The Storm Breaks
The headmaster banished the interlopers from his office. Mundungus's dereliction of duty aside, Albus Dumbledore knew the Order of the Phoenix could be relied on for simple tasks but they were foot soldiers, not generals. They were not prepared for the horrors of war, and not capable of the consequential decisions that needed to be made. For the defeat of a Dark Lord required more than heroics, bravery, or spell battles. The long war against Grindelwald had taught Dumbledore well. Prophecy, deception, and intricate planning were necessary for victory and the battle field could change in a moment. Albus summoned the small spun-glass ball mounted on the coils of a dragon out of the drawer of his massive oak desk.
The swirling blue grey mist parted to show Trelawney's third and most recent vision. After Voldemort's resurrection at the Little Hangleton Graveyard, Dumbledore pestered the Divination teacher for a third prophecy. The scandalised witch had declared vehemently that the Inner Eye did not see on command, but he wore her down slowly and surely. Gifts of cooking sherry mixed with compulsions spells cast by the Elder Wand made Sybill more amenable to reason. She had even taken with only mild reluctance a potion brewed from wormwood and mugwort that enhanced psychic powers. Severus assured him that these herbs had been burnt for the hallucinations of the Eleusinian Mysteries, the most famous of the ancient Mediterranean cults.
The prophecy came out in fits and bursts, the visions seemingly driving her into a frothing frenzy. Trelawney lost her affected air of eccentric mysticism and her breathy ethereal tone had been replaced by barely intelligible screeching. Her pupils dilated, the muscles in her upper body spasmed and her flushed face dripped sweat as an apocalyptic furor seized her. The batty witch turned hysterical, murmuring about witches ancient and new, a mighty dragon teetering between good and evil, and blood - blood that would remake the world. It was a remarkable theatrical performance, and Dumbledore thought she deserved a raise. At last, the prophecy ball captured the true prediction.
A wizard king will return
And his followers will burn
The world with magic too great
If the sacrifice be late.
Sybill passed out after this, convulsing on the floor. Dumbledore stupefied her to prevent anything foolish, like swallowing her tongue and requiring the nurse's aid. That would be rather bothersome.
At first, Dumbledore thought the prophecy was nothing new. Voldemort returned from the dead in June and his Death Eaters intended to make him king, burning the world. Harry Potter would have to sacrifice himself so that Voldemort would turn mortal and be defeated. Dumbledore felt sorry for the lad, for Harry was like a grandson to him. He never wondered that few grandfathers schemed for their grandsons to die at the most opportune moment.
But a terrible thought occurred to the Headmaster. If the sacrifice was late and Harry survived - what if the boy was the Wizard King? Dumbledore had banished Harry from the magical world - for the Greater Good, of course - and despite the attempts to isolate Harry with the Dursleys and the Weasleys, the boy could easily gather followers. If Harry defeated Voldemort, would he look for revenge against the pureblood elite? Would he turn Dark, and raise an army of half bloods and muggleborns to destroy the fragile balance that Dumbledore had painstakingly nurtured to protect the magical world?
Dumbledore had done his best to contain the young wizard. He had limited his knowledge of the magical world to trivialities like racing brooms and quidditch. He had blocked Potter from serious classes like runes or arithmancy. In the summers, the Dursleys locked up his magical books and Dumbledore had sealed away the tomes and grimoires at 12 Grimmauld Place, ordering Molly Weasley to keep the children, even Hermione Granger, from the library. Through years of isolation and artful manipulation, Dumbledore had made Harry so reliant on the crumbs of freedom and praise that the boy would whinge and moan whenever there was any conflict with "friends" or other students, a welcome distraction from learning.
In spite of his efforts, Harry had grown into a capable wizard, able to fight off dementors and kill a basilisk. With the new prophecy, Dumbledore would have to make sure Harry was kept down. It would be harder to do so at 12 Grimmauld Place. After the fiasco of the dementor trial, Harry had turned exceedingly cynical, and defiant of adult authority. Molly reported that Harry was still feuding with his best mates, angry that they abandoned him this summer on Dumbledore's firm orders. Luckily, there was an elegant solution, one that could not be traced back to him. Dolores Umbridge. She would be the Defense Against Dark Arts teacher this year, and Dumbledore knew that the toad like witch would enjoy degrading rebellious children. Umbridge would force Harry to crawl back to the headmaster for protection.
Dumbledore had seen two dark lords rise in his life - Grindelwald in his youth and Voldemort as a unnaturally gifted student. He would not let Harry Potter be the third. Harry had as much raw power as the first two, but Albus had suppressed his development so cleverly that the boy had no idea. It was better that way. Harry would have to sacrifice himself to defeat Voldemort. Harry would be happier as a normal teenage wizard with hormonal crushes and feuding houses than living under the shadow of his heroic destiny.
Dumbledore could not know the plot unfolding that would shatter these careful machinations. Even the best laid schemes of men could go askew. And after a deep slumber, forces greater than any Supreme Mugwump or Chief Warlock were awakening.
Draco Malfoy woke up that morning, fresh and eager. Even the news yesterday of Harry Potter's lucky escape for violating the Statute of Secrecy did not ruin his mood. If he had his say, Potter should be sent to Azkaban for simply being the son of a filthy muggle born witch and not respecting his betters. But Draco was feeling merciful. Today, his father would bring him to the fair.
The fair happened every nine years in a town, north of York but south of Scotland. The name of the town had been lost over the centuries but on that day, all sorts of magic could be purchased, wonders from all over the world, cages that enslaved veela, lamps that summoned genies, even a shirt stained with poisoned blood. The first Malfoy had found a scale enchanted to cheat his customers, forming the basis of the family fortune.
Draco Malfoy called for a house elf to wash his face and polish his nails. He did not trust the clumsy creature to pluck his perfect eyebrows. After Draco finished brushing his blonde hair and primping his pale features in the mirror, Draco put on his very best shirt, and his very best robes, completing the ensemble with a heavy necklace, an emerald ring, and a silver brooch with the Malfoy crest - serpentine creatures entwined about a green and black shield with a large letter M. The words underneath inscribed on a silver banner, Sanctimonia Vincet Semper, could be seen faintly. Purity will always conquer.
Draco stepped down to the drawing room to take the portkey with his father. Lucius Abraxus Malfoy, normally dressed in the most expensive outfits Twilfitts and Tattings offered, wore a nondescript black cloak over a plain shirt and trousers. Instead of an ebony and silver cane topped with a hissing snake, he leaned on a rough oak staff. Draco was aghast at his father's appearance. He looked more like a Weasley or Hagrid than the might Lord Malfoy.
"What are you wearing?" cried both Malfoys.
Lucius gained his composure first. "Draco, this fair is a great secret, and unknown even to other wizards of the Sacred Twenty Eight. We must dress plainly, with no hint of our identities. No one there can know who you are."
"But, Father…." Draco whined.
"No buts. Change into plain clothes - not even a wizard's robe. Give no hints that you know magic and do not under any circumstance, cast a spell at the fair. Do not eat any food, drink any water, sip any wine."
"Why do we need to hide from these muggles?" Draco complained.
"They are not muggles. They are not wizards either. They are the fey and they were in England in the first age of the world. Their powers are great but limited and they have been drowsing in torpor for centuries. You do not want to wake them up." Lucius said.
Draco grumbled as he changed. His father was wrong because nothing could be more powerful than wizards. After all, they were taught at Hogwarts to cast spells with their wands, not merely craft trinkets and nicknacks with dubious value. Draco's hopes of finding a curio to curse Potter faded. He doubted the fair would be any better than Borgin and Burkes.
Draco wrinkled his nose in disgust. The market bustled, filled with colorful tents and strange looking men and women hawking their wares loudly to anyone who approached. The crowd included dozens of foreigners without the decency to wear proper British clothes. There were swarthy men in white jellabas with red hats with blue tassels straight out of a Middle East bazaar. There were pale Asians in robes so colorful and festooned with dragons and clouds that even Dumbledore would have thought it too much. There were even dark skinned men wearing cloaks of bright bird feathers. Draco thought sourly that no one would have even noticed his acromantula robe among this hideous riot of colors.
Draco was hungry and annoyed. His father was busy bargaining for a dessicated human heart. According to the seller, when a magical heart was extricated willingly from your body, it grew shrivelled, shrunken, and strangely hairy. Draco marvelled at the incredible stupidity of the warlock who tore out his own heart. He understand cutting out the heart to become immortal. Attempting to put a blackened hairy heart back into your chest to impress a witch? That was so idiotic that he could not even imagine Ron Weasley doing that.
Draco followed the succulent smell of roasting meat. There were stalls at the fair set up to serve those who spurned faerie fare. A dark complexioned man was tending to a giant inverted cone of brownish meat, somehow rotating slowly over a flame.
"Oi Mate, would you like a kebab?" the man said, waving a long thin knife.
"A kebab? What's that?" Draco asked, wondering what dreck muggles really ate.
"Lamb, turkey and chicken all prepared with special spices."
"I don't eat any foreign food." Draco sniffed.
"Oi! Kebabs are the most popular food in London." the man replied. "Next to chicken tikka."
Draco sighed. "Well in that case, I will have one." He plunked down a few copper coins and received a hot pita sandwich, dripping with meat juices and sauce. Draco sat down to eat on a plain wooden bench, as a wandering troubadour sang epics of knights and maidens. A crowd began to gather, calling for more ballads of Sir Yvain and Sir Lancelot.
Draco snorted in disgust at the glorification of mere muggles, swinging their silly swords and maces about. "Why don't you sing about some real heroes?" Draco said, as he carelessly tossed a few silver stags to the performer.
The bard smiled broadly. "And what does my lord request? The tale of Sir Gareth? Or Sir Pellinore and the Questing Beast? Or does he wish to hear The Perfect Knight - Sir Galahad?"
"Who cares about knights? Sing about the true king - Merlin! Without Merlin, Arthur was just a stupid pig boy." Draco said, the sneer on his face mirrored in his voice.
The crowd murmured angrily and the bard stopped, cocking his head. "I see, you are one of them. We don't want your kind around here."
Draco reached but then realized he could not use his wand. He stood and huffed off. As he walked away from the glares, he barely noticed the tents shrinking in numbers and the field growing wilder. At a dead end, there was one last tent, and the semi circle of trees backed away from the stall, as if paying respect or in abject fear.
An old crone sat there, her toothless grin matched by her wrinkled face and iron grey hair. Her dress might once have been a dark emerald green but now was faded and patched. She hunched over a crowded knotty pine table, her young limber hands an odd contrast to her advanced age. Draco did not notice the hands nor the other items for sale - a curved double edged knife with a black handle, a dark candle with an even darker wick, a golden sickle, and a staff with two entwined serpents, topped by white wings. Draco's attentions were on the skull.
Resting next to the witch's busy hands was a grinning white skull. The forehead was broad well shaped, the sign of a deep thinker. The eyes were two enormous multi-faceted emeralds, the size of a bird's egg. There were twelve dazzling teeth - all diamonds, well cut and glittering even in the dim light. The sinister skull seemed to smirk at Draco and he had a great desire to murder the witch and steal it away. A treasure like this should not belong to this ancient crone. His hands reached out, only to pull back from a excruciatingly painful hex.
"Naughty, naughty, naughty." The witch cackled at the skull. Draco sucked at his swelling knuckles, and she turned her eyes to the young wizard.
"How did you get the skull?" Draco challenged her.
"He cheated me once. And for that, I destroyed his magic." the witch smiled. "His suffering will last a long time. If you touch him, so will yours." The witch vanished the grinning skull, and Draco realized that she did so, silently and without a wand. Although, it could simply be a mountebank's trick. "Come closer, boy. You wouldn't be afraid of a witch, would you? What do you wish for - a love potion to ensnare a young girl or boy? A draught to make you stronger?"
Draco mustered his courage. "I want a curse to hurt my enemy. To make him feel pain and misery. I want him to suffer."
The witch cackled. "Very well. Old Morgaine can do that for a price. And what is his name?"
"Harr…." Draco stopped. "Can't you just give me a curse without a name?"
The witch pointed her bony finger at Draco. "This magic needs a name. Without a name, the hex may affect you. Or perhaps your family? Those who seek to curse heroes must be careful the curse does not rebound on them."
"I can't name him." Draco said, frustrated.
"Then what do you truly want? What do you desire?" Draco found himself unable to tear himself away from her glowing eyes. They stabbed deep into his soul.
"I want wizards to stop hiding from muggles. We are superior to these filthy muggles. Magic should dominate the world - not hide in the shadows. Wizards should assume their rightful positions, in the seats of power, and the mightiest wizard rule as king." Draco blurted out.
"So you want magic to return. To be seen. To be known." The witch said. Draco nodded his head cautiously, trying to force himself to keep silent. He knew that his occlumency shields were useless and he dreaded spilling more secrets to this witch.
With her right hand, the crone levitated a glass vial filled with a black liquid and stoppered with a crystal cork carved in the shape of a skull. "Use this when the time is right, on the day of a full moon." Pale rays of light reflected off the cork, and Draco thought the skull gave him a sinister reddish wink. "This was brewed from a tree that was old when England was young. It can be opened only once and then thrown on your enemy. And it will bring him great suffering - so much that he will wish to die."
With both hands, Draco grabbed greedily at the bottle. He had eyes only for the potion, and he gave no thoughts to why the witch would give him such potent magic. The memory of the crone began to fade from his mind like light from the setting sun.
The witch continued. "There is a price to be paid and the price is this. You will tell no one how and where you acquired this curse. No spell or serum will open your lips, Draco Malfoy. You will have no memory of me - not even if the Queen of Air and Darkness herself should ask. In return, I grant your heart's desire, and all the pleasure and regret it will bring."
Draco had stopped listening long ago. He was mesmerized by the vial, pulsing with eldritch dark magic. He had found something that would harm Potter. When the time came, on the day of a full moon, the Boy Who Lived would suffer. When Draco woke from his stupor, night had fallen and he rushed to find his father. He walked away, wondering why he was in a deserted glade.
A minute later, a beautiful witch appeared from the shadows wearing a revealing emerald dress. Dark wild hair with a hint of auburn framed her seductive pale face and her sharp green eyes. Morgana Le Fay vanished all traces of her presence at the fair - the tent, the table, the magical items, even the insolent skull. Only one thing remained - the potion in Draco Malfoy's pocket. And when he used it, nothing would stop the coming storm.
October 3 1995
Draco had waited a long time for this moment. The first full moon fell on the Wednesday of the week they returned to Hogwarts. The new class schedule was hectic still and despite his eagerness to use the potion, he had to choose the right time - one where Potter would be unable to fight back. In the meantime, Draco kept busy spreading rumors to gullible Hufflepuffs that Potter murdered Cedric Diggory to win the Tournament.
It was the last class of the week, a double Defense Against Dark Arts with the Gryffindors on Friday afternoon. Seamus Finnegan droned on, reading a passage on how to respond non offensively to attacks from Defensive Magical Theory. Draco knew from his father that Minister Fudge installed Umbridge to spy on Dumbledore. The witch could care less about teaching anything useful, and the only grade that mattered in Fifth Year were the OWLs. The class was an utter waste of time which made it perfect for Draco.
Umbridge forced students to read every word of the Wilbert Slinkhard book out loud. Even after four weeks, the Fifth Years were only on Chapter 3. There were thirty two chapters left. The book was so dull that even that know-it-all bookworm Granger hated it. The boring and repetitive contents lulled the class to sleep. Second, Umbridge despised the Gryffindors and kept her beady eyes on them. The only student she disliked more than Granger was Potter. That would allow him to sneak behind his target. And finally, no matter the curse, the Gryffindors would be unable to retaliate. They had not cast a single spell in class the entire month, and Umbridge would not let the Gryffindors do anything to the son of Fudge's senior advisor.
Draco crept up out of his desk. Finnegan continued to read. "When faced with danger, the right response is to find an auror. If no auror can be found, sending a message by owl to alert the aurors is the next best alternative." Draco unstoppered his vial and threw the potion at Potter.
The potion swelled and expanded as it left the container. In seconds, squirming ebony tendrils reached Harry and wrapped around his body, oozing over his robes. Potter jerked out of his seat and reached for his wand. The black spread down his robes, onto his arms, and up his hands. Harry's wand clattered out of his reach and the black liquid began to shimmer, burning with an eldritch light. Harry fell to the ground, everything except his head obscured by the darkness. Then he started to scream, and the class broke out of their shock.
"Mr. Potter. You are disturbing the class. Twenty points from Gryffindor and detention with me." Dolores Umbridge yelled.
"Oi. Malfoy cursed him." Ron Weasley yelled, pointing at the retreating Slytherin.
"Mr. Weasley, I don't see your hand raised. Another ten points from Gryffindor." Umbridge said. Even the Slytherins looked incredulous at the toad's priorities.
Hermione Granger rushed forward and took out her wand. She quickly cast a Revelio. The charm hit the black ooze and dissipated. Perplexed, Hermione cast more spells but the magic faded and registered no results.
"What are you doing, Miss. Granger?" Umbridge screeched. "Slinkhard clearly says you should wait for an auror."
Harry passed out, but was still twitching in pain. His face was deathly pale and the only thing that wasn't coated in black. Hermione reached her left hand to his face. "He's burning up." she said.
"No doubt he is being punished for his filthy lies against the Ministry. Either that, it is a silly prank to disrupt my teaching."
"We have to notify the Headmaster." Hermione said.
"This is my class, and as a senior representative of the Ministry and Hogwarts, we will do nothing. No doubt, Mr. Potter is acting out." Umbridge said.
In the background, Ron Weasley and a few other Gryffindors confronted Draco Malfoy and his lackeys. No wands had been pointed but the situation was tense. Luckily, Hermione took charge. "Ron, this is not the time to fight. We have to help Harry. We need to get him to Nurse Pomfrey."
Hermione cast a Mobilicorpus, followed by a Locomotor. Neither spell worked, simply disappearing into the black ooze which continued to shimmer with some malevolent force. The other Gryffindors cast spells to transport Harry. The magic simply failed. Hermione gritted her teeth and rushed out of the room, despite Umbridge's threats of detention and punishment. She knocked on several of the other classroom doors. A minute later, Filius Flitwick entered. Umbridge snarled at seeing the half goblin but Flitwick ignored her, focusing on the ensorcelled Harry. Hermione filled him quickly on what happened, and the Charms professor cast an Accio on the potion bottle. He inspected it quickly before casting an advanced detection charm at Harry. The ebony tentacles blocked the ray, seemingly protecting Harry from all magic.
"I have never seen something like this. The magic of the potion is somehow binding with Mister Potter. Who brought this potion to class?" Flitwick squeaked.
"It was that filthy snake Malfoy." Ron said.
"Mr. Malfoy, where did you get this potion? This must be a Class D restricted object. It reeks of powerful magic, the likes I have never seen." Flitwick said.
"Don't answer that, Mr. Malfoy. You should only respond in the presence of your legal experts." Umbridge simpered.
Draco's mind reeled. He had no idea where he had acquired the curse, only that it would make Potter suffer.
Flitwick send an eagle patronus to Dumbledore. More teachers had poured in, and Hermione made way for Pomona Sprout and Septima Vector. When told of the failure of the Mobilicorpus, the two witches created a magical stretcher. The black tentacles felt warm and viscous to Hermione's touch but did not resist being placed on the gurney.
Dumbledore and McGonagall were now in the room, followed by Severus Snape. The rest of the teachers and students fell silent at the grim looks on those three teachers. McGonagall and Snape both cast detection spells which failed like the rest.
"Who did this?" Dumbledore asked. Umbridge was about to object but even she faltered when faced with the angry headmaster. Hermione pointed at Malfoy.
"What was in the vial?" the headmaster asked. Draco opened his mouth but nothing came out. He drew a complete blank. Where had the potion come from? Had he purchased it or was it given to him? For once in his life, Draco was frightened of what he had done.
"Headmaster, Draco is confunded somehow. Finite Incantum." Snape said. The spell fizzled, a sign that there was no magic to be dispelled. Snape raised his eyebrows. "Mr. Malfoy, are you carrying any cursed objects - or did you drink something unknown?"
"OI! You are trying to get Draco out of trouble. He tried to kill Harry!" Ron said.
Dumbledore inspected the dark bindings around Harry. The shimmer had disappeared and the tentacles were being pulled back into Harry's body, dwindling in size. The tendrils lost their aggressiveness and seemed oddly content. Dumbledore cast spells into the black substance. Even the magic of the Elder Wand was effortlessly absorbed.
"Harry isn't dead." Dumbledore examined the glass vial and the crystal skull. "But there was some powerful magic stored in this bottle, and possibly quite dark."
Hermione gasped. The black ooze vanished, fading into his body. The traces were gone, only leaving an unconscious Harry on the ground. Hermione clutched at his hands which were still sticky and hot. Besides that, he seemed unharmed. Even his color had returned.
"Is he okay?" McGonagall asked.
Dumbledore cast one more spell which once again had no effect. "I fear something strange and terrible has happened." The normally calm Headmaster continued to cast detection spells. To his consternation, there was no magical trace of Harry Potter.
Hours later, Harry woke up in a dark room. He knew instantly that he was in the hospital wing, and wondered how he had gotten there. All he remembered was the burning and pain when the ebony tentacles reached him. He felt cold like he had lost feeling. He stared at his hands and legs, moving him gingerly. His body, while a bit stiff, worked but why then did he feel like he had lost something - like an arm or a leg?
Harry reached for the phoenix feather and holly wand. It felt lifeless to him, like any stick. Frowning, he attempted to channel his magic but nothing happened. He tried to remember all the spells he knew. Stupefy. Accio. Wingardium Leviosa. Reparo. Flipendo. Protego. Incendio. Glacius. Lumos. Nothing - there was no magic.
Harry took a deep breath. He thought of his mum and dad, a happy memory of him as a baby in their loving eyes. The patronus charm was supposed to be exceedingly difficult, beyond NEWT level, but Harry was a master of that spell. He could cast it even under duress, and had done twice already to save his life. He desperately needed it now. Expecto Patronum. No blinding, dazzling, silver stag emerged from his wand - not even a shapeless cloud of magic from his dead wand.
Then he knew. He gently placed his wand down, and both hands went to his face, in a futile attempt to hide his tears of misery and despair. Harry Potter had lost his magic.