Playing Chess, Part Two:Pawn Takes Queen
A/N: Apologies for the delay.
Leirad: Harry does not know the Summoning Charm, which Canon Harry doesn’t learn until GoF.
The white king’s pawn ground forwards two places.
“First. Who exactly are you?”
Professor Quirrell’s shoulders straightened, and he appeared to consider thequestion.
“I am Professor Quirinus Quirrell, Lord David Monroe, Sir Jeremy Jaffe, DoctorArtadus Bunting, and a handful of others.”
Professor Quirrell’s gaze grew distant.
“As for how I came to be what I am… well. You are familiar, I know, with theDark Art called Horcrux.”
Harry nodded. He’d given some thought to how that spell could be used, if itcould be engineered to use some different source for the death-burst, such asa magical creature. If a phoenix’s regeneration superseded the power of amagical sacrifice, that was one potential option…
“I was David Monroe, defender of Britain. The Dark Lord was tearing thecountry apart, and if Magical Britain fell the rest of the world would surelyfollow. The Order could not hope to defeat Voldemort.” The voice grew bitter.“I thought myself better suited, a Slytherin to counter a Slytherin.”
Monroe’s eyes narrowed.
“I was naïve. Albus Dumbledore was the only living wizard who could truly becalled Voldemort’s better, on top of that wielding the Hallowed Wand, calledthe Only One He Ever Feared. At no point was he anywhere near enough to matchthe terror that was the Dark Lord.”
The beginnings of a sneer were playing about his face.
“I was a fool, a complete and utter fool. You wonder where I learnt mywizardry, boy? I pierced Salazar’s Chamber, I spoke to his snake, I studiedthe Forgotten Arts. And when I was finished, I thanked the Basiliskcourteously and left. I returned to the Chamber in my final year, to give myfinal thanks and goodbyes.”
Then his voice was no longer contained, but cracked and vicious.
“I found the Basilisk’s mouldering corpse! Beside it was a Penseive with amemory of Riddle gloating that he had killed the creature that only everwished to help him, that Salazar had left as an unconditional gift to hisheirs!” The aura of danger around Quirrell focussed into a pain in Harry’sscar, and a light wind fluttered the elder wizard’s robes around him.
“I make no claim to be a good person, Mr. Potter, but I like to think that Iam not so empty as Riddle was even as a child.”
A black knight fell from its granite horse.
Quirrell clenched a withered fist.
“And yet, I thought I could stand against Voldemort. Do you know what his plantruly was, boy?” he spat. “I learned of it later; you will understand soonenough. The Dark Lord was playing. I was powerful enough, courtesy ofSlytherin’s Monster, but utterly, hopelessly outmatched. Voldemort could havetaken over Magical Britain within a week. But he had been bored, he washaving fun… His plan was to allow me, David Monroe, to seemingly finallydefeat him and take over Britain, and thence the world. But when he learned ofthe prophecy, he had no further use for me.”
Quirrell sacrificed a pawn to the white queen.
He sighed. “In the beginning, I thought I could redeem Slytherin house. Itsays something rather profound that one thing I shared with the Dark Lord wasan intense dislike of bullies. I would change that, become the Slytherinagainst whom all others would be measured.” A short, bitter laugh. “And yet Iwas always a pawn of the Dark Lord, as I discovered one Hallowe’en.”
Harry gave a small, involuntary step back at that. The tension had beenrising, and Quirrell looked coldly, calmly furious. Harry had theuncomfortable notion that this was what his friends felt when he was angry.
“I knew the prophecy, and I had received intelligence that the Dark Lordintended to attack your home. I arrived on the scene to find James dead on thethreshold, Lily fallen having tried desperately to save you.” A touch ofsorrow reached Quirrell’s eyes, such an expression as Harry had rarely seen onhim. “The Dark Lord used Lily’s death to perform the Horcrux spell upon you.He planned, I believe, to thus destroy all but a remnant of you and remove thedifference between your spirits, and set you up as a puppet instead of me. Itdid not end well for him.”
“Yes. I am given to understand that the resonance is a side-effect ofprophecy. As the Dark Lord wrought his spell, the turbulence began to burn himfrom the inside out. Just as I arrived, Riddle counterspelled my attempt atshielding as easily as I overwhelmed those bullies in the hallway, and then hecast aside his wand and tried to possess me, hoping to protect himself.”
The white king moved to hide behind a pawn.
“ I- I was caught up by the Horcrux spell. As he was trying to possess me, itwas not the traditional overwrite, but a massive input of all that Riddlewas…”
Quirrell trailed off, and took a deep breath. He looked old, and tired, andmiserable. The Defence Professor had never shown such emotion in all the timeHarry had known him. He gave Harry a measuring look.
“Mr. Potter… Harry. This- this is not a pleasant story, especially for you.This is one of the things I see when the life-eaters approach. And yet I knowthat you have seen things most will have the luxury never to see. You are noordinary child. Even so, I will not blame you if you refuse to see this.”
A lump rose in Harry’s throat. It was the first time, the first time ProfessorQuirrell had ever used his first name.
From the dark robes came a small, grey stone bowl etched with odd runes, whichsettled on a conjured desk. Quirrell placed his wand to his temple and drewfrom it a thread of what looked like something between molten lead andPatronus light, which settled in the bowl, glowing faintly blue.
“It iss ssafe.”
Harry swallowed, remembering the last Penseive memory he’d seen, Dumbledorelosing his brother. He placed his hands on either side of the bowl, and leaneddown until he fell into the memory.
The nursery was warm and brightly-lit and airy, yet it held a chillreminiscent of Dementors. Lord Voldemort stood over the corpse of a red-hairedwoman, tall and pale and terrible, tracing a spiral pattern in the air. Thespiral was neither dark nor bright, no colour human eyes should have received,no colour a human brain could describe - it looked like the colour ofsomething entirely colourless, with nothing behind it whatsoever, the samecolour as what Harry saw out of his elbow.
Harry realised with a jolt that this was in part Voldemort’s memory.
A small part of Harry noted that the Penseive showed more detail thanVoldemort could possibly see, let alone remember, and wondered how to exploitthat ability.
Black hatred surged in Harry as the Dark Lord touched his wand to LilyPotter’s forehead and raised it to the swirling spiral of nothingness.
Lord Voldemort hissed in cadences older than Latin, “Sozdomai, ton phrenonemou sozdo…”
The beginning and ends of the spiral of nothingness glowed stark white.
The bone-white wand rose, touched the infant’s head-
And then the far wall was torn away, a gust of wind blew freezing dropletsinto the warm room, and a man dismounted a broomstick and drew his wand in onesmooth motion.
“I truly thought I might save them,” came the soft voice of the modern-dayMonroe from behind Harry.
Harry jumped and turned.
“I am… very sorry for what happened this night.”
Harry nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
The young Monroe rushed towards the screaming Dark Lord, opening his mouth tochant Shield Charms-
Voldemort slashed his wand and released it mid-swing. Monroe’s shields weretorn away like so much tissue paper, the Dark Lord vanished in a black swirl,and Monroe collapsed, holding his hands to his bleeding head and screaming,screaming in two tones, alternately deep and human and high-pitched anddemonic-
The spiral of nothingness flashed every colour and burst, setting every hairon Harry’s neck on end and-
The nursery vanished.
The darkness coiled around him, and David was dead, he knew he was dead, lifecould not possibly contain such pain. Suddenly his head rushed, and he wasassaulted with a thousand books, a thousand libraries, everything that was theDark Lord, and it burned.
The scene changed.
The scraggly little rabbit was growing old. It had a bite taken out of oneear and its fur was falling out and most of its tail was long gone, but BillyStubbs doted on it. It didn’t take Legilimency to know that it was the onlything left in the world that yet loved Billy.
One day, Billy had shoved Tom Riddle at the dinner table, had taken the lastof his favourite food, and when Tom had protested Billy had hit him, andcalled him a freak.
And Tom had listened to Billy’s screams, and his sobs, and more screams everynight when he had nightmares (always inexplicably vivid and consistent), afterthe rabbit was found hanging by its neck from the rafters, and smiled.
The scene changed.
“Go on, then!” bellowed the small, balding man. “Go on then, _Tom! Kill me!Martyr me! I’ve lived a good life. More than anyone could say for you. You’repathetic. I’m not scared of you.”_
_“Is that so, Yermy?” hissed a voice that might have come from the whistlingwind or the crackling fires consuming the bolt-hole. “Is that so?” He waved askeletal, spidery hand, and the Disillusioned, Silenced forms of three womenwere revealed behind him. _
“No,” whispered the old man, “No, no, NO-”
The scene changed.
The Dark Lord reappeared in the nursery, staggering.
Then the scene paused, and Professor Quirrell turned to Harry.
“The Dark Lord unwittingly imprinted his being onto me,” intoned the modernMonroe grimly. His voice took on something like a professorial tone, though itwas still strained. “Mr. Potter, when you heard of the Horcrux spell, what wasyour first thought?”
It took him some effort, through the numbing pain, horror and revulsion, butHarry thought back. “To improve it.”
“And this Lord Voldemort had done. He had formed his greatest creation: animproved Horcrux. Legends suggest this may have been the original form of thespell. Regardless, each Horcrux granted him what might be called a soul: aconstant non-physical embodiment of his being.”
Something of a Riddle. “One Horcrux buried in solid rock,” muttered Harryheavily, “One Horcrux sunk to the depths of the ocean. One Horcrux droppedinto the Earth’s mantle. One Horcrux flying invisibly in the sky. And onedrifting forever through space, the Pioneer Plaque.”
That wasn’t quite as bad as it could be. There might be some way to trackthem, somehow, through the magical link that must surely exist in some form…and NASA knew exactly where the Probe was…
Quirrell seemed to gather himself, and his gaze turned sharp. “If you areconsidering the practicalities of a great quest to hunt down the fragments ofthe Dark Lord’s soul, know that the spell has no great cost, merely a murder.”
“I see,” said Harry hollowly. “The Dark Lord made a Horcrux every time hemurdered someone. Pebbles tossed in the sea, grains of sand…”
“Mr. Potter, this puzzle,” Quirrell gestured to the tableau, “is soluble withyour knowledge of magic. The Dark Lord Voldemort releases his possession andreappears before you, briefly dazed, and you are able to Stun him before herecovers. He has thousands of Greater Horcruxes hidden even he knows notwhere. If you kill him, he will return, and he will wreak the most terriblevengeance upon you. What do you do?”
Harry saw the solution instantly. What he’d been calling his dark side wasjust the echoes of the Dark Lord in his mind, and when he’d asked it what itthought of death…
The Dark Lord Voldemort had held such a terror of death that he had seized onhis first solution and implemented it again and again, flinching away from theuncomfortable thought that it might be fallible.
A Muggle security analyst would call that fencepost security, like building asingle mile-high fencepost in the middle of the desert. Nobody would try toclimb it - they’d simply walk around it.
No number of Horcruxes would ever help Frank and Alice Longbottom. Thirtyminutes under the Cruciatus Curse, and the Dark Lord would be gone forever.Or, even better, hit him with an Obliviate hard enough to make him forgethis own name. The greatest Dark Lord in centuries could be destroyed by afirst-year of Hogwarts.
“You Memory-Charmed him so hard that he lost his entire episodic memory?”
Professor Quirrell shook his head. “That would have been the better solution,but no. Not quite.” His eyes were stony and still, his face seeming carvenfrom ice. “Words cannot possibly express my feeling in that instant. Monroe’srighteous rage, Riddle’s cold fury…”
The memory-Monroe snatched the Dark Lord’s fallen wand and hissed,“Stupefy.” The scene froze again.
“Using two wands is dangerously unpredictable and inefficient, but I wasbeyond all reason.” The words were quiet. “I had hated Riddle before. Hemurdered my entire House, and some he did not grant the mercy of the KillingCurse. I arrived too late, held them as they died… and yet never before Ireceived his Horcrux spell did I feel such loathing.”
The younger Monroe aimed two wands at the Dark Lord and shrieked, “CRUCIO!”
Harry watched, almost unseeing, as the Dark Lord writhed and twitched underthe wands of Harry’s friend’s younger self.
It wasn’t right, it shouldn’t have happened, not even to him, not to anyone.
Quirrell’s voice was soft, lilting, and Harry felt sick as he realised thatthis was most likely the best part of the memory for Quirrell.
“Before you judge me too harshly, Harry, listen. This is my worst memory, theworst memory. This night, I was made to be like the Dark Lord. Riddle had oncetried to be happy. He was nothing if not sensible. He spent a great deal ofeffort trying to help people. He was Alexander Chernyshov, he liberated sometiny hellhole and its inhabitants wept tears of gratitude. For him, it feltlike nothing in particular.” Quirrell’s voice dripped contempt. “I can stillremember how it used to feel to help people, call to mind the warm glow.Sometimes I still feel it, to some degree. That plain indifference is the DarkLord’s curse, worse than any magic I or any other could cast on him. And thatis what he gave to me. And that is how I cast one of the most dreadful cursesand feel nothing.”
Harry was frozen, he had no idea what to say, no idea what to think.
“I will not show you the worst of Riddle’s atrocities. I am not a soft-heartedman, Mr. Potter, but sometimes I still wake from nightmares about whathappened to Amy Benson and Dennis Bishop, when the Dark Lord was nine yearsold.”
The memory faded, and Harry was standing once more on a tile of cool stone.
Harry wiped the sweat from his forehead. There would be time to process all ofthis later, time to rage and weep later. For now he could use his Occlumencyand pretend to be someone impartial. He needed to learn as much as he could.
“What was the Dark Lord actually planning?”
The grim, stony expression remained. “The Dark Lord planned to have DavidMonroe appear to kill him, then touch a Horcrux and become a puppet leader. Asfor why he did not effect this sooner… past emotions are difficult to untanglefrom the mess of Riddle’s memories, but I believe he was simply enjoying thegame too much. He felt invulnerable, and fell too deeply into the role he wasplaying. Dumbledore, you see, has not a Slytherin bone in his entire body, andyet he tries because he must. Dumbledore brings to his task the Elder Wand,the Line of Merlin Unbroken, a phoenix, some source of foreknowledge, magicbeyond any seen for three hundred years, intelligence, dedication, and anutter lack of talent. For that reason, he is marvellously difficult topredict.”
Harry’s throat felt dry. Somewhere, the Sorting Hat was screaming at him. Thethought had finally occurred to Harry that his unreasonable hatred ofDumbledore had come from the imprint of the Dark Lord, and indeed, when he’dqueried his dark side he’d found burning hatred and contempt. I think, saidHufflepuff, you owe someone a very big apology.
Quirrell’s lips thinned. “The Dark Lord’s little game broke five of my rulesat first count, which is generally too much no matter how much fun one mightbe having, but I suppose he thought he stood to lose little.”
The white king was hemmed in now.
“Another question, Professor. Who killed Hermione? The wards identified it asyou.” Please don’t let it have been you, if you killed Hermione I want tobelieve you killed Hermione, please don’t let it have been you…
Professor Quirrell set his teeth. “I did not succeed in what I did to the DarkLord, Mr. Potter. ”
“Of course you didn’t. It would be purest optimism to assume the Dark Lordis no longer a threat, just because he was Cruciated into insanity and burnedto a crisp…”
“The Dark Lord was the greatest Occlumens in all recorded history. Merlinhimself would have been unable to pierce his mind. Somehow, he managed toignore the curse long enough to fake catatonia. Like a fool, I approached, andhe seized his wand and poured the scraps of his magic into a blasting cursethat vaporised my body and blew the roof off Godric’s Hollow, but burnedVoldemort as well. He expired shortly thereafter. As a partial copy of theDark Lord, I was protected by the Horcruxes. It was then that I found that thegreat creation was imperfect. I could not float free, but was shackled toHorcruxes that the Dark Lord had hidden even from his own eyes. I was trappedamidst the stars for years. I did consider going mad, and sometimes wonderthat I might have. The stars were my greatest comfort, for it is their naturetoo to burn, lonely, in the night.”
The blank look on the Defence Professor’s face was unnerving. “Eventually,almost two years ago, a man named Quirinus Quirrell found a Horcrux hidden inthe folly of Riddle’s youth, when he hoped for immortality by hiding lesserHorcruxes behind tests of skill and might. Quirrell was a Mugglebornadventurer, come to seek his fortune, with a vague fallback plan of teachingMuggle Studies at Hogwarts. I had more presence of mind than the Dark Lord’sshade, and seized control. I suppose I shall owe Mr. Quirrell an apology whenI can create a new body with the Stone, though this is something differentfrom true possession and I doubt he will be permanently harmed.”
A pang of sympathy for the original Quirrell tore through Harry, although hesupposed that it was technically justified to steal someone’s body for a fewyears, to escape eternity trapped alone with Voldemort. “So Voldemort…”
Professor Quirrell sighed, and he seemed to diminish somehow. “Nobody isimmune to mistakes, Mr. Potter.” He traced a symbol in the air with oneunbroken finger movement, a triangle containing a line bisecting a circle.
“Thinking the Dark Lord truly lost, I sought the Resurrection Stone when youshowed me its symbol. I found it upon a ring that Voldemort had long ago madeinto a Horcrux - by sheer chance, he had targeted the ring, not the Stone -and hidden in the ruins of his grandparents’ home.”
The foul bird in the corner fluttered its wings.
“In retrospect, I ought to have burned the place to the ground with Fiendfyreand then sought the Hallow, which may have escaped even that curse, and yet Ilearned too late the value of unsubtlety. Some curses, such as the Parselmouthcurse, are more effective and easier to cast if they bind the caster as well.The Dark Lord, clever even as a youth, had cursed the ring to compel any whocame upon it to covet it, to protect it, to wish to own and use it forthemselves, bypassing any shield, and had made up for such a powerful effectby having it apply to himself tenfold.”
A sick feeling was growing in the pit of Harry’s stomach again. I’m sorry,Headmaster. “The curse identified you as the caster and overwhelmed you. Youmade the Resurrection Stone your Horcrux, and now, with its magic, the DarkLord’s shade can move freely. Voldemort possessed Professor Sprout, and framedHermione, and set the troll on her.”
Professor Quirrell nodded gravely. “The Dark Lord is half-mad, Mr. Potter, butstill not stupid. He strikes blindly at you. He Transfigured the troll fromthe cloak I was wearing on the day the Headmaster identified me to the wards,and used an old ritual to transfer a true troll’s magic to it.”
Harry clenched a fist. “What way can you conceive to eliminate the Dark Lordpermanently, Professor?”
“Further Cruciation. Obliviation. The Draught of Living Death. The Dementor’sKiss may suffice, although I doubt it. Dropping his wand into the pit ofAzkaban, although that would only affect the Dark Lord if he had a body, andthe wand would swiftly be broken down by the Dementors. Invoking some sort oftruly greater, insurmountable magical effect may work, such that from that dayforward the world would be without the Dark Lord… in fact, I think there maybe something quite close by.”
The white king was alone on the board, now.
“First we heal you, Professor. Then we resurrect Hermione, and then we makesure the Dark Lord never mildly irritates us again.”
Professor Quirrell laughed grimly, and behind him, the bird of black firespread its wings and gave a warped, crackling cry.
“And of course, Mr. Potter, what I have ssaid in thiss room iss no lie: amHorcruxx-copy of Dark Lord imprinted on pureblood-lord-hero, greaterHorcruxxxesss presserve Dark Lord copiess ssuch asss mysself, Dark Lordlivess, half-mad, he attacked girl-child friend.”
The cry came once more, louder.
Harry nodded curtly, and stepped onto the back rank, trapping the king.“Checkmate.”
The white king’s crown fell at his feet, and the next door swung open.
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