Author: Shadow Rebirth
Warnings: coarse language, adult themes, spoilers
Word Count: 3,626
First Written: August 11, 2008
Last Edited: September 15, 2008
Posted: September 15, 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
Conversing with Vampires
The first thing that Harry noticed upon waking was that his head hurt. Actually it felt more as though someone had used it for football practice, with his head as the ball. Harry groaned and held his head in one hand as he sat up in bed.
"Awake, finally?" a voice to his right asked.
Harry jumped slightly in surprise. His head whipped around to the speaker and he found that Daphne was sitting in a chair next to the bed he was in. She didn't even glance at him, instead focusing all of her attention on the book in her hand.
Harry relaxed only ever so slightly at the sight of a familiar face. Glancing around and seeing a sea of white walls and furniture, he realized that he was probably in the hospital wing. He himself was lying--well, half sitting up now--on a bed with white linen sheets.
Harry moved his head a little too quickly and found that the motion sent sharp stabs of pain throughout his body. He grunted and gripped his head a little tighter.
"Damn," Harry grumbled, "I feel like I got hit by a bus."
"You might as well have," Daphne commented dryly. "You apparently got caught in the aftermath of a spell gone wrong."
Harry frowned, hazily remembering the events following his fall though the hole in the dungeons. Through the rabbit hole, he thought sardonically. And truly, the events down in the chambers had felt like a dream. Even for the wizarding world the things he'd seen there had been bizarre.
"Who cast that spell?" Harry asked.
"Dumbledore. From what I've heard he stopped Professor Quirrell and then brought your unconscious body back here. He still hasn't released any details about precisely what he stopped Professor Quirrell from doing."
Here Daphne's eyes finally lifted from her book and came to rest on Harry. The young wizard only just barely stopped himself from flinching under her calculating gaze. Slytherin indeed.
Suddenly Daphne's eyes snapped over to the door to the hospital wing. Confused, Harry followed her gaze, but couldn't find what had caught her attention. He glanced back at the Slytherin when she smoothly stood, snapping her book shut as she did so. Daphne gave him a cool nod and then left without a word.
The door had only just closed behind Daphne when it opened again, this time admitting a certain silver haired headmaster. Harry groaned quietly.
"Harry, my boy," Dumbledore said jovially. Harry twitched at the endearment. "I'm glad to see that you're finally awake."
Harry coolly assessed the older wizard. "...Headmaster," he said finally. "What brings you here? ...Sir." The last part was clearly added on as an afterthought. Dumbledore, however, didn't seem to notice or else ignored it for the time being.
"I wanted to see how you were feeling. You've been unconscious for three days, you know. I also hoped to have a chance to speak with you," he replied.
Harry raised one eyebrow. "And how did you know that I was awake?"
"There are monitoring charms around your bed," Dumbledore answered without missing a beat.
To be honest, Harry was shocked that Dumbledore had admitted such a thing. The man struck him as being more manipulating than that. Just what were his motives?
"I wanted to know when you woke," the headmaster continued, "So that I could speak with you as soon as possible about what's happened."
"And what has happened, /sir?/"
For the first time Dumbledore hesitated, though he quickly covered it up with another smile. "Tell me, what do you know about the Philosopher's stone.
"Well," Harry began with a frown. "I know that it was what Quirrell was trying to get it for Voldemort. He was apparently convinced that it was inside the mirror." Harry snorted, showing just how much he thought of that. He dutifully ignored the fact that he'd basically seen the Stone transferred from the mirror to his pocket. "Other than that, I've never heard of it before. Though...Voldemort--or at least I assume that it was Voldemort--mentioned something about creating a body from the 'Elixir of Life'."
Dumbledore frowned, clearly concerned. "Then it is as I feared," he said with a sigh. "Voldemort is indeed still alive and looking to make a full comeback. As for the Philosopher's Stone...It belonged to a good friend and mentor of mine named Nicholas Flamel and is an object used in alchemy. It can create the Elixir of Life, which gives its drinker eternal life, and can turn anything to gold. I am afraid, however, that the Stone was destroyed when the Mirror of Erised exploded."
Harry glanced sharply at Dumbledore. Destroyed with the mirror? But hadn't it been in his pocket at the time? Had the backlash of the spell destroyed it or did the headmaster just not know that Harry had gotten it?
"Destroyed?" he asked blankly, hoping to find some answers.
"Yes. Nicholas and I have ahd a little chat since then, and agreed that it's all for the best. He and his wife have enough of the Elixir stored to set their affairs in order and then I'm afraid that they will die."
Harry's eyes shot up in surprise. "But, if he created the Philosopher's Stone once, then couldn't he create another?" he asked.
"He could," Dumbledore agreed. "But he won’t. To one as young as you, I'm sure it seems incredible--" Again Harry snorted. "--But to Nicolas and Perenelle, it really is like going to bed after a very, very long day. After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. You know, the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all--the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them."
Harry's frown deepened. He supposed he could see what Dumbledore meant, but he still couldn't quite wrap his mind around it. For someone like him, who had struggled just to survive for as long as he could remember, actually wanting to die was a completely foreign concept.
"Why was the Stone here to begin with," Harry asked slowly. "Why was it in Hogwarts?"
"Nicolas and I had had a suspicion that Voldemort was after the Stone, so I agreed to take it to Hogwarts to keep it safe. All of the chambers before the one holding the Stone were defenses to prevent Quirrell from getting to it."
"Fat load of good that did," Harry muttered with a snort. "No disrespect, but I, a first year, was able to get past them without too much difficulty, and I hadn't even been trying to get the Stone."
Dumbledore shifted uneasily. "Yes well, the mishap with the dragon was unfortunate," he said. "But had you not fallen into the warded corridor leading to the Stone than you would have had to get past Fluffy first."
Dumbledore's twinkle came back in full force. "Yes, Fluffy. He's Hagrid's Cerberus--a giant three headed dog. He guarded a trapdoor that led to the chamber with the Devil's Snare."
"Yeah, well that Devil's Snare is your first problem," Harry replied. "I suppose it could trap someone, but we first years were taught about it just after Christmas, so almost every witch or wizard should know how to take care of it, let alone a Professor like Quirrell or a supposed "Dark Lord" like Voldemort.
"The room with the keys was rather pathetic to, if I may say so. It could have worked, except that I managed to pick the lock easily enough. It would have been smarter to, one: Charm the lock against lock picking; and two: Don't actually have the correct key in the room. That way Quirrell would have spent a bunch of time searching for a key that wasn't there."
Dumbledore blinked, surprised. "Oh," he said, sounding rather put out. "I...I suppose I hadn't thought of that..."
Harry rolled his eyes. "The chess room was pretty good, except that only the board was charmed. It would have worked better had you had the entire back half of the room as an 'activation point' rather than just the back half of the board. Plus it would have been smarter to not have brooms in the previous room. It's like basically giving the intruder or whatever a tool to use to get by.
"The troll, I'll admit, was a really good defense. It almost flattened me several times." Here Dumbledore winced as though the thought physically pained him. "The potion chamber could have worked too, except for how you left clues as to which bottle was which. It would have been smarter to leave them unlabeled. Or maybe to have to clues, but to have all the bottles contain poisons. That way you would lull the drinker into a false sense of security."
To Harry's surprise, Dumbledore actually chuckled in amusement. "Valid points, my mere dear boy," he said in amusement. Harry twitched again. "However, there is still one small problem: How would I get to the Stone when I needed to?"
Harry stared at him as if the answer was painfully obvious, which to him it was. "Have the key for the key room," he replied bluntly. "Bring a broom with you to get past the chess room, and carry the potion that lets you get through the fire with you. That way only you and no one else could get past the defenses. Though, to be honest, having the Stone here in a school full of children seems more than a bit odd to me. It's just asking for trouble, especially if you knew that Voldemort was going to come after it. Were you trying to get us all killed?"
"I saddened that you do not have much faith in me," Dumbledore said, and he did indeed look saddened and disappointed. For a moment Harry felt guilt swell up within him, but then he ruthlessly squashed it and replaced it with anger. How dare the old man try to make him feel as though he'd been in wrong when it was the headmaster who had placed them all in danger!
And so, instead of feeling guilty, Harry just stared rather blankly at Dumbledore. "...This year Hogwarts was attacked by a troll, a dragon, and Voldemort. Forgive me if I don't more bloody faith," he growled. "Speaking of which, you're the one that cast the spell that destroyed the mirror, right? So then technically you're the reason I'm here in the hospital wing."
Again Dumbledore winced before his serene smile came back in full force. "Yes, I'm afraid that you were caught in the crossfire," he replied. Crossfire?! Harry wanted to scream. There had been no crossfire; just a single spell. "Unfortunately, when I arrived in the chamber containing the mirror all I saw was Quirrell standing with his back to the mirror. I assume now that you were hiding behind it, but at the time...Well it is indeed regrettable that Quirrell dodged."
"Right," Harry ground out. Granted, he remember that he had indeed been standing behind the mirror, but it still would have been smarter for Dumbledore to have used some other spell. It was almost as though he'd wanted to destroy the mirror. "Where did that dragon come from?" he asked suddenly. "I imagine that Quirrell let it into the school as a distraction, but..."
"I'm afraid that Quirrell had nothing to do with that," Dumbledore said quietly. "Rather he just took advantage of the situation. That dragon was a three month old Norwegian Ridgeback by the name of Norbert...Hagrid had been raising him on the edge of the forbidden forest without my knowledge or consent.
"Unfortunately, in light of these events I've had no choice but to fire him from his post. I know that the two of you were friends, but Hagrid won't be able to return to Hogwarts."
Harry frowned slightly, unsure about how he felt about this turn of events. He most certainly would never call Hagrid a friend of his, but he also didn't hate the man. Still, if Hagrid truly had been trying to raise that dragon, then maybe this was for the best.
Dumbledore and Harry spoke for only a few more minutes before the door suddenly slammed open. Zacharias took several hurried steps into the infirmary before he abruptly froze upon noticing Dumbledore. The headmaster simply smiled, that ever-present twinkle in his eye brightening. "I believe I'll take my leave now," he said jovially and then swept from the room.
For several seconds after Dumbledore's departure silence pervaded the room. Zacharias stood awkwardly a few feet from Harry's bed, looking as though he was unsure of what to do with himself. Finally he trotted over to stand next to Harry.
"I...Daphne told me that you were awake," he said quietly.
Harry's brow furrowed. He'd been unaware that Zacharias and Daphne had even met, let along were on friendly terms. The room fell in to awkward silence once more, but Harry did nothing to break it. He could tell from Zacharias' nervous shifting that he had something to get off his chest and it would only take time for the boy to gather up the courage.
"Thank you," Zacharias abruptly blurted out. "For saving me, I mean. I-- I just froze up. I couldn't move at and then the next thing I knew I was safe and you were gone. Professor Sprout managed to get me to safety before the rest of the floor collapsed, but..." He gulped. "We, we though you were dead, you know. That fall and then all those pounds of stone...How did you survive?"
"Magic," Harry replied dryly.
Zacharias let out a bark of laughter that held a slightly hysterical edge. "W-we're not supposed to deal with stuff like this, you know," he continued while spreading his arms in an encompassing gesture. "This, the forest, the dragon...We're only eleven for Merlin's sake!" Zacharias shook his head wordlessly, unable to say anything else.
Harry chuckled mirthlessly. "Yeah, well one year olds aren't supposed to deal with psychopathic Dark Lords either. It seems to me that the wizarding world is more dangerous than most people give it credit for."
"...Are you considering leaving Hogwarts?"
Harry chewed on his lower lip thoughtfully. "No," he said finally. "At this point, after all the dangers that I've faced, it'd be very easy for me to leave Hogwarts, or even the wizarding world all together. But I won't. The temptation to learn magic is just too great, even with all of the insanity enshrouding it. I suppose I could rather easily go to another magical school, but what assurances would I have that it would be any better--or safer--than Hogwarts? And besides, I have the upper hand here now. I'm the 'victim' and as such no one can safely prosecute me, no matter what I do. Dumbledore knows this, the media knows this, and I know this.
"As for the whole danger aspect...I've don’t a lot of thinking about that and have realized that, while it's dangerous, I could just as easily get hit by a bus in the muggle world as I could be attacked by a dragon here. I think I'd prefer to stay and learn magic so that I can better protect myself."
Zacharias blinked a couple of time as he processed all of this. "That's...interesting. But it makes sense." Suddenly he jumped slightly, as if remembering something. He quickly pulled out a rolled up newspaper that had been tucked away in his robe and handed it Harry. "Here's yesterday's paper. I thought that you might be interested to read it; there are several articles about Hogwarts, Dumbledore, and Hagrid in there. You've caused quite a stir. Oh, and before I forget, I believe that this is yours." As he spoke, Zacharias pulled another abject out of this pocket: A fist sized blood red stone.
A gasp slipped between Harry's lips and his hand instantly shot out to grab the stone. He turned it over in his hands a couple of times, looking it over, but there was no mistaking it. It was the Philosopher's Stone.
"I was already here when Dumbledore brought you into the hospital wing," Zacharias explained. "It was in your pocket, so I figured I'd take it for safekeeping before any of the professors could see it."
Slowly a wide smirk spread out across Harry's face. This was perfect. No, this was beyond perfect. Harry had no intention of using the Stone for himself--he had more than enough money and eternal life didn't sound all that desirable at the moment; he was only eleven, after all. No, Harry was overjoyed for one simple reason: In his possession, the Stone the perfect piece of leverage. With it--and what Harry could do with it--hanging over Dumbledore's head, he could potentially get the man to do anything. Of course, he'd only reveal that he had it as a last resort.
"Thanks, Zack," Harry said with a grin.
The dark haired boy shrugged while replying with a grin of his own. "No problem. And really, the main reason I came here was to thank you. I'm in your debt now, after everything that's happened."
Before Harry knew it, he was on the train to return to London. He'd been discharged from the hospital the same day he woke up with a clean bill of health. Following that it'd only been a few days before the end of term.
Harry sat in a compartment on the Hogwarts' Express with Daphne and Zacharias. As usual Daphne had her nose buried in some book--this one with a title in French. Zacharias was animatedly chatting about something or other while Harry listened with a half an ear.
The green-eyed boy was starting dispassionately out at the countryside as it passed by. Honestly, he was beginning to dread going back to his relatives. Hogwarts may have been one fucked up place, but at least he was relatively free there.
When the train finally pulled into King's Cross station Harry, Daphne, and Zacharias said their goodbyes and then went there separate ways. Harry began to push his way through the crowd, but didn't get more than five frrt when he was intercepted by a particular blonde haired wizard. Harry released a sigh before quickly pasting a smile onto his face.
"Malfoy!" he greeted. "It's good to see you again!"
"Don't give me that bull!" the other boy snarled angrily. "I know you're Harry Potter! How dare you try to trick /me--/"
"Why, Malfoy, I'm really not sure what you're talking about," Harry said, feigning confusion. His eyes quickly swept through the crowd around him before landing on just the person he was looking for. Harry had to fight down a smirk. "Oh, I'm afraid that I'll have to cut this conversation short; my father is here."
Malfoy froze for a moment before following Harry's line of sight to a figure that was leaning against a nearby wall. It was a rather tall man with broad shoulder and a defined face. Long, black hair was tied back from his face at the nape of his neck and a pair of dark eyes coolly surveyed the crowd and students and parents. He looked just like what one would expect of a vampire.
Malfoy gulped nervously as his eyes slipped back to Harry. "I-- Er, I mean...Sorry, Tepes," he finished lamely.
Harry smiled understandingly and then, without a word, began to walk straight towards the dark man. He could feel Malfoy's embarrassed and confused gaze burning into his back.
"Hello sir," Harry said jovially as he stopped in front of the dark man. "I couldn't help but notice you standing here. Do you mind if I join you?"
The man slowly raised one eyebrow in question. Harry's smirk widened marginally. Now to add the finishing touch...
"Forgive me if this seems a little odd, but would you mind if I introduce you to someone?"
The man's other eyebrow quickly joined the first. He didn't look annoyed though--if anything he was amused. Finally he shrugged nonchalantly and pushed himself off the wall. Harry turned on his heel and began to lead the man back through the crowds and over to where Malfoy was still standing, staring open-mouthed at Harry. The dark haired boy smiled politely the blonde, though on the inside he was jumping with joy.
"Malfoy, I'd like to introduce you to my father, Count Vlad Tepes the Third," he said. "Father, this is Draco Malfoy."
A slow smirk crossed the face of "Count Tepes". He reached out and shook a stunned and terrified Malfoy's hand. "A pleasure, I'm sure," he murmured quietly.
Malfoy barely managed to stutter something in reply before he turned and fled. He even tripped over his cloak a few times in his haste, which was only a bonus in Harry's book. Harry was just turning to thank the dark man for playing along when a familiar voice spoke up behind him.
"...Harry? What are you doing?"
Surprised, Harry glanced back over his shoulder, only to find Zacharias standing there with a puzzled expression. The other boy glanced between Harry and the dark man for a moment before finally sighing. Despite his apparent exasperation however, the corners of his lips were curling up in the beginnings of a smirk.
"The Tepes thing again?" Zacharias asked. "Yeah, well, I guess my father is kind of vampire-ish."
Harry couldn't help it: He threw back his head and laughed.
A/N: Well this took longer than I expected it to. I've actually had it sitting around on my computer half-finished for about a month. School, work, and friends have been pulling me in a thousand different directions though, so I've barely had time to touch a computer, let alone write.
Because it will never be mentioned in the story, let me explain how Harry got the Stone. As we all know, in the canon Harry got the Stone from the mirror because his deepest desire at that moment was to save the Stone from Voldemort's clutches. In this story, the reasoning behind it is in two parts: One, his deepest desire is to survive and, as is previously mention, the Stone is like the ultimate leverage--If he ever really needs to convince Dumbledore to do or not do something, all he has to do is threaten to give the stone to Voldemort. Two, his deepest desire at that very moment was to figure out what the hell was going on. And thus we have the Stone.
The "Golden Trio" elements that seemed present in this chapter--mainly in the end on the train--really made be cringe. Things won't stay that way for very long though, so don't worry. I should probably also mention that this story will be getting progressively darker as Harry grows up and the storyline progresses. I'll be moving through the next couple years of schooling pretty quickly so that we can get to the main plot.