Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 1: The Fracturing of Foundations
Chapter 8: Interested Parties
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Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 1: The Fracturing of Foundations
Chapter 8: Interested Parties
December 9, 1991
The Great Hall
The layer of snow which had blanketed Hogwarts for some time now had thickened over the past week or so. There had been two fairly significant snowfalls and by now, Harry would easily concede that there was more snow at Hogwarts than he had ever seen at one time in his life.
Aside from that, not much had changed inside the castle.
He had taken Flitwick’s advice and spent more time studying magical theory, and he had immediately noticed some increases in his practical work, even if they were — at least for now — marginal. He actually understood the concepts without a terrible degree of difficulty after looking into them, it was just a matter of actually doing so. He didn’t plan on exerting that much effort into classes such as Astronomy, but it did seem an admittedly valid way for him to progress in the wanded subjects.
Otherwise, the norm had largely been maintained.
His group of friends remained largely the same. There had been a week or so after Harry’s conversation with Diana during which Draco had been a touch withdrawn. This mirrored a similar instance earlier in the year after their first conversation pertaining to Draco’s treatment of Neville Longbottom and Ron Weasley. This stretch had been awkward both times, but Draco had gotten over it quickly enough. Harry was beginning to see a pattern and he suspected that Diana was likely having words with her younger brother. What those words were, exactly, he was unsure.
Snape was making his way down the Slytherin table this morning and it only took Harry a couple of seconds to realize why. The time had come for students to specify whether or not they would be remaining in the castle over the winter break. It was a day Harry had been dreading for some time. Ever since Snape had informed him of the Dursleys’ necessary involvement in him leaving the castle, but especially since their return letter had arrived just days later.
It was curt but had stated in no uncertain terms that they would not be going out of their way to sign any forms for him. Obviously desiring to save themselves another letter, they had enclosed Harry’s Christmas gift early — a fifty-pence piece — as well as a postscript telling him to ask whether or not it would be possible for him to remain at Hogwarts over the summer holidays.
It was perhaps the first bit of agreeable advice the Dursleys had ever given him. If the option to do just that was there, Harry would absolutely be taking it.
He loved the castle and would crave nothing more than using it to escape the Dursleys forever, but he presently felt unsatisfied at Hogwarts for the first time since his arrival.
Perhaps unsatisfied wasn’t the right word.
He just felt wrong staying while almost all of his friends were returning home for the holidays. The lone exception to the rule was Cassius, who Harry had formed a tentative friendship with ever since the older boy had seen Harry fly.
Writing his regretful letter to the Malfoys stating that he would be unable to accept their invitation of hospitality had been painful, but telling Draco was going to be even worse. It was something Harry had thus far put off, but with Snape parading around the table, list in hand, the time for procrastination had unfortunately come to an abrupt and sudden end.
Snape noted down the plans for all of Harry’s friends before turning to him. Harry could tell Snape was somehow interested in the answer, even though his face was as blank as ever. “And you, Potter?”
“I’ll be staying at Hogwarts, sir.”
“What?” asked Draco, head snapping around so fast his blonde hair flew across his forehead.
“The muggles didn’t sign the form,” Harry muttered, doing so in a voice quiet enough that he hoped no one else would hear.
“That’s rubbish,” said Draco, turning pleading eyes on Snape. “You’re hearing this, Professor? Surely a bunch of muggles can’t tell the Boy-Who-Lived where he can and can’t stay for Yule.”
“I’m afraid they can, Mister Malfoy. By law, they are his guardians, thus Hogwarts must bow to their wishes in such matters.”
“What if I appealed to my father?”
“It would do nothing in such a short time. So long as they are his guardians, nothing is to be done.” Snape swept off before Draco could get in another retort.
“Tossers,” he cursed under his breath, his grey eyes stormy and filled with obvious fury. “I’m really sorry, Harry. I can still try to write father. Snape is a teacher; he’s no solicitor. Maybe he’s overlooked something.”
“Thanks, Draco, but it’s okay. I wouldn’t want to bother your father with something like this.”
Draco opened his mouth, obviously intent on arguing, but didn’t finish.
“Let it drop, Malfoy.” The voice came from a boy who Harry didn’t know by name, but whom he thought to be a second year. “If the halfblood’s own family doesn’t even want him, I doubt a man like your father would ever be bothered.’
Harry felt as though he had been slapped.
He was no fool; he had gauged the mood just fine after his sorting into Slytherin. The opinions were heavily divided, even within his own house. He was pretty sure that had it not been for his friendship with Draco, Theodore, and Pansy, he would have had a much more difficult time than he had been having so far. Even so, he saw the way some of the students looked at him. They were mostly upper years, but their expressions didn’t exactly speak positive things. Harry could vividly remember thinking that the stare levelled at him by one particular upper-year girl looked very much like how he might study an excessively slimy bug.
Harry must have given away at least some of his thoughts through his expression, because the boy’s lips curled up into a malicious smirk.
“Oh, come on, Potter. Surely you’re not daft enough to think you’re special just because you have a stupid scar? I know your yearmates have been all buddy-buddy, but we don’t usually put up with your type here.”
“My type?” asked Harry, doing an admirable job at keeping his voice steady.
“The son of a blood traitor and a mudblood.”
Harry felt an odd twinge of anger at this boy’s words. Conceptually, he knew it was irrational. He had never known either of his parents and he had no memories of them except for what he suspected to be his mother’s final moments. That somehow still didn’t change the fact that anger pulsed within him at these last words, never mind the fact he didn’t know what a mudblood was.
His hand twitched towards his wand, but he resisted the impulse. The boy’s friends were eyeing the situation warily, and Harry doubted they could take a group of second years. Even if they could, an open duel in the Great Hall likely wouldn’t go over at all well.
Somebody came up behind Travers and rested a hand on the boy’s shoulder. He turned to see who it was before suddenly sobering. “Fawley.”
“Travers,” the girl returned, her eyes flitting between him and Harry. “Let’s not spout off about blood supremacy in the Great Hall, yes? It doesn’t exactly paint us or you in the best of lights. If you have a problem, you know how it should be handled.”
Travers nodded hastily and muttered an apology before he and his friends left the hall.
The girl was one Harry recognized, if vaguely. Her name was Jenna Fawley and she was the Head Girl this year. She was of average height with light brown hair and sea green eyes. She had soft facial features that were always very well modulated and Harry now learned from being under her stare that her eyes had a certain, penetrating quality to them, as if they were seeing more than just his irises.
“Do be careful, Potter. Travers is no genius, but he’s far from incompetent. If he’s anything like the rest of his family, he’s also impulsive and spiteful. Between the two of us and your friends, that’s a dangerous combination, especially where you’re concerned. Come and speak with myself or one of the prefects if he does anything too horribly out of line.”
Harry nodded curtly as she left, trying not to show exactly how much that comment had bothered him.
As if he needed anything else unpleasant to think about that morning.
December 13, 1991
The Slytherin Common Room
Harry and his friends returned to the common room after a fairly long Friday night practice. It was still a matter of fact that every Friday night, the boys — occasionally, but not always accompanied by Pansy — would practice their spell work. Their female friend usually remained in the common room — probably to keep up with the ever-churning Hogwarts rumour mill.
This particular night had gone pretty well for all involved except for Harry. He had still easily performed the best — even if Theodore had done well, as he always did — but Harry knew he could have performed better.
He was just… distracted.
He had been on and off lately; ever since Travers’s verbal assault in the Great Hall four days ago. To make matters worse, some of the second and even a few of the third years had begun hitting him with minor jinxes in the corridors any time no one was watching. They hadn’t today, as Draco had practically ordered Crabbe and Goyle to escort Harry everywhere. The two of them may not have been Merlin with a wand, but they damn sure struck an imposing visage. One that many clearly didn’t want to cross, for it had been by far Harry’s most peaceful day since the incident in the Great Hall.
Though that certainly was a contributing factor to his stress, it wasn’t actually the thing that had him most wound up.
He had sat behind Greengrass and Davis in History of Magic and listened to the former lecture the latter on the importance of assigning the proper gift to the proper person, even if it was a small thing.
Harry had become immediately concerned.
He hadn’t even really considered giving gifts. He had of course been aware of the fast-approaching holiday season, but the impulse to consider gift giving had never even arisen. Probably because before now, Harry had never been in a position where giving gifts had been plausible. It wasn’t really something one could do while locked up in a cupboard and living meal to meal.
Even if he had considered it, Greengrass’s lecture would have worried him.
How on earth was he, a muggle-raised student and not an overly social one at that, supposed to understand how to buy gifts for purebloods who had virtually everything they had ever wanted?
According to Greengrass, one could make a right fool of themself if they chose gifts wrong, which was something Harry was more than a touch concerned about.
Harry and his friends sat around the fire for some time after their return to the common room and Harry couldn’t help but notice the way Pansy’s gaze kept finding him every time he looked away for more than a moment.
“Mhm,” hummed Harry, looking up from his book on Transfiguration theory and towards Pansy, who had spoken.
“If I go and get my things for the essay we owe McGonagall next week, can you help me with it?”
Pansy really was rubbish at Transfiguration compared to the rest of them, sans Crabbe and Goyle, but Harry felt that something else was afoot here. Something likely relating to the odd glances she had repeatedly been sparing him since he had re-entered the common room.
Pansy stood and gestured a bit hesitantly for Harry to join her. He wasn’t sure that he would be able to enter her dorm, but he shrugged and stood anyway, following her out of the common room’s main sitting area. He had no doubt she really did want help on that essay, but he thought this gesture may be leading to her other purpose. Harry had by now spent enough time around Slytherins to begin understanding how they worked, after all.
“Are you alright?” she asked him once they were alone and he had chosen to refrain from questioning her on the course of action she had chosen.
“I’m fine, yeah.”
“You seem stressed.”
Pansy might not have had his or Theodore’s academic prowess, but she was very gifted when it came to reading people; him in particular. This wasn’t the first time she had made that obvious, but he found himself constantly reminded of the fact.
“A bit, I guess.”
“About what happened with Travers?”
He hesitated. “Yeah…”
“That doesn’t sound very confident.”
“It’s… more than one thing.”
Harry pierced her with his most intense stare. “If I tell you, will you promise not to tell Draco and the others?”
“Of course.” The snobbish way with which she answered — lip curled, posture straight and nose upturned — made it seem as though the question itself had been foolish.
“I… heard Greengrass telling Davis all about how the right gift should be given to the right person and about how you can look like a right prat if you mess it up. I have no idea about any of that and I don’t even know how to get ahold of presents while we’re stuck up inside the castle.”
Harry looked down at the floor, worrying Pansy might react in a similarly snobbish manner to how she had answered his previous question. He worried she might look at him with disdain or sigh exasperatedly at his ignorance.
As it turned out, she did none of these things.
“Oh, Harry, I’m so glad you asked!” When she actually sounded excited of all things, Harry looked up and found himself surprised by what he saw. A gleam in her eye; one akin to that of a child who had just spotted the most interesting toy on display. “See? This is why you should tell me these things. You came to the perfect person for this.”
Idly, Harry couldn’t help but wonder exactly what he had just gotten himself into.
December 21, 1991
The Entrance Hall
Harry walked with his friends — both from his year as well as Diana and her group — as they made their way down to the entrance hall and readied themselves to board the train which would take them back to London. On their way down, they saw Hagrid hefting what had to be a magically enlarged Christmas tree towards the Great Hall’s entrance.
The sight of the giant man gave Harry some pause. He had treated him so well in Diagon Alley, but the two of them had barely spoken since. They would exchange the odd greeting if the pair encountered one another in the corridors, but these occasions were scarce. Other than that, they hadn’t shared any interactions since Harry’s arrival at the castle. At least none the boy could remember. This all somehow seemed wrong after the way Harry had been introduced to the magical world and he made a mental note to remedy such a thing at his earliest possible convenience.
Harry allowed himself one passing glance inside the Great Hall, where he noticed Professors Flitwick and McGonagall setting up some more elaborate decorations. It was beginning to look like a winter wonderland, with fake snow falling from the enchanted ceiling high above and vibrant decor quickly spreading throughout the massive room.
The sight of his friends leaving the castle minutes later was far less pleasing, and Harry found himself hating the Dursleys perhaps more than he had ever hated them before. It was odd, as they had done things in the past that would generally be viewed as far more atrocious than this. What many people may have failed to take into account was that for the first time in Harry’s life, they had actually deprived him of something more than just his own, selfish desires.
They had deprived him of friendship, which in a way just spoke of how far Harry had already come whilst away from their oppressive practices.
He tensed at the hand on his shoulder and had to resist the impulse to turn away as he glanced to see Cassius staring at him with an expression of deep understanding.
“Hey, it’ll be alright. They’re only gone for about two weeks. That sounds like a lot, but it’ll pass quickly enough.” He grinned. “Care to make it pass even faster?” Reluctantly intrigued, Harry tilted his head, asking Cassius a silent question while doing so. “Well, I think it’s time for the two of us to actually go out flying. I’ve been wanting to put you through your paces ever since that first day I saw you out with Draco.”
Most of the thoughts pertaining to the Dursleys and his friends were wiped immediately away, and Harry couldn’t help but allow a smile to blossom across his face. “Sure, you’re on!”
Later that night, at Malfoy Manor…
The rural areas of Wiltshire were vast. One could go in any direction for what felt like an eternity and find nothing at all. It was full of open fields and dense forests that never seemed to end.
If one did travel far enough in a very specific direction, however — assuming they weren’t a muggle impacted by a number of privacy wards — they would stumble across a truly magnificent sight.
They would first come to a gravel driveway flanked on either side by hedges taller than the average male. If they followed this curved drive, it would take them to the foot of towering, wrought-iron gates that were as dark as obsidian. On this particular night, a pair of pristine-looking peacocks perched atop the gates in similar fashion to how a number of their fellows did so at near uniform intervals on the handsome hedges. Behind these loomed the sight with the potential to take one’s breath away.
Expansive, lush lawns stretched out on all sides and in the distance, well-kept forests could be seen. There was even a lake which, in the daylight, sparkled in the light as if it was but a sheet of glass.
None of that was the main attraction, however.
The main attraction was the massive manor which dominated the land’s massive centre, towering above all other things in the area and casting them easily into its shadow. The handsome home was surrounded by breathtaking gardens that would not have been out of place in fabled tales of mythology. Near the home’s front entrance, a large, modern-looking fountain quietly spouted water, adding to the rich image of tranquility that the entire scene gave off.
The inside of the manor was just as splendid as the outside, if not even more so.
The manor’s general feel was of wealth and darkness. The floor in Malfoy Manor was done in a dark, rich-looking wood. Soft, pale drapings obscured large glass windows on either side of a somewhat circular staircase that converged in the centre of a balcony on the next floor, which overlooked the entrance hall itself. The pale, cream curtains cast a soft, yet ominous light across the otherwise lowly-lit hall. In the relative darkness, the staircase’s railings — which were made of what appeared to be pure gold — glinted sinisterly, if such a thing was at all possible for such rich material.
Beneath the staircase, there was a life-sized portrait depicting the current four members of the Malfoy family, noses upturned, heads held high and surrounded by a gilded, ornate frame.
Up this staircase and down a number of corridors was a rich oak door. One that led to the house’s most secure room; one that not even the house elves could enter without expressed permission.
In the room sat various portraits of former Malfoy lords, as well as a number of them that didn’t portray people, but significant events in the family’s history. The largest portrait of all hung behind the dark oak desk which was one of the room’s distinguishing features. The portrait’s background was velvety black, with a number of great snakes depicted in emerald green curling in its centre, underneath which words were written in a silvery, serpentine script.
Sanctimonia Vincet Semper
Two comfortable, high-backed chairs sat across the desk from the family crest’s depiction, in front of which sat the family’s lord. In the two chairs before him sat his children, both of whom wondering exactly why they had been called here together. One of them — the eldest and family’s heiress — had only ever been called into this room a handful of times. Her younger brother could only remember one instance; the day before he had been sent to Hogwarts to begin his formal magical education.
“I trust you left nothing of significance unsaid during the retellings of your first semester at Hogwarts?” Lucius Malfoy paused. “Except for the information I asked you not to vocalize prominently in front of your mother?” Both children nodded and Lucius leant forward, folding his hands in front of him on the desk. “Good. Now, is there anything… interesting either of you would like to tell me about Mister Potter?”
December 25, 1991
The Slytherin Dorms
Harry had greatly enjoyed flying with Cassius the morning his friends had left Hogwarts, and he had learned plenty during their exploits. They had spent most of the past number of days together, and Harry could honestly say he was now closer to Cassius than anyone else who wasn’t named Draco, Pansy, or Diana.
Just before going to bed on the eve of Yule, Cassius had asked Harry to wait for him before opening their presents, which he said would be waiting at the foot of Harry’s bed the morning of the 25th. Harry still found the thought of presents odd, but he didn’t say that to Cassius. Had it not been for the fact he knew at least several of his friends had bought him gifts, he would likely have been surprised by the pile that awaited him upon his waking that next morning.
He had to wait quite some time for Cassius, which began to make him rather impatient. It was the first time in living memory he had ever received gifts and he was eager to tear into them.
In the end, he decided to read while he waited, since he knew Cassius was not a morning person. He frequently slept in well past ten on weekends, but Harry had warned him not to do that this morning. If the time ticked past eight, he had said, he would be opening his gifts, whether Cassius liked it or not.
The boy cut it close, sauntering into the room whilst clearly in quite a dazed state at about twenty minutes before the cut-off time. Cassius was levitating his own pile of gifts and the two of them exchanged but a brief greeting before bearing down on their respective hauls.
Harry first opened heaping boxes of sweets from Crabbe and Goyle before going through a number of tokenry gifts from his yearmates and, strangely, the Quidditch team.
The first semi-notable gift came from Pansy, who had sent Harry several boxes packed with all different kinds of clothing, both wizard and muggle. The latter had surprised him but according to the attached note, Pansy’s family were majority stakeholders in a notable muggle fashion company. Theodore sent him a book on what seemed like some interestingly questionable curses, and Draco sent him a leather-bound, gold-embroidered, collector’s edition copy of Quidditch Through the Ages. Cassius had gone a similar route, choosing a more strategy-based book on the major sport of the wizarding world.
Harry couldn’t help but think it odd how many of these gifts linked to Quidditch in some way. It wasn’t something he had expected, nor was it something he understood.
Hagrid sent him a wooden flute that was obviously hand-carved. It was a relief to Harry, as he had sent Hagrid several boxes of sweets and a letter asking whether or not the man would be amiable to catching up that afternoon. Hagrid’s affirmative reply was also enclosed, which allowed Harry to at least take comfort in the fact that he hadn’t ruined his first magical friendship.
The next three gifts were from the other three members of the Malfoy family and they all surprised Harry in different ways.
Narcissa had sent him a book on Wizarding genealogy and a note enclosed wishing him well and gently suggesting that he look into his family history. Diana had opted to send two books. One was an intermediate tome on magical theory and one discussed the Dark Arts, which made Harry’s eyes widen comically. From the brief skim of the table of contents, the book didn’t so much teach them as much as it did explain them.
The one that elicited the largest response from Cassius came from Lucius. It was a heavy watch made of pure gold and there were obviously diamonds in the design. It was just as flamboyant and over the top as one might expect from the Malfoy family and it worked in the same way as the magical clocks Harry had been so interested in on the first day, only to find out they worked the same as the muggle ones; they were just done up in a fancier manner and proposed as a groundbreaking discovery.
“What is it?” Harry asked Cassius, noticing the way he kept eyeing the watch.
“It’s… well, it’s honestly best if you learn for yourself. Go and look up customs between lords and heirs in one of the etiquette books. It should give you an idea. It’s not a bad thing,” he assured his younger friend. “Just… not what I would have expected.”
The second to last present confused Harry more than anything. For one thing, he certainly hadn’t expected Jemma Fawley to send him anything. For another, he had no idea why she would send him a book that — thanks to his reading The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts — he knew to be discussing Gellert Grindelwald’s war.
The Blood War: What Really Happened?
That was one Harry conceded he would need to think upon later. He still had one more gift left to open and it was really best if he refocused his attention on that for now.
The final present Harry had laid out on his bed was a small one; only a pristine-looking envelope. On its back was a crest; one Harry recognized as belonging to one of the most prominent families in the country. He had seen it while studying his copy of Nature’s Nobility: A Guide to Wizarding Genealogy back in the summer.
The crest depicted a night-time backdrop. Much of it was dominated by what appeared to be a field of roses, stretching from one side of the crest to another. In the centre, the roses contorted around an elegant glass of wine; a symbol for purity, while the constellation Ursa Major shone in the sky above, which was also occupied by a flock of ravens. At the bottom of the crest, in golden letters, were written the words Toujours Pur.
The latter read:
I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and good spirits. It is a pleasure to see you back in the wizarding world after all these years.
This letter has not been sent for any particular purpose, but more so as a formal letter of introduction, since you are one of the closest relatives I have left, as depressing a thought as that is.
I would like to wish you a very happy holiday, encourage a reply, and formally welcome you back to the wizarding world on the behalf of the Founding House of Black.
Regulus Arcturus Black
Lord of the Founding House of Black
Harry had spent more time in Hagrid’s hut than he had expected. They had discussed much of Harry’s first year at Hogwarts in detail, as well as a vast array of other things. Hagrid assured Harry he hadn’t turned his back on him for something as simple as his sorting, even though he seemed to speak of the other Slytherins very carefully.
They had also discussed Harry’s parents. Hagrid had heard about his prowess in both Charms and Transfiguration, so he likened him to James and Lily, who had specialized respectively in the two subjects.
By the time Harry had eaten dinner and left the hut, night had fallen and the temperature had done likewise. He was really quite tired, even though it was not yet terribly late. It had been a long day full of firsts and all of the new experiences had wound up being exhausting in their own way. He certainly hadn’t expected a personal bit of correspondence from Lord Black, though the same could be said for a number of his gifts.
Little did he know, his night was not yet done.
When Harry entered his dormitory some time later, he noticed a new package on his bed; one that had not been there this morning.
He frowned. There was nobody else from his dormitory at Hogwarts and everyone who would have reasonably sent him gifts had already done so. He crept slowly towards it and eyed the packaging carefully. He briefly debated bringing it to Cassius and asking him to check it for curses. He didn’t think Travers disliked him that much, but he wouldn’t be shocked. He eventually decided that Travers — only being a second year — likely couldn’t cast any of those curses. Harry also just had a gut feeling this was something different, so that was what he went with after a long moment of apprehension.
Two things fell from the package; a letter and a flowing, silvery something.
Harry opened the letter first.
Your father left this in my possession when he died. It is time it was returned to you.
Use it well.
A very merry Christmas to you.
Perplexed by the lack of a signature, Harry next picked up the flowing, silvery something; which actually turned out to be a cloak…
A cloak which made his hand vanish when it passed underneath its flowing fabric.
Suddenly, Harry was anything but fatigued.
December 26, 1991
An Abandoned Classroom
After the shock of owning a cloak that made one invisible had marginally worn off the previous night, Harry had used it to explore the castle for some time before he had run into Mrs. Norris. That encounter had raised very interesting questions: did the cloak work on cats, ghosts, or other animals? He had already been sure it worked on people, but this would be an inherent weakness if it existed.
Thus, Harry had found himself in the library, scouring the shelves for any mention of anything like his cloak.
He had spent most of that night and the next day in the library, and it was where he had returned to on this evening after finishing up dinner in the Great Hall. After searching for several more hours, a possibility started nagging at Harry; one that subconsciously made his eyes dart every so often in the direction of the dark, shadowy portion of the library.
By the time midnight was approaching, he had given in and, with a deep, centring breath, made sure the cloak was fastened tightly around him before stepping into the Restricted Section.
Nothing happened, which was both a great relief as well as very anticlimactic. Once there, Harry searched for about thirty minutes before everything had gone pear shaped.
He had opened an ancient, leather-bound tome which had omitted the most horrible and ghastly screaming sound imaginable. It was so bad that it made Harry drop the book and reflexively bolt from the room, knowingly only that he wanted to get as far away from the Hogwarts library as possible.
After running for what felt like ages and thoroughly losing track of where he was, Harry exhaustedly slunk into what he thought was a disused, abandoned classroom to allow himself time to catch his breath.
His assumption about the room was only half-correct.
It was, for all intents and purposes, an abandoned classroom, but it was perhaps not so out of use as Harry might have expected.
Leaning against one of the walls was an ornate-looking mirror that was about two full feet taller than Harry.
Something about it drew him in. Perhaps it was how rich and immaculate it appeared, but he didn’t think that was it. It gave off an odd feeling that was hard to explain. Harry just… knew he had to look into that mirror.
What he saw confused him greatly.
He didn’t see the room around him, nor did he even see a reflection.
In the mirror was nothing but vague, shadowy things that he couldn’t entirely make out. They were so indiscernible that he couldn’t decide whether they were people, objects, or something different altogether.
Yet he couldn’t look away.
For reasons Harry Potter couldn’t quite explain, he couldn’t look away.
And he didn’t… for eight long hours.
December 28, 1991
An Abandoned Classroom
Harry had been so entranced by the odd mirror that he had returned the next night and simply spent hours staring into the shadowy shapes within. That next morning, Cassius had questioned him. He had asked why he had woken up so much later these last two days and why he looked as though he had barely slept.
The answer to both of those questions was simple.
Harry had spent both nights staring into the mirror until the sun had begun to rise, at which point he would hastily retreat to his dormitory, catch a few hours of sleep, and begin his day anew.
He hadn’t told Cassius this, but the boy was no fool. He knew Harry was doing something and he had advised him not to do it that next night.
But Harry hadn’t listened, which was how he found himself alone in the mirror room once more. He threw off his cloak and made a hasty beeline for the mirror.
“So, back again, Harry?”
He froze halfway there, feeling as though his insides had turned to ice. Apparently, he was not as alone as he had previously believed.
Sitting leisurely atop one of the desks, his hands folded serenely in his lap and a pensive expression upon his old, withered face, was Albus Dumbledore.
“I… didn’t see you there, sir.”
“Strange how shortsighted being invisible can make you.”
Harry was relieved the man was smiling slightly. It was actually the only thing that gave him the confidence to ask his next question.
“Did you… know I would be here?”
“I certainly suspected you would be.”
“Sir, were you… here for all the time I’ve spent looking into the mirror?”
“Only last night, I’m afraid. Whether or not that is all the time you have spent in this room, I am unsure.”
“But I-I checked the room last night.”
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled in an odd sort of way. “If you will forgive my lack of modesty for a moment, I do not need a cloak to become invisible.”
Ah, that would certainly do it.
“So,” said Dumbledore, slipping off the desk and walking casually towards both Harry and the mirror. “You, like many before you, have discovered the delights of the Mirror of Erised.”
Harry looked at the mirror once more. Not into it, but actually at it. Doing so was something he hadn’t done since that first night and only now did he see the writing written upon it. At first glance, it appeared to be written in a foreign language. Upon closer inspection, he realized it was just English. Jumbled English, but English nonetheless.
Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.
“I… guess so.”
“I expect that by now, you have deduced what it is the mirror shows you?”
“I… not exactly, sir.”
Dumbledore studied him very closely. “If it is not too presumptuous of me to ask, what is it that you see when you look into the Mirror of Erised?”
Harry considered whether or not to answer. If the greatest wizard alive was asking the question, the answer was probably significant. Everything he had learned over the past few months while in Slytherin screamed that he shouldn’t, but his natural curiosity said otherwise. Harry wanted to understand what it was about the mirror that was so compelling, and this seemed like his best chance to do just that.
“I… don’t see much of anything.” When Dumbledore just waited patiently for Harry to elaborate, he acquiesced. “I see a bunch of shadows. I can’t even tell if they’re people, things, or something else. They’re just… there.”
There was a long moment of silence during which Dumbledore stroked his beard, suddenly looking as though the lateness of the hour had caught up with him all at once.
“Curious,” he muttered, reminding Harry painfully of Mr. Olivander back in Diagon Alley. “How very curious.”
With an intense feeling of déjà vu, Harry decided to take the bait. “What’s curious, sir?”
“In all the time I have spent studying the Mirror of Erised — and between the two of us, that has been occupying much of my time of late — I have never once heard of the mirror showing anyone something similar to what you seem to be experiencing.”
“So… what is it that it’s supposed to show you?”
Dumbledore thought for a moment. “Let me explain. If the happiest man on Earth looked into the mirror, he would be able to use it just as any other man would use an ordinary mirror. That is to say, he would see himself, exactly as he is.”
Harry thought about that, running a hand absentmindedly through his hair. “It… shows you what you most want to see?” That somehow didn’t sound quite right, but it made some sense until Harry thought of it on a personal level. Harry knew of all the things he wanted to see, shadows weren’t extraordinarily high on that list.
“Yes and no,” said Dumbledore heavily. “It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.”
“Isn’t that the same thing, sir? And… how does that explain what I see?”
“Both excellent questions. I believe the former can actually be best explained by answering the latter. How it explains what you see, Harry, is best articulated by asking you to think upon the differences between your mind and your heart.
“Your mind often thinks it knows what it wants above all things, but it is so rarely correct. I am sure you, in your youthful naivety and exuberance, think you desire a great many things. Alas, your heart knows best. It knows that when everything is boiled down, there is no one thing you have decided matters more than anything else. In the simplest possible terms, your mind is the manifestation of your consciousness, whilst your heart is often a reflection of all that is subconscious.”
Harry nodded slowly along. The bit about him specifically somehow sounded dark and depressing, but he couldn’t dispute its accuracy. When he really thought about it, there wasn’t one thing he wanted above all else.
“This mirror will give us neither knowledge nor truth, Harry. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible. The mirror will be moved to a new home tomorrow, and I ask you not to go looking for it. If you ever do come across it again, you will now be prepared. It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. Remember that. Now, how about you put on that admirable cloak of yours once more and get off to bed.”
Harry got about halfway to his cloak when an odd question struck him. “Professor Dumbledore… can I ask you something?”
Dumbledore smiled once more. “Obviously, you have just done so, but you may ask me one more thing.”
“What do you see when you look in the mirror?”
There was a beat of silence before Dumbledore answered in a very measured and modulated tone. “I see myself, many years ago, mending a great many things that I so wish were repairable.” His serious demeanour washed away. “Now, I think it time for bed.”
Harry nodded and left the room, thinking on a great many things as he did so, once more back under his new invisibility cloak.
December 29, 1991
A Tower Overlooking the Sea
On this fateful morning, the sea was turbulent, churning, rising from its prison and slamming hard against the rock faces of any nearby mass of land. The sky was grey and overcast and the light breeze tore across the ocean, seeming to laugh softly in the water’s futile struggle to break free from its confines.
On the nearest island sat a high, imposing tower. One that was much too tall and much too protected to ever be taken down by a storm, no matter how intense it might be.
From the top-most window of this imposing fortress, one would be able to see the sky and the sea just fine. In fact, they would be able to see miles and miles of open water and not much else.
But the figure inside the tower’s highest room saw none of this.
His emaciated body broke from its fit of twitching and shot up to a sitting position with exuberance one might expect from a man nearly a century his junior. He was skeletally thin and his wrinkled, leathery skin was pulled tight across his perpetually aching bones.
Well, maybe not perpetually because for the first time in years, the figure felt no ache.
Nor did he feel old nor bored, too sensations which had dominated his psyche for many years.
The man may not have seen the world outside through his then closed eyelids, but what he did see, to him, was far more beautiful than any bit of scenery which had ever existed.
The man’s bluish-silver eyes — which still shone with just as much intellect as ever — were dancing with a malicious light not seen within them for decades as the one-time dark lord uttered, in reference to all he had just seen, the first word he had spoken in an age.
Regulus being alive and well will be explained later. A surprisingly small amount changed for that to happen. His survival is not at all a secret; Harry just hadn’t had reason to reflect on it, so it hadn’t yet come up.
Other than that and the last scene, a pretty standard chapter.
As for that last scene… remember it, because it comes up again in a big way.
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