Perversion of Purity
Year 3: The Looming of Shadows
Chapter 7: An Air of Tension
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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September 1, 1993
Raindrops drummed against the tall windows. It was hard to see much through the stained glass, but every few minutes, lightning would paint the grounds outside in a wash of white. Harry remembered the first day of school last year and how bright it had been. That year wound up being a mess, so hopefully this is a good sign. There was Sirius Black to deal with, but better him than Voldemort. Anxiety clamped down hard on his chest. If he wanted to kill you, you’d be dead already. It’s going to work out.
“It’s going to feel different without you,” Regulus said, sipping at his tea.
It would feel different; the whole summer had felt different. It’s the first year I wasn’t counting down the days until Hogwarts. “It’s gonna be weird leaving.” A shadow crossed Regulus’s face, aging him ten years. “Is everything all right?”
Regulus put down his glass. “I owe you an apology.”
Harry frowned. “An apology for what?”
“The way I’ve handled my brother’s escape from Azkaban.”
“I get it,” Harry assured him, “you don’t need—“
“Yes, I do. You started off wary of me. I felt like I was making good progress, then I handled everything like a brooding child.”
“It’s all right,” said Harry, blushing.
“None of how I’ve acted was all right,” said Regulus. “I’m not your father and I doubt you want me to be, but you are my ward. I had a responsibility and I neglected that.” That same shadow lingered atop his face. “Nothing about that is all right. I’m sorry.”
I don’t think an adult has ever apologized to me before. Dumbledore had, but not so plainly. I think he regrets how the Dursleys acted more than anything. He wasn’t sorry for sticking me with muggles. The thought made him seethe, but the anger cooled while he stared across the table.
“Thank you,” he muttered, unsure what else to say.
Regulus pushed hair back from his eyes. “My parents made many mistakes. Neglecting Sirius and I is just one of them, but I won’t repeat it. There are things you should know before you leave.”
His pulse quickened. “What kind of things?”
“Things that will help you if my brother attacks.”
Harry straightened in his chair. “Like how he fights?”
Regulus looked past him and out the large windows, silent until another flash of lightning came and went. “I can’t give you much there. Sirius fought for the Order of the Phoenix before I ever joined the Dark Lord.”
Harry frowned. “The what?”
“The Order of the Phoenix. It’s what Dumbledore called his vigilante group, but that’s not important.”
Harry made himself nod, quelling a rush of disappointment. “Right, Sirius.”
“Sirius isn’t the world’s best duellist. They say the Dark Lord trained him, and maybe he did, but I doubt that’s changed. Your father was better and so was Snape, but my brother could go toe-to-toe with either of them.”
“Because he was smarter?” It was the obvious answer.
A sad smile played across Regulus’s lips. “Not exactly. My brother was a Black and a Gryffindor. That’s a dangerous combination. All our family’s ruthless cunning with a stubborn boldness that goes against all of it.”
That just sounds like it contradicts itself. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I mean that predicting what Sirius will do is impossible. People like you and I might expect him to lay traps, then he’ll jump out and face you in the open before you’re ready. Then you’ll learn and play on his pride next time, only for him to order a tactical retreat.” Regulus pushed away his glass of tea. “My brother was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to chaos, and there’s no predicting that.”
That sounds like a nightmare. Harry studied Regulus across the table. “I thought you said you never fought him.”
“I grew up with him. No one knows him better than me.”
Harry remembered what Theodore said the last time they’d talked. “Theodore says Azkaban might have driven him mad.”
“Theodore may be right. Sirius might have changed, but not that part of him. Madness can only change a man so much.”
It sounds like he’s said that before, or at least thought it. “So have a plan, but be ready to change it.”
Harry could do that. There had been no plan last year and still he had prevailed. So what if I had help, I still did it. There had been first year, but… I’m better than that now.
“Is there anything else?” Harry asked, wiping those dark thoughts from his mind.
Regulus’s expression grew grim. “Have you ever heard of the term Animagus?”
About two hours later, on the Hogwarts Express…
Harry and Theodore made quiet small talk whilst they waited for the others. Draco arrived first, flanked on either side by Crabbe and Goyle. They had grown this summer; Harry had never seen a pair of third years so large.
“You’re later than usual,” Theodore remarked once Draco sat down.
“Father talked for longer than usual.” It was the second time this past week Draco had missed a chance to look smug when talking about his father.
“Bad news?” Harry asked carefully.
Draco looked out the window. “I’ll tell you once Pansy gets here.”
Pansy arrived just seconds before the train’s departure. Harry noticed that her hair and makeup were perfect — she looked better than he remembered. Weird, I just saw her in Diagon. He shrugged it off. His planned meeting with Voldemort had loomed over him all day; he hadn’t exactly been at his best.
Draco’s lip curled when Pansy walked in. “Would it kill you to be on time?”
She made a face at him then leaned over Harry to place her luggage in the overhead compartment. Their bodies rubbed together. Pansy shifted but it only made it worse. Harry tried leaning away, but Pansy moved again, still fighting with her trunk. You’re over people touching you and she’s just putting up her trunk, calm down. He forced his mind clear and waited for her to finish, fighting down a blush.
“I don’t think it would kill you not to be insufferable,” Pansy snapped back at Draco once she’d finished, now sitting beside Harry.
“Being insufferable is half the fun. Being late just drags everyone down.”
Theodore smirked. “Speaking of being insufferable, are you planning anything for Weasley?”
Theodore raised an eyebrow and Harry too was surprised. That was a pretty short answer. “Are you all right, Draco?” Theodore asked. “Do we need to take you to Pomfrey once we get there?”
Draco sneered. “I’ve grown up, Nott. You should try it sometime.”
That touched a nerve. “I still haven’t heard anything about the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher,” said Pansy, pouting. Good timing.
Everyone looked at Draco. “Father hasn’t mentioned anything; I don’t think he knows.”
“Dumbledore’s leaving it late again,” said Theodore.
Harry’s thoughts drifted towards the memory of two boys and their talks of muggles and Hallows. “I know we talked about it in Diagon, but I bet Skeeter’s book hasn’t helped.”
“That book really is something,” Pansy said with a dreamy smile.
Theodore snorted. “You would think so. Skeeter must be your idol.”
Pansy clicked her tongue. “I would never pick an idol with such poor fashion sense.” She wrinkled her nose. “That jewellery makes me sick, and don’t even get me started on the glasses or the hair—”
Harry cut her off. “There was something you wanted to tell us, Draco?”
Draco looked cross. “I’d hoped to wait a bit longer. It isn’t pleasant news.”
Harry grimaced. “The news I have is probably worse, so we might as well get it all over with.”
“If what you have is worse, we’re in for a long year.”
“The world doesn’t have a habit of doing nice things for me.”
Pansy swatted Harry on the arm. “Bad joke,” she chided.
Harry blushed. “Sorry.”
Draco waited for quiet. “There are going to be guards at Hogwarts this year.”
“Guards?” Harry asked. “What’s so bad about guards?”
Draco grimaced. “I don’t mean aurors.”
Pansy paled and Theodore looked ill. “You can’t mean—”
Harry picked through his memories. “I don’t know much about dementors, just that they guard Azkaban and that the Prophet mentioned they were helping aurors look for Black.”
Pansy shivered. “They’re awful creatures.”
“Effective ones, though,” said Theodore.
“What is it they actually do?”
Theodore shifted in his chair. “They feed on happiness. Father… well, he was held there after the Dark Lord fell while he waited for a trial.”
Harry’s eyes narrowed. That can’t be legal. “They held him in Azkaban to wait for a trial?”
“Don’t sound so surprised,” Theodore said darkly. “The ministry didn’t play fair last war and they knew they’d been infiltrated. Pretty much anyone they thought might be connected to the Dark Lord got that treatment.”
“So he’s met them first hand then?”
Theodore nodded. “He says the cold is the worst, says there’s nothing like it; like your blood turning to icy water.”
“I’ve heard they make people relive their worst memories,” Pansy said quietly.
Now it was Harry who shivered. Bloody hell. I hope Occlumency works against that. Wylla Nurmen screamed and seeping blood spread slowly across a field of reddening snow.
Draco who nodded. “Father says they’ve driven men mad.”
“But they won’t do anything like that to us, right?” Goyle asked.
“That’s not how it works,” said Crabbe, surprising all of them. He blushed, looking down at the floor. “I like magical creatures.”
Theodore made a sweeping gesture. “No, please, go on.”
Crabbe’s blush deepened. “Dementors don’t see. They just kind of feel around and can’t tell most people apart.”
“And Dumbledore’s letting them guard Hogwarts?” That doesn’t sound like him.
“I don’t think old Dumbles had much choice,” said Draco. “His influence isn’t what it was. That book has done a number on him. He stepped down as Chief Warlock, but some people still want him off the ICW.”
“I’m shocked he’s still headmaster,” said Pansy.
Harry shook his head. “I’m not. Dumbledore would do anything before giving that up.” And Aberforth was right; he has enough titles to give up so people stay happy.
“I never thought I’d wish that Dumbledore got his way,” Theodore said with a scowl.
“Dementors must have a weakness though, right? Like how boggarts can be fought off with the Riddikulus Charm. They’ll probably teach us all how to fight them.”
Theodore smirked at him; it was a mirthless expression. “I forget how new you are to all this sometimes. It’s cute you’re so confident.”
Dread crept through him. “You mean there’s no way to fight them?” It would explain why no one had escaped before Black, but that can’t be right…
“There’s a spell, but they won’t teach it. Father mentioned it once and said it was way beyond NEWT-level. Plenty of aurors can’t cast it.”
“What’s the spell?” Harry asked.
“No idea, I just know there is one.”
“Do you still think your news is worse?” Draco asked, leaning back in his seat.
Harry winced. “I wish I could say it wasn’t, but I think Sirius Black being an Animagus is pretty bad.”
Pansy screamed so loudly beside his ear that he smashed his head against the window.
Meanwhile, in another compartment…
Ron leant forward, a card between his fingers. The compartment was quiet as he reached out, waiting to see if the pile of cards would explode. Raindrops drummed against the train outside, but Ron focused on the cards. Come on, come on.
“Gah!” A small shape lunged, knocking the cards to the floor and pawing Ron’s arm aside, rushing towards Scabbers, who tried scampering away. “Get away from him!” Ron yelled, kicking at the cat.
“Don’t kick him!” Hermione shouted.
“Then get him the hell away from Scabbers!”
Hermione huffed but scooped Crookshanks off the seat and into her lap. Scabbers trembled beside Ron. Susan hid a giggle behind her hand whilst Hannah looked nervously from Ron to Hermione. Cedric just stared out the window while the cat’s large eyes continued watching Scabbers.
Their mood remained low, unhelped by the view outside. Rain-soaked trees sagged beneath the weight of dripping leaves and grass lay flat against sludge-filled fields.
Only after the trolley lady’s appearance and a brief visit from their older friends did the mood lighten.
“What classes are you taking, Harry?” Pansy asked.
“Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, and Care of Magical Creatures.”
Theodore raised a hand across the compartment. “I’ll see you there.”
Pansy pouted. “I’m only going to see you in Care of Magical Creatures.”
“You took Divination?” She nodded. Harry had dismissed that class when choosing back in April, but he was less sure now. Even if Grindelwald’s vision is fake, it’s hard to argue with him about magic. He supposed it mattered not; there was no time for him to take a fourth elective.
Draco looked troubled. “I took the same classes as Pansy, but I think I’m going to ask Professor Snape to change my timetable.”
Pansy screwed up her face. “To change it?”
Draco nodded, staring out the window. Now they sped beside a muggle road so covered in water that it reflected dark trees and the grey sky above. “I’ve reconsidered over the summer; Father’s had a lot to do with that.” Harry eyed his expression. I’ll bet the Chamber of Secrets had more to do with it than his father.
Crabbe and Goyle were in the same classes as Draco but had no plans of swapping. Guilt twisted inside his stomach each time Harry looked at Crabbe. How could he have known him for two years and only now realized he liked magical creatures? The most I’ve ever talked with him is in Potions, and that’s just giving instructions. The guilt sharpened.
The sky outside darkened and their chatter settled down. Dusk fell then gave way to night. The sky ahead was darker; it made Harry feel like they were nearing the mouth of a great, black tunnel.
Draco was sipping his water when the train lurched. It spilled out over the floor and onto Theodore’s robes beside him whilst Draco fell into a fit of coughing. Harry paid them no heed. Something’s wrong.
“We shouldn’t be stopping,” he muttered, standing to get a better view out the window. “Damn, I can’t see a thing.”
“Lumos,” Pansy slid nearer, pressing her wand against the glass. Harry squinted through the night. It was like the darkness swarmed every ray of light and snuffed it out. It was like staring into the deep sea long past twilight.
“My brother was a Black and a Gryffindor. That’s a dangerous combination. All our family’s ruthless cunning with a stubborn boldness that goes against all of it.”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I mean that predicting what Sirius will do is impossible. People like you and I might expect him to lay traps, then he’ll jump out and face you in the open before you’re ready. Then you’ll learn and play on his pride next time, only for him to order a tactical retreat. My brother was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to chaos, and there’s no predicting that.”
“Wands out!” Everyone drew their wands. Harry found himself surprised. I didn’t actually think they’d listen. The words had come unbidden, spoken without thought.
Still he squinted out the window. Something’s out there, I can feel it. Had Black learned the dementors would be at Hogwarts? Did he think his chances were better now, before they arrived?
Theodore stepped beside him. “It’s blacker than Death out there; I don’t know how anyone—“ he cut himself off; the train’s main door had opened.
Harry drew a finger across his lips and silently aimed his wand towards their compartment door. Let him try; I’ll bury him in curses before he casts a spell!
Someone screamed from further up the train, then there was silence. Harry pricked his ears, waiting for more. Not so much as a footstep came from outside their door, but Harry could sense someone moving outside.
The compartment opened silently and someone stepped across the threshold.
The spell slammed against Black’s chest. Glee lit inside Harry, burning away all but itself and a sick satisfaction. Everyone was so worried about him. Azkaban must have made him—
His mouth fell open. Black continued walking — no, gliding — towards him. It can’t be Black, Harry realized as the pieces came together. A hooded head loomed near the ceiling and its owner moved with inhuman grace.
A long, rattling breath came from beneath the hood. The torches died, Pansy’s Lumos charm went out, and cold crept beneath Harry’s skin. A dementor.
Pansy slumped back into the seat behind her and Theodore stood, frozen and trembling. Great — Theodore had been the most knowledgeable of them when it came to dementors.
Harry looked at the others. Crabbe was slumped on the compartment’s floor, his knees pulled up to his chest. Goyle looked lucid but cowered in a corner whilst Draco… Merlin, he looks bad. His wand had fallen from nerveless fingers and he trembled worse than any of them.
“Father says they’ve driven men mad.”
Why not me? Harry stared towards the creature’s head. Memories came, but he remained unbroken. Starved nights in his cupboard on Privet Drive, the awful sound when Longbottom’s neck snapped, pale snow drinking Wylla Nurmen’s dying blood, white-hot flames licking up his legs. His scar throbbed, but he felt little else. Maybe Grindelwald really did drive me insane and I just didn’t realize.
Harry threw another spell at the dementor. It winked out against its chest, but the monster turned its head towards him. “Leave!”
The dementor cocked its head. It did not retreat, but neither did it advance. Harry stepped forward, brandishing his wand.
The dementor lurched, arms raised wardingly towards Harry. What the… There was nothing else for it. “I said leave!”
The dementor glided wordlessly from the compartment. Torches burst back to life and the door slid shut.
Harry sagged back into his seat, wincing and exhausted. Every inch of him felt heavy and his eyelids fluttered beneath his burning scar. What are the odds? Of course Voldemort just happens to do something big right while I’m in the middle of all this nonsense.
This may be my favourite summer chapter, if it still counts as summer. I’m not sure why, something about it just pleases me.
The next chapter will pick up right where this one left off and wrap up the night of September 1st.
Please read and review.
Thank you to my lovely Discord Editor, Idefix, for his corrections/contributions on this chapter.
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