June 10, 1992, 1:40 PM, Final Room, Hogwarts
There have been times in my life, both old and new, in which I had made great decisions: like the time I ran away from a situation involving a strange woman, a pink, but dilapidated house and an assortment of severed Barbie heads; or when I’d followed a tiny kitten and found its massive, adorable family in a patch of woods near my old house.
This… was not one of those times.
What the Hell am I doing? I thought as I stared down at Quirrell. A few seconds before, I had gone and outed the secret behind me killing another person to Snape of all people, as well as admitting the intent to kill the man before me.
If anything, this was shaping up to be one the dumbest things I’ve ever done. Still, I was sick.
I was done playing cat and mouse games. I was tired of lying through my teeth, or holding myself back to keep myself safe.
This may have been a pretty stupid decision, but damn did it feel good to just let everything go, for once.
I smiled, resisting the temptation to turn around so that I could see Professor Snape’s look of shock, but I knew that it was there, nonetheless. Who would expect a First Year child to be capable of silent spellcasting, as well as the ability to kill an Auror— no matter how much of a fluke it may have been?
However much I had scraped by that night didn’t really matter in the end, for I was the only one to know what had happened. For all Snape knew, I hadn’t suffered an injury and had toyed with Auror Turner.
“Kill me?” Professor Quirrell smiled as if his arm hadn’t been lopped off at the shoulder.
How was he even standing with that level of injury? Was he using a potion? Was it Voldemort killing off the man’s nerve centers so that he felt no pain?
It would be nice to learn this skill, because I honestly felt awful. My shoulder continued to throb with sporadic, but intense bursts of pain. I grit my teeth for a few moments to bear through it as Quirrell continued to speak.
“You would think, after last time, that you had learned your place, child.” He said. “You are several decades too young to match my power and skill.”
“Maybe so.” Was my reply. “But you are wounded and weakened. I reckon I’ve got some pretty good odds here.”
Quirrell only laughed at the show of bravado.
“An easy bet, is it?” He continued, shaking his head as if he were speaking to an idiot. “Losing an arm is but a trifle. As long as my wand is in my hand, I—”
I raised my wand and brought it down in a diagonal slash, casting a spell. Diffindo!
Quirrell’s eyes widened with surprise and annoyance as he stepped to the side, the red spell going wide and scoring the stone wall behind him.
A moment of silence settled over the three occupants of the large chamber.
“Interrupting someone while they’re still speaking is considered to be very rude, Mr. Clarke.” Quirrell said in a light tone, though he was no longer smiling. “One could even find it objectionable to the point of taking certain actions…”
I found myself smiling, taking some energy from the fact that I’d gotten under his skin. “Oh, I’m sorry. I just kept looking at your missing arm and figured I’d even you out. I think it’d be very rude not to do you this favor.”
“How touching…” Quirrell said with a dry voice before giving me a sigh. “Very well. It seems you have chosen your side in this battle. On your head be it.”
I frowned and shook my head. “You’re misunderstanding the situation. I’m not choosing anyone’s side.”
“It’s very simple.” I said, glaring at the man as I let my long-festering anger to surface for a few moments. “You thought you could control me, maybe try to mold me into a mirror image of yourself, perhaps? I guess we are similar in a few ways that you would think you could do such a thing.”
Quirrell did not answer.
“Anyway, whatever your reasoning for trying to control me is, you still went ahead and did it.” I finished. “If you knew a single thing about me, you’d understand that I cannot be controlled. Ever.“
“So you are against me because I attempted to guide you in the right direction?” Quirrell looked incredulous.
“Who defines what is right and what is wrong?” I countered, taking an aggressive step forward. “You? Dumbledore? Grindelwald? Voldemort? No.”
I chuckled, shaking my head. “No, no, no. These are arbitrary concepts which you intend to use to bind me to whatever your views of the world are— or however things ought to be.”
“And so you are throwing away your chance at greatness, for what?” Quirrell said. “To satisfy your ego? Is that it?”
“I find it interesting that you see it that way.” I said, ignoring the murmurs of agreement of the sly voice in my mind. “I’m not throwing anything but what I consider to be useless to me away. An alliance with you— useless. I will seize greatness with my own two hands. Unfettered by anyone’s will or intent.”
“Intent.” Quirrell said. “I remember you saying something to this extent in our first meetings. Very well.”
He tapped his wand against his shoulder and winced as an arm of silver began to form, sizzling against the base of his skin.
So he can feel pain. I thought. It just has to reach a certain level.
“You have shown me your resolve, Adam Clarke.” Quirrell said as the silver continued to spread outwards, morphing into a hand with five, clawed fingers. “However much of a waste it is to spill the blood of a student with such promising skill, I am afraid you leave me no choice.”
“Surrender or die.” Quirrell said, lowering his new arm to his side. “This is my very last warning. What will it be?”
I raised my wand against him.
Quirrell nodded, understanding the threatening gesture for what it was, and raised his own in reply.
“I’ll take the third choice— to win.” I said. “Besides, it’s better to die free than live under someone else’s yoke.”
I pressed my lips together and got ready for the real fight. This was what I’d been training all this time for. It was now or never.
“Clarke…” Snape’s voice came but I ignored it. I would have time to deal with the consequences later, whatever they may be.
With a swish, I brought all of the sitting rubble to bear, launching them towards Quirrell in one fell wave. I didn’t waste any time, dashing to the left to flank the man.
Incendio! I thought, ducking just as he blew the rubble outwards, the deadly shrapnel sailing over my head and leaving me unharmed. Fire burst at the seam between his skin and the silver arm, filling the air with the smell and sound of sizzling human flesh once again.
Don’t let up!
I sent the rubble straight back towards the man, blasting a few of them apart with a Reductor Curse just as they reached him. Through the new smokescreen, I snapped my wand forward. Diffindo!
My eyes flitted over the environment, searching for any situational advantage even as the Severing Charm flew into the dust, clipping the man’s other shoulder and drawing a cry of annoyance.
“I tire of these games.” Quirrell snarled. A moment later, the smoke vanished away. I mistepped and was forced to Shield against a blast of compressed water, sending me skidding back a few steps.
My shoes caught onto the edge of one of the stones and I fell backwards. In panic, I raised my arms to my head and smashed against the stone floor, right on my injured shoulder.
I tried to grit my teeth and just bear through the pain in silence, but failed. I gave a strangled cry as my shoulder rattled from the terrible impact, sending lances of pain through my chest and back.
Even as I cried, though, I pushed myself up just in time to see another blast of water headed in my direction.
I dropped to the floor in an instant, watching the jet of water pass over my head and tear a small furrough in the stone wall behind me.
I cringed and groaned as I forced myself to roll to the left, another blast of water tearing into the stone beside me.
“Odgovor!” I held my wand with both hands and thrust it forward, casting the largest chain I could summon up.
The chain flew true, straight into the jet of water set to cut through my skull.
The glowing silver chain tore through the water spear, sending the liquid flying everywhere and forcing Quirrell to step to the left. The chain drove itself deep into the wall, sending small chunks of stone flying every which way.
Quirrell took a step back to gaze at the spell I had just used. “Intriguing… And familiar. A variant of your Shield Charm, once again?”
“Something like that.” I huffed and pushed myself up, the chain disappearing as I got back to my feet.
Quirrell only watched me with an amused twinkle in his eyes.
“It seems you have been quite busy since the last time we met.” Quirrell said, content to let me recover. Did he truly see no threat in my presence?
No. I realized, noticing how tight his face was. It’s a facade, and he’s starting to crack. Or, is it just a trap being baited?
Doubt gnawed at my mind, but I shook my head. I supposed it didn’t matter either way. Subterfuge wouldn’t win this fight— at least, not this crude level of it.
Not breaking my gaze off of the man, I hovered my wand over my right shoulder and ran it down my arm. Odgovor.
A new chain burst into existence, swirling itself around my limb and coiling around my closed left fist, forming a sturdy buckler. Another cast of the spell, and two medium sized chains burst from the tip of my wand, their tips morphing into small, but very sharp points.
“Impressive.” Quirrell said, marveling at the magic he was witnessing. “Indeed, you would have been a powerful force to be reckoned with, had you been given the time to mature to your full potential.”
He speaks as if he can kill me at any time. I thought, narrowing my eyes at the man’s obvious implication and dismissal.
Quirrell took a step forward, his wand moving at speeds I could not hope to match at my current level.
No matter. I thought as my chains writhed to life, swirling and crisscrossing to form a wide net of magic between my enemy and myself.
I felt the impact of no less than six spells in a few seconds as the room burst into showers of yellow, green, purple and red flashes of light before the spells ricocheted into the walls. One crashed into the wall just beside the Mirror of Erised, sending chunks of stone onto the glass surface.
Another splashed against the ceiling above, eating through the stone like acid, and the third spell left a deep, black scorch mark. The fourth fizzled harmlessly on impact.
Or so I thought.
I blinked, feeling a stinging line on my face. I lifted my closed fist and felt the long, thin slice under my eye. Something got through.
I clenched my fist, shrinking and concentrating the chain-shield further.
“An interesting defense, but as you can see…” Quirrell said. “It’s not absolute. You would have been better served with the Shield Charm, as its defense leaves no holes for any spells to slip through.”
“Noted.” I said and pursed my lips, shifting my buckler to a ready pose and moving my wand forward with a cleaving motion. Thin, razor-sharp blades grew on my chain-links and I slashed my wand again, further imbuing them with the Severing Charm.
But sometimes the best defense is an overwhelming offense. I thought, sending the chains to attack Quirrell from both sides. I saw the man’s scoff as he batted one chain away while side-stepping the other.
I gave a nasty smile and drove the tip of my wand in a downwards thrust. The chain that Quirrell had batted away separated into three more, all coiling around the man and tightening in an attempt to rip him to shreds.
Quirrell managed to react in time, stopping two of the three attacking chains with his new, silver arm while the final, bladed chain wrapped around his left thigh and squeezed. He cried out and blasted the final chain away with his wand before sending a new barrage of spells at me.
I recalled one of my chains just in time to absorb the impact of two spells, while my buckler took the brunt of the other three. The spells hammered against my shield, rattling my shoulders and shaking my bones, making me cringe in pain— but I held on through sheer will, deflecting the spells off to the side.
I sagged forward and stopped to breathe, watching as Professor Quirrell continued to hold two of my chains with his silver hand while he pressed his wand against them.
What’s he doing? I tried to pull my chains out of his hand, to no avail.
“Interesting…” Quirrell said.
Whatever he was doing, I wasn’t going to just watch. Incendio!
The chains in his hand began to glow red hot, but he held fast.
Oh, I’ll make sure it burns.
Gritting my teeth, I turned up the heat until the heat reached his arm, forcing him to wince and let go.
Professor Quirrell stared at me for a few moments as he flexed his silver hand to cool it off.
Then, he spoke. “You used your Shield Charm and changed its shape to form a chain for the express purpose of fulfilling both your need for attack and defense, while also still able to weave spells into its general makeup. Truly ingenious.”
“Thank you.” I said. “But it would have been for the best if you let that chain cut your leg off earlier. You’d have died quickly from the blood loss.”
Quirrell opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted.
“Enough.” Voldemort’s voice echoed in the chamber again. “You have played along with this child’s game for long enough, Quirinus. Kill him.”
Professor Quirrell’s face shifted in a mixture of annoyance and fear, but he schooled his expression before I could read too much into it. “Of course, Master.”
I glanced down at the blood soaking his pant leg even as he used it to keep moving. It was as if I hadn’t even hurt him.
I frowned, feeling like I had lost the initiative. Still, I moved forward as well, crashing my chains against my foe’s spells in an attempt to reach him again.
I swung them left, right, up and down, moved them in swirls and infused them all with the Severing Charm, but my chains no longer hit their mark.
Quirrell continued to move forward, batting away every chain before it even had the chance to get close for a good hit.
I grit my teeth and increased my spell-weaving and controlling pace, smashing the sharp chain-tips against his shield and forcing him to stop in his tracks when a crack formed upon his Shield Charm.
That’s more like it.
I felt my face contort into a smile and smashed through the man’s barrier, sending harmless light gray sparks flying every which way.
A chain tipped with a spear flew through the light, sharpened with my intent to pierce the man’s head, but Quirinus moved to the side and snatched the chain with his silver hand.
With all of his strength, he pulled down and back, forcing me forward a few steps, straight into the path of his next spell— a Bone Breaking Curse. I realized with alarm.
I scrambled to the right and felt a splitting pain in my right foot, causing me to lose all balance and fall straight on my face.
The world around me disappeared for a few moments, my disorientation and pain being far too much for my young body to bear, but I pulled myself back together for just long enough to see another Bone Breaking Curse headed straight for my head, with another two spells of different colors right behind it.
I raised my chain buckler, ignoring the splitting pain in my leg and the defiant stabbing from my shoulder, while holding myself up with my left hand.
This was going to hurt.
The yellow spell crashed against my shield, shaking my bones to the core, but with a great yell, I shifted the angle of my buckler and deflected the spell off to the side, where it splashed against the wall.
It seemed Quirrell had anticipated this, as the next spell, a lime-green, compact ball of energy crashed into the underside of my shield, before going straight down into the stone floor with a loud bang.
At such close range, the impact was both blinding and deafening. I flew backwards, feeling the debris slice into my face. I closed my eyes on instinct, but it was too late, I realized as I felt a burning pain in my right eye.
I caught myself before I could fall into a series of rolls and swerved to the side, narrowly avoiding another curse. I fell to one knee, panting for breath even as I kept my left eye open and trained on my enemy.
The stinging in my right eye continued, and I felt something wet, warm and viscous descending from it.
I didn’t have the time to even think about it as Quirrell continued his onslaught.
With my leg broken, I had no choice but to stand my ground. I deflected three more curses before I felt a rope snake around my chest, pulling me forward to the man’s feet.
I pushed myself up just in time for Professor Quirrell to kick me in my left shoulder.
The attack sent me back down to the ground with a cry of pain, and I felt my chain buckler dissipate into nothing.
I tried to get back up again, to no avail. I stared up at Quirinus, but my vision and focus began to falter.
I heard Quirrell’s voice come from above me.
“And so it ends.” He said, his voice dripping with pity, disgust, and most of all, disappointment. “What a waste.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but only managed to cough. The exhaustion and pain had become so severe that I could barely even move, let alone talk. I closed my fist around my wand, only to grasp nothing but air.
I hadn’t even noticed it gone.
“Trying to say something?” Quirrell said and leaned over a little as the fog around my mind cleared enough for me to see that my magical focus was right at the base of his feet. “Very well, I will hear your final words, Mr. Clarke.”
I felt Alef Ard’s presence brush up against my own in support and felt myself smiling.
I coughed again, the sound wet and strangling. “The end is… only the beginning!”
It was then that something struck the man’s head from above; it was a small bit of stone, barely enough to fit in the palm of my hand, but it was enough to get the man to look up.
I knew what that meant.
Now! Both myself and the sly voice screamed in my own mind.
I gathered what little strength I had left and surged forward. My broken leg cried out for sweet mercy, but I ignored the pain and put every fiber of my being into my next attack.
Feeling the warmth of the ebony wand rush back into my hand, I brought it to bear just as Professor Quirrell turned his attention to me.
“Odgovor!” I cried out with desperate purpose, honing my intent and desire with the ancient, primal instinct a human had when he became cornered. It was going to be all or nothing.
The chain was soaring the short distance between myself and my enemy, but I watched as he moved to react— he was going to stop it. My last ditch effort was going to fail.
And then a white blade flew in between us, slicing Quirrell’s wand-hand off just as he was about to cast a spell.
Snape. I realized and forced the chain forward, driving it through Quirrel’s forehead and out of the other side. Blood and brain matter sprayed down onto my face as Quirrell’s eyes stared down at me in shock, his body spasming with off-putting intensity.
I didn’t have time to rest as the face behind the turban began to scream. Fierce, off-putting and unnatural, I felt the sound rattle my ear-drums, sending a fresh wave of agony through my head.
Black vapor was coming off Quirrell’s body, collecting itself in front of my eyes. The strange vapor formed a hideous face, which glared at me with malevolent purpose before it rushed into my body, invading its every crevice.
You cost me a servant. Were the last words I heard before my body began to shut down. But I suppose you will do just as well.
Why, I must say that I am, in fact
This is the end of the beginning.