The Many Faces of Harry Potter: Chapter 4
By = Fayanora
Note: Again, I copied and pasted in a few places. I do try to limit how much I do that, but sometimes I just can't improve upon the original.
Note two: There was a question about Harry's transformation in the Forbidden Forest, and so I will note here what happened: The animal-like Other (who gets named in this chapter) was the one transforming there, and the changes were all internal, in Harry's body, to increase strength, stamina, and give him night vision.
Note three: There was also a question about where I get inspiration for each of the other Faces. As to that, they match certain archetypes that a lot of Multiple collectives seem to have. Alastair is the Protector (in fact his name is a version of Alexander, which means "Defender of humanity." Lots of Multiples have an Alex or Alexander or Alastair in their collectives, I've found.) His personality is loosely based on my own Alex, though Al is much more likable than my Alex. Zoey is obviously the archetypal child member of the collective, loosely based on one of my system's child Faces, Molly. I'm not sure what, if any, archetype Iliana would fit under, but she is very, very, VERY loosely based on two of our collective's Faces, Fayanora and Tempest. The new animal-like Face (named Tier) is based loosely on what our collective member "Pi" was like when we first became aware of xer, except that Pi has always known language, where Tier doesn't so far.
"Write what you know," right? :-)
As to the physical appearances of Harry's others, yes, I deliberately made Iliana look like Lily and Alastair look like Sirius because thinking about the reactions of people around them who knew the people they resembled made me laugh. I never bothered coming up with an explanation for it, but I suppose if magic can let you remember the night your parents were killed despite you being younger than 5 (which most people can't remember their infancy because of the way the brain sacrifices memory for learning) and an infant, then it could let them remember other things from infancy, like the faces of friends and family.
I didn't intend on there being any similarities between Tier and Remus, though I can see the resemblance, personality-wise, between Tier and Remus's werewolf side. (Tier looks like Harry so far.) Tier is much tamer than a werewolf, though, and him biting someone would be no worse than any bite from a human, except that he'd have a little more power behind it because of the changes from the transformation.
Chapter Four: The Many Faces Face the Two-Faced
It was odd, at exam time, how they kept switching between pants-shitting terror of Voldemort, and their new collective mate's mournful pining for the Forbidden Forest. Both conditions were extremely distracting, and they were struggling to get through the exams.
"We've decided to call it Tier," Iliana said one day after a particularly annoying exam, pronouncing it 'tee-air.' "It means 'animal' in German."
"'It'?" Hermione asked her, confused.
"Him, I mean. Tier's a... well we think he's a male, so that's what we're going with for now."
Yeah, and I wish he would stop pining for the forest already, it's annoying.
Their mood did not improve, however; Tier just got worse, if anything. And for reasons none of them could fathom, Tier got most agitated around Professor Quirrell, and it took all their collective willpower to keep it from attacking the man's turban. And they kept finding themselves having to explain why they were growling, however quietly, whenever Snape was nearby as well. Only Iliana's effect on Snape had saved them from a detention at one point, because of it.
With all of that going on, it was no wonder they found it hard to think. But think they did, and in fact something kept bothering them collectively, and Al in particular, about the whole Stone mystery. It was only after their last exam in History of Magic that their mind cleared enough for Al, his concern wresting control of the body from Iliana but not triggering them to transform away from her appearance, to sit there staring into space, thinking, ignoring the conversation about the exams that Hermione insisted on, despite the fact that they'd finished with them all.
"What gets me," Al said, rubbing their shared scar in annoyance, "is how this damned thing keeps hurting all the time now. It would only hurt every now and then before, but ever since that night in the forest, it's been going off every few hours. And pain relief potions don't really help."
"Well go to Madam Pomfrey," Hermione suggested.
He continued to sit there, rubbing the scar, not talking, until suddenly he burst out in anger, "I wish I knew what this MEANS! This isn't some normal pain. This scar, it's magical somehow. I think it's a warning, danger's coming."
"Don't worry so much, Al. The Stone is safe as long as Dumbledore's around. Dumbledore's the only person You-Know-Who was ever scared of. Neville will play Quidditch for England before Hagrid lets Dumbledore down. Anyway, your glower looks weird on Iliana's face."
Al bolted up suddenly, standing, "Shit, that's it!" He began to march off, the other two scrambling to catch up.
"What's up, Al?"
"I forgot, when Malfoy almost got away with seeing Norbert, that I'd gotten to within an inch of it in our conversation with Hagrid. You two didn't appear to notice, but I said it was highly convenient for him to just find an effing dragon egg. The one thing Hagrid wanted the most since he was a kid, and some bloke in a pub just manages to have one, when they're illegal? How did I miss this? We're going to Hagrid's place NOW."
When they got to Hagrid's place, they found him shelling peas outside his house.
"Hullo there, finished yer exams? Got time fer a cuppa?"
"First question Yes, second question No," Al said, still in Iliana's version of the body. "We're in a hurry. Hagrid, we need to ask you something. The night you won Norbert's egg, what did the stranger playing you look like?"
"Dunno. Wouldn' take his cloak off."
"And this didn't strike you as suspicious?"
"No, Al. Yeh get lots of funny folk in the Hog's Head. That's the pub it happened at, down in the village. Might've been a dragon dealer, mightn' he? Kept his hood up the whole time."
Al frowned, resisting the urge to comment. "You must've talked, I doubt he just gave you the egg for no reason. What'd you talk about? Did he mention Hogwarts at all?"
"Might've come up," Hagrid admitted, frowning in thought. "He asked me what I did, told him I'm gamekeeper. He asked about the animals I look after, told him that too. Lessee... that got us on interestin' creatures, and I think I mentioned I've always wanted a dragon. Kinda fuzzy there, he kept buyin me drinks. He said he had a dragon egg, wanted ter know if I'd play him for it. But he wanted ter know I could handle it. I told him, after Fluffy, a dragon'd be easy."
Again resisting the urge to box Hagrid's ears, Al asked, "Did he seem... interested in Fluffy?"
"Well yeah. How often do yeh come across a three headed dog, even if it's yer trade? So I told him Fluffy's a piece o' cake if yeh know how to calm him. Just play him a bit o' music and he falls straight to sleep." Hagrid's frown deepened, then turned to horror.
"I shouldn've told yeh that! Forget I said it! Wait, where're yeh goin?"
"Don't blame yourself, Hagrid," Al called back, his temper rising but not at the gamekeeper, "you were hoodwinked."
Fighting the body's attempt to transform, he said to the others, "Come on, we need to go tell Dumbledore that Hagrid accidentally spilled the beans about Fluffy. He needs to know Snape is after the Stone. Damn, must've been easy once he got Hagrid drunk, poor man. He'd never betray Dumbledore while sober. Now where's Dumbledore's office?"
They struggled for several minutes to try to find the headmaster's office, to no avail. Just as they were about to give up, Professor McGonagall appeared, demanding to know why they were indoors on such a lovely day. They told her they were looking for Dumbledore, and to their horror she told them he was out, that he'd received an urgent owl from the Ministry. This resulted in Al biting back a swear word, and the three of them attempting to get her to understand and believe them that the Stone was in danger. It did not work out so well, and they got chased back outside.
As soon as they could, they went back in. "It's tonight," Al said. "Obviously. Why else get rid of Dumbledore? I'd be really surprised if that urgent owl was genuine. More likely the Ministry is going to be confused when he turns up."
"But Al, what can we-" Hermione gasped, and Al turned to look where she was. With a sinking heart, he saw none other than Snape.
The man grimaced in Iliana's direction again, then turned pointedly away to face Ron and Hermione. "Good afternoon," he said with forced nonconcern. "And what would three young Griffindors be doing indoors on a beautiful day like today?"
Al couldn't help himself, he snorted. Snape gritted his teeth. "This coming from the man who's pale as a vampire, and spends all his time in the dungeons where it's dark and dank. Interesting how you assume everybody just likes bright sunshine and fresh air, especially when you don't appear to do so yourself."
He grinned to himself at the sound of Snape's teeth grinding. The man otherwise ignored Al-liana.
"You want to be more careful," said Snape. "Hanging around like this, people will think you're up to something. Now LEAVE, before I MAKE you leave."
They turned to leave, but Snape called back, "Potter, be warned. That face you're wearing right now will not protect you from me forever. Do not think I will hesitate to have you expelled if I catch you at any more night-time wanderings."
Thankfully, he then strode off toward the staffroom.
When they were out on the steps, Al turned to Ron and Hermione. "Alright, so we need to watch that git, make sure he doesn't head towards Fluffy. Hermione, you do that. You can pretend to be waiting for Professor Flitwick, you're always so abnormally worried about failing your tests, you really should see a therapist for that, by the way."
She blushed, but nodded. "I'll go keep an eye on Snape then," she said, stalking off.
"You and I, third floor corridor."
This did not go exactly as planned for them. McGonagall got very cross with them, complaining that two 11 year old wizards weren't going to be any help and that their help wasn't needed anyway, and they had to rush away to the common room to avoid further invoking her wrath. Soon after, Hermione showed up, Snape having waylaid her by bringing out Flitwick and taking off while she was talking with him to try to keep her cover. Al stood there thinking.
"Well there's nothing else for it. If we can't get the teachers to take us seriously, and we can't stand guard, we'll have to go out tonight. It's insane, it's suicidal, but if there were any other option, I think we'd have thought of it by now."
"Al, that's ridiculous! What if you get expelled?"
He glowered at her. "Better expelled and Voldemort foiled than in school with him running the place or worse. Haven't you heard what it was like back when he was powerful? Death, destruction, and dark arts everywhere! No, I won't risk that happening again. If that means I'm expelled, well, I'll just see if I can join Hagrid as apprentice gamekeeper. I'm not letting the man who murdered my parents come back to life, I'm not letting that Stone fall into his hands!"
They looked grim, but nodded.
"So what's the plan?" Ron asked, knowing Al never acted without one. Hermione nodded, and chimed in that she would help too.
Al blinked in surprise, then looked thoughtful. "You two sure you're willing to risk being expelled? If they'd expel the Boy Who Lived, I doubt they'd hesitate to expel the two of you."
"I'd almost like to see them try," Hermione said. "After I got a hundred and twelve percent on my Charms exam. Flitwick told me. If they throw me out after that, they're mad."
He nodded curtly. "Right then. So let's talk plan..."
While they waited for night-time, the three of them researched for anything that might help them. Al sat around, Iliana long since resigned to him making her face look intense as he tried to work out what might face them soon, and how to counter it.
When the common room finally emptied, Al had the invisibility cloak and Iliana's broomstick with them, as well as a roughly carved wooden flute Hagrid had given him for Christmas. Fortuitous, that, he thought to himself.
He was just discussing the cloak when Neville got up from a chair. How they hadn't spotted him, Al didn't know. He glowered at the boy, wondering if Iliana's face gave the glower more or less of an impact.
"What are you three doing? Iliana, you shouldn't be out again. You lost 50 points last time. And now three of you? What if she takes 50 points apiece? We're almost done for the year, we'll lose if you're caught!"
Al paused to weigh his options. He considered telling Neville the truth, but they were already running late. Who knew how far Snape had gotten? It might already be too late.
"Sorry, Neville, but this is an emergency. Literally life and death, and we don't have time to explain further."
Neville stood in the way of the portrait hole. "Don't give me that. I'm not stupid, you know. If it was that important, you'd tell the teachers."
"We did. They don't believe us."
"Well I don't believe you either. If you want past me, you'll have to fight me!" He put his hands up like a boxer.
Al sighed, and gave Hermione a pointed look.
"Petrificus totallus!" she said, wand pointing at the boy, and Neville went into a full body bind, falling over on his back.
While Ron looked in fear upon Hermione, Al passed Neville and said, "Sorry, Neville; we'll explain later."
"I'm really very sorry about that," Hermione apologized on her way past.
"Yeah mate, you'll understand later, if we don't die."
Great, thanks for that reminder, Ron, Al thought, feeling the fear returning. Bloody Griffindor traits. Ah well, nothing else for it.
It was a very tense time, winding their way silently through the dark castle under the cloak. As it was, they had a close call with Filch's cat, and nearly got caught out by Peeves, which had Al freezing up, unsure what to do. If it hadn't been for Harry in the back of their mind coming up with a great plan, tricking Peeves into thinking they were the Bloody Baron, they wouldn't have gotten past.
"Brilliant, Al!" whispered Ron.
"That one was Harry's idea."
"Nice one, mate."
Al felt himself sweating, his heart racing, as they opened the door to Fluffy's chamber. It looked very menacing, growling at their invisible forms, sniffing the air for their scent. Al put the flute to his lips, and began to play, badly. But that didn't seem to matter; from the very first notes, the enormous dog's eyes drooped, and it was soon fast asleep. So asleep, in fact, that Ron was able to push its paw away from the trapdoor without waking it up. But the moment he stopped playing, it started to wake up again, so he had to keep it up. This made giving orders a mite difficult.
"Wow, I can't see the bottom," Ron said.
Al blew extra hard on the flute to get Ron's attention, and pushed the brooomstick over to him with his foot. Taking this as a cue, Ron commanded it to go UP! Soon, the three of them were on the broomstick, flying down the hole. Al stopped playing once they were in, and almost immediately heard Fluffy barking.
Putting the flute away, he used his wand to shine a light. When they reached the bottom, the light shone on some ugly-looking black plant thing.
"Devil's snare!" Hermione said. "It's very dangerous, it likes strangling people to death."
"Okay, so how do we get past it?"
"It doesn't like light and heat."
"Okay, so let's use fire then."
She nodded, getting out her wand. The other two did as well, and soon they had a brilliant fire going, which scared the Devil's Snare to move toward the walls, leaving an opening big enough for them to fly through. In a flash, they were through and stepping off onto the floor.
"Given that we didn't see any corpses, I'd take it as a sign Snape got through okay, too."
They walked on through the dark corridor, Al and company sincerely hoping that there were no dragons down here, like there were in some of the Gringott's vaults. He was both relieved and annoyed when they found a room full of what looked like glittering birds.
Ron went to check the opposite door, which was locked.
"They're keys," Al said, Iliana's sharp eyes coming in handy. "This must be Flitwick's. The Devil's Snare was Sprout's, obviously."
"And there are brooms here."
"You guys take those, I'll use Iliana's."
"We're looking for big, old-fashioned one, probably silver, like the handle," Ron said.
They got on their respective broomsticks. Al, recognizing that he sucked at this sort of thing, gave control of the body back to Iliana. She'd been listening in on everything and was thus able to take control without any adjustment period, before zooming off after the key, helped along by the fact that the one she sought had a bent wing; Snape must have manhandled it on his way through. Even with that edge, though, there were still thousands of keys, and they moved like a great hive mind, in murmurations like starlings. As such, it took strategy and teamwork, Iliana shouting orders at the others, to finally pin the thing down and wrestle it into the keyhole. But at last, they were through the door.
The next chamber was dark at first, then lit up when they got in. A giant chess set met them, with a whole lot of bored-looking stone chessmen standing around, which glanced up as they entered. The opposing white pieces, on the other hand, had no faces.
"We defer to you on this one, Ron," Al and Iliana told him. Playing their way across a giant chess set, it had to be Ron for that; he beat Hermione, Al, Harry, and Iliana every time any of them tried to play him, often in a handful of moves.
Ron considered things for a few minutes before nodding and giving commands. At his command, Iliana and Hermione took the place of a bishop and a castle, respectively. Ron took the place of a knight.
It was an intense game, made all the more so by the fact that the white players bashed the black pieces into unconsciousness. Al winced whenever it happened, not wanting to know how bone would fare under the kind of power needed to knock out a stone man. He and Hermione had several close calls, where Ron almost didn't rescue them in time, making Al worry he'd piss himself. Or rather, piss Iliana's pants... whatever.
Then they came to a spot where Ron stood there for a very long time staring at the white queen, considering, thinking so hard Al could almost hear the gears turning.
"Right. Sorry, but there's only one way to win this. I've got to be taken."
"Are you crazy? Those bloody things could KILL you!"
"That's chess!" snapped Ron. "You've got to make some sacrifices! I make my move and she'll take me — that leaves you free to checkmate the king, Al!"
"Do you want to stop Snape getting the Stone or not?"
Al glared at him. "Yes, but-"
"Well we're running out of time! This will work, and it's the only move that will."
"Fine then. But if you die, I'll kill you."
Ron grinned. "Understood. Now don't hang around once you win, okay? I don't mind dying. Prefer not to, but to stop You-Know-Who..."
"Just tell us what to do."
Ron told him where to move, once the queen took him. He nodded. Ron took a bracing breath, then moved into position.
The queen marched right at him, and swung at him, hitting him on the head. He was out cold. Hermione almost moved, but Al stopped her. Then, gritting his teeth, he moved into position.
The white king took off its crown and threw it down at Al's feet. They'd won. Quickly, they rushed over to check on Ron. He appeared to still be alive.
"Damn it. But he's alive. You heard what he said, let's go on."
It pained them to do so, but they moved on.
In the next chamber was a giant troll, knocked out.
"Thank goodness for that," Al said, hurrying past the stench.
The next room they ran into had a line of bottles. They'd scarcely even noticed this when a fire sprang up behind them, blocking the way back. A black fire blocked their way forward.
Al noticed a scroll by the bottles, and read it. It was a riddle. Handing it quickly over to Hermione, he said, "This one's all you. My brain hurts just reading it."
She read it, and reread it, several times, moving along the row and obviously working it out. It took her over ten minutes, though how long he didn't know, not having a watch on him. But at last, she perked up.
"I've got it. The smallest bottle moves us forward."
Al looked inside the bottle. "Only enough here for one person. Which one gets us back?"
Hermione pointed at a rounded bottle at the right end of the line.
"Right. You take that one. No, hear me out. Take Iliana's broom and get Ron to the hospital wing. Then let Dumbledore know where I am, if you can. If not him, then McGonagall. We need help with this, I'm no match for Snape."
"But Al, what if You-Know-Who is with him?"
"Well we were lucky once, maybe we'll be lucky again. Heck, for all I know there were even more of us before, and one of them died protecting me, like a cat with nine lives. Anyway, get going, we're in a hurry."
"Al... you and the others are really great, you know. So don't die, okay? I'll be very cross with you if you die."
"If I die, I'll haunt you, okay?"
She laughed, a broken laugh.
"Now scram, okay? I'll see you later, one way or another."
She nodded, taking the potion to get back. He watched her go through the flames before taking his own. It was like ice flooding his body. Iliana's body. Whatever. Screwing up his courage, he stepped through the black flames and saw... not Snape. Not even Voldemort. It was... Quirrell?
In just a few seconds, everything clicked into place. Suddenly he felt like a fool. Of course it wasn't Snape; Snape had fancied his mum, he must have been protecting them, even if Harry looked like his father and Iliana like their mother. And this explained why Tier always got so agitated around Quirrell. He remembered Percy saying the turban was new; he remembered overhearing Quirrell begging mercy from someone. In an instant, he knew Quirrell wasn't alone. Voldemort was under that turban, had been the whole time. He felt sick at the thought.
The man was smiling at him; he must have heard them talking in the other room. His wand already out, Al recovered his wits and fired hexes at the man, who parried them expertly. Gone was the quivering, shivering, scaredy-cat fake Quirrell; he was seeing the real man for the first time ever.
"What, not surprised, Potter?" Quirrell bantered. "Was it so obvious? No wait, I saw those gears clicking into place in your face; you were surprised, but not shocked. You put it together, when you saw me here."
"Stop talking and fight!" Al shouted, still hurling hexes.
"Oh Ms. Potter, I haven't even started fighting yet. I'm playing with you, like a cat with a mouse."
His scar flared with pain, and he felt Tier wake up. But he couldn't afford to let Tier have control, so he fought with all his might to keep control. Fought so hard that he triggered a transformation into his own version of the body, at last.
"Ah, so it's Alastair Potter I duel with, not Iliana. No matter, you just lost!" Quirrell said, hitting Al with a spell binding him with magical ropes.
"Now do hold still while I go back to trying to figure out this damnable mirror," he said, turning back to stare at what Al recognized as the Mirror of Erised.
Dumbledore, he thought. He wondered if he could scoot closer, maybe see how to get the stone before Quirrell could. He attempted it, and fell over. So he went with option B: distraction.
"I take it that troll in the dungeon, on Halloween, was your doing?"
"Yes, Potter, indeed. I have a special gift with trolls — you must have seen what I did to the one in the chamber back there? Unfortunately, while everyone else was running around looking for it, Snape, who already suspected me, went straight to the third floor to head me off — and not only did my troll fail to beat you to death, that three-headed dog didn't even manage to bite Snape's leg off properly."
Wish he'd bitten YOUR leg off, you evil git.
"This mirror is the key to finding the Stone," Quirrell murmured, tapping his way around the frame. "Trust Dumbledore to come up with something like this … but he's in London … I'll be far away by the time he gets back. …"
"Voldemort is under your turban, isn't he?"
Quirrell shuddered at the sound of his master's name. "Y-yes," he said, sounding briefly like his fake nervous self again. "You're quite right. I am never alone."
"Well that's just bloody disgusting. Why are you helping him, then, if he's just a parasite? What could he possibly do to you?"
"It's not what he could do to me that concerns me, Potter, but what he can do for me. Once he is restored to power, to life, the one who helped him will be rewarded greatly. In fact... well, I hesitate to share the credit, but I must admit this mirror is confounding me. If you'd like to help me, I'm sure my master could forget his quarrel with you, and give you anything you want."
"Oh really? Can he bring my parents back to life, then? Or is that just a little beyond him?" Al asked, reading the answer in Quirrell's annoyed face. "Well if that's the case, tell Moldywart he can go suck an egg."
"Such a mouth on you, Potter," said a hoarse whisper of a voice, chuckling at his cheek.
"At least I have my own mouth," Al shot back. "Well, kinda. More so than you do, at any rate."
"You speak parseltongue?" the harsh whisper said in surprise.
"No idea what that means."
"Never mind," the voice said, sounding different in some way to Al's ears now. "Use the boy, Quirrell."
Quirrell untied Al's bonds and dragged him over to the Mirror.
"Tell me what you see," the man demanded.
Al looked in the Mirror. As he did, he felt Harry looking as well. But it was, again, Iliana who appeared in the Mirror. And once more, they saw Harry's parents, their parents. And their mother was winking at them, and mouthing the words "I love you all, my brave children," just before slipping something into their pocket. Something that they felt as a real, solid weight.
Well that's interesting, he thought. Now what?
"Tell me what you see, Potter!" Quirrell demanded.
Lie, of course, Iliana said.
Knowing the best lies were half truths, Al said, "I see my parents. Our parents. Harry's parents. They're saying they love us."
"Oh how touching," Voldemort said sardonically. "But I sense you're hiding something from me. TELL THE TRUTH!"
"Yes, Potter, tell the truth! What do you see?"
"I see Dumbledore hexing you to oblivion, destroying what little is left of you, and your name being gleefully forgotten, Moldywart."
"INSOLENT WHELP! Let me speak to him face to face!"
"M-master, you are not strong enough."
"I know my own strength, Quirrell. Now do as I command!"
Oh god, Hell no, Al thought as he felt bile and vomit rise in his throat in anticipation of what was coming. He tried to look away as Quirrell undid his turban, in slow motion, the world crawling past inch by inch. He tried to run, but he was powerless.
Still rooted to the spot, the back of Quirrell's head became exposed, and it was like he'd turned over a stone and exposed some disgusting, maggoty, rotting corpse underneath. Before he could stop himself, he felt vomit exit his mouth and splatter to the floor, his legs weakening at the sight. Voldemort's snakelike face was sticking out of the back of Quirrell's head, an image he knew would forever be burned into his retinas.
"Alastair and Harry Potter," the disgusting thing spoke. He sensed a monologue coming on, and tried to say something to stop it, but he just leaned over and retched onto the floor again, the scar on his forehead burning like a branding iron.
"See what I have become?" the face said. "Mere shadow and vapor … I have form only when I can share another's body … but there have always been those willing to let me into their hearts and minds. … Unicorn blood has strengthened me, these past weeks … you saw faithful Quirrell drinking it for me in the forest … and once I have the Elixir of Life, I will be able to create a body of my own. … Now … why don't you give me that Stone in your pocket?"
"Fuck!" he shouted, and bolted for the door, not caring if he could get through the fire or not. But he didn't get there; Quirrell grabbed his foot. He kicked the man in the face with his other, but then the man got wise and shot spells at him, making him have to zig-zag like Malfoy.
"Don't be a fool," snarled the face. "Better save your own life and join me … or you'll meet the same end as your parents. … They died begging me for mercy. …"
"LIAR!" Al shouted.
Quirrell was walking backward at him, so that Voldemort could still see him. The evil face was now smiling.
"How touching …" it hissed. "I always value bravery. … Yes, boy, your parents were brave. … I killed your father first, and he put up a courageous fight … but your mother needn't have died … she was trying to protect you. … Now give me the Stone, unless you want her to have died in vain."
"Not even when Hell freezes over!" he shouted.
Before he could get away, Quirrell grabbed his arm. They struggled, but Al faltered as he sensed Zoey coming out. He tried to fight it, but they glowed, and the little girl was being lifted by her arm. She grabbed the Stone from their pocket and screamed "FUCK YOU!" at the top of her lungs, the glow of transformation already suffusing them, enveloping them. As Al returned, he felt the Stone vanish Inside with Zoey, wherever the Hell things went when she took them with her. He was utterly astonished; he'd never before seen her take anything Inside that she hadn't brought out, and thus made, herself. Voldemort roared with rage.
"GIVE IT TO ME! GIVE ME THE STONE!"
"I CAN'T, ASSHOLE! Zoey took it Inside, only she can bring it back! And I'm fairly certain if you killed me, you'd never get it back in a million years."
The hideous face contorted with rage, and he pushed Al down, the two bodies struggling again. "I'LL TORTURE IT OUT OF YOU, THEN!"
"Good luck with that, maggot-breath!"
Tier suddenly joined the fray, eyes glowing red like hot coals, his roar echoing in the stone chamber, deafening both of them. Al took the opportunity to lunge at his attacker, clutching the man's face in his desperation for something to do, too amped up to even think about his wand. Luckily, it paid off, and Quirrell's skin burned at the touch. The man screamed, and tried to stop, but Voldemort egged him on. He lunged at Al, and Al pressed his advantage, burning every inch of the man with wild abandon.
As the man's screams intensified, something shifted Inside, and Iliana came out completely, finding herself burning the man, the strange magic causing him to fall over dead before her very eyes, which became wide as dinner plates. She'd killed a man! She'd never killed anything in her life before, not even insects, but here was a human being, who had been alive only moments ago, lying dead on the stone floor, and she was the cause. Al had initiated it, but she had delivered the killing blow.
Her body filled with numb dread. She couldn't even think, or feel. And like her state of mind, the body was also frozen in place. It wasn't until the ghostly apparition of Voldemort rushed her and went right through her, past the black fire, that she felt anything again; surprise, terror. She fell backwards, her eyes rolling into the back of her head. She saw a tall figure just before passing out, heard a voice call her name. Then all was black.
Consciousness took its sweet time returning to them, caught as they were in fitful nightmares. Over and over again, she saw the dead man, face burned like charred meat on a grill, pointing an accusing finger at her. His dead eyes burned with rage, with condemnation. Then consciousness flooded back like a tidal wave, and she woke screaming. She felt hands hold her down, and panicked; were they attacking her? What if she killed more people in her desperate bid for safety? She begged them to stop, pleaded with them, wept openly. Don't let me be a murderer! Please no! Stop! For your own safety, STOP!
Hands grabbed her head, forced her mouth open, and forced liquid down her throat. She felt herself shudder, then relax. But she was still crying, tears hot and wet and salty ran into her mouth. No... I don't want to hurt anyone. I... no... please...
When next they awoke, it was Al whose eyes took in the daylight. Memories flooding back to him, he looked Inside in some concern. Where was Iliana? He couldn't sense her anywhere. He sensed Harry groggily awaken, and Zoey, and even Tier. But Iliana was conspicuously absent.
"Ah, they're awake," a voice said. "And not screaming this time, that's good."
Dumbledore, he thought, recognizing the voice. He turned to look at the man through eyes thick with sleep dust, then rubbed the crud out of his eyes.
"Alastair?" Dumbledore asked.
"Yeah, tha's me."
"Ah good. Of course, it's Alastair's version of the body, but I've learned that doesn't necessarily mean anything. How are you, my boy?"
"I feel horrible. How long were we out?"
"Three days. Mr. Ronald Weasley and Miss Granger will be most relieved you have come round, they have been extremely worried."
"Three days? Wow." He grimaced suddenly, his face a rictus of pain, as he remembered Quirrell. "What happened? Did you get Hermione's owl?"
"We must have crossed in midair. No sooner had I reached London than it became clear to me that the place I should be was the one I had just left. I arrived just in time to pull Quirrell off you —"
"It was you, then."
"I feared I might be too late."
"You nearly were, I couldn't have kept him off me much longer."
"I hate to ask so soon, my boy, but the Philosopher's Stone. I know Voldemort did not get it, for I saw his spectral form exiting the chamber, but I could not locate the Stone. It wasn't in the mirror."
"Ah, yes. About that. Zoey appeared, in the middle of the fight. She grabbed the Stone, and took it Inside with her."
"Indeed? Well, that is very curious indeed. Is it still there?"
"Yes. I can sense it. I don't know where it is exactly, but it's Inside. It's safe."
"Hmm... well, Nicolas will be quite pleased to hear that. I did suspect, given some of the things I've heard about the youngest of you, but there was no way to know for sure until you woke up. Neither Poppy nor myself were able to find any trace of the Stone in your body. So where it is, exactly, is anyone's guess."
"Yeah. And it's weird. I didn't know she could take real objects Inside with her."
"It is entirely possible that she cannot. The Stone is a magical artifact, made of a form of crystalized magic, in fact. Very difficult to produce, very difficult indeed. But seeing as it's made of magic, it isn't exactly real per se, and that is, I suspect, how young Zoey was able to take it Inside with her."
"Sounds like a good theory to me." He frowned a little. "But Harry's glasses vanish and reappear later, so maybe that's not accurate."
"Hmm... that is indeed a good point, that I admit I had not considered. So perhaps there is more to it than that." Dumbledore sighed. "Of course, this complicates things a little. Nicolas will have to produce his Elixir of Life here in the castle, and I shall have to personally guard young Zoey when she brings the stone back out again, until she can put it back. But that's something we should only need to do once a year at the most, barring unforeseen circumstances."
Al nodded. "Sounds good to me."
"And now, my dear boy, I am curious... how is Iliana?"
"No idea. I can't sense her. None of us can. It doesn't feel like she's gone, though; just... just hiding. Or something."
Dumbledore nodded gravely. "I understand. From what I gather, she was the one in control when Quirrell died?"
He wanted to add how he'd been the one to start the process, how something had unexpectedly gone wonky Inside, forcing her out at just the wrong moment, saddling her with the weight of having killed a man, when it should have been him. He was the strong one, he was the one who fought the hard battles, not her. But the words would not come.
Dumbledore, however, seemed almost to read his mind, and smiled at Al kindly. "You wish it had been you instead? So she would not have to feel that pain?"
He couldn't speak, so he just nodded, a tear rolling down his cheek.
"I understand. But I rather suspect that unpleasant job went to the one most capable of bearing it. That's nothing against you, my boy, but you seem to me much like an oak, projecting an air of strength to mask a gentleness and frailty you find shameful, putting on a brave face against the world, (which is important in its own way), while Iliana is more like a reed, appearing weak but bending under the weight of the winds of life, surviving where an oak would crash to its death."
Alastair wanted to be offended, but the man's words had a ring of truth about them, so he merely nodded.
Move aside, Al.
What? Oh Harry... sure thing.
Without transforming, Harry took over, and looked at Dumbledore. The elderly wizard smiled at him. "Yes, Harry?"
How did he know?
No idea. Not important right now.
"Even assuming Zoey keeps the Stone away from Voldemort forever," Harry said aloud, "does that mean he can't come back?"
"Ah. I'm afraid there are other ways he can come back. He has, shall we say, taken certain steps to guard against death. Steps that appear to have succeeded, more or less. But even if all we can do is thwart him time and again, that is still a major victory, Harry."
"Sir, there are some other things I'd like to know, if you can tell me … things I want to know the truth about. …"
"Ah, yes. The truth. A dangerous thing, the truth can be. But, given my own foolishness in my quest to protect you, Harry, given my mistakes, I will endeavor to answer truthfully. I may refrain from answering, depending on circumstances, but I promise you I will not lie."
Loquacious bastard, aren't you?Al thought.
He wasn't sure why, but for some reason he believed Dumbledore, despite the man's overdone answer.
"Okay then. Voldemort said that he only killed my mother because she tried to stop him from killing me. But why would he want to kill me in the first place?"
Dumbledore did not answer right away, his face was deep in thought, as though weighing whether or not to speak.
"Alas, Harry... I do not wish to say this, but I must refuse to answer that one, for now, especially in light of Iliana's condition. She does not need any additional stress right now. I shall tell you one day, but not today. I beg your forgiveness on this, for I know it must be frustrating to hear, but you will know when you are older."
Figures, Al grumbled internally.
"Okay. I disagree about not being ready for that. And I get a sense that whatever it is might actually help Iliana, but I accept your answer, for now."
"Thank you, Harry."
"So why couldn't Quirrell touch me? Us. Why couldn't he touch us?"
"Because of the most powerful force in the world; love. Your mother, who loved you greatly, died to protect you, and that protection is – I think – what saved your life that night in Godric's Hollow. It is an old magic, a powerful magic, and one that Voldemort – who has never known love – cannot understand. And because he cannot understand it, he constantly underestimates its power. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good."
I smell manipulation there. The stink of clever propaganda, Al said to Harry.
I agree, Al. That was just a little too perfect. But I think he has a point about Voldemort not knowing love. It sounds like him.
"Professor Snape. Why does he hate me? Is it because of my father?"
"Ah, yes. They were enemies in school, rather like yourself and Mr. Malfoy. And then, to complicate matters, your father did something that was, to Professor Snape, unforgivable."
"Oh? What's that?"
"He saved his life."
"Yes, funny how the human mind works sometimes. Professor Snape wanted to hate your father's memory in peace, but he owed the man a debt, and so tried to save you from Quirrell. Peculiar, is it not?"
Yeah, 'peculiar' is the word alright. He's hiding something. I don't know what, though.
"And sir, there's one more thing …"
"Just the one?"
"How did we get the Stone out of the mirror?"
"Ah, now, I'm glad you asked me that. It was one of my more brilliant ideas, and between you and me, that's saying something. You see, only one who wanted to find the Stone — find it, but not use it — would be able to get it, otherwise they'd just see themselves making gold or drinking Elixir of Life. My brain surprises even me sometimes. … Now, enough questions. I suggest you make a start on these sweets. Ah! Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans! I was unfortunate enough in my youth to come across a vomit-flavored one, and since then I'm afraid I've rather lost my liking for them — but I think I'll be safe with a nice toffee, don't you?"
From raging egomaniac to clever distraction in less than twenty seconds, Al quipped. This guy should've been in Slytherin. Oh well, we'll get nothing more out of him now.
Tasting a bean, Dumbledore pulled a face, coughing and hacking most convincingly. "Alas, earwax."
Al flashed Harry an image of himself holding up a large white card saying "10.0." Harry actually laughed aloud at that image, and Dumbledore appeared to think he'd laughed at the man's Every Flavor Bean antics.
"Oh, one last thing, Harry, before I go. You'll no doubt recall I promised to make you a ward of Hogwarts. Well that is precisely what I have done; the paperwork and wandwork are almost complete, all that is required now is your signature here on this line," he said, pulling out a roll of parchment, and pointing at a line on the bottom.
"Please read the entire document before you sign, Harry; it is a Gringott's form, and will subsequently not become binding unless you read the entire thing first. Thankfully, it is not long. And I assure you, understanding is not required; just reading."
Harry took a few minutes to read the very boring, jargon-filled parchment. He did manage to get the jist of it, at least. Signing the document meant he would spend his holidays either here at the school or with friends; his affiliation with the Dursleys would be terminated, as would – by the nature of the spell – the protection of his mother's blood, the very thing that had killed Quirrell. Reading this, he did hesitate for the briefest of moments, pondering what he would be giving up. It had saved his life, after all. But then he reminded himself what he would be going back to if he didn't sign, as well as what that protection had cost Iliana, and that decided him. The risk of death was worth the freedom and chance for happiness. He happily signed it and returned it to the headmaster.
"And with that, the deed is done. You are now a ward of Hogwarts."
He wondered if he ought to feel different, because he hadn't felt anything change.
When the headmaster left, Harry triggered a transformation back to his original body, and then had a heated discussion with the matron about visitors, a discussion he won. Soon after, Ron and Hermione came in, and he started getting them up to speed on what had happened, then it was their turn to tell the rest of their side of things.
"Well, I got back all right," said Hermione. "I brought Ron around — that took a while — and we were dashing up to the owlery to contact Dumbledore when we met him in the entrance hall — he already knew — he just said, 'Harry's gone after him, hasn't he?' and hurtled off to the third floor."
"D'you think he meant you to do it?" asked Ron. "I mean, if he knew... and he gave you the cloak to begin with. Passed it on, anyway."
This idea so horrified Hermione that he decided not to tell Ron that he agreed. But when Hermione wasn't looking, he did give Ron a rather pointed look, communicating without words that he seriously believed Dumbledore had tested him and the others in the collective. A thought that infuriated him even as he thought it, because if true, that meant Iliana's post-traumatic stress over being a killer was Dumbledore's fault.
That thought was then followed by other thoughts, and Alastair realized that being tested like that had to be for a reason. He thought of Voldemort trying to kill him as a baby, and failing. He thought of how Dumbledore had felt the need to protect him from the wizarding world until the last possible legal moment for a wizard, from Death Eaters. He thought of his ability to use his scar as a diving rod to find Voldemort. And he thought – bizarrely – of all the books he'd read in the library growing up, and it all clicked together. He and Voldemort were linked, and the whole thing had the stink of destiny to it. He groaned aloud; that had to be it! He was a bloody trope! He was the Destined Savior. It was going to have to be up to him-up to them, rather-to stop Voldemort.
Oddly, though, this comforted him. He'd half suspected it anyway, he thought, ever since he first heard about that night in Godric's Hollow. Even then, he'd known that being the only person to ever survive a Killing Curse had to be Significant. There was no way it could be anything else. Especially with what the centaurs had said about the signs in the stars and planets. What had Firenze called them? The Chorus That Sings The Song Against Evil?
Oh, and the fact that Dumbledore was withholding information, and trying to manipulate him, that had to mean Dumbledore knew. Not only that, the man was using him. He was a bloody pawn, and Dumbledore fancied himself the chess master.
What the man hadn't said suddenly became as significant as what he had said. Dumbledore thought him too weak to bear this burden. The man wanted to preserve his innocence, or some similar nonsense. As though he could even remember having such a thing after years of living, unloved, in a house where he was worked like a slave and fed sporadically by people who hated him just for existing.
No, he'd been conscripted as a soldier in the war against Voldemort from the tender age of 1, and everything else in his life thus far had been meant to mold him into the perfect soldier. Hardened by neglect and child abuse, yet apparently the memory of his life before all that stuck around in his subconscious, giving him the ability to love; his mind multiplied into who knew how many different minds, because two heads are always better than one when tackling difficult problems; and of course, having friends at last, loyal friends that were willing to risk death at his side, tying him to the world, helping him to care about its people.
Well, he would show Dumbledore. He would show them all, by accepting the burden willingly. And when Dumbledore finally saw fit to inform him, he could say he knew, from this point on. He would face this war willingly, and he would win, or die trying.
"Harry? You okay, mate?"
Should he tell them? He didn't know. He felt Iliana stirring again, felt her plug into the common memory and get updated. He felt her go through the same series of emotions he and Harry had already been through, felt her come to the same conclusion.
"We're fine. Iliana's back, by the way. She was missing in action until now."
"Yeah, we wondered about her, mate; we heard she woke up screaming the other day."
"I don't think she's over it yet. Killing Quirrell, I mean. She may never be over it. But she's better than she was."
Ron nodded. "Listen, you've got to be up for the end-of-year feast tomorrow. The points are all in. We won, but it was a very narrow victory; Slytherin almost won. I think if Iliana hadn't tried so hard to make up the points you lost that night, we wouldn't have managed it. Oh, and you missed the last Quidditch match, we were steamrollered by Ravenclaw without Iliana — but hey, we won the house championship, and the food'll be good."
"I doubt that will console Wood."
His friends laughed at that. "Too true," Ron agreed.
At that moment, Madam Pomfrey bustled over.
"You've had nearly fifteen minutes, now OUT," she said firmly.
That night's sleep was not exactly great; they had nightmares about Quirrell again, to which were added nightmares about Voldemort killing everyone they loved before torturing and killing them, but regardless, they still felt well enough to go to the feast. He feared it would take a lot of cajoling to get the matron to agree, but she grudgingly admitted that Dumbledore had said he was to go.
"Oh, and you have another visitor."
As it turned out, it was Hagrid. The large man took one look at Harry in the hospital bed, and burst into tears, throwing himself on Harry like a weepy polar bear.
"It's — all — my — ruddy — fault!" he sobbed, his face in his hands. "I told the evil git how ter get past Fluffy! I told him! It was the only thing he didn't know, an' I told him! Yeh could've died! All fer a dragon egg! I'll never drink again! I should be chucked out an' made ter live as a Muggle!"
"Oh Hagrid, it's not your fault. Voldemort is a manipulative git. He'd have figured it out one way or another, you just had the misfortune to be hoodwinked by him."
"Yeh could've died!" sobbed Hagrid. "An' don' say the name!"
"VOLDEMORT!" Harry bellowed, and Hagrid was so shocked, he stopped crying. "I've met him and I'm calling him by his name. Please cheer up, Hagrid, we saved the Stone, Zoey has it safely locked up Inside."
Consoled at last, Hagrid nodded, then suddenly remembered something; it was a present for Harry.
"Photos. Searched high an low for em, asking everyone who knew your mum and da. Reckon you ought to have something ter remember em by."
None of them could speak. But Iliana took control and hugged the large man, bursting into tears herself. Now it was Hagrid's turn to awkwardly attempt to comfort a weeping person. Such was the intensity of her tears that neither of them noticed the body transform into Iliana's form when it happened.
"I killed a man, Hagrid! I've never killed anything before! And there he was, burned and bleeding, the life gone from him! I'm a murderer! I should be in prison! Why am I not in prison?"
Hagrid couldn't answer at first, he was crying again along with her. Eventually, though, he gained enough control to answer.
"Yeh're not 'orrible, Iliana. It was self defense, kill or be killed. If a hippogriff were ta kill summat who threatened its life, that wouldn't be a bad hippogriff, fer doin what it could ter protect itself. And you was protectin everyone else You-Know-Who might kill, too, if he came back. Yer not a bad person, Iliana, yer a hero!"
She cried with renewed vigor, but the cadence was still the same.
"I know it don't feel like it now, but yeh'll feel better. Yeh'll prolly never forget it, and that's a good thing, but it'll hurt less in time. You jes remember that I love yeh no matter what, ya hear? You're no monster, Iliana; trust me, I know a thing or two bout monsters."
That managed to get a chuckle out of her, at least. Hagrid grinned.
"There's my smilin young Iliana," he said tenderly. "There's my beam o' sunshine. You buck up, ya hear? Try to remember he was an evil git, and was tryin ter kill yeh, or worse. And remember that I love yeh no matter what. Never forget that, yeh hear me?"
She nodded, still sniffling, but feeling better again. The two of them sat there on the bed, Iliana leaning against the large man's comforting warmth for as long as she could.
Despite his words, Iliana had broken down at least twice more before the day was over, and though they didn't transform again, she still retreated, leaving Harry to pilot the body, by himself, down to the Great Hall. He took a moment to conceal the puffy redness under their eyes from her crying beforehand, though, knowing Malfoy would be there.
On his way to the Griffindor table, Harry could hear everyone talking loudly about him and what had happened down in the Mirror room with Quirrell. Given some of the content, he was glad Iliana had checked out again; positive as it was, it could still trigger her.
Fortunately, Dumbledore arrived moments later. The babble died away.
"Another year gone!" Dumbledore said cheerfully. "And I must trouble you with an old man's wheezing waffle before we sink our teeth into our delicious feast. What a year it has been! Hopefully your heads are all a little fuller than they were … you have the whole summer ahead to get them nice and empty before next year starts. …
"First of all, I would like to congratulate Slytherin House for winning the Quidditch cup yet again!"
Cheers erupted from the Slytherins. Everyone else was silent.
"Well done Slytherin, well done Slytherin. Second, as you are all no doubt aware, the House points are in, so I say congratulations to Griffindor House, for winning the House Cup!"
Now everyone but the Slytherins cheered; the Slytherins' boos were drowned out by all the cheering.
Dumbledore then launched into a somewhat vague account of the events beneath the school, which made Harry wonder why he bothered, though it was punctuated by various students chiming in with accurate facts about what had happened, such as Percy boasting that his brother Ron had gotten past McGonagall's giant chess set. He was also interested to note that even Neville standing up to them had been noted, the man saying it took just as much bravery (if not more) to stand up to your friends, and his curiosity deepened.
"And so it is with great pleasure that I award Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley, and Neville Longbottom special awards for services to the school!"
Stunned by both this proclamation and by the wall of ecstatic noise that hit him, Harry couldn't help letting Iliana's jaw slacken with shock. But however stunned he was, was as nothing to Neville's face. It took several groups of people working together to pry the two stunned kids off their seats and up to the front to receive their awards. Or rather, to have their pictures taken with the awards before said awards went up into a case in the trophy room.
While a part of him was elated, he was also annoyed; he could feel pressure from Iliana building, and resisted it, pushed her down for now; it wouldn't help either of them for her to surface now. He just concentrated on looking pleased as punch as the Great Hall erupted into jovial chaos.
Having almost forgotten about exam results, he was later surprised once more to have passed, despite all the trouble he'd had concentrating. Before long, all of his friends were packing, getting ready to leave; everyone but him, of course. He just watched, back in his original form again.
There were many extended, and repeated, goodbyes, as he saw his friends off outside the doors of Hogwarts, watching them board the carriages. He smiled, feeling bittersweet. His mind began to wander, but it didn't get far; his stomach fell out of his body, or so it felt, as he noticed the strange skeletal, horse-like winged creatures that pulled the carriages. In mute horror, he wondered how it was that nobody else was noticing these blank-eyed monstrosities, even when the creatures' movements should have been catching their eyes.
"Whatcha lookin at, Harry?" Hagrid said, suddenly at Harry's side.
Harry pointed at the horse things, gaping.
"Oh," said Hagrid. "Ah yeah, I figgered you'd be able ter see em now, what with everything that happened."
"You... you see them too?"
"Yup. Don't worry, Harry. They're harmless, long as yeh don't rile 'em. They're called thestrals. Only people who can see em, are people who've seen someone die. Makes me right glad so few people can see em, specially after the dark times we 'ad back some twelve years back, I tell ya what."
Harry sighed, relieved that he wasn't going mad.
Ron's and Hermione's carriage was the last to leave. Just before leaving, Ron said, "You must come and stay this summer, both of you — I'll send you an owl."
"Thanks," said Harry, "I'd love to meet your family, Ron. And yours, Hermione."
His friends waved goodbye to him, and he waved back, watching them go, until he couldn't see them anymore.
"Right. Well now tha's done, Harry, welcome to yer new home. Wanna join me in a cuppa?"
"That sounds great, Hagrid."
So he followed his large friend, wishing he could take the large man by the hand, but forced to try to walk very fast to keep up with Hagrid's large stride.
Well this should be an interesting summer.
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