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Delve Deeper

June 10, 12:50 PM, Down The Trapdoor, Hogwarts

Adam Clarke

I’d never gone skydiving in my previous life. People had always described it as a wonderful experience, once you got past the instinctual fear one would get when recognizing that their life was in danger.

Dropping down a tight, dark space of unspecified height was nothing like that, and so I didn’t trust that my fall would be broken by something soft. As soon as I dropped down the hole, I drove a bright silver chain into the wall, wrapping it around my torso.

Within moments, I stopped in midair before bumping against the wall and feeling something viscous on it. I frowned.

Lumos.” My wand lit up with silver light, brightening up my cramped surroundings and revealing what it was that I had hit. I blinked at the red liquid and turned my eyes upwards, watching the steady flow from the top.

“Fluffy’s blood.” I muttered, my face morphing into an expression of both pity and disgust.

Poor guy didn’t deserve to go out like that. I thought, feeling sad. Snape must have been forced to do the deed— the blood still seems fresh. Quirrell already knew the weakness Fluffy had to music.

Alef Ard buzzed about, sharing its sadness with my own and amplifying it.

“You did your best, big puppy.” I said and began to extend the chain to bring me down slowly with an effort of will. “I’ll make sure that your sacrifice isn’t in vain.”

It took a few more seconds, but the walls around me ended as I dropped down into a wide and spacious chamber. I gave a quick look up and suppressed the urge to whistle.

That’s a pretty big drop. I thought, looking back down at the overgrowth of Devil’s Snare below me. The landing must be pretty soft if you can just drop onto it.

Wizard-killer it might have been, but it was still a plant, and therefore soft like one. Still, I wondered what would’ve happened if there was even a little bit of stone exposed.

No real need to wonder. I shook my head, remembering all of the footage I’d seen back in my previous life of what falls could actually do to people.

Fluffy’s blood began to drip down from the opening above, and I watched as the Devil’s Snare writhed and converged on that position like a massive army of snakes.

I sighed and looked down at the massive overgrowth beneath me, which had tripled in size in the last few seconds. “Looks like I can’t drop straight down.”

I looked around for a good spot before nodding to myself. There was one to the right. A simple fire spell and I could drop down.

Just have to get there. I thought and stared at the ceiling above, getting an idea.

I drove my wand in a corkscrew, aiming it towards the ceiling, at the midpoint between where I was, and where I wanted to go. “Odgovor!”

Another chain with a grapple spear-tip blasted forth from my wand, embedding itself deep in the stone. I grasped the chain with both hands and pulled it taut. “This is stupid.”

Alef Ard buzzed in disagreement, trying to reassure me with feelings of excitement and certitude. It did not help; Alef did not have a body of his own, and was therefore unaware of just how fragile we humans could be.

Even the lightest nick or injury could lead to a horrible death in the right circumstances— or the wrong circumstances, I should say.

Still, it was either this or waste time dealing with the Devil’s Snare while it was feasting. This is the easier path.

“Here goes.” I said, gulping as I adjusted the wand in my right hand grip so it didn’t fall out while I held the chain. “Geronimo!”

I let the chain-harness around my chest disappear and felt the pull of gravity drawing me down with inexorable purpose, but I held fast to the chain with every bit of strength my little body could muster.

And to my delight, it worked.

“Thank you, Batman!” I cried out with exhilaration as I swung from the middle of the room to its left side before letting go and dropping into the bed of Devil’s Snare with a bit of a mush. The chain above me dissipated into light particles before disappearing entirely.

I moved with alacrity as I got reoriented. With my robes daubed in a bit of Fluffy’s blood, the Devil’s Snare was already converging on my position.

Even as the plant began to weave its snake-like tendrils around my legs and chest, I was already moving. With a wave of my wand, I cast my next spell. “Incendio!”

Orange light brightened my immediate surroundings, and I watched as the Devil’s Snare began to writhe and convulse as if it had just been subjected to the Cruciatus.

I stared at it for a little longer, not fully paying attention to the plant-like bedding beneath me wearing away to reveal the floor of the chamber. I got back to my feet with deliberate slowness and checked myself over for any injuries, not finding any.

With a huff, I walked forward, the plant’s tendrils moving away from me and parting to reveal a passage leading down a hall, which ended with a door.

I watched the Devil’s Snare overtake the passage entryway again with a curious look, wondering if Professor Sprout had taught the Devil’s Snare to reveal the path on reflex. What point was the protection if it just up and showed the right path to you at the first sign of resistance?

“If this is what they call ‘well protected’.” I said, amused as I walked through the long hall, my only companions being Alef, the sound of my footsteps and water trickling down the walls. “Then I want to cancel my subscription to their security service.”

I approached the door and heard the sound of rustling and clinking before nodding to myself. We’re at this stage, then.

I stepped into the room, squinting as my eyes adjusted to the brilliant lights shining from above. “The room of keys.”

My eyes moved of their own accord, taking in all of the room as I thought about my new predicament. My flying experience, aside from the few Flying classes I’d taken with Hooch, weren’t very good.

True, I was more than capable when I was on Absol’s back, but Absol was not here right now. I was on my own, and I had to get that key.

But do you really need to get it? The sly voice said. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

I hate that saying. I thought back. But then you would already know that, what with you being in my head.

The sly voice did not answer, and so I continued my train of thought, walking towards the door in question and checking over its silver lock mechanism. Silver, just like in the books. Let’s see what we can do here.

I pulled the handle, but the door did not budge. Then, I held my wand over the lock and incanted. “Alohomora!

Once again, nothing happened. “All right, I figured it wouldn’t be that easy.”

Taking a breath, I tapped the wand against the door and cast my next spell, moving my wand in the lambda pattern. “Inspicere Empiricus.”

I saw the tip of my wand turn a bright red before I closed my eyes to assimilate all of the information coming to my brain. This feeling gets worse as time goes on, doesn’t it? Or, is it just me?

It’s just you. The sly voice said. I and Alef have already processed the information and know exactly what to do here.

And would you mind helping out? I thought sarcastically before shaking my head. Who am I kidding, you’ll probably give me some more tripe about me being of ‘your void’ or whatever.

…You know what? The voice said, amused. I was going to help, but if you’re going to be a sourpuss about it, then you can suffer alone.

I took a deep breath, not letting the unknown creature’s words affect me.

Alef Ard buzzed in anger, and I got the impression that it had given the voice a few slaps for me. Thanks, Alef. You’re the best.

Alef replied by sending a wave of affection through me, making me smile. I was glad not to be alone down here. With Snape and Quirrell doing who knows what ahead, I felt intimidated.

Neither man was one I could scoff at. Even with my recent, harsh training, I wasn’t sure whether I could take either of them in a duel. Those students hadn’t been particularly difficult to fight against because they’d already been worn out, and near-half their number had been dealt with before I’d even stepped foot in that room.

If they had been at a hundred percent and were fighting with any sort of tactics in mind, I would not have prevailed.

No time to dwell, though. I thought and focused my attention on the lock, beginning to mutter. “Locked by an unknown Charm. Professor Flitwick’s doing, no doubt. He wants the user to snatch the specific key to open this lock, with any attempt to unlock failing.”

Attacking it head on was also unwise. The door was charmed in such a way that any attack upon it would be perceived as a threat, and the keys would lock onto my position and perforate me.

Nasty way to go.

“Flitwick can be quite bloodthirsty when given the chance.” I shook my head at the strangeness of the situation before smiling and raising my wand. “Still, that gives me an idea.”

I held my wand over the door’s keyhole, closing my eyes and focusing. “Odgovor.”

A very small chain appeared at the tip of my wand, and I pushed the magic into the keyhole, reshaping the chain into a soft rake. With careful intent, I moved the crude implement back and forth through the keyhole, adjusting its shape as I felt the energy hit the lock’s pins.

Within a few minutes of painstaking tinkering, I heard the lock open with a click and opened my eyes with a wide smile. “Bingo.”

A quick check above showed that the keys hadn’t even traveled an inch towards me.

Not bad. The sly voice said, impressed. Not how I would have done it, but very simple and ingenious.

I retracted the spell back to my wand and opened the door. Stepping through, I replied to the creature inhabiting my mind. How would you have gone about it, then? The hinge-pins?

No. The sly voice said. Flitwick’s Charm would have taken the attempt as an attack on the door. You would have been perforated twenty times over within a few seconds. Good that you didn’t try that.

I swallowed and closed the door behind me, stopping to take a breath. “That bad, huh? What would you have done?”

I would have tapped into something you dare not touch. The voice said. That which you call the void.

I dipped my head in both acknowledgment and apprehension. That’s not something I can control.

Indeed. The voice said, amused. A waste of potential, really.

“Right.” I shook the implications of what it was saying away and focused back on the mission at hand. “The Chess Room— or not.”

It seemed like I wouldn’t need to do anything here. I made my way through the large room, avoiding the large chunks of white and black stone signifying the fallen warriors.

Looks like they went all out in here. I thought, before frowning. Wait. No, something’s off.

The more I looked, the more I realized that this chess set looked nothing like I would have expected a normal chess game to occur.

After spending months upon months getting my ass handed to me by Ron Weasley, I knew what the typical game looked like. Something had gone very wrong here.

From the positioning of all the rubble, it looked like all of the pieces had converged to a single point to kill their foe. Probably Snape…

I looked down to see a drop of red on the white tile and felt a chill race up my spine, making me shiver in this cold and damp place. “Blood.”

The drops of blood continued forward, forming a trail of red leading to the exit. “Quirrell must have done something to the chess set, made it attack Snape to weaken him in a way? Even someone as good as Snape would have trouble fending off all of these chess pieces, especially if they blindside him.”

This did not bode well.

I let myself ponder the events for a moment longer before pressing on forward. I moved through the chess room, avoiding all of the rubble and opening the door which led to the hallway which revealed the next challenge.

Just as I reached its end, I grimaced at the stench of something foul wafting into my nose. I stopped for a moment to compose myself and acclimate to this terrible smell before resuming my trek.

I held my wand out and began to formulate a plan as I lightened my steps halfway to the end. I could now hear a deep, loud breathing coming from up ahead and knew that the troll was still alive.

How it was still alive was not something that crossed my mind. All I knew was that I had to get past the damn creature without harming myself.

Take its club and knock it out with a good smack. I thought, deciding to take a page from canon Ron’s book. I stopped for a moment and tapped my wand atop my head. “Praetexo.

I felt the effects of the Disillusionment Charm take hold and waited another moment before moving forward. I kept my steps light as I entered the chamber proper— and immediately abandoned all attempts at stealth as I was forced to dive forward, avoiding the downward smash of a club, sending bits of stone flying everywhere.

I continued running for a few seconds longer, but a look back told me that it would be pointless. The Troll was faster, and it was gaining on me at a worrying pace. How was it even able to keep up with me while I was Disillusioned?

That’s when I realized that this wasn’t just a normal Troll. Armed with a massive, steel-spiked club, and decked out in a massive set of armor, the creature which was stomping its way to me matched my change in direction, proving that it could still see me while the spell was up.

I disabled it, realizing that the attempt at hiding was useless. The Troll stopped in its tracks to stare down at me, not quite sure why I had revealed myself.

It gave a few grunts before shaking its head in clear dismissal and raising its vicious club high in the air. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that its aim was to kill first and ask questions later.

One hit from that club and I’m a smear on the floor… I thought and snapped my wand at it, even as I dodged. “Lumos!”

Just as I had done with one of Malfoy’s friends so many months ago, I overloaded my Wand-Lighting Charm and forced the Troll to bring a hand to its eyes, the club smashing into the stone floor beside me and causing it to shake.

I suppressed the surge of existential anxiety as best as I could, kept my cool and circled the armored creature, wondering just what kind of Troll it was. It was then that I noticed another one off to the side, face-down on the ground.

It had been impaled by its own club.

I gulped before forcing my attention back on the Troll before me. This was different from the Trolls I’d learned about. Was this a Security Troll? I noted the strap around its wrist which was linked to the club in its hand and nodded to myself.

Ron’s plan would not work here, I realized. This thing was likely trained to deal with all sorts of tricks the normal wizard or witch would try on it.

The Troll lowered its hands from its face and gave me a vicious glare. Without hesitation, it stomped forward, intent on shattering my body with its club, keeping its hand near its eyes in case I decided to try and blind it again.

It fucking learns. I thought and steeled my resolve to match this behemoth’s. Deflect and Retaliate.

Odgovor!” I cried out and stepped backwards, avoiding the troll’s horizontal swing and smashing my chain into its club, increasing the weapon’s momentum and forcing the Troll to complete a full spin as it lost control over its weapon.

I didn’t waste any time, imbuing my chain’s spear-tip with a Severing Charm and driving it forward into the back of the Troll’s neck, intent on ending its life in one blow. I grit my teeth with a glare as I watched the spear bounce off of its hide like it was nothing but a toothpick.

Just a scratch. I thought in complete shock as the troll reached behind its neck to massage the spot I had just struck. That spell can pierce solid stone.

It turned to me, looking even more annoyed than it had been, before. I took a step back as the Troll approached, grasping a meaty hand a little higher on its club so that it could control the weapon better.

So I can’t destabilize it. I thought, my mind whirling with scenario after scenario, but I just couldn’t figure out a way out of this. I didn’t know any spell strong enough to tear its club away and force it right through whatever armor it had on.

That sort of spell was pure power, and I had focused most of my studies on the various uses of my chains, so that I could be versatile. I had nothing able to penetrate its skin and hurt it on the insi— wait.

An old memory came to me just as the Troll moved to attack. I was able to leap past the creature’s strike, rolling between its legs with a cry. I tried to make some distance between it and myself, but the troll swung its club in an arc as it turned. With its hands over its eyes, the club didn’t strike me full on.

With that said, something that massive sent me tumbling several meters away, sending a lance of agony through my shoulder as I felt it dislocate from the impact stress alone.

I struggled to get up, disoriented and half-blind from the pain, only to feel the Troll’s meaty hand wrap around my form, lifting me up.

A fresh wave of pain ran through my body as the vicious creature closed its fist, hoping to rupture all of my organs with the simple movement. Any more and I’ll…

My vision returned to me, and I would have laughed had I any air left in my lungs. As the Troll continued to toy with me, I stabbed my right arm forward, my eyes wide with fury and desperation. Odgovor!

The silver chain materialized at the tip of my wand before launching itself forward into the troll’s nose. Ignoring the fire in my lungs and, with a supreme effort of will, I forced the chain up, piercing through Troll’s inner cavity and wrapping the chain around the creature’s brain.

So, you wanted to crush me and watch my brain leak from my eyes, nose, mouth and ears, huh? I thought with unbridled anger and hatred as I held its life in the palm of my hand before crushing it into a fist. Let’s see how you like it. Chain-Coffin!

The chain squeezed on its prey.

The sound of a loud squishing filled the air as I felt my chain slice through the Troll’s brain like a knife through warm butter. The Troll stared at me with sightless eyes before its hand spasmed open, letting me fall down onto the ground.

I breathed in the foul, but cool air and scurried away from it as its nerves continued to fire throughout its body. Moments later, I grimaced as a new, fouler stench began to mingle with the already awful bouquet.

The damn bugger shit himself. I thought as I continued to scurry away until I collided against a wall, cringing at the agony in my left shoulder.

I stayed that way for a long moment, keeping my gaze on the still-twitching corpse before and ignoring the pain I felt until I was sure that, no, the Troll would not be getting up from that.

As the adrenaline began to wear off, I began to pant as the shock and tiredness from the fight started to creep up on me. I shook my head, however. I could not stop. I still had Quirrell to deal with.

“I can’t give up now.” I said and tried to get up, only to cringe as my left shoulder flared up in protest. “Fuck!”

My shoulder was dislocated, and I could not summon up the strength to get back on my feet. Even if, by some miracle, I had something that could heal me, what chance did I have against someone like Quirrell?

I needed to rest…

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