Smoke and Mirrors

“Hello, David,” said Albus Dumbledore calmly. The old wizard’s eyes glintedlike sapphires. His robes were a deep indigo-purple, padded and seeming tofollow his movements closely, such that they would not obstruct him. Fawkesperched on his shoulder, space-black eyes shining with righteous courage, likean unwavering flame. In Dumbledore’s right hand was a long, slender wand ofdark-grey wood, in his left the Line of Merlin Unbroken, and his magic wasgathered about him like a cloak.

“Albus,” replied the Defence Professor, inclining his head. David Monroe’s icyeyes met the Chief Warlock’s unflinchingly, his robes dark and reserved, acreature of cursed fire behind him, his own wand in his hand.

Dumbledore’s eyes gave the sudden impression of X-raying the DefenceProfessor. “I have kept my promise, Quirinus, to make no enquiry into youridentity, and yet one cannot help what one sees. It was Harry Potter’s naturethat convinced me, in the end.” The eyes twinkled, and he spoke as thoughconversing over drinks. “ I was most amused to find the boy forged in LordVoldemort’s image before me, blackmailing me for the sake of his fellowstudents. Such dark intellect, harnessed for the sake of Lily and James andMichael and Petunia’s warmth and love! Tom, in his hubris, created a goodVoldemort to oppose him.”

Monroe did not look like he was enjoying a casual conversation. “It ratherspeaks volumes,” he said dryly, “that it took Voldemort’s own help for you tohave a chance to defeat him.”

Dumbledore smiled. “Oft evil will shall evil mar, as Tolkien put it. I wonderwhat Harry made of that observation… you two really are quite alike, youknow.”

Monroe smirked. “I shall take that as a compliment. Just this day I have seenour young associate unravel the Words of False Comprehension. Oh, and we twowere the ones who seized Bellatrix Black from Azkaban.”

Dumbledore nodded. If he was surprised at either revelation, he did not showit. “My own Patronus identified Harry’s as the one that it detected inAzkaban. May I ask your intended purpose?”

Dumbledore’s calmness and politeness would have set Harry on edge before, buthe recognised that impulse as a habit inherited from Riddle, and discountedit.

There was a definite edge to Quirrell’s voice. “Yes, you who would never thinkof sharpening a Hufflepuff’s bones into spears.” He reached into his robes anddrew forth a bone-white wand that seemed horribly familiar, with a blackribbon tied around it. Thirteen and a half inches, yew, phoenix feather core…“I sought to find where Bellatrix had hidden the Dark Lord’s wand. If it comesto it, I shall use a Portkey to drop it into the central pit of Azkaban.”

Professor Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “I would call that inhumane, for anyother than he.”

Quirrell’s tone was acid. “Inhumane. And yet you withhold the Philosopher’sStone from the world. Yes, Mr. Potter accompanied me here, because copies ofthe Dark Lord or not, we both at least comprehend the elementary ethical axiomthat death is bad.”

The old wizard sighed. “Quirinus, the Stone, please.”

“Ah.” There was no shift in the stance of either of the two, but there wassudden danger in the air. “You truly do not know what the Stone does, then.Frank and Alice-”

“I am resolved,” said the Chief Warlock with iron in his tone, “to deafenmyself to such claims, for Tom is too persuasive and too cunning for myjudgement to be secure.”

Professor Quirrell passed a hand over his eyes. “That is madness. There is areason we call such paranoia an illness-”

In mid-sentence, the Defence Professor aimed his wand.

It happened before Harry could react, before he could shout a warning, beforehe could form the words of the Patronus Charm.

The Killing Curse struck Albus Dumbledore squarely in the chest.

The old wizard did not blink.

Fawkes spread his wings and cawed, the warm yet warning cry of the truephoenix. The dark-grey wand rose in front of Dumbledore like a sword, a waveof white fire ran up it and burst from the tip in a shower of sparks, and itwas like Harry heard a sudden song, a paean of glory and battle, a hymn ofvictory.

The Hallowed Wand. Whilst he held that, Dumbledore was no more vulnerablethan a Dementor - that was the part of Death’s power bound into the ElderWand.

The Peverells had had a taste for flashiness, it seemed.

Harry had thought he’d seen advanced magic before, but this he couldn’t followat all, it was just too far over his head, though he noted that Quirrell wasmoving like a Muggle martial artist but with inhuman grace, hissing echoingWords of Power, whereas Dumbledore was mostly standing his ground,occasionally waving the Elder Wand or murmuring something that would alwaysovercome Quirrell’s magic and show him gritting his teeth and gripping his ownwand with both hands to resist.

Quirrell gestured, and the black-red-white false phoenix hissed and streakedat Fawkes.

Horror-struck, Harry waited for the creature of life and rebirth to be cursedinto permanent death.

Fawkes screamed, and Professor Quirrell staggered. Dumbledore bellowedsomething ancient and terrible, and suddenly Fawkes was sheathed in goldenfire, and he met his mockery in midair, talons blazing.

Quirrell began to incant something incomprehensible, cold and harrowing, butDumbledore made a cutting motion and the rising sense of power vanished.

“The most powerful wizard alive” had most certainly not been an exaggeration.

Even if Harry had been able to make himself heard over the noise of the duel,even if the Mirror had let sound through in that direction, he wouldn’t haveknown what to say. Shut up and multiply - if Quirrell gets the Stone it couldsave hundreds of thousands of lives -

Do we trust Quirrell? asked Slytherin.

Dumbledore doesn’t know what the Stone does. Maybe he’d allow it to be usedin a hospital if he did, argued Gryffindor.

Dumbledore raised his wand and swung it like a cricket bat, speaking wordswith sounds he shouldn’t have been able to make and Harry shouldn’t have beenable to hear. The force of the resulting spell was such that Harry felt iteven through the Mirror, setting his teeth on edge and his hair on end.Quirrell’s eyes widened, and he was forced to conjure a burnished silvershield, which showed no sign of damage when the spell struck, but rang with apure, chilling note.

With a bolt of quicksilver and a sound like gunshot, Quirrell managed to forceDumbledore onto his back foot, but it was obviously hopeless. Quirrell hadSlytherin’s lore, and all the Dark Lord’s hoarded knowledge on top of that,but Dumbledore was even more skilful, not to mention invulnerable.

Singularis Nex!

Lux Argentus.”

A bolt of white lightning impacted upon a mote of pure blackness, whichswelled and burst, reforming into a swarm of daggers that converged onQuirrell, who popped like a soap bubble and appeared by his opponent’s side.He waved his wand and Dumbledore was surrounded by a vast sphere of solidsteel, glowing with enchantment, which Quirrell tapped with the Philosopher’sStone.

For the briefest moment, Harry thought Monroe might have won.

Then the shell glowed cherry-red and white-hot, and the solid steel consumeditself. Fawkes gave a victorious cry, and shredded the false phoenix intoscattered flames. The scraps of Fiendfyre danced ineffectively aroundDumbledore.

“It was foolish of you to try this, David,” came the old voice, gently.

“Think you can last another twenty hours, Albus?” spat Monroe.

Lose, Professor, begged Harry silently, if there’s ever a time to lose it’swhen the enemy is literally invincible…

With a whip-cracking motion, a line of fire impacted Quirrell’s shields andslammed him into the Mirror-wall. Dumbledore advanced on him, wand level.

The Defence Professor vanished, and did not reappear.

What the-

PAIN.

Darkness coiled around Harry, holding him and binding him so deeply that hedidn’t know where he ended and the darkness began.

Harry doubled over, crying out, and then it was over as Quirrell reappearednext to him, covered too by the Cloak of Invisibility, subject no more to theMirror’s power.

Harry could feel it, feel the magic start to resonate, but it was nothing likeas bad as in Azkaban. Possession doesn’t count as being anywhere near aspowerful as the Killing Curse, clearly.

Quirrell slashed his wand like a dagger over his left wrist, and his handwinked out of existence and in its place arose a shimmering red barrier overthe Mirror of Erised.

The shreds of Fiendfyre burned through the wall of Hogwarts and up through theearth.

The sense of doom, previously muted, rose to intolerable heights as Quirrell’sarm linked around Harry’s, shielded only by robes, and then they shot out andup through the tunnel, taking them beyond Hogwarts’ wards.

Distantly, Harry heard Dumbledore shatter Quirrell’s ward, and the old wizardreappeared, borne up by Fawkes-

A tug behind his navel, and the world vanished.


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