Blinded at the age of four, Harry Potter only wants to lead a normal life with his family. On his eleventh birthday, he finds out that he can have anything but...
On the other side of the door, he felt the pressure on his senses, created by the wards, ease to a tolerable level. Opening his mind's eye, he saw Professor Quirrell as expected. He saw Neville as well; he was limp and being held by the neck at the end of Quirrell's arm as the professor was squeezing the life out of him.
Harry stood frozen. He wanted to help his friend but a leaden feeling had suddenly spread through his arms and legs. He winced as the pendant around his neck also began burning hotly against his skin. Realizing that Quirrell was somehow keyed to the Geas Charm, Harry fought the panic he felt being helpless against it. Quirrell, who'd been wrapped up in torturing Neville, glanced up and noticed the newest arrival.
"Mr. Potter," he purred. "I'd almost given up hope that you'd come." Casually, he tossed Neville aside like a rag-doll. The boy fell to a boneless heap on the floor, his ragged breathing the only sign he was still alive. Quirrell, wiping his hands as if he'd been handling something dirty, continued speaking to Harry. "Your friend and I have been having quite the lively discussion about magical stones," he said, stepping over the prone boy as he walked towards Harry. "Your fool of a headmaster has hidden it in this room using this intriguing mirror." With a wave, the professor indicated a mirror standing nearly in the centre of the room. Harry was more than familiar with the looking glass, he'd felt its magic once before just after Christmas break.
The mirror of Erised. Neville had told them all about his encounter with Dumbledore and the headmaster's explanation of the mirror's function. "It shows you your heart's desire," the podgy boy had said with an air of importance as they'd huddled together in the dormitory after Neville's last visit to the mirror. Personally, Harry didn't like the Mirror. On reflection, he knew that part of what he'd seen was influenced by the charm. It didn't make the vision of him kneeling before the Malfoys and that odd, dark wizard any easier, however.
Harry started as a hand landed lightly on his shoulder. He'd been so wrapped up in his memories that he'd missed Quirrell coming right up to him. The professor's close proximity was unnerving to Harry, not only because of the odd, musty odour that always seemed to be coming from him, but due to something else as well.
Unlike with Draco and his father, the magical tie that bound Harry to Quirrell was visible to his senses. He didn't know whether he was just more sensitive to it now that he was aware of it, or that perhaps Quirrell's link was somehow stronger. The fact that he could see the magical web surrounding him gave hope that he could unravel it as he had begun to with Hermione's body-bind.
"Do you know why we're here tonight, Harry?" Quirrell had walked behind him and was whispering smoothly into his ear. The professor was obviously trying to unnerve Harry, and with any other child it might have worked. For a sighted person, to have their opponent so close behind them is a bit frightening. To Harry, even without his second sight, there was nothing special about where Quirrell chose to stand. If anything, the professor's attempts to frighten a small child made him seem more pathetic. What made Harry feel helpless was the control exerted by the charm.
"We're here to find the Philosopher's Stone, Harry. The Dark Lord, my master, will have it. With it he will rise again, this time as an immortal, to purge the world of Mudblood filth!" As he went on, Quirrell's voice became louder and almost maniacal. He circled around the boy and stopped before him, staring hard at the base of the boy's throat. "You'll help me find the stone, Harry," he said grinning. "You have no choice." Spinning about, Quirrell walked jerkily over to the mirror and stroked its surface lovingly.
"This is the key," he crooned, almost to himself. "When I look into it, I see myself with the stone and giving it to my master. But where is it?" Turning to look at Harry, Quirrell continued with dark amusement radiating from him in waves. "Your fat little friend turned up as I was examining the mirror. He was surprised to see me; it seems that he'd expected to find professor Snape."
"Neville thought that the professor was after the stone, that he was trying to bully you into giving up how you were protecting it." As he answered Quirrell, Harry realized something different about the way he was reacting than he had with Draco. Before, he'd not only done whatever his friend asked, he'd wanted to. With Quirrell, he felt nothing of the forced happiness that he'd experienced before. What he did feel was a boiling anger at the man that made him try even harder to break the enchantment that the charm had put over him.
Harry studied the magic surrounding the pendant as the professor rattled on. The power of the necklace seemed to be brighter, as if something about Quirrell was giving it strength.
"Your precious Potions Master wasn't after the stone; he's been foolishly trying to protect it - from me."
This was hardly news to Harry; he'd suspected as much for some time. Allowing the wizard to prattle on, however, gave him time to try unravelling the magic that bound him. Compared to this, however, the body bind that Hermione had cast over him had been child's play. Every time he tried manipulating it, he felt a bolt of white-hot pain in his chest. If it hadn't been for the very spell he was trying to remove, Harry was sure he'd be curled up on the stone floor in agony.
Quirrell, who'd been gloating about how he'd set the troll loose on Halloween as a diversion, had stopped again in front of the mirror, mumbling to himself. "It's here somewhere - I know it. It has something to do with the mirror...Am I supposed to break it? There's got to be a way."
"Use the boy."
The voice seemed to come from out of nowhere. It was dry and hollow, like someone speaking from the bottom of a well. Quirrell seemed as startled as Harry, then nodded. "Of course, master." Taking Harry's arm, the professor led him in front of the mirror. "What do you see?"
With a sneer on his face that would make Professor Snape proud, Harry answered, "Nothing, you twit. I'm blind."
"Let me speak to the boy," said the disembodied voice again.
"But master, you're too weak."
"I'm strong enough for this. Show him."
After a steadying breath, Professor Quirrell unfastened his turban and began unwinding it from around his head. The unnatural odour about the professor seemed to grow more intense to Harry as the cloth fell away, and it made his stomach flop inside him. The material of the turban must have been magical; there was no other way that he could have missed what lay beneath.
Quirrell's head was bald and on the back was another face. Drawn and sallow, it radiated hatred and evil to Harry's senses. The eyes opened, ranging over the boy for a moment, a calculating look on his face.
"Harry Potter." The voice was clearer now. It was cultured and intelligent. Something one would expect from a scholar. His tone was what gave him away, however. Every word, every syllable dripped with venom.
"See what you've done to me?" hissed Voldemort. After all, who else could it be? "Witness what I've become. I am a shadow, a vapour. Existing as little more than a parasite to this--" He used Quirrell's hand to indicate the professor's own body. "This inadequate form."
The twisted visage became slightly more skewed as the Dark Lord knit his eyebrows and stared hard at Harry. Unable to help himself, the boy broke from his paralysis and took a small step backward.
"You can see me."
Completely gob-smacked by Voldemort's perceptiveness, Harry stuttered out a weak denial. "No - I'm blind."
Gliding over to Harry, the wizard reached out a hand to touch the boy's face but Harry stepped back again, automatically climbing a step that he shouldn't have known was there.
"Not with your eyes," whispered Voldemort softy. "You have the sight, don't you?"
There was a long moment of silence in which Harry was too stunned to find his tongue. The disembodied face on the back of Quirrell's head seemed to be on the verge of some kind of fit. The mouth opened and closed silently as if he was unsuccessfully trying to form words. Then a dry hacking sound came out that Harry couldn't identify at first. As it grew louder and more impassioned, he realized it was wicked laughter.
"The fool!" laughed the Dark Lord as he brought himself back under control. "Dumbledore has put all his hopes into your fat little friend over there, only to deliver his last hope to me. Did you know..." he purred, "I never planned on killing your parents that night."
Quirrell/Voldemort walked a slow circle around Harry as he recalled the events of ten and one-half years before. "A spy in my employ overheard part of a prophecy as it was being told to that idiot, Dumbledore. Unfortunately, the old man put up silencing spells before my man could hear it all. He did, however catch the beginning. 'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches - Born to those who have thrice defied him - born as the seventh month dies.'"
Harry's brows drew together in thought. "Born... July thirty-first. That's my birthday."
"Yes Harry. It is yours as well as your friend Longbottom's. Both of you had parents who worked actively against me. The child of prophecy could have been either of you. I knew, however...I knew that it was you."
Voldemort had begun to pace rapidly, filled with nervous energy. He paused, considering his words carefully before he continued. "You have to understand, the wizarding world had become weak since the mudbloods had begun to think themselves our equals. I had worked long and hard to re-establish pureblood superiority and couldn't take the chance of losing all that I'd gained. I'm ashamed to admit it, but fear guided my actions. I came that night to kill you. Your parents got between us and I did what I thought I had to do. I take no pride in their deaths, but I thought them necessary. I was a fool to try and kill you; I realized it even as I was casting the Killing Curse. The prophecy said that the one with the power approached, not the one destined."
Harry, confused by the wizard's words, stood mutely as the Dark Lord spoke This man had killed his parents, tried to kill him, and now seemed to be trying to justify it. As shocked as he was by Voldemort's words, he was doubly so moments later when the disembodied wizard continued.
"Dumbledore knew of your power. Up until your unfortunate accident, he planned to use you as a tool to defeat me. The moment you lost your sight, however, you became nothing more than another victim. He turned his attention to Longbottom. I would bet that even your friends underestimate your potential. You can show them, however.
"Join me, Harry. With our combined power, there is nothing we can't accomplish. We'll bring order to the wizarding world, bring back your sight-we can even bring back your parents. Just tell me, where is the stone?"
Harry could feel the charm attempting to override his will. The metal of the pendant had again grown uncomfortably hot as its magic flared. Oddly, he had no problems resisting the charm's influence. While his body remained bound by the magic, his mind was free. This only worried him more, however, because some of what Voldemort was saying made sense.
The wizard had been right about one thing; in both the wizarding and Muggle worlds, Harry was seen as less than whole. Hermione, Neville, Weasley, and even Dumbledore seemed unable to look past his blindness and acknowledge the potential that was inside him. So far, only his aunt, Draco, Lucius, Voldemort, and, to a lesser extent, Severus, had taken Harry seriously. The headmaster, even after an entire school year, made considerations for him out of pity, rather than in recognition of his progress.
Harry knew that he could become more powerful if he were to follow Voldemort. He would gain the recognition and respect for his abilities that he craved. It would be so easy to follow this man and become the next Dark Lord, disturbingly easy. Two things stopped him, however: Voldemort had killed his parents; nothing he did would ever make that right. Also, and the Dark Lord had unwittingly pointed this out, his friends needed him.
If what the wizard said was true, Dumbledore was manipulating Neville in an attempt to make him something he was never meant to be. Driven by the headmaster's stories of his parents and a need to prove himself, Neville had already lost two fingers and nearly his life twice. He lay on the floor nearby, still unconscious, another testament to the Dark Lord's cruelty.
Hermione - actually, she didn't so much need him. It was more that he wanted her to learn to see him more for who he was than what he appeared to be.
Then there was Draco. Of all his friends, the blonde needed the most. Harry didn't know all of what went on in his friend's home life, but something was making Draco act the way he was. Most of it seemed to be caused by his father. He knew that the other boy not only needed him, but all his friends, Hermione and Neville too. For them, for Aunt Petunia and Dudley, he knew that he'd never follow this man.
"I can't tell you where it is." Harry's statement was only half-truth. He knew where the stone was; its magic had called out to him like a beacon from Neville's pocket the moment he had opened his inner eye. Voldemort wouldn't find that out, however, not if he had anything to say about it.
The temperature in the room seemed to drop as Voldemort approached him, eyes blazing. "You can't? Or you won't?" the dark wizard asked dangerously.
Swallowing reflexively, Harry held his silence. Taking that as the boy's answer, the Dark Lord strode over to Neville's still unconscious form and kicked him onto his back.
"Come here, Harry."
Still unable to shake the grip of the charm, Harry did as he was told. When he was standing beside his friend, Voldemort spoke again. "Life is such a fragile thing, Harry. A simple spell killed your parents; a convenient drunkard killed your uncle - though you were lucky enough to share in that fate. Did you know that a negligible amount of pressure on your friend's throat, say the weight of an eleven-year-old boy, would be more than enough to cut off his air and kill him?"
Harry stopped breathing as the weight the Dark Lord's words sank in. Regardless of the pain he was feeling from the attempts, Harry began fighting wildly against the magic holding him.
Before Voldemort could say another word, however, the door Harry had used to enter slammed open to reveal an agitated Professor Snape. Harry had never realized that a single person could experience such a myriad of emotions at once, until now. Fear, relief, horror, and anger were flowing off the Potions Master in waves. It was more than a little unnerving to Harry because he wasn't sure which ones the professor was feeling towards him. Before Snape could so much as raise his wand, Quirrell/Voldemort raised an invisible shield between them.
"Quirrell!" snarled the Potions Master. "What are you doing here? Drop the shield immediately or else!"
"Really, Severus," purred Voldemort's disembodied voice. Quirrell was directly facing Snape and the Potions Master had been unaware of the Dark Lord's presence. "Quirinus is doing exactly what he should...what you should have been doing since my disappearance."
"My--my Lord?" Snape asked in panic as his head darted around the room, in search of the voice's origin.
"Very good, Severus, I see you remember me. I would let you join us, but you've been working for Dumbledore so long, that your loyalties are no longer clear."
As Harry watched the byplay between the two/three men, he felt a white-hot ball of anger building up in his chest. Snape was working for Voldemort; Harry had been betrayed yet again. Closing his eyes, he turned his anger on the charm. The pain was incredible but he was beginning to see its hold weakening. At the very edge of his perceptions, he felt the familiar signatures of Draco and Hermione. They snuck through the door and hid themselves behind a pillar close to the Potions Master.
"Now if you don't mind," Voldemort lilted as Quirrell turned to let him face Snape directly. "Harry and I have some unfinished business." Turning back to the boy, he made a simple command.
"Put your foot on his throat, Harry."
Harry barely heard the strangled gasps from his friends and Severus' choked curses. Small wisps of smoke were coming from Harry's chest and his knees were on the verge of buckling in pain as he tried to resist. He fought the magic binding him but it held firm. Slowly and unsteadily, he raised his right foot and placed it on the throat of one of his best friends.
It was no use. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't loosen the net of magical energy that surrounded him more than slightly His fists clenched and sweat beaded his brow as he fought the commands given him by Voldemort. Tears of frustration were trickling out of his eyes when he heard an unexpected voice in his head.
"Harry," said Sal from nowhere in particular.
"Sal - Where are you?" Harry muttered through gritted teeth.
"Hush child, and listen. You can break the enchantment around you, but it is dangerous. It will take everything you have to do it. Are you willing to risk your life to save your friends? It's not just Neville's life in danger, but all of theirs. Should Voldemort get the stone, he will kill everyone here to keep his secret."
"What do I do?" Harry muttered
"Good boy," answered Sal with pride, though he sounded a bit anxious as well. "Don't bother yourself trying to unravel the net of magic around you, ignore it. I want you to go deep into yourself. Find your magical core and build on its fire. Burn away the alien magic. If you are strong, and your desire great enough, you will destroy the charm. If not, you will destroy your magic and possibly yourself."
"Harry," said Voldemort, almost conversationally, "crush your friend's windpipe."
Forcing himself to ignore what his body was doing, Harry pushed his focus deep within and sought out his magical core. Merging with the brilliant little star, he imagined it to be a flickering flame. Then he increased its intensity until it was blinding hot and focused it outward toward the charm around his neck. Harry didn't know if it was because he was seeing his core as flame, or if it was some reaction to his fight with the charm, but he felt as if he were on fire.
He gave everything he had, but still it wasn't enough. He could feel himself weakening when he heard Hermione and Draco both yelling, seemingly from far away. They were yelling for him to stop, to break the charm's hold. They were both saying he could do it. Gathering everything he had left, Harry channelled it at the charm, overwhelming it. Just like that, he was free.
Harry fell backward, overjoyed to hear Neville gasp for breath. Completely exhausted, he tried to reach out with his senses, but found only darkness.
"Get up!" commanded the Dark Lord. "I told you to kill Longbottom!"
"Impossible," whispered Voldemort, suddenly sounding tired. "You've broken the charm. Quirrell, punish the boy."
Even with his inner eye out of commission, Harry could still sense the professor's approach. Unfortunately, he was too weak from his exertion to defend himself. Harry had barely rolled over to his hands and knees when a kick to his ribs sent him back to the floor.
"Harry!" cried Draco and Hermione as they pounded on the invisible shield. He could hear Snape as well, it sounded like he was casting spells, possibly at the shield between them. Holding his side he tried to lever him self up again when the breath was knocked out of him by a solid kick to the stomach.
"What's the matter, Potter?" sneered Quirrell, not noticing the breeze that had sprung up in the room around them. "No snappy comeback? You should have given in and done my Lord's bidding. Now you will die."
Kneeling down, Quirrell reached out and grabbed Harry by the throat. Again, the sound of sizzling flesh was heard. This time, however, it came from the professor's hand. "Aaaahhh!" he screamed, looking in horror at his red and blistered hand. "What have you done to me?"
Harry, who'd struggled to his knees, was only aware of the pain coursing through his own body. Between the burns caused by the now useless charm and the pummelling he'd received, he felt terrible. 'At least there's a nice breeze in here,' he thought drunkenly to himself.
Quirrell, who'd collected himself again, pulled out his wand. "Fine then, Potter, for some reason I can't touch you, so I'll kill you in a manner proper for a wizard." He flourished his wand, as the strange wind whipped his robes about. He was secure that no one would be able to save the boy. "Avada Kedavra!"
Unable to dodge, Harry braced himself for what he knew was to come. What he couldn't see was a serpentine form materializing between them just as the spell was cast. It was able to spit a gob of corrosive venom into Quirrell's face even as it used its own body to block the spell. The professor's high-pitched scream of agony went unheard by Harry as the limp form of Hedwig landed in his arms, thrown backward by the power of the spell that had been cast.
"Hedwig? Hedwig!" cried Harry as he realized what had happened. Totally ignoring the wizard who was writhing on the floor, his face no longer recognizable, the boy franticly tried to revive his pet. He became hysterical when Hedwig's body suddenly evaporated, leaving him empty handed. The last thing he heard as he keeled forward was his friends calling his name.