Author: Shadow Rebirth
Warnings: coarse language, adult themes, spoilers
Word Count: 4,843
First Written: August 9, 2008
Last Edited: August 11, 2008
Posted: August 11, 2008
Summary: Owls, cauldrons, and pointed hats? Harry Potter was not amused. And he still wasn't entirely sure that his human trafficking theory had been wrong. Warning! Features a very cynical Harry. AU, no pairings.
Searching for Disaster
Of Stones and Schizophrenics
You're full of pride and arrogance
You can't accept the nearing end of this short-lived life
Smile and give a toast, brag and boast, fool the world with all of your lies
The parasite's host never even knows, pull the wool over our eyes
Walk the line and pay the price, a pound of flesh for paradise
--"All Your Lies" by Ten Years
As Harry fell he could feel nothing but shock and a strange sense of weightlessness. For a moment his entire body felt paralyzed, but as the light above him began to grow smaller as he plummeted, his instincts quickly kicked into gear.
Swearing violently in his mind, Harry twisted around as best he could while in midair to see what was below him. It was too dark to see very well, but he thought that he could just barely make out stone below him, fast approaching. Panicked, Harry quickly ran spells through his mind, desperately trying to think of something to get out of this situation.
Wait! That was it! There was one spell.
Harry began casting as quickly as he could, praying to whoever was out there that this would work. He knew the incantation, but had never even tried the spell, so there was a large chance that in moments he'd be little more than a smear on the stones.
Please let this work, Harry begged. Please! His eyes widened as the floor approached and he hit the stones--
--Only to bounce up a couple of inches, as if having hit something soft. Harry let out a relieved sigh as he lay back against the stone floor beneath him. He'd only come across the cushioning charm a couple of days ago. He'd figured that it could be useful, but he'd never had the chance to try it out, what with exams and all.
As Harry stared up at the tall ceiling above him, he noticed that more of the stone debris caused by the hole--which was now little more than a small circle of light in the distance--was beginning to crumble. As several large pieces broke off the boy's eyes widened once more and he quickly scrambled to his feet and threw himself backwards while swearing loudly. He covered his eyes with his arms as the rubble collapsed in front of him.
Once the dust had cleared, Harry chanced a peek. And then promptly blanched. He was, apparently, standing in an old corridor that stretched into the darkness behind him. In front of him however there now was a large pile of rubble that completely blocked his view of the hole he'd fallen through.
At least he knew what had happened to Hagrid's dragon egg, Harry thought grimly. Unless of course, Hogwarts kept more than one dragon on its grounds. Harry wouldn't put it past the headmaster...
Angrily Harry kicked one of the large broken stones in front of him. Bloody hell! There was no way for him to get out now, and no way for anyone to get to him. The boy glanced back at the corridor behind him. There was only one way that he could go now. Harry released a resigned sigh and began what would undoubtedly be a long walk to only-Merlin-knows-where.
Knowing his luck, there'd be a troll at the end of it or something.
Indeed the corridor turned out to be very long. Harry was very thankful that they'd been taught the lumos charm at the beginning of the year or else he'd have been feeling his way along in the dark. Finally--after what was probably only five minutes but had felt like hours--Harry came to...A dead end.
The dark haired wizard snarled angrily at the dark wall before him. "Blood hell!" he snapped. "All that for a fucking dead end!" He glared up at the ceiling above him. "You really do hate me, don't you?" he muttered, though he had no real idea who he was talking to.
In a fit of unrestrained anger Harry kicked out at the wall. And then yelp when the wall reached out and grabbed at him. Horrified and shocked, Harry quickly stumbled away, almost dropping his wand in the process. The wall had...!
Harry paused and squinted closer at the wall. Wait, no, it wasn't a wall at all! It was a mass of vines. Almost like ivy, Harry noted as he held the glowing tip of his wand closer, though different. He could swear he'd seen it before...
Like flipping a switch, Harry suddenly remembered. Devil's Snare! It was Devil's Snare! They'd been taught about the plant just after Christmas in Herbology. If he remembered correctly, there was only one way to get rid of the plant
Harry waved his wand while muttering a spell under his breath. Instantaneously a stream of bluebell fire was sent at the mass of Devil's Snare blocking his way. The vines shrunk back, writhing as they were burnt to a crisp.
The young boy kept on sending burst of flame after burst of flame. Slowly the Devil's Snare pulled away, revealing a path through into a high-ceilinged room. Harry cautiously edged his way into the room.
The ceiling, Harry noticed, was not visible. The room stretched up into darkness with no end in sight even when Harry raised his wand up as far as he could. As the other end of the room was a simple wooden door. A glance back showed him that the Devil's Snare had closed in around the entrance to the corridor.
Harry grimaced. There was no going back then, not unless he wanted to force his way through again. With a resigned sigh Harry stalked over to the wooden door, threw it open, and then walked through.
The door, as it turned out, led into yet another corridor. The passageway sloped downward and Harry was reminded distinctly of Gringotts. Before the young wizard got too far however, he suddenly realized that he could hear a soft rustling and clinking coming from up ahead.
Harry frowned, but proceeded anyway. Eventually the corridor opened up into a brilliantly lit chamber. It had a high arching ceiling--which was visible--and on the opposite side of the room was a heavy wooden door. Flying around the room were the sources of the noise: Keys. Flying keys.
Harry stared blankly at the room. Flying keys. They weren't floating around though, no the keys had actual wings attached to them. They were darting around the upper part of the chamber like a flock of birds.
As he walked across the room, Harry resisted the urge to rub his temples. Now he'd seen everything. As he reached the other door however, he hesitated. Considering all of the keys there was little doubt that the door was locked. He tried tugging the door open anyway, but it refused to budge.
As Harry turned back to the chamber, he noticed that there were four broomsticks propped up against the wall near the door. Instantly his face took on a look of horror as everything clicked into place. Oh hell no! There was no way that he was going to get onto a bloody broomstick and fly around, trying to catch a goddamned flying key!
Snarling, Harry spun back around and gave another hard yank on the door. Dammit! If only there was another--
Suddenly Harry paused, staring at the door thoughtfully. Considering what he knew about how wizards acted and thought, there was a possibility...
Harry cast his eyes around the room once more. After a moment his gaze came to rest on the brooms. In a few short steps he strode over to them and examined their bristles. Yes, with just a touch of magic this could work.
Swiftly the dark haired wizard broke off one of the bristles. A quick wave of his wand later and the bristle had been transfigured into metal. Harry grinned widely. Perfect.
Harry slowly inserted the bristle-turned-lock pick into the lock on the door. He fiddled with it for a moment and then, there! With a soft click the door swung open.
With a wide smirk, Harry inspected his handy work. Yes, it'd been just as he'd expected. Whoever had created this chamber had put complicated enchantments on the door to magic preventing from opening it, but hadn't even thought of protecting it from something as "muggle" and simple lock picking. Harry was eternally grateful that he'd learnt to pick locks years ago to get in and out of his relatives' home--and various other locations--without them noticing. His experience was really paying off.
At first the next chamber seemed to be so dark so dark that he'd have to use the light spell again. But then, as he stepped into the room, light suddenly flood it and Harry found himself standing in front of an astonishing sight: He was on the edge of a massive chessboard. In front of him were the black chessmen, which were almost twice as tall as he was.
For a moment all Harry could do was gape. "Blood and bloody ashes," he breathed.
Cautiously Harry stepped out onto the board. As he walked past the chessmen he stared up at them in awe. Who on earth had created this? And why? For that matter, what was up with the last two chambers too? It was as if they'd been placed there to prevent someone from passing through.
At that thought, Harry hesitated in mid-step. For a moment he considered turning back, but then he remembered that there was no "back". The hole he'd fallen through had been blocked by the rubble, trapping him in that strange corridor. The only thing he could do was proceed through these strange rooms and hope that they eventually led out of the castle.
Harry sighed and then continued his trek across the giant chessboard. Unfortunately, the moment he stepped past the squares containing the black pawns, the white pieces on the other side of the board sprung to life, leaping forward and advancing on him like living people carved from stone.
Shocked for what seemed like the hundredth time that day Harry jumped in surprise, inadvertently tipping over his own legs and falling backwards. As the chessmen continued to advance, the young wizard quickly scrambled backwards on all fours.
The moment Harry was once again on the squares containing the black pawns, the white chessmen halted their advance and quietly went back to their squares. Once they'd returned to their positions they went completely still once more.
Harry frowned while eyeing the chessmen warily. Experimentally he took one step over the line before him and the chessmen once again sprang to life. When he pulled his foot back the giant pieces went still again.
Hmm, so they were activated when he passed a certain point, in order to prevent him from reaching the door. Still frowning, Harry turned to eye the black chessmen. Why then, had they not "activated" when he entered the room, or even when he crossed the line? It didn't make sense, unless...
"You've got to be kidding me," Harry groaned. They expected him to play his way across? Beat the white chessmen and you get access to the door, it seemed.
There was only one problem with this: Harry didn't know how to play chess. He'd never bothered learning when he'd been younger; he'd never had any reason to. And he'd certainly never expected to be confronted with a giant magical chess set with some sort of artificial intelligence.
Harry ran an agitated hand through his messier than usual hair. There had to be some way around this. He had to get to that other door.
Harry's frown sprung back onto his face with full force as he turned his attention to the line separating the squares in front of the black pawns again. How did this activation thing work anyway? If he could find some way around it, to stop the white chessmen from activating, then he'd be home free.
Experimentally, Harry stuck he foot out over the line, as if to take a step, but didn't let his foot touch the board. Nothing happened. He set his foot down, and instantly the chessmen sprung to life. He lifted his foot back up and they went still again.
Harry grinned widely. That was it! It was the board itself that was charmed, kind of like a pressure sensor.
Slowly his glee faded, taking his grin with it. The only problem was how to get across the enormous board without actually touching it. Damn.
Harry spent a minute pacing back and forth between two of black pawns while raking his mind for a solution. Unfortunately, he came up blank. None of the spells he knew dealt with flying. There was the levitation charm they'd been taught in charms of course, but that couldn't be cast on one's self. For the first time in his life Harry wished that he had a broom--
Flushing with embarrassment, Harry glanced back at the door to the chamber with the flying keys. That chamber held four brooms. Brooms that he'd completely forgotten about. Harry was momentarily glad that no one was with him to witness his brief mental lapse.
After going back to fetch one of the brooms, Harry easily flew over the giant chess set. True to his assessment, the white chessmen didn't activate even as he landed behind the board, next to the door. And even they had, Harry doubted that they would have been able to jump in the air to catch him, being stone and all.
Over all, when one applied some logic to the situation this "defense" was rather easy to get by. Hell, the means to get past it had even been provided! A good chess player probably would have been able to get by too.
After landing, Harry took a moment to glare at the broom he'd used. If he hadn't been cemented in his beliefs before, he now knew that he would never use a broom again, not even if he got caught in another situation like this. Not only had it been unstable, but it'd also been uncomfortable as hell. He would never understand how some people could stand--and sometimes even /enjoy/--sitting on a broom for hours on end. If anyone ever asked him to join a Quidditch game he'd probably be forced to cheerful shove the broom up their ass.
The moment Harry stepped through the door he gagged as his nose was assaulted by a disgusting scent. Moments later his eyes focused on the source: A massive creature that Harry correctly guessed to be a troll. A troll that was staring straight at him.
With a loud roar the troll lifted its large spiked club and swung at Harry. Paling, Harry dove to the side and watched in horror as the club slammed into the spot he'd been standing in with enough force to create a small crater. Snarling, the troll turned to face him and raised its club once more.
Despite his instinctual terror, Harry's mind watched this with a strange sort of detachedness. Had he actually been paying attention, the young wizard would have recognized this as an effect of both the adrenaline currently pumping through his system and many, many years of having all of his attention focused on survival. As it was, Harry wasn't paying attention to his current state of emotion, but rather was quickly trying to think of something, /anything/, that he could do to take out a monster that was four times his height and almost three times his width. Not to mention that trolls supposedly had magic-resistant skin.
As the troll made another swing at him, Harry took off in the other direction, attempting to reach the door before the troll could reach him. Unfortunately, he had to quickly dart in a different direction as it attacked again. As he continued to dart around the room, dodging certain death, Harry began mentally cursing his short stature; the troll could cover in one step what took him five or more.
Eventually the troll managed to trap Harry--who was quickly becoming exhausted from all the running and dodging--into a corner before the boy could reach the door. Harry doubted that the troll had done so on purpose, but that didn't change his situation. And the stench certainly didn't help either. Harry's lips curled back in a snarl as he cursed his rather small repertoire of spells. He knew of nothing could be used to defend himself against a troll.
Harry threw himself flat against the wall as the troll's club came crashing down, its spikes missing him by mere inches. As the troll pulled the club back for another--and undoubtedly last--strike, Harry thrust his wand out and yelled the only spell he could think of that could potentially do anything against a troll.
Harry's wand abruptly flared with light and the troll let out an ear shattering screech. It brought its hands up to cover its sensitive eyes, inadvertently dropping its club in the process. Harry let the spell fade and while the troll staggered backwards, blinking its eyes stupidly, he dashed around it and ran through the door.
As soon as he'd slammed the door shut behind him, Harry leant back against the door and took several deep gulps of air in an attempt to calm his wildly beating heart. A troll?! The school kept a bloody fucking troll in its dungeon?! He damn well better find a passage out of here after having to go through all these chambers.
Once he'd sufficiently calmed down, Harry finally took stock of the room his was in. In retrospect that was probably what he should have done /first/, but as nothing had attacked him yet it didn't really matter.
This chamber was much smaller than the first three. All it contained was a table with seven differently shaped bottles standing on it in a line. As soon as Harry stepped away from the door however, a fire immediately sprung up behind him. A purple fire. The doorway leading onward was also blocked by black flames, effectively trapping him.
Harry groaned. It figured that this wouldn't be any easier than the other rooms.
Hesitantly, Harry approached the table and saw that there was a roll of paper lying next to the bottles. Upon opening it and reading it, he found that it was a riddle explaining that some of the bottles held poisons, some held wine, and two of them allowed him to go through either the black or purple fires. As there was no way in hell that Harry was going back into a chamber containing a doubtlessly enraged troll, this meant that he needed to figure out which bottle let him move onward.
Harry sighed lightly and leaned against the table while staring down at the paper. "It's not on the ends," he muttered to himself, "And it's not the second on the left or second to the right. That leaves the three in the middle and since it says 'Neither dwarf nor giant holds death in their insides'..."
Abruptly Harry reached out and snatched the smallest of the bottles. He hesitated for just a second after uncorking it, knowing that he could easily be wrong. Then he shrugged.
"Well, since a dwarf doesn't 'hold death', there's no chance of me dying even if I'm wrong," Harry reassured himself. "...Unless the paper is lying to distract me...Hell, they could all be poison." He sighed and then shrugged a second time. "Damned if I do, damned if I don't. Bottoms up."
Harry downed the small amount of potion in one swift movement to prevent himself from second guessing himself and chickening out. He waited for several seconds after swallowing and though he felt as though ice was flooding his body, he didn't drop over dead so he figured that he was safe.
Unless of course it was a slow-acting poison designed torture its drinker to death.
Hmm, that was almost enough to make him wish he'd been attending potions class. No, actually, it wasn't. But the thought was enough to cause him to decide to begin studying potions and poisons on his own. Perhaps he could pour some kind of potion that tasted like an easily recognizable poison into Snape's drink and cause the man to have a mental breakdown.
Pushing his thoughts away, Harry took a deep breath and then stepped through the flames. Though he could feel flames licking his body, he couldn't feel any heat and he wasn't hurt. Harry released a breath that he hadn't known he'd been holding. Good; definitely safe.
For a moment Harry could see nothing but the dark fire, then he was on the other side, in the last chamber. This one was about the same size as the one that'd held the troll, but fortunately held no furious, bloodthirsty creatures. Instead there was only one object sitting in the middle of the room: A mirror. It was tall, more than twice his height, Harry guessed, with an ornately decorated gold frame that stood on two clawed feet.
Frowning, Harry warily approached the mirror. All of the other chambers had had dangerous defenses, so what did this mirror do? Harry started to edge around the mirror, keeping it in his sights at all time, but then suddenly froze upon realizing that there was no other door in the room besides the one he'd entered.
Harry's frown transformed into a scowl. Che, it figured that there'd be no way out. But then, what was the mirror for? He just couldn't believe that all of the other chambers had been leading up to this.
Before Harry's thoughts could go any farther however, he was broken from his reverie by the sound of a gasp behind him. Whirling around, he found a surprised and angry Professor Quirrell standing just past the doorway to the last chamber.
Harry blinked in confusion. "Professor? What are you doing here?" It was clear from the man's surprise that he hadn't been looking for him.
"You-- The dragon...?!"
Huh, Harry thought while tilting his head to the side curiously. He was used Quirrell stuttering, but this spluttering was new. Finally the older man managed to pull himself together. He didn't act nervous the way he usually did, but rather sneered at Harry.
"Yes, well, I suppose you were expecting Snape, right?" he asked. "No one would suspect p-p-poor, st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell?"
Quirrell paused, as if confused. Clearly this whole "evil speech" thing wasn't going as he'd planned. And even though Harry's mind was working in overdrive to figure out exactly what was going on, he wasn't going to make it easy for the man, not when it was so obvious that something big was going on.
"Uh, well, you suspected Snape, right?" Quirrell questioned. "After how much he hates you, it would have made sense to you. He does seem the type to try to steal the Stone, no?"
"...I seriously have no idea what you're talking about."
Quirrell face contorted in rage. "Silence!" he hissed. "You can't tell me that you don't know that Dumbledore hid the Stone here! Not after you got past all those defenses."
Harry shrugged. "Eh, I got trapped down here after that whole dragon fiasco," he replied. And, now that he thought about it, Quirrell hadn't been with the other teachers who'd been trying to capture the dragon. "I was hoping that this would eventually lead to a passage out of here. Shows just how bad my luck is..."
"Er..." Quirrell hesitated for a moment, staring at him. Eventually however his impatience got the best of him. "Out of my way, boy! I have more important things to deal with than your nonsense," he snapped while stalking forward.
To Harry's surprise, Quirrell approached the large mirror and began tapping his way around the frame. He was muttering to himself and the bits that Harry could catch didn't make any sense to him.
Finally Harry's curiosity got the best of him. "What's this stone you keep mentioning?" he asked.
"The Philosopher's Stone, you fool boy!" Quirrell snapped. "I know that Dumbledore hid it here, especially considering the lengths he went to protect it...Now keep quiet! ...I don't understand, is the Stone inside the mirror?"
Harry rolled his eyes as the man went back to his mutterings. Still, that small bit of information helped to put together all the puzzle pieces. From what Harry could tell, this "Philosopher's Stone" was being hidden in this room. Quirrell was attempting to steal the stone and had for some reason expected Harry to know about it...But why?
"What does the mirror do? How does it work? Help me, Master!"
To Harry's shock and horror--a combination he'd been feeling a lot that day, much to his annoyance. How many surprises could one day hold?--a voice answered, and the voice seemed come from Quirrell himself. It seemed that insanity was catching if he was finally hearing voices.
"Use the boy...Use the boy..." the voice said. It was hoarse as if it hadn't been used in a long time.
Immediately Quirrell rounded on Harry. "Yes--Potter--come here."
Harry stared at him. Oh yes, he was going to go near a complete psychopath who was making both of them hear voices. Unfortunately Quirrell's glare told him that he didn't have a choice in the matter, so Harry hesitantly shuffled forward to stand next to Quirrell in front of the mirror.
"Look in the mirror and tell me what you see," the rouge professor instructed.
Harry raised one eyebrow at the man, but finally shrugged and did as he'd asked. "I see...my reflection?" Quirrell scowled at him so Harry rolled his eyes. "What? What the bloody hell else am I supposed to see? It's a fucking mirror."
After rolling his eyes for a second time, Harry glanced back at the mirror. Instantly he froze when he saw his reflection move while he himself stayed still. The reflection smirked slyly at him before it put its hand into its pocked and pulled out a blood-red stone. Its smirk widened as it put the stone back into its pocket--and as it did so, Harry felt something heavy drop into his real pocket.
Harry barely managed to stop himself from jumping. What the hell was that? He almost reached for the stone, but didn't. He knew instinctually that saying anything about it would be a very bad idea. He also knew that he needed to think of some way to get away from Quirrell, so he did the only thing he could think of to stall for time.
In an instant, Harry whipped out his wand and moved to stand half behind the mirror. "Don't move," he snarled, "Or I'll destroy the mirror and you'll never get this 'stone'."
Quirrell stared at him, shocked by his boldness. The expression quickly changed to rage. He fingered his wand quietly while glaring at the boy.
"You wouldn't dare," he hissed.
"Try me," Harry said shortly. "Unlike you, I have no need for this 'stone'. Hell, I don't even know what it is."
Quirrell opened his mouth to reply, but before he could that hoarse voice spoke again.
"Let me speak to him..." it rasped, "...Face-to-face..."
"Master, you are not strong enough!" Quirrell gasped.
Harry twitched slightly. Master? This was beginning to get more than a little creepy. He'd suspect that Quirrell was schizophrenic if he couldn't hear the voice as well. Did that mean that they were hallucinating together? Oh, wait; this was the wizarding world, where everyone was insane.
Harry was torn from his thoughts when he noticed that Quirrell was beginning to unwrap that strange, smelly turban that he always wore. The turban finally fell away and Quirrell slowly turned on the spot.
Harry's eyes instantly shot wide open with shock. Where there should have been a back to Quirrell's head, there was a face, the more terrible face Harry had ever seen. It was chalk white with glaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake.
"Harry Potter..." it whispered.
Harry tried to take a step backward but found his legs wouldn't move. He knew instinctively who this was: Voldemort.
"See what I have become?" the face said. "Mere shadow and vapor...I form only when I can share another's body...but there have always been those willing to let me into their hears and minds...Unicorn blood had strengthened me, these past weeks...and once I have the Elixir of Life, created by the stone, I will be able to create a body of my own...Better save your own life and join me...or you'll meet the same end as your parents..."
What happened next, Harry would never entirely remember. All he knew was that one moment he'd been standing and talking to Voldemort when suddenly Quirrell had screamed out a warning. The professor had dived to the side, just barely dodging a spell that proceeded to smash into the mirror. The mirror seemed to glow for a moment before abruptly exploding outwards in a shower and glass and metal that painfully slammed Harry back into the far wall of the chamber.
Then everything went black.
A/N: (whistles) Wow, that was one hell of an action-packed chapter. Fun to write though. All of my personal grievances with the so-called "defenses" for the Stone will be addressed in the next chapter, when Harry had a rather...interesting...conversation with Dumbledore.
Alright, time for a minor explanation for some of the things in this chapter. First, the corridor leading to the Devil's Snare. I added in this extra, hidden corridor because it seems to me that there has to be some sort of other passageway other than the trapdoor; how else would teachers get in and out? They could use brooms, but somehow I doubt it.
Second, the flying over the chess board thing. I believe that this could be what Quirrel did in the canon because when Harry, Ron, and Hermione entered that chamber none of the chess pieces were broken as they would have been had Quirrel played his way across. It's possible that he undid the enchantments or something, but if that was true they'd probably still have been undone when Harry and the others came across them.
The next chapter will include the end of the year, and this had me thinking of where I'm going to be taking this story. At this point there are two directions that I can go in. One, I can somewhat follow the canon timeline in order to have fun tearing apart canon's many plot holes or two, I can follow a very AU timeline that would realistically result from what's happened this year. If I go with two--which I'm leaning towards right now--then there will be many changes from canon (for example, no Lockhart. There's just no way that Dumbledore would get away with hiring him now that the whole wizarding world's attention in on Hogwarts). Thoughts?
Rant #4: One thing that's always struck me as strange is Quirrell's actions in the very end of the book. After Voldemort reveals that Harry had the Stone and tells Quirrell to get him, the professor tries to physically grab Harry twice before finally attempting to use his wand. Why the hell didn't he use magic in the first place? It would have been incredibly easy for Quirrell to use the killing curse, or even a stunner or some other immobilization spell. Hell, he'd even apparently used wandless magic earlier when binding Harry! ("Quirrell snapped his finger. Ropes sprang out of thin air and wrapped themselves tightly around Harry.") There are a lot of inconsistencies in Harry Potter, but this one really doesn't even make sense. As a wizard, Quirrell should have thought to use magic before physical force.
I suppose that J.K.R. did what she did in order to allow Harry to defeat Quirrell with the whole burning thing (which, by the way, is never actually explained beyond that whole "love burned him" bullshit). But really, couldn't she have come up with something at least vaguely realistic?