shook hands and Weasley took another of those deep, shuddering breaths. “I killed her.”
Harry stiffened. “You did what?”
“I killed her,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean to, but… but… the sword. I…I tried to stab the snake, but-but.” Tears were rolling down Weasley’s cheeks. They looked like liquid glitter in the moonlight as they fell and Harry stared at him, transfixed. This was all so horribly twisted. The luck some people had… the universe had to be playing some sort of cosmic joke. “She was my sister’s friend,” Weasley was going on, “and I… I…”
“Made a mistake,” said Harry. There were very few things Ron Weasley could have said to make Harry sympathize with him, but he had hit on the biggest one at the moment.
“But-but… she didn’t deserve that. I… it’s horrible. I’m horrible.”
“If you’re horrible, Weasley, I’d rather not think of what that makes me.”
Weasley’s head jerked up, suddenly too surprised to sob. “What?”
“Dumbledore lied to you.”
“What are you—”
“He lied to you to hide two truths. One of them, he was afraid of getting out. The other, he hid for my sake.” Weasley looked almost hypnotized, peering at Harry with wide, curious eyes. “Neville Longbottom never died in the final chamber underneath the school last June.”
Weasley was as still as the moment Harry had first found him here. “You’re sure?” he asked.
“Positive,” said Harry, steeling himself for the worst. “I… I killed him.”
Harry expected Weasley to rage at him, curse him, or perhaps even try and kill him, but he just sat there in silence for nearly a minute. “How did it happen?”
“Quirrell came out of that corridor with the Philosopher’s Stone and with Longbottom as a hostage. Don’t ask me how I was there; it was literally dumb luck. He… tried to recruit me before Dumbledore showed up. The two of them had a standoff. Quirrell told Dumbledore to let him leave with the stone or else he’d kill Longbottom.”
Weasley was gaping at him now. This was all new to him. Dumbledore had told him none of it and the shock showed clearly upon his face. It made him look like some sort of gaping zombie in the eerie setting and sparkling moonlight.
“I thought I could help.” Harry’s voice didn’t break, but it was a near thing. A hoarse whisper that could have passed for the wind playing tricks on Weasley’s ears, yet the boy had heard it. “I tried to ambush Quirrell… he was faster than me. Dumbledore was going to let him go. If I’d left him, Longbottom might still be alive.”
Weasley’s eyes looked dazed, but he shook his head very slowly as if to clear his thoughts. “Why are you telling me this?” he asked for the second time.
“Guilt,” Harry answered honestly. “It’s the one thing from that night I haven’t been able to let go. This is the closest I can get to paying Longbottom back. I didn’t know him, but I think he’d want you to know.” He hesitated. “You can tell Granger if you want, just… make sure no one else knows.”
The two boys sat there in silence as several crickets began to pipe up. Something splashed in the water not far from where Harry sat and he could feel a light spray against his face. It was a nice way to break the heat, but it did nothing to ease the silence between the two second-year boys.
“Merlin, this is so messed up,” Weasley muttered.
“Twisted,” Harry agreed.
“I don’t blame you.” Harry’s head snapped around. He had been looking out over the lake until Weasley’s last words, but he was peering at the boy now. “It wasn’t your fault,” he said. “You were trying to save him. You’re all right with me.” He held out his hand.
Harry considered him for a moment before taking it slowly. “And you with me,” he responded. “Lovegood’s death wasn’t your fault. You were fighting a basilisk. The fact any of us made it out alive is a miracle and you and Draco saved my life. Riddle would have killed me had you not killed the snake and had he not destroyed the book.”
“I’ll kill him,” Ron said quietly. “You-kn… Voldemort.”
Harry watched him closely. “Plenty of people tried; he killed some of the best witches and wizards of the age.” Harry remembered Hagrid’s words that first night out on the rock when he had told him the truth.
“Harry. 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…”
“I’ll die trying if he’s out there,” Weasley promised.
And Harry knew it was true. The force in his words could not be ignored — Voldemort really had made an enemy in Ron Weasley and this enemy would not stop trying until he or Voldemort were dead.
June 19, 1993
The Trophy Room
Tom Marvolo Riddle
The name was everywhere in this room. Exam records, acknowledgements of academic excellence, even something called the Barnabus Finkley Prize for Exceptional Spell-Casting.
And, of course, the award for special services to the school — the one that rested directly beside Harry’s.
He wasn’t sure if he hated Voldemort. He had once, but he was coming to agree with him about many things. He hated what he had done to his parents and, by extension, him, but the man himself seemed almost unreal to Harry. It was difficult to formulate an opinion on him one way or the other.
What Harry did know was that the thought of becoming another Voldemort made him shiver. It haunted his dreams and crept through his psyche like slow-acting poison.
He needed to be better than Riddle in every way imaginable. He would avoid the pitfalls Voldemort fell into and he would obliterate every one of these records that the man held. It was the only way he would ever put an end to the idea that they were similar.
Harry heard movement from behind him and he whirled to face it.
“Harrikins!” called a burly redhead Harry knew well.
Well… he knew the two of them well — Harry actually had no idea which was one which.
“Terrors,” he said with a cold glare. He did not relinquish the grip he held on his wand. “What do you want?”
“Not to fight,” said one twin.
“Not with the one who closed the Chamber of Secrets,” said the other.
“That would be a death wish!” said the first.
Harry gave them nothing. “Aww, come on,” said the second twin. “You can tell us.”
“I don’t make a habit of telling people things after they’ve made my life hell all year.”
The twins exchanged looks. “Uh… funny you should say that,” said the second twin. “We’re… huh, that is to say.”
“Oh, stop blubbering, Feorge,” said the first twin, turning to Harry. “Look,” he said, “we fucked up. There isn’t really any two ways about it.”
“We thought you were the Heir of Slytherin like a lot of people did and we… take things further than most people.”
“It’s our specialty.”
“We’d like to apologize,” they both said together.
“Seriously, mate,” said the second, “we didn’t ever mean for it to go as far as it did. We assumed, it escalated, and… we fucked up. Bad.”
“I’ll accept your apology,” said Harry, “if you answer me a question.” The twins both looked worried, but they nodded. “Were you the ones who rigged that exploding statue that almost killed me?”
“Er…” said the first.
“Yes and no,” said the second. “We… always planned to attack you and send you to the hospital wing, but we never planned on that.”
“Then how did it happen?” Harry asked with narrowed eyes.
The second twin hesitated and the first smacked him upside the head. “Oh, come off it, the kid almost died — he deserves to know.” He turned to Harry. “We hadn’t figured out plans yet and then we got a letter from someone offering help. They said they were a Runes expert and that they could rig something to take you out… we didn’t realize they meant permanently.”
“We did the setup,” said the second twin, “but the runes were all them. We just figured out where you usually walked, rigged the trap, and waited.”
This was actually even more disturbing. At least if it had been the twins, Harry wouldn’t have needed to consider any new and dangerous enemies. This was troubling. Someone who was more vicious than them after him? Something lurked at the corner of his mind, a half-formed idea that he couldn’t quite put together.
“Who sent you the letter?” he asked.
They exchanged looks one final time before speaking words that would set Harry’s anger ablaze, words that would make Harry crave vengeance for the first time in his life.
“Daphne Greengrass,” they said as one.
A little over an hour later, atop the Astronomy Tower…
From the top of Hogwarts’ highest tower, one could see the Hogwarts Express pulling out of Hogsmeade station and beginning to slither away from the castle like a great, crimson snake. The day was fair but unremarkable. It was warm and windless, but clouds covered the sky far above and hid the sun from sight. The bright train with its golden letters stood out starkly in the conditions even from afar as a pale figure wearing black robes stained with silvery blood watched it pull away.
“I thought I might find you here,” said a familiar voice from behind the ghost. The Bloody Baron did not turn. He simply waited for his counterpart to glide soundlessly up beside him and take his own post looking out over the castle’s grounds, Hogsmeade and the mountains, and the speeding Hogwarts Express.
“A wise guess then,” said the Baron in that deep, carrying voice he so seldom used.
Nearly-Headless Nick chuckled from beside him. “My dear Baron, it was hardly a guess at all with how much time you’ve spent here as of late.”
“It is a quiet place where I can think.”
“Yes, we’ve all noticed you haven’t been rattling those chains of yours much lately.”
The Bloody Baron finally turned to glare at his transparent companion. “What is it you want, Nicholas?”
“To ask if you have taken leave of your senses.”
“Yes, Baron, I dare. Do you forget what happened the last time we meddled at this castle? Lest we forget what happened the last time one of our number spilled secrets they ought to have kept to themselves?”
“Helena was coerced—”
“Far too easily—”
“Enough!” His voice cut through the air with efficiency the axe swung at Nick centuries ago had never had. “You push too far,” the Baron said. “I am not Helena! I have not been charmed by some foolish child with delusions of grandeur. I have watched longer than you, Nicholas, watched since before your living spirit was even thought of. I care naught for your warnings nor for your lectures. Make your point and leave.”
“I think you have made a mistake involving yourself in the affairs of the students at such a critical time.”
“If I had not involved myself, there would be no students here to speak of.”
“Perhaps not,” Nick conceded, “but perhaps that would be for the best. You know what is to come as well as I do.”
“His return will not herald the demise of this castle. He treasures it too deeply and respects its master too much.”
“And what if it is not him I speak of?”
The Baron’s eyes flashed. “Guard your tongue—”
“No, open your eyes. It is happening again just like it happened fifty years ago. Do you not see what the boy is? Do you not see what he is to become?”
The Bloody Baron stared at Nearly-Headless Nick with those dark, unblinking eyes. “What of it?”
Nick spluttered. “What of it?” he asked incredulously. “Baron, you know what they say of the last of your students to ascend in such a manner! You know what he has done! You know what he is!”
The Baron looked Nick up one final time before speaking his parting words and gliding back down the tower.
“I know that history is written by the victors, Nicholas. You will come to learn in time that not all creatures of darkness come forth to spread evil.”
June 21, 1993
How Harry hated being so frail. There was nothing worse than the feeling of panic that had gripped him as the slender woman had lowered him gently into the cauldron.
The liquid had looked just like water, but it felt anything but. Harry heard the loud hissing sound as he held his breath and submerged. He began to tremble almost at once. The potion ripped at him like a thousand leeches and the worst had not yet begun. The frailness made him rage. Any human would have been able to tolerate this, but it was among the worst pain Harry had ever felt, eclipsed only by that fateful night his power had been lost.
Something floated down into the cauldron. Harry felt it caress him on the way down, but he paid it no mind. Opening his eyes was something he did not dare do — despite the potion’s appearance, it was anything but water.
He could feel it heat up around him as though to illustrate his point. There was now irritation as well as pain. His scaly skin itched more persistently than a niffler digging for gold.
He turned his mind inwards — he was the greatest sorcerer alive with a grip on the Mind Arts no one could match; this process would not conquer him.
His mind was forced clear of all but the excitement surrounding what was to come by the time he heard the splash. Harry felt it brush up against him and he recoiled. It was disgusting. No part of his feeble servant should touch him regardless of the circumstances.
Yet he was too weak to move away on his own and by the time the blood taken back in January trickled into the cauldron, his concentration had broken, though it mattered not.
No amount of Occlumency would have prepared him for what came next. It was that horrible Samhain all over again. Every part of him exploded outwards as an indescribable pain gripped him as he was torn from the pathetic shell. It was all for the pursuit of greatness, but that did not lessen the pain. For a split second, Harry wished for weakness again. Anything but this; he would suffer through anything to end this all-consuming pain.
It was over as fast as it had begun. The sound of hissing steam filled his ears as sensations other than pain returned to him just as he realized he could rise at long last.
He did so reverently, surveying all around him with those red, pupil-less eyes.
The graveyard was just like he remembered from all those years ago. Tombstones were arrayed in simple lines and all was quiet but for the steaming cauldron and the caw of a raven somewhere off in the distance. It was difficult to see through the clouds of thick steam, but Harry thought he saw the one who had sacrificed for him lying on the floor and cradling the place where a finger had been for all his life.
Then the steam billowed, taking with it the unnatural heat that had swaddled him and exposing him to the world for the first time in nearly twelve long years.
The first breeze of summer tickled his milk-white skin as he peered out at the few faces around him and smiled with glee the likes of which none had ever known, glee the likes of which one could never know until they had seen Death, spat in his face, and returned to the might they had once wielded.
So good it was to feel the soft air against his bare skin, so good it was to smile with real lips, so good it was to be whole once more.
TO BE CONTINUED IN
HARRY POTTER AND THE LOOMING OF SHADOWS
It feels quite surreal to have finished the second book in this series. I’m sure many of you have put a lot of things together about this year. For those who haven’t, it will all be explained in book 3.
The scene with Nick and the Bloody Baron was probably inspired by the one in Harry Potter and the Prince of Slytherin. I don’t remember that scene well, but I can’t confidently say mine wouldn’t have happened without it, so credit where credit is due.
There will be a meaningful delay in posting between books whilst I outline the third instalment of this series, but I’ll try not to keep you all waiting for too long. Until then, enjoy my other works and stay tuned for the twists and turns still to come.
Please read and review.
PS: There will be a significant pause before the next chapter is released for Discord members. It will probably be several months long, as I plan to get a great deal of pre-writing done before I start releasing book 3 chapters for non-patrons.
That being said, PATRONS WILL BE GETTING CHAPTERS THIS ENTIRE TIME AND ALREADY HAVE THE NEXT FIVE CHAPTERS AVAILABLE TO THEM RIGHT NOW! If you don’t want to wait the several months, sign up to my Patreon page!
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