April 8, 1992, 6:00 PM, Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom
Professor Quirinus Quirrell
Standing over the cauldron, Quirinus examined its contents with a critical eye.
“Coloration is a lighter red than I expected it to be.” He spoke as he pulled out his stirring spoon from the concoction, placing it to the side.
A quick wave of his wand, and the flame was killed.
“That is a good thing.” The voice from the back of his head said; its breath was shaky, much like a death rattle.
Quirinus nodded, taking his master’s word for it.
He only had a passable understanding of the art of Potion making; if needed, he could whip a few simple concoctions up, here and there. Anything a little more complex would require the hand of the school’s Potions Professor.
Not a man I would like to tangle with, right now. Quirrell thought. He knew what his chances against Severus Snape were, in his current state. He could put up a valiant fight, to be sure, but Quirinus knew that he would lose.
If he were at peak health, however, it was hard to say who had the advantage.
“Severus would fall by our hand, if necessary.” Voldemort said. “With myself guiding your actions, you possess an advantage that no one on this Earth can compete with— save perhaps two.”
“Dumbledore and Grindelwald.”
“Yes.” His master confirmed, sending a raging wave of hate through Quirinus. “Grindelwald is… a fascination, but one that is not so dangerous to us, as of yet. He will be dealt with, in time. In fact, it behooves us to leave him alone, as his mere existence will serve to weaken Dumbledore in one way or another.”
Quirrell nodded in agreement. He was sure that his ability to lay the Headmaster low was nonexistent, but far be it from him to question his leader’s intentions on the matter. Perhaps all of this subterfuge and careful maneuvering would yield fruit in the end.
That bit of theater he’d pulled with Rubeus was a great example of the strategy working. After he’d failed at Halloween, Quirinus had considered killing the three headed dog outright, before tabling the idea.
His skill with the Killing Curse was average, at best. He’d practiced it on the various animals he’d encountered in his travels, but he found that his spell wasn’t able to kill the larger ones.
The Cerberus over the trap-door was not an exception to this rule, and Quirinus found himself needing to seek an alternative. And so, under the guise of a stranger, he shared a few drinks with the Groundskeeper and invited him to a few games.
“The fool, Hagrid.” Voldemort said in amusement. “He is left unchanged from his days as a student. Wholly trusting, foolhardy, and gullible.”
Quirinus was sure that the alcohol had played its part, as well.
Whichever it was, he now knew the secret to keeping that massive dog under control— music, of all things.
Was it just this particular Cerberus’ weakness, or was it one inherent in their breed?
Perhaps it is their enhanced sense of hearing, as well as having triple the input that a normal canine would have, that causes this reaction? He wondered for a few moments before shaking his head and going about his work.
He scooped out some of the potion and poured it over a few small containers he was about to introduce to his specimens. With a wave of his wand, the containers entered ten different compartments, with each one housing a different rodent.
Squirrels, mice, rats, and the like.
He tapped his wand over every compartment, compelling the creatures within to drink the potion. Their minds were nothing compared to his own will, and so they submitted without a fight.
A second later, they began to drink.
He kept a close eye on them, but as the minutes continued to pass, nothing seemed to be happening. He tsked with a frown, feeling frustrated with the lack of results.
Quirinus mastered himself and moved towards a nearby window. His eyes burned with cold anger as he swept his gaze over the school grounds, eventually settling on the Forbidden Forest.
His frown deepened at the sight of the place. He refused to go there and drink unicorn’s blood. His master had punished him for this decision, of course.
Oh, how he punished me. Quirrell thought, before shaking his head.
His master had soon seen reason; while killing and drinking their blood might sustain them for a time, it would bring about too much attention from the staff.
It would also leave them further cursed, making it even harder for them to do what needed to be done.
And, with the idea of an alternative treatment with possible superior effects, he had been convinced— or at the very least, intrigued.
With this failure, however, Quirrell wasn’t sure that he could appease his master, anymore. All of their attempts had failed, despite the study and effort they’d put into it.
There’s no reason for this potion to fail! Quirrell thought again. We adjusted the measurements and combination just right.
The previous attempt had shown some promising signs, though the effect had faded within seconds, forcing him to make changes.
Were his chosen ingredients faulty?
“No.” Voldemort said, gaining the man’s attention.”It’s the preservation agent.”
“Is it too strong, perhaps?” He went over to the specimens and gave them his scrutiny once again. “Considering there is no change, perhaps the final ingredient is keeping them from going through the change in the first place.”
“Not so.” Voldemort said. “It’s strong, to be sure, but its balance is precarious because of the manticore venom. We need something stronger, able to withstand the manticore venom’s corrosive nature.”
“I don’t know of anything stronger than the powdered shell of a tortoise.” Professor Quirrell stepped back to lean against the cold, stone wall. “Perhaps we could use a weaker venom?”
“Or perhaps…” He felt his master’s face contorting into a frightening smile. “Yes. I know just what we’ll need for this.”
“You’ve found the solution, my Lord?”
“Yes.” Voldemort said, and then told him where he needed to go.
“The Second Floor’s… girls lavatory?” Quirinus’s voice rose a pitch with the incredulity he felt. “Master, I don’t understand.”
“You will understand when we arrive.” Was all his master would give by way of explanation. “Now, go forth, before I lose my patience.”
“As you wish, my Lord.”
Same Time, Gryffindor Common Room
“Of course!” Hermione said out of the blue and bolted from her spot, moving to the exit. She sent Neville a grateful look. “Thanks, Neville.”
“Huh?” The boy was beyond confused. “You’re welcome, I suppose. Thanks for helping with my Potions homework.”
Harry smiled at the boy as well, before moving to chase his friend. “Good luck, Neville!”
Hermione could be like a veritable storm, at times, he thought. He couldn’t really blame her. They’d been trying to solve this mystery ever since that fateful night with the massive, three-headed guard-dog.
Now that they had a field of expertise to go on, it narrowed things down a ton. However, Harry hadn’t expected the level of zeal that Hermione was displaying.
“Where are we going?” Ahead of him, Ron tried to stop her, but the redheaded boy almost tripped and fell on his face in the process. “Oi! Slow down, will you?”
“The Library; I’ll explain when we get there.” She stopped and sent him a half-concerned look, before going back to her path. “Come on.”
“Bloody Hell…” Ron muttered, too low for her to hear. “She’s mad. Brilliant, but mad.”
Harry smiled, finding his friend’s assessment to be both concise and very accurate to what Hermione really was like.
“Come on.” Harry patted Ron on the shoulder and the two followed the hurried girl out of the Common Room. “I think she may have figured it all out.”
“Could have left it for tomorrow.” Ron said, shaking his head even as he said these words. “Library’s not going anywhere. But then again, I’ve been a little curious about what exactly it is Snape’s trying to steal.”
Harry nodded, frowning at the mere mention of the ill tempered man. He had it in for him since day one, and Harry was never able to get to the truth of it. It made a lot more sense, however, if he was just a bad person trying to steal something.
Bad people saw nothing wrong with hurting him— just look at Dudley and my aunt and uncle.
Harry considered them the worst sort of people imaginable.
It just makes sense, really. He thought as he and Ron continued to follow Hermione down towards the Library.
“Could you slow down?” Ron complained once more, panting for breath the moment they reached the stairs. Harry, in comparison, felt fine.
This has nothing on the grueling exercise that Wood puts us through. Harry thought, doing his best to suppress the urge to shudder. That man is a maniac.
Maniac or not, however, Harry was still able to concede that the training had indeed made him fitter than he’d ever been in his life. When he looked at himself in the mirror, he still felt a little thin, but seven months of Hogwarts meals had done wonders for him.
He dreaded the approaching last day of classes. Instead of three, full meals a day, he would be going back to the meager food at his relatives’ place. Maybe he could sneak some food home, somehow?
Something to think about. Harry told himself. Maybe I could convince one of the House Elves to deliver me some food every week.
Even a single loaf of bread could better his conditions, if he rationed it just right. He’d have to go and speak to Hagrid about getting his pockets enlarged, just so he could smuggle a few things back.
At the sight of the Library, Harry shook his head of such thoughts and focused on the matter at hand.
“Look.” Ron said from beside him as they passed Madam Pince’s empty desk, inclining his head to the right. “Adam’s here, too.”
Harry turned his head in the same direction and found that he was right. “Good, let’s get him, too.”
The two boys approached the reclusive Ravenclaw, who was busy drawing chains into his sketchbook again. Harry just couldn’t figure it out; what was the appeal of chains when Adam could’ve been drawing swords or dragons?
Still. Harry thought to himself as he saw how much more life-like his depictions were turning out to be. The detail is astonishing.
It reminded him of the first day he’d gotten his glasses. It had been like magic; one moment, his world had been a blurred out mess of shapes. The next moment, he saw the world in all of its glory.
“Are you going to keep drawing chains forever, Adam?” Ron said as a way of greeting. “It would be wicked if you could do a dragon, instead.”
“There’s an idea.” Adam said without looking up from his work. “But I like drawing chains. Something about this… Are you two here to study?”
Ron scoffed before Harry could open his mouth. “No; I’ll leave that sort of thing to you.”
That got a little chuckle out of the boy before them. “Then, what are you here for? Just to visit little old me? I’d say I’m glad for the company, but I’m a little busy right now.”
You’re just drawing. Harry thought but shook his head. “We think we know what’s being guarded on the Third Floor.”
Just as Harry had expected, that got the boy to look up. “Have you? I thought you had all given up, to be honest.”
Harry blinked at the strange way the boy spoke. ‘You had all’? Shouldn’t it be ‘We had all’?
“Harry found something— on a Chocolate Frog Card.” Ron cut in before he could delve any further into this thought. His best friend then turned to him with an expectant look. “Go on, show him.”
Harry dug into his pocket and drew the card which had started this entire thing before handing it to the boy before him. Adam snatched the card and flipped it to read the back.
“Albus Dumbledore, considered by many as the greatest wizard of modern times…” The boy mumbled the words in a way that Harry couldn’t quite place. “His work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel…”
Adam handed the card back to Harry, his black eyes as expressionless as they were before he’d read the card. “Alchemy, huh? That’s some really high level stuff. I was told I shouldn’t even think of touching that until I’m at least at the level of the NEWTS— Seventh Years. I read up a bit on it, though.”
“What do you know about it?” Harry asked, eager to know more.
The Ravenclaw boy considered his words before replying.
“From what I know.” Adam said, putting his sketchbook aside to look at the two boys. “Alchemy’s all about two main goals. The first goal is to be able to turn base metals into gold.”
Ron’s excitement grew. “You can turn things into gold?”
“Yep, but don’t celebrate yet.” Adam nodded. “I’m sure there’s probably some law against that. You know how that goes.”
Ron deflated, and Harry found that he was too uncomfortable to say anything.
“You’d have to read into it, of course.” Adam continued. “But my assumption is that it’s either illegal, or very limited— like maybe they’ll let you only make a certain amount before drawing the line.”
He ended his explanation with a series of mutters. Harry was barely able to make it out.
“Though— detection… Could it be done? Something to think about.”
Adam looked up at them, shaking the distraction out of his eyes. “Right. Anyway, the second goal is the creation of a panacea.”
“Panacea?” Harry asked, having never come across that word before. “What’s that?”
“It’s a substance that can heal all wounds, illnesses, diseases— anything.” Adam said. “A remedy for everything.”
“Is that so…” Ron said. “Why would Snape want something like that?”
Harry had no answer to that.
“If it’s something based on alchemy.” Adam said after a moment of silence, his eyes trained on someone behind them. “Then you can be sure that it’s pretty important. It’s not a high level subject for nothing.”
Harry followed his line of sight to see Hermione making her way to them, lugging a big book with her. She was almost about to slam it down onto the table in front of Adam, but stopped when she saw the boy’s warning look.
“Adam.” Hermione greeted, her eyes flitting to the sketchbook of chains again as she set the book down with a gentler touch than she probably wanted. Harry didn’t blame her; that book looked pretty heavy to him.
Adam is really strange, sometimes. Harry thought with a shake of his head.
“Hermione.” He said with a nod, his eyes skimming the title of the large tome before she opened it in search of her answers.
“Let’s see… Where is it…” Hermione said as she went through page after page. “Here it is: ‘Nicolas Flamel is the only known maker of the Philosopher’s Stone’!”
“The what?” Both Harry and Ron said.
Hermione closed her eyes in a moment’s worth of exasperation “Honestly, don’t you two read?”
The two boys shrugged in response, sending Clarke a look.
“Ultimate alchemical achievement, immortality, panacea, unlimited gold.” Adam said. “So Flamel’s the one who made it?”
“Yes.” Hermione said, frowning and closing the book. “That’s what Fluffy is guarding on the Third Floor. That’s what’s under the trap-door; the Philosopher’s Stone.”
The three boys nodded.
“Immortality and unlimited gold.” Ron said, almost whistling with how impressed he was. “No wonder Snape wants it.”
Hermione only shook her head in exasperation.
A Little Later, Room of Requirement
“You seem troubled.”
“Do I?” I said, making my way around. I ducked underneath a swinging pair of chains and had to stop myself before I stumbled and fell on my face.
Shaking my head, I moved a bit to the right and found myself standing in front of my usual seat.
“Yes, you do.” Helena Ravenclaw said, a note of concern entering the woman’s soft voice. “What happened?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” I said, focusing what attention I could back on the chains as I sat down.
“It would probably help, if you did.” Helena said, and my anger flared like the Sun.
“I said I don’t want to talk about it.” I insisted, trying to get her to stop. “Just let sleeping dogs lie, damn it.”
“I’m sorry.” She whispered and floated away.
Great. I thought. Now I’ve made her sad.
“Look.” I said, sighing. “Don’t be sorry; that was my fault. I shouldn’t have blown up at you like that.”
“No.” The woman’s face was devoid of emotion; the expression was alien to me, so used to her excitement I was. “You shouldn’t have.”
I took a breath and asked Alef Ard to remove the chains before getting out of my chair. “I’m sorry, Helena. Really, I am.”
She stared at me for a moment, her icy expression thawing. “I believe you.”
I was about to sigh in relief when she got in my personal space, her face less than an inch away from mine. “But I will not forgive you.”
“Not unless you answer my question.” Helena cut me off, undaunted.
That… seems like a fair enough price to me. I thought with a mental shrug.
“All right.” I said. “I’ll answer it.”
Helena pursed her lips, her eyes now glittering with anticipation. It was almost unimaginable to believe that, not thirty seconds ago, her face had looked like something out of a disturbing horror story.
“They know about the Stone, now.” I said. “Hermione, Ron and Harry. They’ll likely be telling Tony and Su, or I’ll have to tell them.”
Helena floated around me, and I let her herd me towards my seat once again. “I’ll probably have to tell them, huh…”
“You might.” Helena replied. “Are you worried for your friends’ safety?”
“No.” I said, shaking my head. “Well, yes, a little, but I know they can take care of themselves. I bashed a few fighting spells into their heads.”
Harry, Hermione and Tony were getting to be pretty frightening with the Disarming Charm, with Su and Ron doing quite well, too.
Harry’s undoubtedly the best of the lot, though.
Between his reflexes and his willingness to learn, I found myself unsurprised that Harry had been considered one of the best fighting wizards in his generation in the story.
“So, what is the issue?”
I shook my head, trying to stave off the feeling of guilt creeping up my spine. “I’m lying to them. Straight to their faces.”
“So?” Helena said in an unconcerned tone of voice.
I turned my gaze to see her looking down at me with a placid expression.
“So?” My voice rose slightly. “It’s wrong.”
“You’ve been doing it since you stepped foot in the school.” Helena said, raising a finger.
I leaned my head back against the chair, making it recline. “You’re not wrong, there. I’ve been lying to everyone— everyone I’ve ever known in this life, even.”
“How do you think they would react if you told them the truth?”
“Badly.” I said. “Hell, they probably wouldn’t believe me, at all. But even if I could prove it to them, it would ruin everything between us.”
“So, don’t tell them.” Helena said, as if it was the most obvious answer in the world. “Do they need to know?”
“I can’t answer that.” I said with a sigh. “The knowledge I have is dangerous, but it could also be used to better the magical society overall, Helena.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Stone.” I said. “I could have told them about it months ago, and they would have at least prepared for an actual fight. Now, it’s nearing the middle of April, and they’ll be too swamped with exams to worry about preparing. How will they even succeed?”
“You are worried that your reticence has doomed your school friends to failure.” Helena said.
“Yes, but it’s more than that.” I got up and began to pace, agitated again. “There’s so much I know. Secrets which I could use to shift things to my advantage.”
“So many secrets, Helena.” I said. “I’ve brooded on them. I’ve let an innocent man suffer in horrible conditions for seven months too long, though I knew that there was no reason for me not to act. It would cost me nothing. And yet, I maintained the status quo for so long.”
I shut my mouth, not trusting myself to keep my composure.
Why the Hell was I sent to this world? The old question came again, but as usual, there was no answer. “I’m just feeling overwhelmed by everything. I thought I could ignore it all and pursue my own goals, but… I don’t know.”
Helena’s expression softened once more as she floated her way to me.
“It seems you’re worried about a lot of things, Zero.” Helena said. “Finding your purpose is no easy feat.”
“That’s the thing.” I said. “I’m not even sure that there is a purpose for me here. I cannot fathom a single reason why anything would pluck me from the other side and plant me in this world.”
I hadn’t been anything special, by my own reckoning; well above average in some fields, and well below in others. I’d led an uneventful, but peaceful life.
“Your purpose…” Helena said, sidling by me. “Is to live your life the way you want.”
I stared at her. “I know that. I can do whatever I want— I’m not sure what I should be doing, though.”
“I wish I could help you divine your destiny.” Helena said, sending me a genuine look of regret. “But I cannot tread your path, just as you cannot tread my own.”
“It’s all right.” I said, waving it off. “I’m good— I just needed to rant and ramble for a bit. The stress, I think, is catching up to me.”
I felt Alef Ard’s soothing presence brush up against my own. I felt the entity’s remorse and anxiousness concerning the effect its existence had on my emotions.
“Hey, buddy.” I greeted the mote of light floating above my head. “It’s not your fault. I would’ve broken down like this, even if you weren’t here.”
Alef Ard didn’t seem convinced.
“Hell.” I continued, undaunted. “If I didn’t have you in my life, I would have probably lost my mind near the end of the year— that’s when everything usually goes to Hell. Better now than later, right?”
Alef buzzed a few times in quick succession, and I turned to Helena without a word.
“He says he’s happy you told him that.” Helena said. “And that he’ll help you in any way he can. So will I.”
I felt my spirits rise and my heart soar. It was good to know that, if everyone else were to desert me over my actions and lies, I would still have these two.
And a certain little Thestral near Hagrid’s place. I thought. I should get her double the treats next time.
“Helena, Alef…” I focused back onto the two, feeling nothing but gratitude for them. “Thank you.”
“You are welcome.” Helena said as Alef buzzed around the room, giving off the impression of a giddy little mite. “So, now what?”
I absorbed her comment and took a breath, drawing my wand and pointing it in front of me with an enthusiasm I hadn’t felt since Quirrell had succeeded in… acquiring my services. “Now…”
The room began to fill with chains of my own making.
“Now it’s time to seize control of my own fate.”