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Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity
Book 2: The Erosion of Innocence
Chapter 19: The Pursuit of Greatness
May 3, 1899
Gellert's heart beat rapidly as he stared down at the boy before him, crouched and pulled back as though preparing to be struck. He had planned this for some time but now that the moment had arrived, he was unsure whether he would be able to do it. His throat was as constricted as it had been when smoke rose around him in great clouds as he stood atop the flaming pyre. Every inch of him tingled with nervous adrenaline and frantic anticipation.
He cast his eyes about the room as though to ensure no one was intruding, but he knew that no one would. Nobody in the castle, student or staff, was capable of penetrating the ward scheme around this room; he was sure of that. It had been at the end of his fourth year when he had begun to realize he was advancing farther than many of his professors. It had been a revelation that changed him. It was a revelation that had planted the seed in his mind that maybe he would one day be capable of achieving things that had once been mere dreams.
But if he wanted to see those dreams blossom into reality, he would need to conquer this. Everything he wanted would take more than ability; it would take boldness and courage. How was he to begin making progress on those worldwide ambitions if he could not will himself to do this?
Gellert looked down at the boy once more and allowed the pent-up anger and agony he had been suppressing all day to seep through self-made cracks in his Occlumency. This was his reminder; it was why he had to do this. There had to be a better solution than suppressing everything and allowing it to destroy him when he could hold it in no longer. There had to be a better alternative to the crushing pain in his chest and pangs in his stomach every time he pictured his father's body lying lifeless in a coffin exactly one year earlier. There was a better solution and he was going to find it because he knew that no one else could.
He closed his eyes and crushed every one of his apprehensions with but a thought and raised his wand. His hand did not so much as tremble as the long, dark stick of wood slowly turned to point directly at the kneeling boy's forehead.
Memories flashed through Gellert's mind with the speed of blinking lights. It was like the rush of colours and shapes one experienced when travelling via portkey, but every one of them was a thought or a memory that Gellert swiftly deciphered. It had taken a great deal of practice to master the offensive branch of the Mind Arts, but it had been a boon unlike almost anything he had ever learned before. And if it would allow him to do this…
He pulled his attention away from the thoughts and memories and pushed deeper into the boy's mind. He didn't need to see what the brain was projecting — he needed to see how it was projecting. Then he would go deeper once more. Seeing was not going to be enough. Interacting was what he needed to do.
Gellert focused on his active streams of thought brought forth via Occlumency and directed several of them to work on guiding the boy's memories and thoughts towards the most painful things he had ever experienced. The rest of Gellert's brain power turned further inwards and shifted his attention to not his thoughts, but the things that caused the sensations those thoughts brought forth. He couldn't see the neurons, exactly, but he could feel them. He could feel their current and could tell what they were doing on an instinctual level. He could feel them flare at the memories of pain and distress and he took hold of that reaction and did something akin to twisting as he warped it to fit exactly what he needed to accomplish…
Pain unlike anything he had ever imagined washed over him. He thought someone had cursed him from behind for a moment, but then he realized it was his other, independent streams of thought guiding the boy's memories. It was not his pain he was feeling, but that of the student whose mind he occupied. Gellert tried to block it out, but he couldn't. It was so intense that not even Occlumency could protect him. He pulled back and out of the boy's mind with a single scream as he fell backwards and twitched for a minute on the floor as the other boy screamed his throat hoarse and convulsed.
Panic was flashing through Grindelwald's mind as he managed to push himself up to his knees. The world spun all around him as he did so and a reddish haze of pain seemed to cloud his vision like a crimson veil of mist.
Or maybe his vision was just blurred and he was seeing the blood coming from the other boy's skull. His spell had left no physical damage, but the pain his counterpart was experiencing was so intense that he was raking at his own skull so hard he had torn much of the skin away, fingernails seeking to end pain they could not reach. Blood spattered the floor like grotesque droplets of rain. The streams were growing thicker and thicker as the boy's desperate clawing continued. Gellert knew that if he did not intervene soon, the blood would flow like a crimson waterfall and the boy might be lost forever.
His arm felt as though it weighed twice his total mass and he just barely managed to lift his wand and call forth a vibrant flash of red light. He heard the boy's body slump to the floor but saw none of it; blackness had closed in on all sides and he'd crumpled as all thoughts of panic and sensations of pain ceased in one single instant.
Harry awoke with a gasp and became immediately aware of bile rising at the back of his throat. A cold layer of sweat coated his flesh. It had been quite some time since a memory from Grindelwald had shaken him, but this one had done it. He had become accustomed to them. They had just become normal to him, but they had not been like this. He had been grudgingly enjoying watching Grindelwald progress through Durmstrang with unmatched prowess. He had seen him cast dark curses in those memories, but this? This was entirely different… it just felt wrong.
He leant over the side of his bed and felt the acid and chunks of half-digested food come spilling forth. He was shaking badly and a chill gripped him tight as a vice. It was like a bitter wind was tearing at his bones, yet the sweat still coated him.
What he had seen was unlike anything that had come before it. The memory of Wylla Nurmen's execution had been the most graphically disturbing thing Harry had ever seen. It had left scars on him that ran deeper than the skin and he knew it. The feeling of being burnt alive had been almost equally surreal, as had the crushing nothingness Grindelwald had felt after losing his father.
This had been different. There had been blood, but not like before. There were no chunks of bone or mutilated organs strewn about the classroom floor like fallen autumn leaves. It hadn't even been the way the boy had screamed and clawed at his own skull. That cacophony had been disturbing in its own way, but it wasn't what bothered Harry.
What bothered him was hard to describe. It was just… Grindelwald. He'd shown no regard for the boy whatsoever. He had been horrified at the result of his experiment, but Harry had not gotten the impression he was worried about the boy's condition for even a second.
And the experiment itself…
Harry didn't understand. He had been in Grindelwald's head and experienced his rationale, but it still made no sense to him, nor did the experiment's purpose. He had just breached the boy's mind and taken over a fundamental element of the human body.
His shaking intensified at the thought. He knew that Legilimency could be used to read thoughts and see memories, but this had been something Harry had never dreamed of. It scared him more than any curse and he knew he would stop at nothing to master Occlumency now. There was no alternative after seeing that — he would become the greatest occlumens the world had ever seen if that was what it took to keep that from happening.
But that was the future. For now… he wanted to understand and he hated it. He hated Grindelwald, he hated the memories, he hated all of it! Most of all, he hated the way his brain made connections. He hated that he could understand where Grindelwald was coming from much of the time and he hated the fact that even now, after seeing something so sick and twisted, he was not so much repulsed as drawn in.
The thought scared him…
Harry closed his eyes and slumped back on his pillow, fingering the chain he had grown accustomed to sleeping with all the way back in the summer during the weeks when Grindelwald had helped him master the ability to wandlessly unlock doors.
His eyes were suddenly open again, but he was not in the Slytherin common room. He was in a dark square of a room with so little light that he could hardly make out the gaunt figure sitting on the room's only bit of furniture.
"So you have returned," Grindelwald said with a thin smile. "I knew you would."
"Why?" Harry asked, his voice a desperate croak hardly louder than a whisper.
Grindelwald made a tsk tsk sound. "Do not waste your words. Words are weapons more powerful than any spell and more versatile than any stick of wood. Use them correctly. Do not ask foolish, open-ended questions." His eyes found Harry in the oppressive darkness. "Unless, of course, you are trying to draw more information out of me. If that is the case, I have overestimated you."
"All of it," said Harry. "Why did you do that to the boy? Why were you so obsessed with magic? Why are you showing me all of this?"
"Three very different questions," said Grindelwald. "The boy meant nothing to me and I did not believe I could fail. I was young and arrogant. I did not believe for a single second that my masterfully constructed technique would prove anything less than perfect."
"What were you trying to do? I… I didn't get it."
"No, I doubted you would." Grindelwald stood to his feet and walked towards his cell's window. It was barred, just like the door, but it overlooked the shimmering surface of a frozen lake.
"Is that… Lake Königssee?"
Grindelwald nodded, but he did not turn back to Harry. "Do you know of the Mind Arts?"
"Yes," said Harry. "The incantation you used was Legilimens. It creates a link to use Legilimency."
"It does indeed. The mind is a very complex thing. It can do much more than present assailants with tales and truths. It is a powerful thing and that power can be harnessed. That is what I sought to do. Can you guess why?"
"Your father's death. It was bothering you; you were thinking about it."
"Yes, but also no." Grindelwald had yet to turn and face Harry. Still he looked out over the lake far below them and at the shadowy outlines of the mountains that surrounded it. From this vantage point, they loomed above even the highest of their peaks. "There is a technique used by practitioners of Occlumency who wish to guard their mind against weakness. It allows the user to suppress all emotion once it is mastered."
"But that wasn't what you were doing."
"It was not. That was what I had been doing for many months." Grindelwald's fingers drummed on the sill of the window. They were long and skeletal. All that made them up seemed to have faded away over time. His skin seemed to glow in the darkness and appeared as thin and frail as torn parchment.
"I still don't get it."
"I felt nothing for a time and feared that I had lost what it meant to be human, but it took me over in due time. My father was all I had. You saw the spiteful incarnation that called herself my mother and what she did. When I was a boy, I carried so many delusions. Delusions that I would live happily with my father for the rest of time. Delusions that the man who had saved me so bravely was untouchable."
He turned slowly back towards Harry for the first time. "It was foolish of me to think such a thing. Death is a shadow that looms over the world. Its tendrils will uncoil every so often and touch whomever it pleases. It has no mercy and no judgement. It does not care who you are or what you have done. I learned that all those years ago and it is a lesson I kept."
"But you tried to beat it. In the Durmstrang library… you were reading about necromancy after your father died, and of the stone from the story your father read to you."
"For a time. I was foolish, as I have said. Death cannot be cheated so easily as casting a spell, nor do I believe it could be cheated by turning over a stone."
"But you wanted it, didn't you? The stone, I mean?"
"Oh, yes… I wanted it very badly. But I wanted them all. The Deathstick, the Reaper's stone, Death's own Cloak… I wanted them all. Only by possessing all three could one ever hope to master death."
"You believe it, then?" Grindelwald raised an eyebrow; Harry could hardly see it, but the hair was white and stood out in the blackness of the cell. "I went and found a copy of the book that was translated into English in the Hogwarts library. It said that by having all three—"
"That one would be the master of death. Yes, yes, I have heard that said."
"And you believed it?"
"I do not believe that possessing the artifacts makes one immortal. That is nonsensical; merely holding something does not grant one power beyond measure. I simply believe that the Deathly Hallows were unearthly in their powers and that by mastering all three, one might gain the power to fend off death for a time." He shrugged. "It is said that Ignotus Peverell was only claimed by the Reaper when he stepped out from under the very cloak the entity had given him. I think the facet of the story which contains Death to be a falsehood, but metaphors can be assumed and truths can be drawn."
"But what about what you were doing to that boy?"
"Ah, yes, getting back to the point, I see. My father's death struck me hard after a time. I detested the feelings that loss brought down upon me. I was locked in the pursuit of greatness and I could not afford such distractions."
"But why attack that boy? Why not just use Occlumency like you said?"
"A novice at best, I see." Harry blushed, but Grindelwald went on without paying him so much as a glance. "You do not simply turn off emotions. They define us; they make us human. If I had nullified grief for the rest of time, I would have ceased to be who I am."
"Then what is it you had been doing?"
"The suggested methodology is to suppress the emotions whilst you need to focus and allow them to slowly drip through the cracks you form later on. If you allow them to build for too long without nullifying them all together, they will surge forth in a great wave and drown you."
"So you tried something else?"
""I did. The conventional method was unsatisfactory. It did not meet my needs. I could not afford distractions and would never allow myself to be weak again after what it had cost me in my youth, yet if I was not human, the greatness I was chasing would be for naught. It was a perplexing dichotomy for a time, but I was so certain I had found the answer by the moment you saw me in that room had come. I was sure the way was to feel the emotion but to feel none of its effects. To allow it to exist and flow, crashing against your mind but not allowing cracks to form and spread. I was sure of this and I was certain I could do it. It would take altering the nervous system and some experimentation with particular neurons, but I thought it was possible."
"You were wrong."
"I was not. I found out many years later that it was indeed possible, but it would not achieve what I desired. It is of no matter. What is done is done."
"What about the boy? What happened to him? Was anybody able to fix it?"
It was hard to tell in the lightless cell, but Harry thought the corners of Grindelwald's mouth were threatening to tug upwards. He thought he saw smugness in the man's eyes, but he couldn't be sure.
"The expert they called forth was the foremost practitioner of the Mind Arts in Europe, they said." Grindelwald's eyes gleamed. "He was utterly perplexed and to my knowledge, the boy never recovered."
Harry felt as though he would throw up again. "That's it? He never recovered? You don't even care!" He spat the last words at Grindelwald as though they would cause him physical pain, but they seemed to roll off of him like streaming water down a sheet of glass.
"He is of no consequence. He was all too willing to leave me crippled for life and he had no role to play in what would come. The world was better off without him; he was of no value. I took no pleasure in what happened to him, but it has never kept me up at night. His incapacitation changed nothing that concerned me."
"Why are you doing this? You obviously don't care about anyone else, so why are you showing me all of this?"
"Because you are different. I have answered this before. You can change the world in ways he never could. Your star shines brighter than those I snuffed out. Surely, you will see the wisdom in my work. You have seen but a taste of what drove me towards greatness and the pursuit of peace and tranquillity."
"You can keep it!" Harry spat at him. "You can keep all of it! I'm done with this… I'm done with you."
Grindelwald's expression went blank. "What has inspired this?"
You're doing things to my mind… you're changing me. I think differently now than when I started seeing the memories." His posture had straightened and he was staring daggers at Grindelwald, his eyes alight like emerald fires. "I won't let you brainwash me like you did all those people who fought for you. Stop sending me these memories — I'm done."
Grindelwald looked at him for a long time; not moving once to even blink throughout the silence that lay heavy between them. "If that is what you wish," he said softly, and the world around Harry faded to black once more.
December 21, 1992
Lucius's office was dark and had no windows. Diana had no doubt her father could have conjured copious amounts of magical light had he desired to, but he hadn't. The only light in the room was a lantern that flickered on his desk. It sent patches of light glaring across Lucius's face, turning the regal features into something more ghostly and skeletal-looking. Shadows seemed to reach out from the flame in tendrils, pool on the floor, and leap here and there about the room. It was an intimidating sort of atmosphere and Diana wondered whether or not those were her father's intentions. Lucius Malfoy was not a man to miss out on such subtle details.
"Do you think the boys' relationship is mendable?"
Diana knew he was referring to Draco and Harry. Her brother had been instructed to stay at school over the holidays, but Diana had been allowed to come home under the pretence of attending several social events with her father as his heiress.
"I think so." She spoke quietly and chose every word with great caution as she looked up to meet her father's dark grey eyes. "Neither of them have any real problems with the other as a person."
"Then why does the conflict exist?"
"Harry is upset because he feels that Draco betrayed him. Draco is just too stubborn to admit he was wrong twice." She rolled her eyes. "Especially because this time, he let jealousy ruin everything."
"It is an unattractive trait he will need to curb in the near future. I will not have a Malfoy letting such petty things bring them down. He has no reason to be jealous over something as worthless as a Quidditch position."
"He's still a child."
"The time for Draco's childishness is at an end. It will no longer be tolerated. Changes are coming very soon. Draco will need to grow up very fast if he wishes to progress in the world after these changes take place."
"Do you want me to talk to him once I'm back at Hogwarts?"
"No. I want to see how Draco reacts without prompting. It will be a test. You carried him through his friendships last year and he learned nothing. A firmer hand is needed here. The time for coddling has come and gone."
Diana twirled a lock of blonde hair around her finger as she tilted her head to the side. "May I ask what these changes you keep talking about are, Father?"
"It is better if you don't know. Enjoy your innocence while you still can. We will speak about things this summer."
Diana dipped her head. "Was that all you wanted to talk to me about?"
"No." Lucius opened a drawer of his desk and snatched his wand from its surface. He flicked it and a sheet of parchment came drifting up and into Diana's hands.
She skimmed it quickly. "That's… interesting," she said, "and I wouldn't have ever guessed so many people read the Quibbler, but what do newspaper statistics have to do with anything we've discussed?"
"It isn't the statistics that concern me, it is what they represent." Lucius leant forward in his chair and folded his hands on the surface of his desk. Diana had seen this before and recognized it as her father's favourite lecturing posture. "Perception is a weapon that cuts much deeper than any spell. The best generals position themselves to win a war before a single shot is ever fired."
"Is that what you're talking about? When you say that changes are coming, are you talking about a war? Are the old forces trying to come together again?"
"The why is not important. All I need is results."
Diana blanked her expression and met her father's eyes. "What do you need me to do?"
Lucius pointed to a specific number beside each of the major newspaper publications listed on the sheet of parchment. "I trust you understand what that figure means beyond its monetary implications?"
"Control." Diana's answer came instantly and without any hesitation.
Lucius nodded. "You might notice that the number beside the publication we've mentioned doesn't imply a great deal of control." Diana nodded slowly, starting to understand where her father was taking this conversation. "The lunatic who runs the rag won't take money, so I would like to gain control in a different way." The spark that flashed in his grey eyes looked like a jagged line of lightning jutting across a stormy sky. "I do believe the owner of our targeted investment has a young daughter at Hogwarts…"
December 25, 1992
The Slytherin Common Room
An odd tingle ran up Harry's spine when he stepped into the Slytherin common room the night of Yule. The day had dawned bright and sunny and he had enjoyed much of it out on the grounds with Cassius after they had opened their gifts that morning. They had only retreated back into the castle when the sun began to fall behind the horizon and its light began to wane. That had been their cue to come inside and clean up before that evening's feast in the Great Hall.
That had finished some time ago and Harry had parted ways from Cassius as soon as it had. He had gone off to do his prefect rounds whilst Harry had decided to explore the castle under the guise of his invisibility cloak. He was finding more and more secrets the longer he explored. Every time he thought he had covered every inch of the castle, something new and hidden leapt out at him and renewed his interest in his explorations.
Cassius had not yet returned to the common room by the time Harry entered, so he strode towards an armchair near the fire. There was an empty one beside it he would reserve for one of the only friends he had left.
The common room was nearly empty apart from him. Almost all of the Slytherins had gone home for the winter break. Harry was still somewhat taken aback that Cassius seemed not to, but he never asked why. His older friend had never asked him, either. It was a sort of unspoken pact between the two of them, one that told Harry all he needed to know about the reasons for Cassius's willingness to stay behind in the drafty dungeons while the others returned to warm and spacious family manors.
The only other students in the common room sat not too far from Harry. They were Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle. Harry thought it was odd that Draco had stayed behind when his sister had gone home, but he tried not to think about it. Trying not to think about Draco was much easier than actually thinking about him. It caused less frustration and didn't usually result in a headache.
Harry unwittingly cast his eyes towards the group his thoughts lingered on and a snippet of conversation reached his ears.
"You know, I'm surprised the Prophet hasn't reported all of these attacks yet." From Harry's vantage point, he could not see Draco, whose back was turned away from him, only Crabbe and Goyle.
"It is weird," muttered Goyle.
"I suppose Dumbledore's trying to cover it up. I would too, if I were him. He'll be sacked if the attacks don't stop. Father will make sure of that. He's been sick of Dumbledore's rubbish for years and won't put up with it if he has an excuse to get rid of him." Harry could practically see Draco sneer even with the boy's back turned towards him. "A decent headmaster would never let in slime like Creevey. Personally, I'm rooting for the Heir, whomever it is. The fewer muggleborns around here, the better."
Harry did not fail to miss the way Draco had avoided his typical slur for muggleborns. He felt a leaping sensation in his heart for less than a second before something else caught his eyes.
He saw… something flash across Goyle's face. It was fast, but he caught it and played it over again in his mind. It was anger. Why had Goyle looked angry? He and Crabbe usually drunk up everything Malfoy said the way a man lost in the desert might hopelessly try and suck up every last drop of an imagined oasis.
So why did Goyle look so angry for what had to have been at least a second?
It could have been nothing, but Harry knew it wasn't. He couldn't explain how he knew, he just did. It was the same feeling he'd had the morning he had asked Draco not to sell out Hagrid and the dragon; the morning he had suspected his former friend's betrayal but failed to act. It was that same feeling again, and it was screaming at him more insistently than ever before that something was wrong and unnatural.
Draco's voice practically pierced his ears as he mocked Creevey in a voice so high and shrill that Harry feared any glass in the castle might shatter into a million broken pieces.
He watched Crabbe and Goyle very closely throughout Malfoy's tirade and his suspicions only mounted just as Malfoy began inquiring after the both of them for failing to laugh at his impression.
Harry squinted at the both of them. It felt as though he was trying to burn a hole straight through them with his stare alone and Goyle must have noticed. He looked away from Draco and met Harry's eye…
Harry jolted so hard that he almost leapt up out of his chair. His perspective had shifted in the moment before he broke eye contact. He had not been looking at Crabbe and Goyle, but at himself and Draco. The sensations he'd felt… they were not his own. He was not feeling so tense, anxious, and irrationally angry.
That had been like nothing he had ever experienced before… yet it was very similar to something he knew very well.
He had somehow performed Legilimency.
As crazy as the thought was, Harry could think of no other realistic answer to how the incident had come to be. There was no other magic he knew that could accomplish anything of the sort and he was very sure that what had just happened was firmly rooted in magic of some kind. There was also the fact that Goyle had gone pale. He was staring at Harry with eyes as wide as saucers and Harry was watching him even more intently now.
Something was most definitely wrong.
"I just wish I knew who was behind it all," Draco was saying. "I could help them… not that they seem to need it. I'd have at least liked to send them a card and some flowers."
"You must have some idea who's behind it?"
That had been Crabbe and it made Harry even more certain something was off. Crabbe was quiet and generally only spoke when spoken to. It was like his personality along with Goyle's had just completely changed. Almost as though they weren't even the same people…
"Polyjuice Potion is illegal because it allows one person to take on the exact appearance of another. I doubt even any of you are thickheaded enough to miss the potential implications of such a potion."
It all made sense as soon as the memory of Snape discussing polyjuice potion in one of their first lessons of the year floated to the forefront of Harry's mind. It might have seemed insane a month ago to think that Hogwarts students would use an illegal potion to try and get to the bottom of something, but that had been before Daphne had sought to poison him.
Come to think of it, Snape's description of Veritaserum from that same lesson seemed strangely reminiscent of the colourless, odourless liquid that seemed to be in the goblet of pumpkin juice he had kept hidden in his dorm ever since that fateful morning in the Great Hall.
"You know I don't, Crabbe," snapped Malfoy. "Father won't tell me what happened the last time the Chamber of Secrets was opened. All I know is that it was fifty years ago and that a muggleborn actually died. If the attacks keep going, it's only a matter of time before it happens again." He paused for a moment and Harry had no doubt his expression had shifted to something malicious. "Here's hoping that whatever the hell is attacking students gets Granger."
That was when Harry was sure. The look in Goyle's eyes… it told him everything he needed to know. He met them in that same moment and felt a sudden, irrational jolt of panic.
"But you have no idea who could be behind it this time? Not even a guess?" It was the person who appeared to be Goyle who spoke this time, but the tone was off. Whether it was because of Harry's intervention or otherwise, he wasn't sure, but he could see where the conversation was headed as soon as Draco cast a glance in his direction and he was going to stop it.
"Well… there is Harry. That night in the common—"
Harry reacted without thinking; panic had gripped him and his body had taken over. Red light blazed on the tip of Harry's wand and rocketed an inch past Draco's head before slamming into the chest of the person who was meant to be Goyle. They slumped from the armchair they had been sitting in and fell limply to the floor. Crabbe reached for his wand and tried to scramble to his feet, but Harry's wand was trained on him before he could make so much as a move.
Curses flashed through his mind, swift as the impressions he'd gotten when he had somehow performed Legilimency on the imposter he was sure had been Hermione Granger. The Cutting Curse, the Bludgeoning Curse, the Gouging Curse, the Blinding Curse Yaxley had tried to use against him, and so many others came to mind, but he hesitated.
Harry hesitated as the memory of blood flowing across a pale white coat of snow swam in front of his mind's eye. He hesitated at the memory of a boy screaming and clawing at his skull.
"He is of no consequence. He was all too willing to leave me crippled for life and he had no role to play in what would come. The world was better off without him; he was of no value. I took no pleasure in what happened to him, but it has never kept me up at night. His incapacitation changed nothing that concerned me."
Grindelwald had been all too willing to fire curses indiscriminately at those he cared naught for, but Harry needed to be different. A shiver still ran up his spine every time he thought about the way his thoughts had changed since Grindelwald had begun sharing his memories. He wasn't Grindelwald, he wasn't a murderer… he had to remind himself of that.
"Go!" he spat at Crabbe, whom he supposed was likely Weasley. "Get out or I'll curse you! I don't want to hurt you — go!"
The boy did not need to be told twice. He muttered the incantation for the Levitating Charm and floated the unconscious form of Gregory Goyle out behind him.
Harry watched them go before turning to Draco, who was watching him with complete and total awe. "In the future," he said, "maybe watch your friends a bit more carefully and if they're acting completely different than normal. Maybe don't go and spew off a bunch of sensitive information." He shrugged. "Just food for thought, it might backfire on you next time."
He was halfway to the dorms when Draco's voice called after him. "Harry!" He turned and raised a single eyebrow.
Draco looked as though he wanted nothing more than to shrink back into the armchair he rested on, but he restrained the impulse and leant forwards. "Thanks for the help. I… didn't deserve it."
Harry just nodded, turned, and made his way back towards his dormitory. There was far too much on his mind for him to be thinking about how he felt regarding Draco and that whole situation. That was a mess he just did not need to revisit right now.
January 1, 1993
Harry could hear… something. It sounded almost like crazed chanting, but it was muffled… everything was muffled. He thought he could hear something more terrible, too. A high, agonized scream that seemed to come from everywhere but was drowned out. All around him was darkness and moving seemed next to impossible… until…
Pain wracked his body as something solid came up to meet him. The chanting ceased then and hurried footsteps echoed as they drew near to him. Nothing was muffled now and there was light, though it was dim.
He tried to struggle to his feet but he fell. His legs did not seem able to support his weight and his head seemed far too large… it was almost comical, like he wasn't human, but it was right — he knew it was right.
He noticed something else as he tried feebly to stand once more. Aside from the stone he had impacted against, he was lying in something wet, red, and sticky.
It was everywhere. He had not seen so much blood in… well, a touch over eleven years, he supposed. There was so much of it that it appeared as though the room had flooded with crimson water, but it smelled of blood. Its scent was overpowering and he almost choked on it before warmth enveloped him.
Harry felt himself lifted out of the blood as his perspective changed. Finally, he was at an appropriate vantage point. Blood was everywhere. It was thicker in some places, both around the woman's legs and where it had been used to draw runes of his own design. It splattered the floor in a great circle around the prone woman. She was still bleeding profusely, but Harry knew she was already dead.
Harry's misshapen lips curved upwards into a cruel smile as he opened his mouth to speak. The voice that escaped him was high and cold. Malice dripped from every syllable as he peered from the blonde woman holding his infant-sized body to the small cluster of men in black robes and white masks gathered all around them.
"My friends." His throat tore with the effort of speech but he persevered — he would always persevere; he had beaten death, no pain on this Earth could halt him. "It has been so long, yet you alone stayed loyal. Your loyalty will be rewarded in time… when we craft the world anew." Something moved down below and Harry cast his eyes down towards the floor. It was a great serpent slithering around his carrier's heels and eyeing the still-bleeding corpse not far away. "Nagini," he hissed, "feast."
A scream tore free of Harry's lungs and rushed up his throat, screeching out of his mouth as he bolted upright before falling straight out of bed. The vomit rushed from him and drenched him; he was too weak to shift his head… his head, oh, Merlin, it burned! It burned as nothing had ever burned before. He could not even think of what had woken him through the pain. He knew nothing of the dark room or the high, cold voice. All he knew was pain and the dazed pondering of whether his scar would explode.
A lot went unsaid in this chapter, but I have faith in my readers to figure it out without me spoon-feeding it to them. That applies to not only the last scene, but Harry's refusal to truly lash out against the imposters. I'm aware that narrative decision will frustrate some people, but in a way, that is kind of the point. You will see what I mean by the year's end.
Before I sign off, I would like to reiterate something I've already said once in an earlier AN.
Please, do not waste your time asking me about pairings. I am very happy to respond to PMs and I spend hours each day talking with the folks over on my Discord server, but I have no interest in discussing the pairings of my stories and I will not reveal them. There will be a pairing in this story, I know what it is already, and you will all find out much later. Let's leave it at that.
Please read and review.
Thank you as always to my lovely Discord Editors Idefix and rawmeat898 for their corrections/contributions on this chapter.
A massive thank you is also extended to my Everyl-level patron, Jonathan Weasley, and my Psychic-level patron, ShadowWolf, for their incredibly generous support on that platform!
PS: The next chapter will be posted next Sunday, October 31ST, 2021. Or you can read it RIGHT NOW by joining my Discord server! The next TEN CHAPTERS can be read right now by anyone who signs up to my P*T*E*N page! THAT'S THE ENTIRETY OF WHAT'S LEFT IN BOOK 2!