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Harry Potter and the Perversion of Purity

By ACI100

Book 4: The Deadliest of Games

Chapter 11: Good Evening, Professor Umbridge


September 1, 1994
Black Manor
1:23 AM

A storm was blowing outside the tower cell. Harry spied flashes of lightning through the rattling bars and could faintly hear Lake Königssee churning some two hundred feet below. The thick smell of ozone wafted through the bars as they shook and shuddered with each gust of wind.

"Fawley's in trouble."

Grindelwald had been sitting cross-legged on his cot, but those words made him look up. "How is it you know this?"

"I saw it. It was one of those dreams where I see through Voldemort's eyes. They're talking right now unless she's dead, but Voldemort didn't plan on killing her."

Grindelwald slowly unfolded his legs. "Tell me what you saw."

"Voldemort was flying and punched a hole through her wards. I think it alerted her, but that was his plan all along. He wanted to talk and she didn't run." Why didn't she run? What was she thinking? "Voldemort vanished part of the roof and used that to get inside. Fawley came out of a room and he asked her how she knew about what was at Barty Crouch's house."

"That being the man's own son, yes?"

"Yeah, the one who was sentenced to life in Azkaban but who Crouch broke out."

"Such a precarious position Miss Fawley finds herself in." Grindelwald appeared to ponder something. "How did Miss Fawley come by that knowledge?"

Harry just shook his head. "I have no idea. It still makes no sense." Part of him had wondered whether Grindelwald himself had somehow given her some kind of hint. "You would probably know better than me."

Grindelwald's lips twitched. "I think not. I have never had the pleasure of making Miss Fawley's acquaintance."

"What?" How does that make any sense? "But you set her up with a portkey."

Grindelwald studied him. "I think our trust in each other is great enough for me to lower that particular curtain." Lower that curtain? What's he on about? "I have never shared a word with Miss Fawley. I have cruder ways of communicating with her and a handful of others. I wondered whether my initial ploy would work at all. The potential for misinterpretation on her part was great."

Cruder forms of communication? Potential for misinterpretation? What the hell does that mean? "So, what? You can't actually talk with anyone else?"

"Not in the way you imagine."

A pretty cagey answer for someone letting the curtain fall. Harry didn't push — if Grindelwald didn't want to tell him, then his mind would be unchanged and there were more important things at hand. "So you can't do anything?"

Grindelwald actually chuckled. "Did you expect that I could save her from Voldemort while rotting away in this forsaken place?"

Harry felt foolish when Grindelwald put it like that. "Not really, I just… I thought you'd want to do. I thought… I don't know, that you could help her somehow?"

Grindelwald traced a bone-thin finger across his temple. "I can offer some small form of assistance, but it might not matter. All depends on what happened once your vision shattered."

"How important is she?"

"Miss Fawley?" Harry nodded. Grindelwald seemed to consider that. "I must confess that I don't know. That depends on many things. All I knew was that she was in the best position to deliver you to me." His fingers tapped against his hip. "If Voldemort is showing special interest in her, she may become quite important in the very near future."

Grindelwald waved a hand. "Go. I will do what I can — you must sleep; the beginning of your next challenge begins in the morning."

The beginning of my next challenge… oh hell, right, the Triwizard Tournament. Harry had nearly forgotten about that with everything else going on. Bloody hell.


Seven hours later…

Germany was not the only place suffering under the wrath of a raging storm. Sheets of rain swirled outside the window. Thunder boomed and the wall of rain was shattered by a bright flash of lightning. Such a cheerful day.

Harry contemplated reconnecting to Grindelwald and asking how whatever he'd done had went, but he decided against it. It's not like asking will change anything.

Lightning flashed outside again. It's gonna be a weird year. No Dumbledore, no malicious plots against him, hardly any Hogwarts. It probably won't feel like any school year I've had so far.

He fingered his wand. The classes definitely won't. Not after two months practicing with the likes of Crouch and Dolohov. I could probably take my NEWTs now. Some of the exams would give him fits, but Harry liked his chances on most of the practicals. I'd ace Transfiguration and Defence — maybe Charms, too. Thankfully there was Durmstrang and Beauxbatons this year. Each of them offered their own unique classes, and some of them would offer their own unique challenges.

CRACK!

Harry nearly jumped, he had been so lost in thought. "Morning, Kreacher."

The elf bowed low. "The Dark Lord is wanting to see you, Master Harry."

I probably should have expected that. Harry fingered his pendant and followed Kreacher downstairs and into the large drawing room.

Voldemort was waiting there, standing with his pale hands folded atop his chest. "And so another year begins at Hogwarts," he said when Kreacher left them.

"And so it does."

"You will depart for Durmstrang Institute on the first of October and the Triwizard champions will be selected on the night of Samhain."

So all I have to do is make it across the age line. That would pose no problems. Not with the cloak.

"Barty and I have devised a loophole in Dumbledore's ward. Barty will cross the line and confund the Goblet of Fire while entering your name under a fourth school so you're guaranteed to be chosen."

A swell of bitterness rose up inside him. But why? It became obvious when he cleared his mind and contemplated. This is mine — this is the first thing I'll deserve to be famous for. Crouch entering him felt like a taint that made the whole thing feel filthy and unearned. It defeats the whole point — this is supposed to be mine.


Two and a half hours later…

The thunder had subsided when the train pulled out of Platform Nine and Three Quarters and there were no signs of lightning. Raindrops still drummed hard against the smooth glass windows and the hard steel roof. It was coming down so hard, it sounded like a group of small children were running full steam above their heads.

"You two are going, aren't you?" Draco asked Harry and Theodore once the train was moving.

Theodore let himself grin. "I've always wanted to see Durmstrang."

Draco's lips curved down, but only for a moment. "So have I. I almost attended Durmstrang, you know."

Harry jolted upright in his seat. "What?"

"Yes, it's what my father wanted. I think he still would have sent me until recently had Mother not fought so hard."

Until recently, huh? His blood boiled. That means Voldemort wants something with Draco. Why was it always children? Why can't he just leave them alone?

Theodore shrugged. "Almost every Nott has attended Hogwarts. There was no way Father would send me anywhere else."

"Almost?" Harry asked. "Haven't you lot been in Britain since before the school's founding?"

"Yes, but we've had some members move abroad or get expelled."

"Can you attend another school if you get expelled?" It was the first thing Pansy had said since arriving in the compartment.

Harry's heartstrings tugged. I did the best I could. Maybe he would have to help her later with another mental nudge; it seemed to help some yesterday.

"Depends who you are," said Theodore. "Durmstrang will take just about anyone if they're important or talented. Other schools can be paid off if you have the gold."

Durmstrang definitely have some important students. Natalia Zhikarov sprang to mind immediately. She's only starting this year, but her family's probably more powerful than any at Hogwarts.

It was a daunting thought. It will be like entering a whole other world. A whole other world where not even Theodore's family name would rank near the top of the list if others like Natalia dwelled within Durmstrang's hard stone walls.

"What do you reckon Umbridge will be like?" Theodore left the question open, but Harry could tell it was directed at him.

Is this how it is now? Do they just expect I have the answers because of my connection to Voldemort? Part of him swelled at being asked, but another part writhed. I don't know how I feel about that.

Harry parroted the answer Lucius gave Voldemort. "I think she'll do whatever's best for her and make sure Fudge is happy."

Draco stretched and yawned. "Sounds miserable."

A sharp smile crested Theodore's lips. "I don't know about that. It will be funny keeping track of how many potshots she fires off at Dumbledore."

Pansy piped in again. Finally. "I heard a rumour that she's going to exorcise Binns."

Harry had to choke back his laughter. I don't think she'd take getting laughed at by me very well.

"What?" Draco spluttered while less successfully fighting off his own bout of hysterics.

Pansy shrank back some in her seat. Bugger. Harry met her eyes and pumped confidence through the link until she straightened in her seat. "That's what I heard."

Theodore chuckled. "Here's hoping you heard it from a seer."

"A real seer, mind," muttered Harry, "not some fraud like Trelawney."

"Are you still taking her class?"

He grinned. "Nope, dropped it." It was the one good thing about no longer having access to a time turner. That and not being exhausted every day — that part's nice too when Dolohov isn't battering me.

"Don't know why you took it in the first place," said Theodore. "Anyone with sense knows that Divination is rubbish."

Tell that to Voldemort. "There have been true prophecies in the past. Just not from idiots like Trelawney."

"Is she really that bad?"

"She's awful. She spent the first month of last year predicting my death before she realized I didn't give a bollock. Then she moved on to tormenting the Gryffindors. They took it harder than I did."

Theodore laughed. "Typical."

"Here's hoping we can still win the House Cup with you lot off at Durmstrang," Draco said with a scowl. "I don't think I could bear the lions if they won the thing."

It's good he can still care about things like that. Joy over things like the House Cup was long lost to Harry. Let's hope Voldemort doesn't take the rest away from him too.


Talk had moved on from the Triwizard Tournament by the time they collected heaps of treats from the trolley, but the topic came back up again when their older set of friends entered the compartment.

"You're coming too, right Cassius?" Harry asked.

Cassius mock glared at Cassie. "Not sure what sort of chance I have with her around, but I might as well give it a shot. You've obviously accepted?" Harry nodded. "Brilliant. You'll be showing me whatever magic you inherited from Merlin and used against those evil Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup."

Everyone laughed. Harry allowed himself a half-amused smile. "I can't believe Skeeter's gotten three front-page articles out of that nonsense."

Cassius smirked. "Someone said you conjured lightning."

Harry felt a sharp tug in his stomach. I like Cassius, but he knows nothing. There had been rumours about his father's involvement with Voldemort, but they had never been proven and Harry had seen nothing of the man since the Dark Lord's return.

If he was a Death Eater, he's a low level one Voldemort hasn't reached out to yet. Slowly the Dark Lord was broadening his circle, but he had to be careful. One false move and there will be war.

Draco, Diana, and Theodore were less amused. They probably realize I really did cast lightning — especially after Regulus so casually told me to kill anyone who threatened us. Cassie was smiling, but it looked strained. She must reckon I can do things like that; we've practiced together often enough. That was an interesting thought. I wonder what our duels will look like now.

A wall of water slammed against them when they stepped from the Hogwarts Express hours later. The wind lashed whips of rain across their faces and the sky did its best to weigh down their thick, hooded cloaks.

"I pity the first years," Draco muttered when they finally stepped through the large oak doors and into the main castle. Rivulets of water slid from their cloaks and drenched the floor, but it was the least of their worries.

A group of younger students screamed up ahead when a water balloon appeared from nowhere and dropped directly on top of them. Oh hell. Peeves solidified overhead and cackled as he swooped towards Harry and his friends.

Harry summoned his wand and gave it a quick wave before Peeves could pelt them. His next balloon transformed into a group of cawing crows that pecked viciously at the poltergeist and chased him up the marble stairs. Hundreds of laughing voices followed them and Theodore slapped Harry hard on the back while Draco was doubled over by his laughter.

"Fifteen points to Slytherin!" Professor McGonagall called over the crowd, bustling through them and drying the poor group who had been pelted by Peeves. "An excellent transfiguration, Mister Potter."

Harry waved as they filed past her and towards the Great Hall. "Thanks, Professor."

It was hard to see the enchanted ceiling through the swirling sheets of rain, but empty plates and goblets still gleamed in the light of a thousand floating candles and the ghosts looked brighter than ever against the stormy backdrop overhead.

The first years were a shaking bunch who looked absolutely dreadful. Can't say I blame them. One boy was actually wrapped in an oversized cloak that had to be Hagrid's.

Harry shot a glance towards the Gamekeeper, but the giant man did not return his stare. He's acted weird ever since getting back from Azkaban. They had met a handful of times early last year, but something had always felt off and the meetings had ceased by the winter holidays. That should bother me more than it does — he was the first person from this world I knew.

The hat sang about strength and unity and then a sour-faced boy named Malcolm Baddock became the first new Slytherin. Harry cheered with all the rest; he didn't even have to force himself. There really is something special about Hogwarts.

The soaked-looking boy wrapped in Hagrid's giant fur cloak turned out to be named Dennis Creevey. Creevey — his brother was petrified back in second year; the one who always chased me around with that bloody camera. Creevey was joined in Gryffindor by a girl named Natalie McDonald and a pair of boys named Peakes and Prichard.

Harry scowled at the last. There had been a Tobias Prichard from Gryffindor who had tormented him in his early years here.

The last lion was the last boy in line — a tall, dark skinned boy named Nigel Wolpert.

Food appeared in great heaps along all four tables. Sweet-smelling peppers swam in thick, salty sauce nearby. Harry reached for some, while beside him, Theodore piled on tender mounds of roast beef drowned in deep pools of gravy.

"Not many Slytherins this year," he said idly.

Draco sneered while loading a small bun with pink-coloured duck and all its trimmings. "Father always said this would happen. He blames the anti-Slytherin bollocks spread by Dumbledore's ass kissers after the Dark Lord fell."

Harry had never considered that. These kids had never lived in a world marred by Voldemort. Not that they know of, anyway.

Harry scanned the high table and quickly found Umbridge. She doesn't exactly cut Dumbledore's figure. She was a squat, wide-faced woman who looked plump beneath a lurid pink cardigan that made him nauseous. She caught his eye and shot him a sweet, simpering smile.

She might look hideous, but her being here probably isn't bad for me. Harry hadn't considered it from that angle, but Fudge seemed keen to have him on side. It's almost a shame she's here the year I'm travelling. Somehow he could not imagine her returning next year. Things will change between now and then; Dumbledore won't stay gone forever and Voldemort won't stay hidden.

"I don't see a new Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor," he noticed after looking away from Umbridge.

"What?" Pansy looked up from her plate and scanned the high table. "You're right." A deep frown creased her face. "But how's that gonna work?"

Theodore smirked. "Isn't that kind of gossip sort of your thing."

Pansy adopted a withering expression that silenced even Theodore, so Harry spoke up again to break the awkward silence. "Aberforth wasn't here in second year. There's some precedent; I wouldn't think too much into it."

Draco just shrugged across the table. "We'll find out soon."

Umbridge had a harder time quieting the hall than Dumbledore ever had once the gilded plates vanished. She was short enough that many might not have noticed her standing, and there was nothing about her that screamed prestige or power like that which leaked from every aged pore on Dumbledore's body.

"Hem, hem." The hall finally began quieting when she gave an obviously fake cough. "It's so nice to see all your smiling faces."

Blank stares greeted her and she proceeded to give a long, perplexing speech about progress and the standards imposed by the Ministry of Magic.

Harry let his conscience drift until something gripped him. "That being said, progress does have its place when guided by clear purpose, and the ministry has watched this school's standards fall for far too long. As such, effective immediately, Professor Binns has been… removed from his teaching position at this school."

Only about half the hall cheered right away — the others must have all let their thoughts drift — but soon the din was deafening. It had to be the loudest cheer Harry had ever heard in the Great Hall and he could not help but watch Umbridge more closely. Clever — a good way of getting everyone on your side right away. I wonder who came up with it — her or Fudge?

Voldemort's words in the enchanted journal from last year came back to him then. I doubt Binns was employed just so everyone ignored all the bad about muggles, but I bet the ministry will take the excuse to put across their message. It really was a clever ploy. And Pansy called it.

"Hem, hem!" The crowd fell silent yet again; they were all leaning forward and showing a lot more interest now. "Defence Against the Dark Arts is more important now than ever before given the heinous crimes committed by Sirius Black and the recent fall of Azkaban Prison."

Harry kept his face blank. Still blaming Black, I see. "The Ministry of Magic believes in a diverse, varied education focusing on defensive magic that will help keep all of you lovely children safe. As such, Defence Against the Dark Arts will not be taught by any one wizard, but a force of ministry-employed aurors who all specialize in different fields of defensive magic."

Harry let all that sink in while the benches scraped back and the students began flooding from the Great Hall.

I underestimated the ministry. An immediate surge in popularity, an opportunity to spread their messages, and an attempt at working around the Defence Against the Dark Arts curse made famous by Skeeter's coverage nearly two years ago. They played their hand perfectly.

"Mister Potter!" Harry turned towards the sound of that sickening sweet voice.

Bloody hell, that cardigan's blinding. He plastered a smile on his face despite her awful taste in fashion. "Yes, Headmistress?"

Umbridge was smiling broadly — that same, sweet smile she had shot him from the staff table. A fake smile if I've ever seen one. "I would love to speak with you in my office later this week if you have some free time on your schedule."

Harry kept his smile beaming. "I'd love to, Headmistress. Does tomorrow night work? I can come up to the seventh floor and meet you then, if that's all right?"

A flash of annoyance rippled through Umbridge's eyes. What did I do wrong? I was perfectly polite. Had he laid it on too thick?

"That would be lovely, dear, but I'm afraid I won't be using Professor Dumbledore's old office. Mine is on the second floor; the same one your past Defence professors have used."

That office? Weird downgrade for a Headmistress. He just kept smiling. "I know where it is, Headmistress. I can come meet you there whenever you'd like."

Umbridge tittered girlishly. "Excellent. I'll communicate a time tomorrow morning. Thank you, Mister Potter, that will be all."

On second thought, Harry mused while exiting the Great Hall, maybe it is good I'm not here too long. I'm not sure how long I can make myself smile like that.


A special thank you to my high-tier patron, Cup, for her generous and unwavering support.


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