Perversion of Purity
Year 3: The Looming of Shadows
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.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to my editor Athena, as well as my other betas 3CP, Fezzik, Luq707, Raven, Regress, Thanos, and Yoshi89 for their incredible work on this story.
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February 16, 1915
As a child, Gellert had loathed the dark. It reminded him of waiting in a vast, high-ceilinged room and the way his heart pounded as a crowd gathered outside, eager to watch a young boy burnt atop the pyre. Durmstrang had cured him of that unease with its dark nights and dimly-lit corridors, but not until traipsing through pyramids, temples, and twisting catacombs had he grown to like the darkness.
Almost fifteen years…
Fifteen years he had spent trudging through the hidden corners of the world. That still sounds wrong… I am past my thirtieth year now. Gellert had kept up with things in the beginning, but the world had quieted and he had lost interest. Not until war broke out among the muggles had he seen a date, which had surprised him far more than the destruction happening on the European front. They are cursed by envy, destined to destroy.
Nearly half his life had been spent skulking through long-forgotten places and learning magic’s hidden secrets. A hundred different sites had been approached a hundred different ways, but almost always there was darkness.
I never imagined I would grow fond of it. It reminded him now not of that church, but of a thousand glowing rubies nestled at the feet of a towering bronze statue, or of a mosaic-covered floor sloping down into a pool of molten silver, or of a vaulted ceiling held up by high arches made from human skulls. Memories are but a distraction, focus on the task at hand.
This was the first time Gellert had burrowed into a dormant volcano, but the darkness was familiar and comforting, swaddling him like a warm blanket; a welcome break from the biting cold and heaps of snow piled atop the mountain’s peak.
Mount Llullaillaco was one of many peaks in a range nestled near the border separating Argentina from Chile. Once, the Inca had used it as a primary place of sacrifice.
Gellert had spent more than five years in South America; first in Mexico, then working his way through Yucatan and moving northwest. Empires came and went, each with their own ideas and magics.
Gellert had moved on from the Aztecs some time ago and was studying the succeeding empire, but the Inca had disappointed him for months. They were crafty and resourceful, but most of their magic was derivative of that which came before. Moving on was considered for nearly a week, until he found mention of the capacocha ritual. He remembered smiling as he read. Why is it that all the best things seem rooted in myth and legend?
It was not an interesting path, but Gellert trudged fruitlessly along until stumbling across records buried underground, hidden behind a nasty set of wards. They described pieces of the ritual and it was as expected — a ritual sacrificing children to their gods in exchange for mercy and fair fortune — except for one detail that struck him as odd. Unworthy? How is it some children are unworthy when they are judged prior to selection? It was mentioned more than once, and the more he read, the more he realized what was implied. There is another test… a supernatural evaluation.
His inquiries had brought him here, the most common site for capacocha sacrifices. Gellert had dismissed it at first — it is much too obvious — but as he climbed the mountain’s side, he realized that had been a miscalculation.
The temperature plummeted the higher he climbed. Waves of snow crashed down in drifts so high that Gellert often had to use magic to ensure he wasn’t buried. He had originally planned to apparate up the mountain, but the incline was too steep and the ground too precarious. Landing suddenly on any part of it would send him tumbling back down. Clever… not all traps must be magical.
Then there was the mountain’s peak — coated so thickly in snow that Gellert had been forced to burn most of it away — and the complex network of tunnels hidden within the mountain. The wards here were nothing like those in Egypt or Greece, but the Inca were more resourceful than any empire Gellert had yet scavenged. There were other magical traps that he had not planned for, and several times, he wondered whether turning back might be his only option.
No! Your knowledge is beyond anything they dreamed up; you will not bow to an empire long dead.
Gellert let all those memories flash past him, stepping into a vast cavern whose ceiling loomed so high that it was lost to sight. The walls were carved from the mountain and no torches lit the room. Gellert moved through in a sense of wonder, his own magical light floating around him. Shelf upon shelf stared down at him, hewn from stone and jutting straight out from the room’s carved walls.
They are all records, Gellert realized, skimming through recounts of rituals and journals of those given to the gods. His reading slowed when he seized one so old that the writing was faded. Many of the words were lost to time, but enough of them remained to paint a clear picture. Not an account, but instructions. A single incantation was scrolled across the page, words Gellert had never read before.
October 25, 1993
The Great Hall
Harry woke up that morning feeling dazed. The past two months had been spent watching Grindelwald traipse through ruined empires and uncover any magic he could, but last night was different. A chill seeped through him just thinking about it. Some spells just shouldn’t exist.
The previous night…
“I don’t get it,” Harry mused when he appeared in front of Grindelwald, “what does the spell do?”
“Judges and destroys.”
Harry frowned. “What does that mean?”
“You read over the list of proceedings?” Harry nodded. “So you will know that the Inca children were led into the centre of the peak before meeting their demise?”
“And there was something that happened before, yeah. That was the judging part, right? The part involving Protego Diabolica.”
“I still don’t get it. That scroll said the children were judged and chosen two years before the ritual.”
“That is a different kind of judgement. The children were chosen by the elders in their community. The judgement on the night of capacocha rituals was of a very different nature.”
“So what? Was the spell invented to judge if they were worthy or something? What was it testing?”
Harry blinked. “Their what?”
“I never learned whether Protego Diabolica was an Inca creation, just that they utilized it in the capacocha ritual. If it was a creation of theirs, they are more vicious than I imagined.” Harry just continued staring. “Protego Diabolica conjures a ring of fire around a central point.”
“Some kind of test, then?”
“A harsh one. The ring is not composed of ordinary flames, but of something more akin to Fiendfyre.”
Something clawed at Harry’s chest. “Isn’t Fiendfyre made from hatred?”
“It is an incarnation of it, yes.”
“So Protego Diabolica—“
“I do not know.”
The pressure around his chest vanished, momentarily stilled by his surprise. “You don’t?”
“Fiendfyre is the magic of legends and was written of long before my time. I found no recorded usages of Protego Diabolica sans the capacocha ritual. It makes studying the spell’s nature more difficult.”
The pressure returned, worse now. “If it’s like Fiendfyre, wouldn’t it just burn them all?”
“I said similar, not the same. Protego Diabolica will function as a shield, like the name suggests. It is always cast with a condition in mind.” A far-away look spread across his face. “I once cast it with the condition that anyone loyal to me could pass through the flames.”
A chill ran up Harry’s spine and the pressure in his chest mounted. “So it could tell if they were loyal?” Grindelwald nodded. “And if they weren’t?”
“Died? Not burned?”
Grindelwald’s lips twitched. “When it is fire like this, the two are one and the same.”
The vice around his chest burned, its heat seeping down into his stomach. “Could the kids not just back out if they were scared?”
Something dark lurked behind Grindelwald’s eyes. “The fire strikes faster than magic can carry you away. Those who attempt apparition in the spell’s presence die before they finish turning.”
His stomach churned. “So the kids, they…”
“Were forced to walk through the flames; it was their final test. The unwilling were purged whilst the worthy moved through and were sacrificed to the Inca’s gods.”
Back in the present…
The thought of children walking into the flames of judgement made Harry’s stomach crawl. It was an odd injustice. They never signed up to die, but they had to be willing? Death awaited them whether they were or not, but dying in anything like Fiendfyre seemed especially cruel. Why is it always children?
The Great Hall was abuzz with chatter that morning. Harry saw eyes lift when he entered and felt hundreds of piercing gazes upon his back as he moved towards the Slytherin table.
“Do I want to know what’s happened now?” he asked, reaching for a piece of toast and a glass of pumpkin juice.
Theodore reached wordlessly to his right and slid something under Harry’s nose. There, looking out at him from the paper’s front page, was yet another picture of Sirius Black.
SIRIUS BLACK SPOTTED IN HOGSMEADE
By Rita Skeeter
Harry skimmed the article and found that this one was more difficult to ignore. There were several eyewitnesses, including two separate business owners.
Harry felt the now familiar flames licking inside his stomach. His chest burned, but cold fury seeped through his blood. Let him come! Let him see what happens to traitors…
Harry knew he was unprepared even while working harder than ever before, but it was hard remembering that looking down into that laughing face and those joyful eyes. Come for me, Black… if I have my way, you’ll never laugh again.
October 28, 1993
An Abandoned Classroom
Ron grunted in frustration when not a single drop of silver left his wand.
“I don’t get it!” he groaned, slamming his wand down against an old desk’s surface. “Why isn’t it working?”
Ron could understand if this was last year, when he had still been rubbish at magic, but he had gotten better. His teachers noticed and complimented him regularly, but still the spell just wouldn’t work. Two weeks and still nothing!
Hermione chewed her lip. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “All the seventh years did tell us it was really advanced magic.”
“But it seemed so easy,” Ron muttered, thinking back to that book in the library.
Hermione hesitated. “Ron… you remember how I said there might be more to the spell than what was written?”
Ron grunted again. “We don’t have time to figure this out. The match is coming up. If the dementors show up…” he let his voice trail off.
The threat of the dementors had weighed more heavily since his scare at the Quidditch practice. Ron tried not thinking about it, but that was growing more and more difficult the closer their match loomed. Two weeks… bloody hell, there’s barely two weeks until we play Slytherin.
Ron wanted to believe the dementors would stay away, but he couldn’t. Bill had answered a letter asking about the dementors.
They’re heartless creatures, he had written. All that matters to them is feeding on people and their emotions; almost nothing will stop them from doing that.
Ron suppressed a shiver just thinking about the letter. Then his jaw fell slowly agape. Oh… I’m such an idiot!
Ron smacked a hand against his forehead. “Bollocks!”
“What?” Hermione asked, eyes wide.
“I’m such an idiot!” Ron cursed, this time aloud, slamming his hand against the desk.
“Ron! Don’t do that! What has gotten into you?”
“Bill. We’ve been skulking around looking for books and all that, but I could have asked Bill this whole bloody time. All I’ve written him about are classes, Egypt, and Runes. Gah.”
Hermione’s face lit up. “Would he know?” she asked, sounding breathless.
“He might. It’s sort of his job to know secret magic and all that, isn’t it?”
Hermione nodded, face flushed with excitement. “It can’t hurt to try, right?”
Ron was glaring down at his wand. “Can’t be any worse than whatever the hell we’ve been doing.”
October 31, 1993
Harry moved upwards through a tunnel blacker than night. If not for the light emanating from his wand, he would have seen nothing at all. The tunnel was unlike any of the other secret passages Harry had discovered whilst at Hogwarts. Its walls were hewn from stone, but it smelled strongly of earth and burrowed straight up and out from the castle’s belly.
More than a week had now passed since his discovery of Slytherin’s personal study. Harry had discovered a number of other rooms hidden in the same cavern, and beyond them, secret passages that snaked into the main castle.
The passages were a maze, coiling together then striking out in all directions. I’m not sure I’ll ever memorize all of them. Not that he wouldn’t try — some of them led to useful places and most bypassed the chamber’s primary entrance. No more getting soaked by that waterfall.
His footsteps echoed, thrown back at him by a wall up ahead. This must be the exit. These tunnels felt so different from the usual secret passages that a part of him wondered whether he may one day get lost in one.
Don’t think about that, think how useful they’ll be when they’re not so unknown. Instead he found his mind wandering back through time, remembering the day when he had first discovered them.
Eight days earlier…
Harry looked in awe around the room. The first thing he noticed were the portraits. There were a scant few of them. Most had thick black hair and small, cruel eyes, but one was different. Harry’s eyes almost passed it by, but then they snapped back, staring at soft cheekbones, pale skin, and a smile suggesting its owner knew secrets no one else did.
“You!” Harry spat at Riddle’s portrait, drawing his wand. “Say something!” The portrait said nothing. Harry growled, worrying for a moment that Voldemort meant to spy on him. The longer he stared, the more certain he became that his worries were unfounded.
The portrait was unmoving. Weird. I’ve never seen that in the magical world.
Harry looked away from Riddle’s portrait and to the wall behind Slytherin’s desk. A larger portrait hung there, framed in gold. The man it depicted was familiar. His beard was much shorter and his face much younger, but this could only be one man. Slytherin. Harry wished this portrait would move. Imagine being able to talk to him… it was little more than a fantasy, but for a heartbeat, he had hoped.
Harry lowered his eyes, spotting something on Slytherin’s desk. Is that… no, Riddle’s diary was not half so thick. Harry scooped up the plain black book and flipped to a random page, struck by what he saw. Words filled every inch, written in a tall, looping hand. Harry squinted. Merlin, it’s hard to read. The words came into focus and his jaw went slack, the date staring up at him. It’s older than Hogwarts… Merlin, this is Slytherin’s journal.
Back in the present…
Harry meant to study the journal, but the past week had been hectic. All his professors had decided they would hold tests before Samhain, which meant he was buried in homework and forced to use the time turner more than ever before. Occlumency was helping, but he was still so drained, he had no energy for things like the journal.
A wall of stone loomed ahead. Harry pressed his ear to the wall but heard no one outside. He cast a Homenum Revelio Charm to check before hissing at the wall and stepping out into a familiar corridor.
He was in the dungeons, deeper down than the common room and just past Snape’s office. I should get up to the feast, there will be time to explore later.
Hairs prickled on the back of his neck. Homenum Revelio. The wordless charm revealed nothing. Must just be the day. Harry crushed down a pang, not for his parents but for the fact he felt so little. I should care more… it’s just hard crying about people I’ve never met. I don’t get it.
Thinking of his parents and their murder brought forth thoughts of Black. His hand tightened on his wand. Maybe I should be cursing Voldemort today, but at least he was honest about it. Black laughed behind his mind’s eye, arm in arm with Harry’s father, featured in an old edition of the Daily Prophet covering his parents’ wedding. Damn him! Damn any traitor!
Harry’s knuckles whitened upon his wand. What he wouldn’t do for a shot at Black, foolish as he was. He could imagine it now; the sense of being watched, the footsteps behind him, the wall of stone blocking his path…
Harry threw himself sideways in time to dodge a burst of red light that broke against the conjured wall. Where the hell did that come from? I checked for other people! The stones stretched from wall to wall, ceiling to floor, blocking his path.
Harry turned, his eyes ablaze.
Sirius Black stared at him through dark, empty eyes. His hair hung slack and lifeless, matted with patches of dirt and coated in the same layer of grime that covered his frayed, grey robes. It barely even looks like him. Blood thundered in his ears, anger roared inside his stomach, setting it to boil. But it’s still him…
Black barely dodged a wordless Bone-Breaker, eyes wide. Weren’t expecting that, were you? Harry batted aside a stunner and countered, just missing with a curse that would have melted the skin off Black’s bones.
Harry batted aside a Disarming Charm and snarled. Don’t treat me like a child, you bastard! “Fight back!” Black chained a Full-Body-Bind with a Stunner and an Impediment Jinx, but Harry batted them aside, angrier now than any time he could remember. Fuck this!
Harry had feinted to the left and forced Black to move right, cornering himself up against the wall. The escaped convict was forced to dive flat against the floor. Harry’s spell missed by inches, sending loose stones tumbling from the wall it struck. Black cried out, clutching at his shoulder where several fragments had embedded.
Black’s scream was like music to his ears; a gleeful symphony that made his skin tingle and his blood lust sing. Dust tickled the bath of Harry’s throat and he coughed, firing another curse at Black to keep him occupied.
The curse missed, but ropes lashed at Harry, who dove to avoid them. Stones tried snaking around his limbs and pinning him down. Shit!
Black dove away, his focus shattered. Thanks, Theodore. It was one of the spells from the Nott family book of curses — the only spell Harry was sure black would not know. Rule one of a duel, dodge anything you’re not sure of. It was an excellent way to break someone’s concentration.
Black stood back up. Harry could see the places where shrapnel had marked him. There were several new tears in his robes and a laceration in his shoulder was trickling blood, the droplets spattering the floor, glistening in the torchlight like shattered rubies. Harry caught its coppery scent, mixed with dust and debris.
Black was panting much heavier than Harry, whose eyes narrowed as he raised his wand.
Black leant just out of the way, slashing his own wand. Nothing happened. What the… fuck! Harry threw himself flat against the floor. Something heavy flew above his head. That was close. It spun to face him, a canine made from stone. Another leapt on him, pinning down his wand arm. No! Two more leapt on his legs and the first stalked closer. No! Fuck, fuck fuck!
The weight vanished from his limbs and something smashed behind him. Stones sprayed the ground around him; one of them smashed against his nose, prompting a small stream of blood that he ignored, scrambling to his feet. I can still win!
Black’s back was turned and multi-coloured lights flashed between him and whoever he was fighting. Harry sprinted towards them but came up short, surprised when Black screamed, falling to his knees. Blood spurted out between his fingers, spattering the floor like crimson rain. He’s mine!
His spell missed — there was nothing to hit. No… not nothing. A black shape bounded down the corridor, charging whoever Black had duelled. Fuck, right, he’s an Animagus!
The grim slammed into the other man’s chest, sailing over his head and bounding down the corridor. Harry sprinted after him, wand raised. You’re dead, Black!
Harry paused for a heartbeat, but it was long enough. Black’s form vanished around a corner up ahead and someone grabbed his arm with a grip like iron.
Harry pulled to no avail. “Let me go!”
“Control yourself, Potter, or I will subdue you.” His breath caught. Snape… it was Snape. Snape saved me… “Black is gone and neither of us will catch him now.”
“Enough! I will tolerate no childish behaviour from the likes of you! I saw the curses you used. Convince me you’re mature enough to use them or I will stun you and drag your body with me.”
Harry tried blinking back tears, but they rolled down his cheeks as he followed in Snape’s footsteps. His body was on fire, itching all over. That was my chance… I had one chance, and I blew it!
And the plot thickens 🙂
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