PoP 68

Perversion of Purity

Year 3: The Looming of Shadows

Chapter 26: Event Horizon

By ACI100

May 13, 1994
Malfoy Manor
10:34 PM

A wand twirled between bone-white fingers, its owner’s footsteps the lone sound in a vast sitting room. Four men in black robes knelt shoulder to shoulder whilst Harry — no, Voldemort, this was Voldemort — paced back and forth.

“You are sure?” Voldemort asked, turning his scarlet eyes on the right-most man.

Waves of blond hair tumbled forward when Lucius dipped his head. “Fudge is mine, my lord, and thereby yours. I swear it; he will quiet any stirs.”

“Will he stand against Dumbledore?”

“Yes. He’s become too dependent on my support this last year. His career will sink if it’s retracted, and he knows it.”

“Good.” His eyes found the next man in line. “And the dementors, Tiberius?” 

“Yours in all but name, my lord.”

A smile crept across his lips. “I need never have doubted. I provide them feasts while the ministry throws them scraps.” Finally, he looked at the last two servants, focusing on the gaunt shell of a man with straw-coloured hair. “Are you well, Barty?”

“Closer every day, my lord.” 

“And your task? Have you and Regulus devised a plan for the wards?”

“It is coming,” said Regulus, the last man in line.

“How long?”

“No more than two weeks, my lord,” said Crouch. “It will be siegeable before June.”

“Good.” He paused before the lone window, peeling back the curtains and looking out over sprawling gardens and rows of towering hedges. “Soon, it begins.” 

Harry sat up and grimaced, still plagued by the sharp prickles of pain emanating from his scar. What the hell is Voldemort planning to siege? Surely not Hogwarts? There had been mention of wards, dementors, and Fudge standing against Dumbledore. The duel between Dumbledore and Grindelwald swam up through his thoughts. Not sure I’d want that fight if I were Voldemort. 

Nervousness clawed at his chest. Should he tell Dumbledore? He had yet to commit one way or the other on Voldemort’s offer, but a siege of Hogwarts was something he had never expected. No, I need to play them against each other. I can’t act until I’m stronger.

Harry climbed from bed and summoned a set of robes. There would be no returning to sleep — not for quite some time. Fridays were exhausting and this one had hit him hard, but now he felt energized, his mind working faster than his Firebolt.

Harry stepped from the common room and threw on his cloak, focusing on a subtle impression that had remained at the back of his mind since that day last month in Hogsmeade. The ward he’d placed around the secret passage’s entrance still hummed, but there was something different. 

His heart froze. It’s been breached. Not now, but not that long ago. Not just the ward he’d placed on the one-eyed witch’s statue, but from a passage in the dungeons connected to one on the third floor. That ward had been breached more recently than the other. Black’s getting desperate enough to lurk around the dungeons again. 

His eagerness swelled when he reached the passage only to find that Sirius Black was nowhere in sight. Harry focused as hard as he could, but couldn’t feel the impression of him. He had been here, but perhaps not as recently as he’d thought. 

“Harry? Are you there?”

The breath left his lungs. He spun, wand raised and only half realizing that he could cast nothing whilst under the cloak. 

“Bloody hell, Theodore,” he breathed, shrugging off the cloak, knowing that he was found. His friend’s dark eyes watched the silver silk slide from his shoulders, but he said nothing. “How’d you follow me? This thing is pretty perfect when it comes to concealment.”

“I was still awake when you left the dorms and thought it was odd. Usually you just don’t get back until late, but you stay in once you do. I wondered if something was up and followed you with a Supersensory Charm.”

Sloppy; you should have silenced yourself. “Everything’s fine, I just… had a thought.”

Theodore looked from him to the wall he stared at. “You’re going to kill him, aren’t you?”

A jolt ran up Harry’s spine. “What are you on about?”

“Come off it, I know you want to.”

Harry slowly turned his head, studying his friend. “Am I a monster if I do?”

Theodore’s expression was unreadable. “Maybe, but I wouldn’t blame you.”

“It doesn’t worry you, not even a little bit?”

There was a pause. “My father once said the greatest men take what they’re owed.”

“He was talking about the Dark Lord, wasn’t he?” Theodore’s expression smoothed, but he nodded. How ironic that one of the biggest bigots in the country taught his son that a halfblood tried killing all the muggleborns just to claim his birthright.

“You remind me of him sometimes.” The words were so soft, Harry almost missed them. 

His pulse quickened. “The Dark Lord?”

“My grandfather went to school with him. Father’s passed the stories on.” 

“There are strange likenesses between us, after all. Even you must have noticed. Both halfbloods, orphans, raised by Muggles. Probably the only two Parselmouths to come to Hogwarts since the great Slytherin himself. We even look something alike…”

Being compared to Riddle no longer scared him, but still, something hot churned inside his stomach. I won’t be like him, I’ll be better. “Dumbledore said something about that once.”

“Really?” Theodore asked, surprise in his eyes. “I’d have thought he’d avoid mentioning the Dark Lord anywhere near you.”

“He agreed that we were similar, but said it didn’t mean much. Most wizards like him and I have things in common.” 

Theodore appeared to mull that over, but nodded. “That makes some sense. You’ll be great before long.” 

So long as Black doesn’t kill me first, or Voldemort or Dumbledore realize I won’t be used. “Cheers, Theodore.”

“Are you going to accept next year?” 

“You mean the trips to Beauxbatons and Durmstrang?” Theodore nodded. “Yeah, I am. I don’t know much about Beauxbatons — just that Grindelwald burnt it down during the war — but I’m excited about Durmstrang.”

“I’m hoping to go. I have some family friends at Durmstrang.” 

Harry opened his mouth, but sensed someone creeping nearer. He placed a finger to his lips and spun, wand raised and trailing pale wisps. “Touchy, are we?”

Harry let out his breath. “Sorry, Draco. I guess the stress of having a murderer after me is starting to pile up.”

“Don’t make jokes like that.” It was the sharpest Draco’s voice had been in months. 

“Touchy, are we?” Theodore parroted back at Draco, who sneered.

“Not over anything that’s your concern, Nott.” 

“Shame. Anything that concerns a Malfoy must be oh so interesting.” 

“I’m sure you can hardly imagine.”

Harry hid a smile. “I’m heading back up to the dorms.” 

The other two followed, walking in silence until they stepped into the common room. Theodore walked down the tunnel back towards the boys’ dorms, but Harry placed a hand on Draco’s arm. 


“Were you practicing at this time of night?”

Draco’s jaw clenched. “Yes.”

“How’s that been going?”

Draco looked annoyed for a moment, but the expression crumbled. “Well enough, but not like I hoped. I probably won’t be chosen for the trip next year, not unless Father pulls strings.” 

“I wouldn’t put it past him.”

“I don’t doubt that he could,” Draco said darkly, “but I doubt that he will.” 

“If you ever want help with anything, you know you can ask me, right?”

Surprise flashed through grey eyes, but it was gone faster than it had appeared. Harry’s heart gave a jolt. He’s been going over beginner lessons in Occlumency. “Thanks,” said Draco, offering a tired smile.

“Always,” said Harry, beginning his trek down the tunnel, Draco at his side. “You’ve earned the friendship back this year and you were my first friend, no matter what’s happened since.”

“What hasn’t happened since?” Draco asked, shaking his head. 

Harry said nothing, only continued walking, eyes forward. Voldemort hasn’t killed me or taken over yet, but that may change. 

May 19, 1994

The Library 

8:26 PM

Harry raised his head, a smile on his lips before Astoria said a word. “How do you do that?” she asked.

“Do what?”

“You always know when I’m coming. It’s creepy.”

His smile widened. “I have my ways.”

“Is there anything you’re not good at?”

“Not when it comes to magic.” 

She snickered. “You even figured out my condition.”

The smile fell from his lips. “Condition?”

Astoria’s own expression darkened. “Oh, I said that out loud, didn’t I?”

“You did.” He studied her. What are you hiding? “You know exactly why magic acts so out of control when you conduct it, don’t you?”

Her guilty expression was confirmation enough. “Sorry.”

Curiosity clawed at his chest, but he fought it off. She’ll tell me, just keep her loyal. “Your classes are still going well?”

The change of topic seemed to surprise her, but she recovered quickly. “Pretty well. I’m nervous about exams, though.”

“We’ll take care of that, don’t worry. I’m just glad everything’s working out for you. If all is going well, you can keep your secrets.”

“It’s not like—“

“Astoria, it’s okay. I’m not going to pry.” She looked down, a deep frown across her face. “How’s your sister been lately? Has she given you any trouble?”

Astoria looked back up. “She’s been quiet. I thought she was sick or something, but she seems okay.”

Harry resisted the urge to grin. “No trouble, though?”

Astoria shook her head. “No trouble.”

Perfect. “Good. Let me know if she gives you any, all right?”

Astoria’s eyes were filled with suspicion. “What will you do?”

He met her stare and took a calculated risk. “Make sure it doesn’t happen again. Now, which subject are you most worried about?”

May 21, 1994
An Abandoned Classroom
9:57 PM

Sweat poured down Ron’s face, the wand trembling in his hand. Come on! Just work! Nothing happened, and the sounds of duelling from across the room had faded.

He opened his eyes, stamping his foot and cursing. “You all right?” 

He almost jumped. “Bloody hell, Cedric, where’d you come from?” The sounds of duelling started up again.

“I just finished duelling Susan and Hannah. I told them and Hermione to have a round without me; thought I’d check in on you. You’re sure you’re all right?”


Cedric studied him. “Can I be blunt?”

Ron frowned. “Uh, sure?”

“I don’t think you’re all right. This obsession’s gone too far, Ron, it has to end. You don’t even have another Quidditch match this year; just don’t go near the dementors and you’ll be all right.” 

Ron’s expression darkened. “It isn’t about the dementors anymore.” 

“What do you mean it isn’t about the dementors? Why else would you learn the Patronus Charm?”

“Because I can’t do it!” The words left his lips unbidden, louder than expected. The duel paused across the room, then resumed again. “I can’t just give up.”

“Sometimes, you can’t look at it as giving up. Merlin, Ron, look what it’s done to you. You could be practicing useful magic with the rest of us. You’ve got all the talent in the world. You could probably be going off to Beauxbatons and Durmstrang next year if you’d apply yourself half as hard as you do with this stupid charm.”

“It’s not stupid!”

Cedric scowled. “Isn’t it? It’s hurting your grades, making you spend less time with us and more time moping in corners, and now we’re arguing.” Cedric crossed his arms. “What’s the point anymore? Is your ego worth more than your friends? Is learning a spell more important than the people who care about you?”

Jagged chips of ice stabbed at Ron’s chest, taking his breath away and bringing blurry tears to his eyes. Cedric stepped back, frowning. “Ron, I didn’t mean—“

He was gone before he could finish, his bag slung over his shoulder and the door slamming behind him. 

May 28, 1994
The Quidditch Pitch
7:52 PM

A spec of gold glinted, caught in a ray of dying sunlight. Wind whistled in Harry’s ears as he dove. Through the roaring winds, he could just hear Diggory swooping down at an opposite angle. They arrived almost in unison. Diggory reached out, but Harry batted his hand away. Diggory tried shouldering him out of the way, but he placed a hand on his opposite shoulder and spun around him, now reaching out himself. Diggory cursed, swerving to block his path at the last second. Cold metal brushed his fingertips but was gone when the Hufflepuff seeker slammed into his shoulder. 

Harry cursed and looked around, squinting slightly against the faint prickle coming from his scar. It had been acting up all day and was growing worse the later it got. 

They hovered not twenty feet above the dark pitch, covered in lengthening shadows. It was growing late. Usually matches were held early in the day, but this one had started after an early dinner. The light would grow scarce soon; one of them had to make the catch. Diggory floated back upwards and Harry brought his broom around, following him back over the stadium’s walls, up, and up, and up.

Harry scanned the pitch’s perimeter but saw nothing. No… not nothing. A black shape peered up at him, lying in the stadium’s top row of seats. 

A cold vice closed around his chest, stilling his heart and driving the air from his lungs. Black was there! All it would take was a single spell and… And what? You’d just miss from here; you’re probably more likely to hit another student. There would also be questions, whether he hit a student or not. Harry cleared his mind. Keep an eye out; follow him after the game.

A bludger whistled through the air behind him, dodged by an inch. Mind on the game; that was too close. 

Diggory moved and Harry followed. The sharp turn morphed into a dive. Diggory had a lead but the snitch was still far away and Harry was moving faster, aided by his Firebolt. Diggory knew it; he was reaching out too early, overextending himself in the vain hope his broom would go faster. Diggory pulled up and reached forward, missing by inches. Harry dove further down, swooping up from beneath him, knocking his second grab aside and snatching the golden snitch.

Three quarters of the stands groaned, but he almost didn’t notice. The section wearing green and silver exploded, cheers ringing through the stadium like a thousand Blasting Curses. Six green-clad figures streaked towards him, joy in their eyes and screams on their lips.

It was a perfect moment, but Harry hardly lived it. His eyes had already moved on, watching the grim slink down the rows of seats. You’re not getting away, Black.

The presentation of the Quidditch Cup should have been a joy, but Harry just wanted it to end. The team charged back into the dressing room once it ended, Cup in hand and celebrations on their minds. 

Harry never made it back to the locker room, falling behind the rest and ducking down, whipping out his wand and disillusioning himself. Here I come, Black.

He raced invisibly from the stadium, charging towards the grounds’ edge. The crowd of students filing back towards the castle was dense. Black would never go unnoticed with so many around. If he wanted to break in, he would do it from Hogsmeade.

Harry paused, panting not far from Hagrid’s hut. There was no sign of him. The icy vice around his heart shattered, jagged shards gouging at his stomach. His scar too burned, much worse than it had all day. That same pain he’d felt back in December flared up again. Another opportunity missed! Another chance squandered! Another…

Glass shattered and a shadow leapt from Hagrid’s hut, something clenched in its jaws. What the hell is Black doing? 

His thoughts were cut off by a more violent stab of pain from his scar. The world faded for just a second, replaced by rushing winds and thick, grey fog. Restless water churned far below, white ripples slicing across a murky sea. The bleak sky flashed, lit by forks of lightning that stabbed in three directions. 

The flash was so bright that white spots danced before his eyes, but when they faded, he was back at Hogwarts, watching Black charge towards a towering tree on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. 

What the hell just happened?

The world around him spun, his head now throbbing, stomach twisted in protest. Not now! Damnit, not now! 

The tree came to life. Thick branches swung down, but Black weaved through them. The tree stilled, looking for all the world like it had never been alive at all. Black’s legs tensed, poised to leap through a hole beneath the tree, one that must lead into a secret passage of some kind.

“Fight me, you coward!” It was all Harry could do. Black hesitated, ears perked and tail bristling. “SECTUMSEMPRA!”

Black yelped and leapt through the passage. Harry’s spell carved a thick gouge in the tree’s base. It roared to life again, swinging so wildly that he would never get through. What did Black do? Touch its trunk? Sod it, I’ll never get close enough. 


Harry brought his wand forward like a whip, directing a lance of lightning towards the tree. Its thrashing stopped, severed in two by a single strike. 

Harry stared at the two smoking halves for just a moment, aghast. He had only half expected that spell to work; Grindelwald had passed it along not long ago and he had yet to practice. 

The world lurched beneath him, then vanished. Air sliced across his hairless head, colder now. Dark mounds jutted up through thinning fog, twin spires that reached up like grasping hands of stone, drawing ever closer. 

A blink returned him to Hogwarts, scar still throbbing. It’s like Occlumency does nothing. 

There was no time to waste worrying about Voldemort and whatever he was doing; Harry sprinted forward, diving through the now-exposed entrance and rushing through the passage after Black. Where it went was a mystery, but he cared not. Black would not escape this time — he would not!

The tunnel ended, giving way to the most disfigured room Harry had ever seen. Plaster hung from peeling walls, dim light filtering through small cracks and seeping across a floor covered in stains. Some of them were crimson and looked remarkably like blood. Harry picked his way across the room, stepping around bits of shattered furniture and creeping down a short hallway. 

His senses tingled, alerting him to a ward up ahead. He paused and focused. Just a detection ward; let him know I’m here, I want to see the fear in his eyes.

Harry stepped through the ward and thrust out his wand. The last door on the right banged open, revealing a dimly-lit room filled with little more than a small bed covered in mould-crusted sheets. A small, grey rat sat atop them, unmoving, loomed over by a much taller figure. Harry raised his wand, gripped by blind hatred.

Black rock covered a barren beach, sloping upwards and towards the mountain jutting skywards and the tower nestled at its peak. Another step and the wards would trigger, his plan dead before it ever began.

Pale fingers pulled up a black sleeve. A red snake stood out against chalk-white skin, writhing and blackening when one of those long fingers touched it, sending a white-hot stab of pain through his body. 

Foreign rune stones activated all over the island. Magic flared, pulsing more powerfully than he’d known in decades. It roared in his ears, a cacophony of self-destruction that drowned all his senses before vanishing, taking the infamous wards along with it.


“I hoped you’d come,” Black rasped, bringing Harry’s attention back. He wanted so badly to attack, but everything was spinning. He might well lose a duel if he started it now. 

“So you could kill me the same way you killed my parents!” he snapped, watching the spinning slow.

Black’s expression darkened, something feral lurking in those cold, grey eyes. “I’ll admit that I as good as killed them.”

“And now you’re here to finish me off.” Harry levelled his wand. “Try it, then, I’m ready.”

“Harry, I don’t—“

“Fight, you coward!”

Black’s face twisted, marred with rage for the first time. “You know nothing, I—“

Spells surged from Harry’s wand, missing a diving Black by inches. He held his wand more awkwardly now, marred by the missing hand courtesy of Snape. Harry batted aside a Stunner and returned fire, backing a wide-eyed Black against the rickety wall. Floorboards tore themselves loose, twisting into a hissing mass of snakes that slithered towards Harry, who laughed.

“Kill him.” 

Black paled, his snakes lunging back at him. He vanished them just in time, but Harry’s Bone-Breaker hit him in the shoulder. A scream of pain left his lips. Now to kill him. Black staggered, agony etched on his face as Harry raised his wand for the final blow…

Apparition filled still air, a hundred cracks echoing across the barren island. Red-robed aurors now lined the beach, more of them appearing in the rocky expanse between him and the mountain. Clever. They knew the moment the wards fell. They all must die; no one can know.

He bathed the beach in Fiendfyre, a basilisk twice the size of the one he’d unleashed at Hogwarts. Aurors burned, caught in surging hellfire. Many fired spells but they were useless against a monster like this. They’ve never fought anything like it before. I almost pity them. 

He seized the distraction before any could flee, thrusting his pale wand skyward. “MORSMORDRE!” 

Green smoke billowed, surging upwards and twisting, writhing in the air and forming a green skull, its serpent tongue protruding. 

Aurors below were panicking now, some turning to flee but realizing new wards had fallen over the island. 

Now you all die, but first, to pull aside the veil.

He turned his mind inwards, focusing the same way he had six times before. The remaining fragment of his soul screamed inside his skull, but he paid it no heed, instead focusing on a single strand connecting it to a mark much like the one on his arm. Report to your master, traitor, and let him dig his grave.

The strand broke and the Fidelius Charm fell with it.

Now it was Harry who screamed, overcome by the pain of his scar, blasted off his feet by a stray spell.

Meanwhile, in Severus Snape’s Office…

A glass tumbled from numb fingers, shattering against the stone floor, fragments spraying upwards. Shards slashed through his robes, scoring red lines across his skin that burned as drops of crimson began to fall.

Snape hardly felt a thing, clutching at his burning arm, the pain blinding, the panic all-consuming. 

That’s impossible; I would have known — I would have felt something.

Time slowed, the world fading, nothing there but him and his thoughts. Snape focused on the Dark Mark, following a strand of memory backwards as far as it stretched. There was that meeting with Dumbledore, but nothing had been amiss. Nothing could be found to prove the old man’s suspicions and there had been no mention of the Dark Mark…

His blood chilled, even whilst time stood nearly still. No mention of the mark… how could that possibly have been overlooked? 

Not just overlooked, but missing altogether. Not a single thought about the Dark Mark could be found in the last year… almost to the day. 

Time sped up around him, panic gripping him harder than it had since that blasted night thirteen years ago. His wand was out, shaking between his fingers as he aimed it between his own eyes. 


The connection was stronger now, his search more thorough. There was something a passive scan had missed — a block designed to be missed. It had been there for some time, solid but crude, subtle but breakable. 

Snape threw everything he had against the block and it crumbled, the memory returning. He seized it and pulled so hard he found himself there again; there the night he’d been ambushed.

Snape broke the connection and gasped, head pounding like it never had before, the room swimming around him. 

“Expecto Patronum.” The silver doe swam from his wand, cocking its head, ready for orders. “Find Dumbledore. Tell him… tell him that the mark has returned and that the Dark Lord has risen.” 

Back in the Shrieking Shack…

Consciousness returned. Now his head hurt even worse; plagued not only by the throbbing of his scar, but from a large, purple bruise. He reached for his wand but couldn’t move. Thick ropes bound him, forcing him to look up at Black, who held both their wands aloft. 

“Kill me then!” Harry spat, frustrated tears stinging his eyes.

“If I wanted to kill you, you’d be dead.” You won’t lull me to sleep. I won’t give you the satisfaction. “I want to talk. I’ve been trying all year, but cornering you has been impossible.”

Talk? Why did he want to talk? Did he feel the need to gloat? Or perhaps he would try and convince Harry that he had been bewitched by Voldemort so that he had one less enemy to deal with?

“You’re making a mistake,” said Black, voice still hoarse. “Malfoy and his lot aren’t worth a damn. They’ll sell you the moment someone pays the right price; trusting their type is suicide.”

Shock numbed all anger, if only for a moment. The Malfoys? The bastard has me at his mercy and he lectures me about the Malfoys? “What’s it to you? You want me dead, just like you did my parents.”

“Dead? I broke out of Azkaban for you.”

Harry laughed, delirious with his scar’s mounting pain. “You broke out of Azkaban to kill me.”

“I broke out of Azkaban because of an old paper Fudge left me. You were with some blond twat and Lucius Malfoy, cozied all up with his arm around your shoulders.” The Prophet article with Lockhart and Malfoy? What the hell does that have to do with anything? “Listen,” Black went on, wringing his hands, “I know the crowd you keep. I know they might make Voldemort sound appealing, but he’ll kill you; you can’t listen to them.”

That maniacal laugh returned. “You lecture me about Voldemort? How would your master feel knowing the way you talk about him.”

Anger flashed in Black’s eyes; he was quite the actor. “Voldemort was never my—“

“LIAR!” The ropes snapped, a wave of magic rolling outwards — born from desperate anger — bowling over Black and tossing him against the wall that shook and trembled. Both wands clattered from his hand, Harry’s leaping into his own. 

Black groaned, looking up at him in a daze, hardly noticing the wand aimed between his eyes. “You don’t understand. Your parents—“

“THIS ISN’T ABOUT THEM!” His voice echoed off the walls. “I never knew my parents — you saw to that! This is for me, Black, and for the years I spent in hell because of you; the years spent abused by muggles unfit to lick my boots, the years I was punished for believing, beaten for hoping — the years before I learned the truth! You can beg or you can die quietly; no more lies, no more excuses.” 

Silence hung thickly in the air. “Kill me,” Black muttered, closing his eyes, “but at least kill the rat first.”

Kill the rat? What the hell is he on about? It mattered not; Harry steeled himself, arm trembling, the pain in his scar too much to bear. Do it! “AVADA KEDAVRA!”

Black’s body rose, tossed through a rush of green light that filled the hut before thudding dully to the floor, eyes blank, head lulled.

Harry’s own head exploded and his knees slammed against the floor, the hut gone, replaced by dark tunnels filled with musty air choked by smoke. A dementor glided on each side of him, heads bowed, auras tame. A female voice cackled up ahead. Soon, Bella. 

“This is his?” It was too dark in each cell to be sure. One of the dementors nodded and he twisted his wand, ripping the bars from their hinges. They leapt over him and the dementors and into the trailing basilisk’s flaming maw.

A sphere of light appeared from his wand, floating into the remains of a cell and illuminating the lone man within. His brown hair was long and wild, streaked with more grey than it had once been. There were more lines on his old friend’s face, but no madness in those cold, grey eyes, a knowing smile on his lips.

“My lord.” His voice was calm, each word practiced like this was all expected.

His own lips curved upwards. “Augustus, you really do make Bella look sane at times.” 

Rookwood’s grin broadened. “I am the sanest of us all; you won’t find the others so lucid.” 

“How remarkably unsurprising. Fetch them while I level this infernal place — we are leaving.” 

A gleam appeared in Rookwood’s eyes, his bow lighthearted. “As you command, my lord.” 

Minutes later, in Albus Dumbledore’s Office…

The doe faded, though its light still stained his eyes, its words echoing inside his skull. 

“The mark has returned and the Dark Lord has risen.”

The mark… how could he have been so foolish? All those months spent chasing signs when one had lurked beneath his nose the whole time… Curious. It’s unlike Severus to overlook things like this. 

Another burst of silver filled his office, this time in the form of a screech owl, its head thrown back, wings spread wide, speaking in the gruff voice of Alastair Moody.

“Azkaban’s been breached; the wards have fallen and our responders have gone dark. No one can get in; the ministry’s in shambles — it’s a bloody mess.

Icicles chattered inside his chest, cold water pouring down into his stomach. Azkaban? Breached? How had Tom done all of this?

“Fawkes, come! Quickly!”

The phoenix had been sleeping, but his head rose, eyes alert as he led out a single note, leaping from his plinth. Albus’s hand closed around Fawkes’s tail and then fire surrounded him. The warm air of his office was gone. It was like no air remained here at all. Spires of smoke slithered skyward, choking him, veiling the island, then joining the green skull hanging benignly in the sky, its tongue out as if in mockery. 

“Ventus Divinum.” 

Gale-force winds tore across the island, parting the smoke and revealing the smouldering ruin that remained. Where once a mountain stood, now there was naught but a lake of flaming magma. Any fragments of the once-famous prison were gone; not even the dementors remained. 

“How?” he asked aloud, voice dull as he peered up at that Merlin-forsaken mark. “What have you done, Tom?” 

Author’s Endnote:

To think that everyone on the Discord server was trying to decide which student would die this year… come now, would I really become so predictable? 🙂

In all seriousness, this is different to any climactic chapter I’ve written, so I’m interested, and a bit nervous, to see how it goes over. Let me know what you all thought of it.

One more chapter left to go — the end is officially in sight.

Please read and review.

P.S. The next password will be released in one week. THE NEXT FIFTEEN CHAPTERS ARE AVAILABLE FOR PATRONS RIGHT NOW! That is the entirety of Book 3, plus the first FOURTEEN chapters of Book 4. Patrons will also be getting two more chapters in the upcoming week. If you would like to read those chapters early, feel free to sign up to my Patreon page — https://www.patreon.com/ACI100

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