Perversion of Purity
Year 3: The Looming of Shadows
Chapter 23: Passing Tests
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, Luq707, Regress, and Thanos for their incredible work on this story.
Self-Promotion: I have a Discord server where you can chat and read all of my chapters early. You can also follow the ACI100 Twitter account — @ACI_100 — for live updates and to check out my official website.
If you would like to get my chapters even earlier than Discord and receive other, exclusive benefits whilst generously supporting me at the same time, I have a PATREON page. The link to that can also be found on my profile, Discord server, or website.
June 21, 1941
Gellert appeared with a soft snap, standing in a valley, ringed on three sides by trees that looked like stalking shadows in the fading light. Through a crack in the trees ahead, he could see the final rays of sunlight shining off a great lake’s surface, whilst behind him, the mountain loomed like a defensive wall.
He twirled the Death Stick between his fingers. This reeks of a trap, but the prospect is too sweet.
Much of Europe was his, and even powers like France had offered little resistance. The image of Beauxbatons burning with escaped refugees from his attack on the ministry trapped inside swam before his mind’s eye. Beauxbatons and the French ministry had been his greatest victories so far, but Russia was a different matter altogether. Between their numbers, their training, and their position nestled between hulking mountains, they were the one power in Europe Gellert wished not to grapple with.
A large group of shadows stepped out from their places hidden in the dark ring of trees. All of them were dressed in blood-red cloaks, but those of the two front-most men were trimmed — one in gold, the other in silver.
The one in gold stepped forward. “We have come as requested.”
Gellert bowed his head. “For which I am grateful. You are Tsar Romanov, I presume?”
Feodor Romanov nodded. “My son,” he said, jerking his head stiffly towards the boy whose cloak was trimmed in silver. Feodor must have been older than Gellert, but like him, he did not look his age.
“Charmed,” Gellert said with a smile.
“Why is it you have come?”
“I come with hopes of friendship and unity.”
The Tsar’s expression remained blank. “You understand that we have segregated ourselves from the rest of Europe since our founding, yes?”
Gellert made himself smile. “I admire your dedication, but tradition is redundant when maintained for tradition’s sake. Progress must always be encouraged. It is why I act — for progress and its greater good.”
“I see. And what do you offer us in exchange for friendship?”
Feodor’s eye twitched. “We have never been successfully sieged and that will not change.”
“There is a first time for everything. Great wizards learn from their inferiors’ mistakes.”
“And I have learned. I have learned from the rest of Europe. We do not want war, Grindelwald. This is no place for it.”
Gellert spread his arms. “I do not wish for war. I wish for a world in which witches and wizards have the lives they deserve.”
“We have that world already.”
His frustration mounted. “Then surely you can understand my craving.”
“I never spoke ill of your cause — only the carnage that it’s caused. Do you think we will be left alone? Do you think that associating with you will make us stronger? Our lives will remain unchanged but for the fact we will lose our peace if your power swells. You wish for our help, but we have nothing to gain.”
Gellert’s eyes narrowed. “So you will not join me. Fine. What of a truce?”
“A truce is joining you. What do you think will happen if we declare that truce? What will happen if other powers ask after us and we tell them we agreed to terms with you?”
Gellert scowled. “So you will not accept my offer?”
A knot of ice tightened beneath Gellert’s ribs. They had let him come all this way just to be ignored. I will not be made a fool.
Gellert looked into Feodor’s eyes. His opposition would approach him, just as the Tsar predicted. The question was — could he trust him to stay neutral, like he claimed to want?
No. Those eyes are not meek. If he sees an advantage in joining my enemies, he will take it.
“You allowed this visit only to study me. You wished to know what one side would offer you in case the other came calling.”
Feodor’s chin jutted out. “And if I did? Do you mean to threaten me?”
Gellert had established a grip over much of Europe, but many of its people still writhed between his fingers. If Russia rebuffed him and joined the allies, it would be a strong blow and give hope to those subjugated once again. It could be the difference between peace and rebellion.
I need Russia — willingly or not.
“A threat is an implication. I do not imply action — I take it.”
The boy’s instincts were good. He called just as Gellert’s arm raised and the Cruciatus Curse left the Death Stick’s tip. Feodor sidestepped and drew his wand like a sword, brandishing it towards Gellert and sending a wall of curses rolling towards him.
The others were firing spells now, too. There were dozens of guards all bombarding him and the Tsar’s son was reaching for his wand.
Gellert conjured a silver shield and let it absorb the storm of spells. It wavered but did not fall as he calmly batted curses back at their casters and dropped them with spells of his own.
These are not ordinary aurors and there are too many of them. They’ll overwhelm me if I fight like this.
Air rushed around the men behind Feodor, whistling in a high-pitched screech. Gellert twisted the Death Stick and the air blurred, then clamped around two dozen of them. Gore sprayed outwards as it shredded another dozen men. Blood flew so fast, it hung in the air like crimson fog. Gellert deflected another of Feodor’s spells then twirled the wand in a single motion. The air blurred again, taking the form of a dragon that reared and struck at the remaining soldiers.
“Ivan!” Feodor called to one of the soldiers, still trying to break through Gellert’s shield. “Take Pyotr to safety!”
The dragon dissolved, replaced by a band of swords that sliced through soldiers like they were naught but butter. Another sweep of his wand bent the air into a single, jagged line of death that sliced a score of men in half, sending blood and gore in all directions.
Beads of sweat formed on Gellert’s face. Aerokinesis was not a natural gift of his. Casting this spell would be completely impossible if not for the Death Stick.
Too much of his attention focused on the air and his shield fell. A gleam appeared in Feodor’s eyes as he aimed his wand, but Gellert remained unphased.
I’m not beaten yet.
“Father!” Pyotr called as the air rushed towards Feodor, poised to slice him in two like it had almost all of his men.
The fire swirled around the Tsar, leaping between him and the surging, malevolent air. One of the soldiers grabbed Pyotr and vanished just as the two forces collided.
There was a loud whoosh, then an explosion that shook the mountain behind them. Rocks surged down in an avalanche that Gellert conducted with his wand. The boulders leapt straight over him once they reached the mountain’s foot and would have crushed Feodor had he not summoned another wave of Fiendfyre and reduced them all to ashes.
The flames rushed towards him, but Gellert dispelled them with a swish of his wand, batting Feodor’s next curse aside. It had come slower and lacked his earlier punch; twice conjuring Fiendfyre had weakened him.
Feodor collapsed and the wand fell from his fingers, rolling across the stones towards the now bubbling crater where air and fire had collided. Gellert waited for the Tsar to scream, but no sound left his lips even as he twitched uncontrollably.
Gellert raised his wand and the curse lifted. Feodor panted on the ground at his feet. “I think it’s time we renegotiate, don’t you?”
The Tsar raised his head. “Father!” Pyotr’s voice came from a nearby cliff, shouted back half a dozen times by the ring of mountains all around them. It was too far away. The boy would never reach them in time.
Feodor smiled. It was a crimson smile streaked with blood, but it was still a sight to see. Gellert almost stepped back. “You will never have him, Grindelwald. Ivan will take him away and you’ll never breach our defences.”
“It need not come to that. Surrender and this can end. Your son can live peacefully and you can avoid more pain.”
The man laughed and spat a glob of blood at his feet. “You will get no surrender. Kill me, Grindelwald. Our defences will break you, but I will destroy you if I live.”
Anger bubbled deep in his stomach, but it was quelled by a cold chill as he remembered the words of another from not long ago.
“There is more to might than magic. You will learn that, Grindelwald, and it will be a final reminder of your mistakes.”
He raised the Death Stick high. “AVADA KEDAVRA!”
“Wait?” Harry asked when the darkness faded. “So Russian wizards don’t live in the same place as the muggles?”
“A small number dwell with their inferiors, but the official nation does not. The closest muggle settlement is Sochi. It is some distance away and separated by some of the most impressive wards I have ever come across.”
Harry scratched his head. “I’ve never heard of that before. I sort of just assumed everyone was like Britain.”
“Russia is not unique. Others isolate themselves. Norway, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Estonia — many separated themselves, but most followed Russia’s lead. They are the largest of these powers and the most formidable.”
Harry nodded. “When I asked my friend if Britain was the most powerful country, he said it was hard to say. He mentioned Russia as one of the others — he said they repelled you.”
“Russia’s might is unquestionable. Their position in the mountains makes them nigh unsiegable; a brutal lesson I learned in the months following my duel with Feodor.”
“What did you call Feodor? A Tsar?”
“It is an old Russian title. The muggles used it centuries ago. Magical Russia’s monarchy remains unbroken — not since Peter II faked his death and moved north some forty years after the establishment of the International Statute of Secrecy, founding the nation as it is known today.”
“So what happened after the memory?”
“I fled. I knew the boy and his guard would return with hundreds of men. I did return and try seizing the nation by force, but failed. I lost many men in those mountains and am fortunate to have escaped alive.”
“Russia must really be something. I never thought I’d hear you say something like that.”
“None of them could stand against me alone, but their numbers, wards, and lay of the land proved a difficult puzzle. I retreated about six months after that memory and the muggles soon followed.”
“Muggles always say that was when Germany lost the war. Was that true for you?”
“It was a devastating blow, but not debilitating. The war came down to myself and Albus. Much of my control waned after that loss. Ironic. I sieged Russia with the hope of proving my might, thereby quelling future rebellion. My loss gave those same people the hope they needed to rebel.”
“But you still could have won?”
“If I had beaten Albus. That would have proven my power above any petty squabble. The crowds would have been silenced and I could once again have focused more on my plans than maintaining my European monopoly. Any other questions?” Harry shook his head. “Good, we have talked enough about the past. What of the ritual you are to develop, and what of the Disillusionment Charm?”
Harry ran a hand through his hair. “The charm is coming along. I can camouflage into the background, but it completely falls apart when I move. Not just a shimmer like most people, but literally fails.”
“Keep practicing. You will have it mastered shortly.”
“I think I have a ritual that works, but I’m not that confident.” He grimaced. “I‘ve never researched anything so hard in my life.”
Grindelwald leant forward. “Show me.”
March 10, 1994
Harry stifled a yawn behind his hand, creeping quietly back up towards his common room. No cloak blanketed him, but he moved through the halls almost invisibly.
It had been more than a week since his last talk with Grindelwald and he had worked tirelessly on the charm ever since. There was still that shimmer any time he moved, but it was faint enough that no one would notice unless they were watching.
That was what he thought until two red-headed boys stepped around the next corner and blocked his passage. He froze before they could see him. Their eyes wandered the corridor but never found him.
Must have been a coincidence. “We know you’re there, Harrikins,” said the one on the left. Or not.
“Come out,” said the other, “we have something you might be interested in.”
Harry scowled and let his Disillusionment Charm fall. “I hope it’s letting me know how you saw through a Disillusionment Charm.”
One of them whistled. “Disillusionment Charm, huh? Bloody impressive, that. Afraid not, though. We never saw through your charm, we just knew where you were.”
Harry frowned. “How?” No one followed me.
“Never you mind,” said the other twin, casting his eyes about the corridor. “Er, we’re not down here often. How likely are we to be interrupted?”
He snorted. “This far down? Forget it. Unless Black sneaks in and tries killing me again, we’re safe.”
Both twins nodded. “We wanted to warn you about Greengrass.”
“Ah. Finally gotten in touch, has she?”
“She wanted our help dealing with you again. We weren’t given anything specific this time, just asked if we’d be interested in making some gold.”
“And, since you’re here talking to me, I’m guessing you said no?”
“’Course we did. We like a good laugh and love some gold, but not the sort of thing she’s into.”
“That was bloody terrifying. Thought you’d died, we did.”
“So she’s actively trying to kill me again. Lovely.”
The twins exchanged looks. “Well, I’m not sure if she’s trying to kill you,” said one.
“Just maim you badly enough that you’ll get the hint, or something,” said the other. “We’re not sure how young dark ladies think.”
I doubt she really wants me dead. Last year had been different. She thought he was the Heir of Slytherin — better whoever was attacking students died than continue roaming the halls. Maiming him to get a point across about Astoria? That sounds more likely.
“And she didn’t give you two anything? Not even a hint?”
They shook their heads. “If it’s anything like last time, she’ll use runes.”
“Yeah. She’s better with those than anyone I’ve ever seen. Arithmancy, too. It’s mental how far ahead she is in that class.”
“Not sure what she’d do with that. It’s used in creating things like spells and potions, but I doubt she’s that good.”
Harry wasn’t so sure about that, but he kept his mouth shut. Daphne looked bored out of her mind in Arithmancy. Any time there was a partner project, she treated her partners like slow children. Several times, she had asked questions Professor Vector knew no answer to. Once, she had even corrected the professor, sparking a ten-minute-long debate she had soundly won.
“Thanks for letting me know, whatever it is.” They both nodded. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance you actually will say how you found me?”
Matching smiles spread across matching faces. “Afraid not, Harrikins.”
He sighed. Something to look into at some point. I could really use whatever it is; maybe I’d stop getting surprised in the hallways.
March 12, 1994
The Knight’s Room
Cheers echoed through the room when a single strand of silver mist curled from Cedric’s wand. Ron’s heart leapt for a moment, then sank back down when nothing more followed.
Cedric shook his head. “I think this is the hardest spell I’ve ever tried learning. I can’t remember another one ever taking me so long.”
“You’re getting it, though!” Hannah said, beaming up at him.
“Maybe,” said Cedric, though he didn’t look convinced. None of the others had yet managed any noticeable effect at all.
Ron was as frustrated as ever. Next month, he and the Gryffindors would play Cedric and the Hufflepuffs. Dementors had not drifted near the pitch since that first game between Gryffindor and Slytherin, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t again. I’ve got to figure this out. I have to!
“Let’s get back to it,” he said, gritting his teeth and raising his wand, conjuring the happiest memory he could think of as five voices called, “Expecto Patronum!”
March 17, 1994
Severus Snape’s Office
“That will be all,” said Snape, sliding his wand back up his sleeve as Harry winced and rubbed at his temples.
“Thank you, sir,” he gritted out.
“You have impressed me, Potter,” Snape said after a long pause. “You have shown little of your father’s hair-brained foolishness and have become an admirable occlumens. I doubt any but the most skillful practitioners will breach your defences. Whether you ever manage to defend your mind against those like myself and the headmaster, your mother would be proud.”
Muscles tightened in the back of Harry’s throat. Bastard! No one who’s treated me as rotten as him should be able to make me feel like this. “Sir, what about my Legilimency?”
Snape waved a hand. “It is coming along. Your probes are crude but effective. You would have no trouble dissecting an undefended mind, but you lack the tact to pick apart well-formed defences.” His lips curved upwards, though only for a moment. “Luckily for you, very few ever develop those sorts of protections.”
“Professor, can I ask something a bit more abstract?” Snape’s lips thinned, but he nodded. “Is it possible to link your mind with another person’s? Not like Legilimency, but in a way that would let you communicate thoughts and stuff like that? Maybe even let you act in sync?”
Snape studied him. “Almost anything is possible, but anything forceful enough to achieve the effect would leave the victims’ minds shattered beyond repair.”
Harry bit his lip. “How sure are you?”
Snape sneered. “The human mind is not a well-made toy, Potter. It is a fragile bit of craftsmanship that is prone to breaking if prodded too hard. Do not dabble in matters like these or I will cease teaching you Legilimency.”
There goes that idea. It was the only explanation Harry could think of for the Carrows — who he had watched act almost in perfect synchrony for the past three months. He was tempted to try Legilimency himself, but he doubted he could do it subtly enough to go unnoticed yet.
“Yes, sir. Enjoy your night.”
His head ached as he stepped into the common room. He had been practicing magic with the time turner before his lesson with Snape. It was a common practice of his nowadays and always left him with an awful headache.
Tonight’s felt different. There was no throbbing, no relief when he rested or moved his head a certain way. It was a constant pain, like hot knives digging further and further into his skull.
Not until he laid his head upon his pillow did Harry realize it wasn’t a headache at all, but the sharper than usual pain felt in his lightning bolt scar.
The blackness of sleep was gone, replaced by a thinner darkness broken on its edges by rings of shadows that must have been trees. The sky above was hidden behind a thick curtain of clouds and there were no lights in sight, so it was impossible to tell. The only thing he could make out as he stared ahead was the large, well-kept home sprawling a ways ahead — a shadow larger than any other around.
Weightlessness gripped him as he rose, his dark robes billowing in the wind, unseasonably warm air rushing across his hairless head.
He rose higher, circling like a great bat until he hovered over the home. There. Here was the most distant point of the ward — the furthest it stretched and the weakest place he would find.
He thrust his pale wand downwards and let it drink from him. It was like throwing himself against a wall for how badly it ached, but the ache slowly lifted until a blinding flash lit the dark world far below and the sensation faded.
It is as it has always been.
He landed with a soft step before the home’s oak door and thrust his wand forward. It swung inwards and he stepped inside. It closed behind him, the creak of its hinges hardly gone when a minuscule creature appeared in front of him with a loud CRACK!
Images flashed past his eyes. There were years of images that he cared naught for, then there was the distant form of an island looming ahead through thick banks of fog, and a skeletal boy with straw-coloured hair half dead behind dark, iron bars.
He seized the strand and pulled, watching an unlikely tale unfold inside his head until the memories ceased.
He ended the spell and the elf slumped to the floor, letting out a soft moan as it clutched at its head. He stepped over its body and towards the stairs.
What a secret indeed, he thought, moving soundlessly upwards and wondering how Gemma Fawley had stumbled across one of his most loyal followers.
Things are heating up as the end draws near 🙂
Remember to join my Discord server if you want to read the rest of Book 3.
Please read and review.
Thank you as always to my lovely Discord Editors, blood and Idefix, for their corrections/contributions on this chapter.
A heartfelt thank you is extended to my Mage-level patron, Cup, for her unwavering generosity.
PS: The next chapter will be posted next Saturday, March 25th, 2023. ALL DISCORD MEMBERS CAN READ THE REST OF BOOK 3 RIGHT NOW! THE NEXT TWENTY-TWO CHAPTERS CAN BE READ RIGHT NOW BY ANYONE WHO SIGNS UP TO MY PATREON PAGE! That is the entirety of Book 3, plus the first eighteen chapters of Book 4.
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.