Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 1: The Fracturing of Foundations
Chapter 6: Differing Dilemmas
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Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 1: The Fracturing of Foundations
Chapter 6: Differing Dilemmas
September 13, 1991
The Slytherin Common Room
The first-year Slytherins only had classes in the morning on Fridays, with the not-so-notable exception of History of Magic. From what Harry could tell, many of the upper-year Slytherins skipped the class altogether. He couldn’t blame them; it wasn’t as though Binns would ever notice. He started every class the same way: by floating straight through the wall, unrolling his comically long parchment of notes, and beginning to read. He had never once taken the roll call; not even on the first day of classes.
Harry enjoyed the subject, but its corresponding class was wholly and completely disappointing. Binns was frankly an embarrassment of a professor, and it took only a surprisingly light amount of pestering from Draco to convince Harry to skip the class that afternoon.
Harry was presently trying to bluff his way through a game of poker and struggling greatly. Pansy wasn’t helping him nearly as much as she had been earlier, for she was buried nose-deep in a Charms essay Harry and Theodore had completed in the library the night before. Theodore was probably the most academic person in their group. Harry was, to an extent, but not to quite the same level. He was more curious about magic than anything else, whereas Theodore was already well-informed and hungry for more. The two of them had vacated the common room together on more than one occasion to seek refuge in the library while the others did whatever struck up their fancy at that particular moment in time.
Harry was very close to defeat in their game, and the issue was only exacerbated by the fact his mind really wasn’t in it.
Ever since the dramatic flying lesson the day before, Harry’s mind had been wrought with the conflict between his morals and his friends. Weasley apparently hadn’t been caught out the night before, which either meant he hadn’t fallen for it, or he had just gotten away. Harry wasn’t sure which, but it had greatly irritated Draco.
He had been in a less than pleasant mood all day, partially as a result of that fact. Harry was far more conflicted. He felt as though he should be upset, just like Draco, for he was the closest friend he had. But he couldn’t quite will himself to feel that way, since a not-so-small part of him had also spent most of the past twenty-four hours questioning whether or not what they had done was wrong, even if nothing truly awful had come of it.
This distraction was costing him dearly and before long, the game had ended. Harry needed to think. If he didn’t, the tumultuous conflict would only continue, distracting him from any pursuit he may wish to dedicate himself to. He did have to get a Potions essay done, or at least started tonight, among other things. Theodore also wanted to practice spells again, which meant Harry’s mind was going to need to be as clear as possible.
He wasn’t exactly sure what would happen if it wasn’t, but their first lesson in Transfiguration had taught him that being in the right state of mind and visualizing things in the correct way for you was essential when casting magic. Harry really didn’t want to find out what would happen if he cast curses while not being in the proper state of mind. Especially if Crabbe and Goyle were serving as test dummies again — yet another thing that made him cringe and wonder exactly what he had stumbled his way into.
With a quick apology and a muttered excuse about needing some air, Harry scampered from the common room. The excuse about needing some air actually wasn’t all that out of the ordinary. A fair few Slytherins did need to retreat to the grounds at least once or twice a day to see some light. According to Theodore, being in constant darkness wasn’t good for most people’s mental state. The common room had no true windows, since it was underground. The closest thing it had was the portholes, providing a view of the vast black lake beyond.
It didn’t bother Harry. After spending much of a decade locked in a dark, dank cupboard and left to stair dully up at the underside of a singular set of stairs every passing night, the dungeons felt like a vibrant utopia, with blindingly bright sunlight and sparklingly perfect seas stretching far and wide, surrounding their image of perfection.
He got about halfway down the corridor just outside the common room when he heard swift footsteps echoing behind him, very obviously following in his wake. His hand twitched instinctively towards his wand as he glanced over his shoulder, but he quickly became more confused than worried.
“Hello, Harry. Mind if I walk with you?” He shook his head, not entirely sure of why she would want to, but not entirely averse to the idea.
They walked in silence until they neared the top of the steps leading them up to the castle’s ground floor, at which point Harry quickly realized he wasn’t entirely sure where he wanted to go.
“I know a nice place if you just need a breather,” said Diana, wearing a knowing expression as she spoke. “It’s a few floors up, but the walk isn’t terribly long. I know a shortcut that will speed things up.”
Harry nodded numbly, allowing himself to be led up the marble staircase leading to the floors above.
They walked for some time before Diana led him through a tapestry and onto a stunning balcony, of sorts. They stood on a cobblestone landing with iron railings overlooking the grounds far below. From this height, Harry could see everything. From the expansive green lawns to the lake shimmering and sparkling in the afternoon sunlight, to the seemingly endless forest on the edge of the grounds, stretching further than the eye could see.
It was probably the single most beautiful sight Harry had ever seen. The only other that even compared had been his first sight of Hogwarts while riding across the black lake almost two weeks ago now. And wasn’t that just mind-boggling? It had easily been the fastest two weeks of Harry’s young life, even if they had also been without a doubt the most complicated.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” asked Diana, smiling fondly out over the grounds, looking more relaxed than Harry had ever seen her younger brother.
Here, atop the tower, she could have been a royal surveying her land with pride and admiration. She certainly resembled that image far more than that of a thirteen-year-old girl having a casual conversation with her younger acquaintance.
“It is,” said Harry, turning his gaze back to the sight in question.
“I come here sometimes,” said Diana, “usually when I need a breather or something becomes too much.” Harry still wasn’t looking at her, but he could practically feel her stare burning into his side. “It’s a nice spot to just gather your thoughts and calm your mind.” He nodded slowly. “Can you tell me what it is that’s bothering you?”
Harry wasn’t sure how to answer that. It was so foreign. He had never been asked such a question in his life and he found it oddly jarring. For his entire life, he had only ever had himself to rely on. It had always been up to him to work out his own problems and sort out any jumbled emotions he had.
He had seen Dudley venting to Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon before, but he had never done so himself. Not that they would have listened to him even if he had — he actually had a strong suspicion Aunt Petunia would have hit him over the head with a frying pan — but he could honestly say the impulse had never once arisen.
He wasn’t sure how he felt about Diana asking him this question, and the confusion on his face obviously showed. His eyes snapped back to her briefly, and he could see the look of obvious concern that marred her otherwise picturesque face.
“The muggles you lived with didn’t treat you very well, did they?” Harry tensed at the question, but he could tell at once that exact reaction had given him away. “I’m guessing you were never asked these kinds of questions before, were you?” Numbly, Harry shook his head. “It can be helpful to talk about it, sometimes. A lot of the time, other people have been through things you haven’t. They might be able to look at a situation that you can’t look at in the same way.”
Harry bit his lip. “It’s… not easy to explain and… a bit embarrassing.”
“I won’t go around telling everyone about it. You don’t have to tell me, but if you think it might be helpful, I’ll do my best to give advice or help you any way I can.”
Harry couldn’t help but appreciate the way the question was asked. Diana was not attempting to force his hand, but instead, she was offering.
Harry’s instincts all screamed to decline the offer, but he paused, deciding to actually give it some thought before reacting on his gut instinct alone.
She almost definitely had much more experience in these sorts of things than he did. Part of his issue when deciphering the dilemma was the fact he’d never had friends before. Diana always seemed to be surrounded by a clique of students around her own age, so Harry could assume she was fairly popular. Even if he was underestimating her popularity, she certainly had far more friends than he had ever had.
He looked back out over the grounds as he took a deep breath, trying to focus on anything but the girl stood next to him as he finally admitted what had been plaguing his thoughts for the better part of twenty-four hours.
“I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to friends.”
Diana’s expression suddenly shifted to the perfect image of sadness though Harry, still surveying the grounds and looking anywhere but at the Malfoy Heiress, didn’t see it.
“You might have to be more specific,” she said in a soft, quiet voice.
“Your brother does things I don’t understand. Yesterday, he took Longbottom’s remembrall for no reason. He took it at the table during breakfast, then again when Longbottom broke his wrist during our first flying lesson. He started this huge fight with Weasley and then tried to get him in trouble, even though Weasley didn’t do anything.”
Harry was wringing his hands, and Diana could distinctly see that he was having trouble articulating exactly what was on his mind.
“I don’t know why he did it; it seemed pointless. There didn’t seem to be any reason for it, and it just seemed like bullying. But I like Draco. He’s treated me really well, just like you and your parents have. Same goes for Pansy, Theodore, Crabbe and Goyle. They all just let it happen, so I’m confused. Am I supposed to stop him because I think he’s doing something wrong, or am I supposed to laugh like all the others? It seemed wrong, but he’s my friend, so I’m supposed to support him, right? I don’t want him to not be friends with me because I stopped him from doing something like that, but I also felt bad for Weasley and Longbottom yesterday.”
Diana didn’t answer at once. “That’s… a complicated question. The first thing you have to understand is that my family and the Weasleys don’t get along. We have never gotten along, but especially not in this generation.”
She paused again, fidgeting uncomfortably. “My brother… he also isn’t the most mature person ever. He’s well-spoken and has been raised to act the part, but he is eleven and very much acts his age. You’re a bit different. You don’t know as much as Draco about a lot of things, and your views are different. You see the world differently, but knowing less about some things also means you think more. You think before you do things. Draco doesn’t always do that. He probably just saw a chance to go after Weasley and decided to take it. Longbottom, too. Our families were never directly rivals until lately, but… well, that’s even more complicated.”
“What do you mean?”
Diana looked much older than she actually was when she next answered. “Years ago, my father was accused of something horrible. Something he never actually did. He was proven innocent by the Wizengamot and everything. Longbottom’s parents… they’re not dead, but they’re in no state to be his parents. They were attacked at the end of the last war, and they’ve been locked up in St. Mungo’s — the major wizarding hospital — ever since. They’re as good as comatose, so Longbottom has been raised by his grandmother, and she’s largely run their family ever since.
“Well, the thing is, she’s never let my father live it down. She’s also accused him of somehow fooling the courts. She’s made him out to be this horrible person and tried to slander him at every turn. Draco probably lashed out at her grandson because of that.”
“That sounds awful,” said Harry, finally looking back at Diana, who shrugged.
“I wish she wouldn’t do it. The Longbottoms are an important family, so some people even believe the rubbish she says about father. It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of politics. Our families have different political views, so it’s something she does to try and take away from the points father makes.”
“That sounds awful, though,” said Harry.
“It’s part of politics, Harry. It’s not pleasant, but it’s not unexpected, either.”
“So… I should let Draco do these things?”
Diana tapped her fingers on the rail, looking as though she had been posed with a difficult equation to solve. “You shouldn’t be too upset with him for it,” she said. “He’s been raised knowing these people’s families attack father every chance they get. He’s well within his rights to be upset, I think.” Harry nodded; that was fair. He could hardly blame Draco for being angry about such things, and his actions suddenly made a lot more sense.
“But like I said,” Diana continued, “you think things through more than he does, sometimes. If you think he’s going to go too far, you can say something after it happens, at least.” She hesitated. “There’s a… sort of unwritten rule in Slytherin that makes this even more complicated.”
“Unwritten rule?” asked Harry, frowning as he tried to figure out exactly what kind of rule the older girl could be talking about.
“An unwritten rule, yeah.” She sighed. “If you haven’t noticed yet, the rest of the school doesn’t exactly love Slytherin.”
He nodded; he had noticed. If he hadn’t initially, the dirty looks he had been getting from many in the hallways and the occasional Tripping Jinx fired from behind had most certainly reminded him.
“Well, with Gryffindor and Hufflepuff always set against us — and Ravenclaw not usually wanting to help — it would be a bad idea for Slytherin to be arguing all the time. If we gave the houses ammunition or showed them weakness, things would only get worse.”
Harry could easily understand that. He knew better than most what happened when you showed weakness around people who despised you. Ten years with the Dursleys had practically earned him a Ph.D. in the subject.
“Well, we don’t want that to happen, so the rule is sort of not to argue amongst ourselves in public. When we’re around the other houses, it’s best to look like all is well and good, that way they don’t take advantage of the weakness. So if Draco does something in front of the whole of Gryffindor, calling him out on it right then and there might be a bad idea.”
Harry practically shuddered at the thought. The Gryffindors hadn’t been the kindest bunch to him already. He could only imagine what would happen if he gave them any sort of advantage.
“So if I think Draco’s gone too far or is just being a bully without need,” Harry said slowly, “I should talk to him about it later?”
Diana nodded with a smile. “Exactly. He’s far from perfect. Draco is a lot of things, and he’s not the most subtle boy in the world. He also doesn’t think sometimes, as I said, and he looks up to Father a lot. Father rants about the Weasleys and Longbottoms all the time, so it’s rubbed off on Draco. I’m sure he’s going to lash out at the children without thinking. If it’s just banter, it’s fine. When he starts stealing family artifacts like remembralls…”
“A bit too far,” Harry finished.
“A bit too far,” agreed Diana.
Harry smiled at her. He felt as though a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. “Thanks, Diana. I’m… not very good with feelings and stuff.” This last part was said rather meekly.
Her expression turned sad. “That’s not your fault, Harry. Don’t blame yourself for what happened with the muggles. It’s them who should be sorry. If you ever need help, I’m always here. I know you might not like asking for it, but it really isn’t any bother.” She smiled. “Maybe having you be a bit more mature might even whip Draco into shape. Merlin knows he could use it.”
Harry laughed, and the air around them lightened all at once.
October 7, 1991
The Defence Against the Dark Arts Classroom
Harry could happily say the weeks following his conversation with Diana had passed without incident. There had been an odd period of about a week and a half during which Draco had been surprisingly quiet. He had scarcely looked at the Gryffindors during that time, something Harry had noticed when he actually hadn’t risen to their challenges. The novelty had worn off in time, but he still hadn’t instigated any new conflicts with the house of the brave. It was an odd and sudden shift, though one Harry was definitely in favour of.
Time away from complex drama had allowed Harry and the other to settle into their schedule, and Harry could easily say he was enjoying Hogwarts more than he had ever dared hope for.
He enjoyed Transfiguration greatly, and he really liked Charms. History was also intensely interesting, so long as he wasn’t sitting in Binns’s classroom.
Despite his enjoyment for several different classes, his favourite of the lot was quite easily Defence Against the Dark Arts. Partly, because the content was interesting, and partly, because he, Theodore and Draco had been practicing jinxes, hexes, and curses for the past number of weeks. It had become a sort of ritual every Friday night. They sometimes did practice on other nights as well, but Friday night practices had become a surety.
Part of it, though, was undoubtedly due to Professor Quirrell.
Quirrell was easily Harry’s favourite professor, even though he did like most of them. Or at the very least, he admired them for their talents.
Quirrell was different, though.
For one thing, he had let them perform practical magic from right out the gate, which had earned him major brownie points with Harry, as well as much of the student population. For another… it was hard to explain. He was just… interesting? The way he spoke about his subject was entrancing. He spoke with such knowledge and passion that one couldn’t help but listen, and he had always been more than capable of answering Harry’s, or anyone else’s questions.
That was another thing. Harry couldn’t ever remember a time Quirrell had refused to answer a question. The other teachers had all said, at least once, that the content brought up by a question would be covered more in later years, but Quirrell had never denied them information.
Not to mention he just taught them really cool magic.
Like that day, for instance, when he decided it was finally time to learn to properly defend themselves.
“There are two sides to a fight,” he was saying. “Or an attack, or a duel, or any such conflict. There is the instigator, and there is the defender. It’s not so black and white as that, of course. The instigator can shield, and the defender can attack. That’s what makes conflicts conflicts. They’re rarely straightforward and rarely over quickly. That’s why it’s important that no matter what side you’re on, you know how to do both.
“So far, I’ve done my best to help build up your foundations, but if I started flinging spells at you all right now, you would all be helpless, unless you could somehow manage to dodge every spell I threw at you.” The skeptical tone of his voice did an excellent job of getting across exactly how likely that was. “Dodging is always the best option,” Quirrell reminded them. “It takes less time, doesn’t occupy your wand, and you don’t have to draw on any energy from around you. The problem is that it won’t always be an option. Sometimes, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, and your only option is to defend.
“The most basic form of defence is a shield. Now, there are many different shields out there that you can summon with magic. Today, we’ll start from the beginning. I’m going to teach you the most basic of shield charms. It wouldn’t be of much use in a fight or an upper-level duel, but it will serve you all well at your age, and will serve as an apt introduction to the subject of defensive magic.” He paused, surveying them all with those dark eyes of his. “Can anyone tell me what this charm is?”
Harry had read his entire Defence Against the Dark Arts book through almost two times now, as it was his favourite subject, so he actually did know this one. So, apparently, did Theodore and Daphne Greengrass, as both of their hands rose.
Quirrell pointed to Harry. “Potter?”
“The Aegis Vocar shield, sir.”
“Good; five points to Slytherin. Yes, Aegis Vocar is the most basic magical shield. It’s only meant to hold against jinxes and some basic hexes, but it does have the unique ability to move with the caster. Some more powerful shields can do that as well, but they are much more advanced and they’re more difficult to maintain.
“Your task today,” he continued, “is to master the Aegis Vocar shield. I don’t expect many of you to be capable of casting this spell by the end of class, but I am hopeful. If two of you achieve it, you will group up and practice against harmless jinxes from the others. Now, I will demonstrate the wand movement and we shall get underway.”
Five or so minutes later, Harry found himself standing in a corner of the room, with Draco, Theodore, Pansy, Crabbe and Goyle not far away. He was slowly drawing the wand movement out in the air while the others tried in vain to get the shield to work. Harry’s eyes were closed, envisioning the perfect shield springing into being in front of him.
“Are you having troubles, Master Potter?” Harry nearly jumped out of his skin at Quirrell’s voice. “My apologies,” he said, “I didn’t mean to startle you. I was only wondering if you were having any troubles?”
Harry shook his head quickly. “No, sir. I haven’t tried yet. I’ve just been making sure I’ve got everything right.”
Quirrell raised his eyebrows. “And do you think you’re ready to attempt the spell?”
“I think so, sir.”
“Let’s see it then.”
Harry whipped his wand in a quick, tight circle in front of his chest. “Aegis Vocar!”
The shield was not visible, even when cast at its best, but Harry could feel the magic drawn towards him, feel it rush from his wand, and feel the air ripple in front of him. He beamed, and Quirrell’s brows rose still further.
“May I?” he asked, gesturing towards where Harry’s shield must have been. When Harry gave permission, the professor withdrew his wand and prodded Harry’s shield five or so times. “It isn’t as solid as it could be,” he said, “but it is an excellent attempt for one with your level of experience.” He eyed Harry critically. “This is your first attempt, Master Potter?”
The man nodded approvingly, eyeing him with an intent stare. “Continue at this level, Potter, and I think I will have to come up with some new challenges for you. You have exceptional potential within this branch of magic. See that it does not go to waste.”
The professor stalked off to check on the others, and Harry pondered the words deeply.
It was one of the first genuine compliments from an adult he had ever received and he had to admit, it was quite a nice feeling.
October 19, 1991
The Grounds of Hogwarts
The sound of two children laughing might have been heard early one Saturday morning on the Hogwarts grounds had the wind not ruthlessly taken the noise and ripped it away, carrying it adrift almost as rapidly as the source of the sound was flying.
Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy soared above the grounds, laughing exuberantly as they flew a fast lap of the black lake, the wind sweeping through their hair and the cool, crisp fall air caressing their skin.
It was what would likely be one of the last decent fall mornings. Halloween was fast-approaching — or, as Harry’s new group of friends called it — Samhain. Many of the upper-year students had warned their younger counterparts that in the Scottish Highlands, the death of October often meant the end of any chance at decent weather.
Draco had been insistent they take advantage of the morning, and Harry hadn’t exactly been hard to convince.
Since their first fiasco of a flying lesson, several more had gone off without a hitch. During each of them, Harry had often come to the same two realizations. He really enjoyed flying, and he was startlingly good at it. Draco had most definitely been right in assuming Harry wouldn’t have any troubles on a broom. It had come more naturally to him than almost anything else, and as soon as Draco had seen this, he had practically dragged Harry out on the grounds to fly.
First years weren’t allowed to own brooms but they were, with the permission of Madam Hooch, allowed to borrow some of the school ones. Her permission usually hinged on how much aptitude she saw during their lessons and how comfortable she was in allowing them to fly freely. She had no worries about Harry or Draco, so she had acquiesced without issue and they’d made a sort of habit of it. Harry would very much miss the early morning flights once the air around the castle was too cold to zip through on a broomstick. It was one of his favourite things in the magical world so far. He loved it more than anything he had ever seen or experienced in the muggle one.
The boys’ laughter only became even more joyful when they swooped around the lake once more, this time only to notice their friends gathered under one of the trees, the vibrant, fall-coloured leaves dotted out all around them like a haphazardly discarded blanket.
With a glance at each other, the both of them came in for the landing, touching down smoothly in front of Pansy, Theodore, Crabbe, Goyle, Diana, and a few older students Harry didn’t recognize.
A girl a couple of inches shorter than Diana with golden blonde hair was nearest to her. She had deep blue eyes and angelic features, and Harry didn’t know her by name, though he had seen her around Draco’s sister more often than not. With them as well were two boys. They were both quite large, each with short hair. One of them had rather chiselled features where the other’s were bulkier and his brown hair was slicked back.
“I don’t suppose you’ve met my friends?” Diana asked Harry once the two first-year boys had taken seats. Harry shook his head a bit nervously — meeting new people always gave him a certain amount of anxiety.
Diana seemed to notice, as the small, brief smile she shot his way was as reassuring as one could be. “Right then. Harry, meet Cassandra Yaxley, Graham Montague, and Cassius Warrington. All heirs or heiresses to their respective families.
Cassandra was the first to offer her hand, though she studied him with a rather piercing gaze.
Warrington was next, and his own stare was interesting in a different sort of way. “How long have you been flying, Potter?”
Harry rolled his shoulders a bit awkwardly. “I’ve only just started.”
Warrington’s brows rose. “Really?” Harry nodded. “Keep practicing,” he told him, “you have the build for a seeker and could probably end up on the Slytherin team in the next few years.”
“Could be next year,” said Montague. “Higgs graduates at the end of this year.”
Warrington nodded. “True.”
A part of Harry wanted to deny it, but a larger part of him was dominated by an eleven-year-old’s imagination. He couldn’t help but envision himself raising the Quidditch Cup high above his head, resplendent in Slytherin team robes and with the silver captain’s badge proudly gleaming on his chest.
It was a beguiling image.
Beguiling enough that he didn’t even notice the way Draco frowned very deeply at the words, nor the way his older sister shot him a warning glance over Harry’s shoulder.
October 30, 1991
The Charms Classroom
At long last, the Slytherins were finally set to perform genuinely interesting practical magic in Charms.
Thus far, they had done little more than read an obscene amount of theory, written an obscene amount about theory, and learned mundane spells that took absolutely no effort in learning. For the better part of a week, Flitwick had been promising that they would finally be learning something interesting — the Levitation Charm. Harry was certain, judging by the levels of excitement exuding from each and every single one of them, that the whole class would have walked out had the diminutive professor changed his mind; but mercifully, the man had stuck to his guns.
After an absurd tale about a Buffalo winding up on some poor man’s chest due to a botched incantation, they were all told to come to the front of the glass, grab a feather, and begin.
“Weasley’s so thick; I bet he’ll buy the rubbish about the buffalo,” Draco was saying as they neared the front of the class.
“All of the Gryffindorks will probably buy it,” said Nott with a roll of his eyes.
“Longbottom might actually wet himself,” said Pansy with a smirk. “I hope Professor Flitwick knows more than Charms because he might have to transfigure his underwear into a diaper.”
“Can we not talk about Longbottom’s underwear?” moaned Harry, causing his friends all around him to laugh. The conversation did switch tone after that, which made him relieved, though not for the reasons he’d led his friends to believe.
Diana’s point about subtlety had stuck. It was something Harry was slowly working on.
Harry and Draco were at a table together and they were both terribly excited.
Harry didn’t think he was quite as adept at the theoretical side of their classes as somebody like Hermione Granger, but he was thrilled at the natural talent he seemed to have. Professor McGonagall had described it as an intuitive sense for magic. While Draco didn’t have that, Charms was one of his best subjects, and it was one he enjoyed quite a bit.
“Wingardium Leviosa,” he said, swishing and flicking his wand.
Draco’s feather twitched.
Harry cracked up and Draco scowled at him. “What’s so funny?”
Harry threw up his hands. “Nothing, nothing. You just sounded so confident.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Let’s see you go then, Merlin,” he challenged.
With a swish, a flick, and a carefully enunciated incantation, Harry’s feather was floating casually above the desk, and Draco was rolling his eyes so hard as Professor Flitwick bore down on Harry with a gleeful expression that the raven-haired youth was afraid they might fall out.
“Prat,” muttered Draco as Flitwick walked away, but he was grinning.
Harry smirked too, and both boys turned their wands back towards the feathers.
October 31, 1991
The Great Hall
The Great Hall was more elaborately decorated than Harry had ever seen. There was so much orange present that the entirety of the hall seemed to bathe in its vibrant, fluorescent light.
The walls were draped in orange and where torches had hung before, there were now pumpkins, their eyes and mouths exuding bright, magical light. Even the usual golden plates and goblets had been replaced by orange. Dumbledore’s holiday-themed robes were of the same colour, and Harry thought they shone just as brightly as the walls, pumpkins and lights. It was actually rather impressive.
His friends were not at all happy.
“It’s an embarrassment,” hissed Theodore, glaring daggers at Dumbledore from his seat at the Slytherin table. “The old fool is trying to ruin every tradition we’ve ever had. He doesn’t care about any of them. The only thing that matters to him is making the mudbloods feel welcome.”
“It’s disgusting,” agreed Draco. “Father goes on and on about Dumbledore and his stance on muggleborns. He says Dumbledore is going to be single-handedly responsible for destroying the old ways if he isn’t stopped at some point.”
Harry listened to their banter mutely, though he found himself very confused for most of the conversation.
The extent of his knowledge about the situation was that pureblood wizards didn’t celebrate Halloween. Apparently, Halloween was a purely muggle holiday. The purebloods and more traditional halfbloods celebrated something called Samhain. Harry had been reluctant to ask about it. He found asking questions difficult, and he didn’t want to be viewed as foolish. He had considered asking Diana since she had been so welcoming with questions earlier in the year, but a proper situation really hadn’t presented itself. Perhaps now would be the appropriate time to ask. It might even stop his friends’ vicious tirade against the Hogwarts Headmaster.
Before he could, the doors to the Great Hall slammed open with a resounding crash that rang through the room like the clattering of many bolts of thunder.
Argus Filch staggered into the room, wide-eyed and clearly terrified. He could barely walk in a straight line, though Harry noticed his typical habit of shuffling was gone. He had never seen the cantankerous man move so fast. In what seemed no more than an instant, he was on his knees in front of Dumbledore, wheezing and gasping as he managed two feeble sentences that were somehow caught by every single student gathered in the luridly decorated hall.
“Troll… in the dungeons. Did what any sensible man would do and got the hell out of there. Thought you ought to know.”
Then, he fainted, and pandemonium broke loose.
Several booming fireworks were shot from Dumbledore’s wand, and the collective masses fell silent.
“Prefects,” said Dumbledore in a surprisingly strong and clear voice for one his age. “If you are members of Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, you will carefully escort your students back to their common rooms. Hufflepuffs and Slytherins,” he continued just as muttering swept through the hall, “you will all remain here, as I view it unwise to allow you to draw so close to the troll’s alleged location. I and the other professors will leave after the prefects and their houses, at which point I will be locking you all in the hall. Nobody is to make any attempt at leaving until one of us returns and instructs you all to do so.” Nobody made a sound. “Well, prefects — chop chop!”
The sound of the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw benches scraping backwards screeched through the hall, and the prefects led their charges out the massive doors faster than Harry might have expected. The staff were on their heels, with Dumbledore in the lead, lurid robes billowing as if caught up in a non-existent wind.
Once all of them had left, the doors to the Great Hall closed with a loud, clattering thud.
Minutes later, on the second floor…
“What do you think happened?” Neville asked Ron in a panic as they slowly followed Percy and the other prefects up towards Gryffindor Tower.
“No idea,” said Ron. “Mum and Dad have always said Hogwarts is the safest place in Britain. They wouldn’t believe it if I said somebody could have ever gotten hurt at Hogwarts.” Neville froze in mid-stride, and he suddenly went as white as a ghost. Ron frowned. “You alright, Neville?”
“Hermione,” he moaned.
Ron went ashen.
During that day’s Charms lesson, Ron had sat at a table with Hermione as they were tasked with mastering the Levitation Charm. She had annoyingly gotten the charm on her first try, but she had also been an arrogant prat about it, in Ron’s opinion.
Still, he was all of a sudden wishing he had possessed a little bit more tact while they had left the class.
According to Parvati Patil, Hermione was locked up in a bathroom on the second floor, and she would have no idea about the troll running loose in the castle.
Back in the Great Hall…
“How could a troll have gotten in?” Pansy was asking in a hurried whisper.
“It couldn’t have,” said Theodore. “Father’s told me about the Hogwarts wards. He says there are none like them in the world. There’s only one way a troll could have gotten into Hogwarts.”
“Are you saying one of the teachers let it in?” Harry asked incredulously.
Nott’s eyes gleamed. “Don’t be so naive, Harry. Not all teachers are angels.”
The thought that one of the professors would ever do such a thing made Harry shudder.
All of the conversation dominating the half-full hall seemed to be of a similar nature. The one surety was that everyone had become so preoccupied with their own conversations that nobody had noticed Filch’s once prone body had vanished from the hall.
Ron was well aware that the two of them — he and Neville — were likely making the single dumbest decision of their lives as they neared the corridor housing the bathroom Hermione was supposedly locked up in.
Then, the stench hit them, and Ron would have cried out in protest had Neville not clamped a hand firmly over his mouth.
Both of them leant slowly and carefully around the corner and what they saw was beyond anything they had ever spotted before.
The grotesque being lumbering through the halls had to be nearly ten feet tall, and it was absolutely massive. Its grey skin gave it a dullishly sinister look, as did its dumb, beady eyes.
Ron and Neville watched in transfixed horror as the thing stupidly walked head-long into a door before growling at it and forcing entry by slamming its fist into the impediment. Seeing a golden opportunity and taking a moment of inspiration, Ron sprinted forward, lunged for the door, slammed it shut, and turned the lock.
“Ha!” he exclaimed, and he and Neville beamed openly at each other, taking pride in a job well done.
Until a high-pitched scream ripped through the corridor, and their breath was snatched from them as suddenly as it might have been had they leapt naked into ice-cold water in late January.
“HERMIONE!!” both boys screamed, and they both reached for the handle at the same time.
Ron got there first and forced the door open, then he and Neville charged in, freezing at the sight before them.
Hermione was sitting against the far wall, cowering as the troll loomed ominously above her, towering tall and scowling down at her with obviously murderous intent.
Ron then did the single stupidest thing he had ever done in all his life.
“Oi, dragon dung!”
The troll whirled to face him, looked very confused, and then growled and began advancing.
“Wingardium Leviosa!” called out Ron, swishing his wand at the row of sinks on the wall to his right.
All but one of them wrenched themselves from the wall with horrible shattering noises, and Neville darted out of the way as Ron thrust his wand towards the troll. One after another, all of the sinks slammed hard against the thing’s head and shattered.
The troll faltered but didn’t stop.
Neville was trying to get Hermione on her feet and out of the bathroom, but her legs seemed too shaky to stand, and Neville was having a hard time hauling her into an upright position. Worse still, the troll was bearing down on Ron, beady eyes narrowed and club raised.
Desperately, he repeated the same spell, ready to die at any moment.
Miraculously, he didn’t.
The club rose out of the troll’s grasp and it reached for the weapon confusedly, snorting and grunting as the club flew higher and higher and was soon out of its grasp. It then looked up at the implement now hovering above its head with a dumbstruck expression.
Ron released the spell, and the club fell, smacking into the troll’s head with a resounding CRACK!
The impact drove the troll to its knees and caused the creature to let out a thunderous, agonized moan as the club split in two as soon as it made contact with the troll’s head. Ron was so stunned the thing wasn’t dead or at least unconscious that he hadn’t noticed its massive, grubby hands reaching for him until it was already too late.
He was pulled forward by the collar of his robes and he was suddenly certain once more he would die.
Until Neville, the meek, outcast of Gryffindor rushed forward with an animalistic war cry and leapt onto the troll’s back. The beast didn’t even seem to notice, it was so focused upon Ron. Neville seemed completely unsure what to do, so he withdrew his wand and with as much force as he could muster, drove it straight up the creature’s nose as far as it went.
The thing howled in pain and threw Ron backwards, writhing as the implement rubbed against its very brain. Neville gritted his teeth and, with everything he had, pushed a little bit further, trying to channel magic through the mechanism as he did so.
The wand snapped with a crack that echoed through the bathroom, and there was an explosion of raw energy so blindingly bright that Ron and the others were left blinking spots from their eyes for several minutes, though they had no trouble hearing the deafening thump of the troll’s body hitting the floor, nor the way the sinks precariously shook on the walls.
After they could all see once more, they noticed at once that the troll was indeed slumped, unmoving on the floor and that Neville’s wand was lying near its head in two pieces.
“My wand! Dad’s wand… gran’s gonna kill me!”
“Is… is it dead?” Hermione asked at the same time.
Before Ron could even try to answer, the bathroom’s entrance slammed open, and professors Dumbledore, Quirrell, Flitwick, McGonagall and Snape burst through the door, wands outstretched.
Ron could only wonder exactly how in the name of Merlin they were going to talk their way out of this one.
I know it sort of seems that Ron is just canon Harry right now, but I have a lot of character growth planned. He resembles first-year Harry in canon at the moment because, frankly, Harry was the definition of a cookie-cutter Gryffindor, and Ron is sort of that. If anything, it should show you that I have no plans of needlessly bashing Ron, and I hope you enjoy his arc in the story.
In other news, Harry’s education and potential indoctrination have begun. You shall all see where that goes as the plot unravels.
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