The Snake and the Dog
Sirius leapt out of his chair so quickly that Harry barely saw him move. Hiswand, which had never left his hand, was pointed squarely at the DefenceProfessor’s heart.
“Um, Sirius, that’s an extremely bad idea,” Harry said in growing alarm.
“Who are you?” demanded Sirius. He made no movements and spoke no spells, butHarry could see faint ripples, distortions in the air like a heat-haze, asmagic layered itself around Sirius.
“He’s not wrong, you know,” said the Defence Professor idly, leaning againstthe wall.
“Answer the question,” growled Sirius.
Quirrell looked distinctly unimpressed. “Professor Quirinus Quirrell. And putthat wand away before you have someone’s eye out with it.”
“Is he with you, Harry?” Sirius asked in a controlled voice, never taking hiseyes off Professor Quirrell, who was inspecting his fingernails.
“He is. And if he meant me any harm, I’d be dead by now.”
Sirius hesitated, then sheathed his wand.
“Well. Sirius Black, the great traitor and mass-murderer. How did you manageto escape Azkaban, then?”
“None of your business.”
“As truculent as ever, I see.”
There was a moment of silence.
“So, what now?” Harry ventured.
“We leave this place at once. We are most fortunate that Dumbledore has notarrived already. Then-”
“Hold on,” Sirius interrupted. “Where exactly are you taking Harry?”
“That,” Quirrell retorted sharply, “is of no concern to you.”
Harry tried and failed to think of something to say to dissipate the risingtension.
Something about Sirius’s stance changed in a way that Harry’s brain translatedto a dog raising its hackles. “I happen to be his godfather.”
Paying no notice, Professor Quirrell produced another Portkey from within hisrobes and tossed it to Harry. Wordlessly, he turned and stalked towards thehalf-rotten door, beckoning Harry with one hand.
Harry made to follow him.
Sirius reappeared before the door, and his wand was out again. “Where do youthink you’re going?”
Professor Quirrell closed his eyes briefly. “One perceives that the expression‘like a dog with a bone’ is well-founded.”
“I make the jokes around here, scaly.”
“Professor?” asked Harry. “Why not just bring him with us?”
Sirius nodded firmly.
The Defence Professor gave Sirius an appraising look.
Finally, Professor Quirrell sighed. “Very well. I confess that I am curiousabout our canine companion’s story. Now, must I remind the two of you that weare still in enemy territory?” Quirrell stepped smartly outside the Shack,past the boundary of the wards. He seized Sirius’ wrist, and Harry noticed hisgodfather’s hand tighten almost imperceptibly on his wand. Quirrell reachedinto his robes, nodded to Harry, and vanished.
Harry activated his own Portkey.
The evening air was crisp and clear. The Moon rose above the horizon, and afaint wash of stars was visible already.
Professor Quirrell waved his wand, and a ball of light appeared in midair,revealing a small, deserted farmhouse and a decrepit barn.
“Where are we?” asked Sirius warily.
“A deserted farm in Devon. It should do for our purposes tonight.”
Professor Quirrell’s voice had grown abruptly weaker, and he led them towardsthe barn with an irregular gait.
For a moment, it seemed to be an ordinary, empty barn. Then something bent andwarped in the air, and it expanded tenfold, revealing a warm, spacious, well-lit room. There were countless shelves bearing potions ingredients, sparewands, odd-looking bits of jewellery, and several strange devices Harry didn’trecognise. In the centre of the room, there was a groaning, rumbling noise,and a black altar surrounded by six black pillars arose from the floor.
“Well,” said Professor Quirrell, “first things first.”
Quirrell pressed his wand to himself, and suddenly he seemed to stand taller.His hairline spread out and forwards, his skin lost its pallor, and new fleshfilled out his sickly, thin limbs.
Quirrell reached into his pocket and withdrew the Philosopher’s Stone. For amoment, he held still; then he raised it to the light and examined itspeculatively. For a moment, Harry thought he might have seen a grid ofintricately-arranged points within it, but then the sight was gone.
Sirius seemed to be about to say something. Quirrell turned towards him, andthen his hand darted forwards, passing cleanly through Sirius’ shields, andtouched the Philosopher’s Stone to him.
It might have been a trick of the light, but the haunted, hollow look inSirius’s eyes seemed to ease, and he stepped back, blinking. “What just-”
Harry furrowed his brow. How did the Stone even know what Professor Quirrellwanted it to do? And how can a _rock know how to fix a human brain?_
Quirrell smiled thinly. “Mr. Black, would you mind awfully explaining how youcame to be out of Azkaban, and by all appearances not in fact a Death Eater?”
Sirius paused for a moment, nonplussed, then shrugged and began to tell hisstory. The words seemed to come to him more easily this time.
Quirrell raised his wand and traced a human shape in midair.
A man’s body, cloaked in fine and flowing robes, spun into existence beforethe Defence Professor, held magically upright. The body’s eyes were closed,and it did not breathe.
Quirrell tapped it with the Stone, then flicked his wand. From his pocketsarose an assortment of objects Harry didn’t recognise, which secretedthemselves in the conjured body’s pockets. The Defence Professor touched thebody’s limbs with his wand, tracing a line from shoulder to elbow, elbow towrist, hip to knee, knee to foot, murmuring incantations.
At length, Sirius’s story came to an end.
“Fal. Tor. Pan.”
An echoing thunderclap pierced the air, and Professor Quirrell’s bodycollapsed to the floor.
The conjured body’s eyes opened, and they were the same shade as Quirrell’s.
David Monroe’s new body looked like Quirinus Quirrell’s, but with deliberatemistakes. There were the same sharp features, the same icy eyes, but he seemedyounger than he had all year, and somehow more clearly and decidedly present.Professor Quirrell stretched slowly, examining his new hands, opening andclosing his fingers. “Obliviate,” he said to the man on the floor, and hisvoice had all of its customary dry precision.
“Um,” said Sirius, seeming to remember that he was an ostensibly-responsiblemember of the Order of the Phoenix, “should I be doing something about this?”
The original Quirinus Quirrell stirred feebly. “Free,” he gasped.
“Ah, Mr. Quirrell,” said the Defence Professor. “My apologies for the theft ofyour body.” A lazy flick of the wand, and a coin purse appeared in Quirinus’shands, which Monroe tapped with the Stone. “Please accept this as my payment.”Monroe muttered some kind of diagnostic spell, then nodded, seeming satisfied.Monroe offered his hand. The original Quirinus Quirrell took it and stood,slowly, incredulously, then turned and vanished with a dull pop.
David Monroe - Harry decided that it would be easier to just keep thinking ofhim as Professor Quirrell - turned back. “The time is come, Mr. Potter. Layyour ring upon the altar, dispel the Transfiguration, and I shall restore lifeas best I can. Sshe sshall not be harmed in any manner, but resstored to trueand lassting life.”
Heart hammering in his chest, Harry bent down and untied his shoelaces,ignoring something Sirius was spluttering about something or other beingimpossible. Carefully, he withdrew the solid-diamond ring and laid it upon theblack marble altar.
Two-thirds of a corpse sprawled across the ebon stone, so cold and pale indeath, standing out in sharp relief against the blackness.
Harry glanced away, holding himself together, pushing away all the memories,trying to ignore the image.
Professor Quirrell glided smoothly forwards and waved a hand over the body.Hermione’s body straightened and oriented itself, clothed in new Hogwartsrobes, unstained by blood or spellfire, and then Professor Quirrell pointedhis wand and new flesh streamed forwards, reshaping itself into restoredlimbs.
Behind Harry, Sirius gave out a choked yell and made to approach the DefenceProfessor.
“Stay back,” said Quirrell, perfectly calmly. “This procedure is exceedinglycomplex.” He pointed his wand at the obelisks, and they began to chant indeep, echoing tones that Harry thought sounded vaguely like Greek.
Hermione’s body started to become less pale, less twisted, seeming almostasleep.
“Harry,” came Sirius’s voice, gently, too gently, “I’m sorry, but she’s notcoming back. Don’t get your hopes up. Whatever your… friend is trying to do,it won’t work. The closest he could get is an Inferius, and that’s the lastthing anyone would-”
“Prediction noted,” Harry managed. “She’s not- her brain should be OK. I used-I used Muggle knowledge to keep her brain safe after she died, and she’s beenkept mostly static by the Transfiguration, and we have the Stone…”
Sirius laid a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “I’m not going to patronise you,Harry. She’s dead. Her soul has moved on. She’s never coming back.”
“And what if she does?” Harry said suddenly. “Does that mean she won’t have asoul? What do you actually expect to see?”
Sirius was silent for a moment. Then he looked intently at Harry. “Well… ifshe does, and she is who she always was, then a lot of people are very, verywrong.”
“Muggles can already bring people back from the dead sometimes. There arepeople whose hearts have stopped, and Muggle healing can make them startagain. Not always, but sometimes.”
Sirius looked thoughtful, and said no more.
Hermione’s body was surrounded by a pale-blue glow, which Professor Quirrellhad said would keep her perfectly static and preserved.
The Defence Professor turned and vanished upon the spot. A few moments laterhe reappeared, stowing a Time-Turner away under his robes. In his hand weretwo pebbles, one white and one black.
“What was all that about?”
The Defence Professor was humming a small tune to himself.
“The Philosopher’s Stone, as it turns out, Mr. Potter, is very useful. Allwill become clear.”
Quirrell took a piece of oddly bright white chalk from one of his pockets, andbegan to trace a circle on the floor, adding careful, precise flourishes thatglimmered oddly in the magical light.
“There is an old ritual that can sacrifice a magical creature to transfer itsmagical nature to one within the circle. Transfiguration sickness is a trickybusiness, and there is no use in taking chances. Besides, I would reallyrather not go through all this again.”
Amid the other questions that were competing for priority, Harry rememberedone in particular.
“Professor? May I just ask, when you were in the Mirror with the Headmaster,why didn’t you just show him what the Stone can do?”
Professor Quirrell did not look up from where he was drawing the circle on thefloor.
“The Dark Lord planned,” he began, “that Voldemort should lose. He wasmindful of the mistakes of the Dark Evangel, who tried to introduce herself asthe ‘Walking Catastrophe’ and ‘Apostle of Darkness’, but panicked and calledherself the ‘Apostrophe of Darkness’. And so when his walking joke of a DarkLord was seen as a serious threat, he lost any respect for Dumbledore, and toa certain degree I suppose that influenced me.”
“Why were you influenced by Voldemort in the first place?” Siriusinterjected. “And how do you know-”
“I am partly Voldemort, Mr. Black.”
There was silence for a moment, then Sirius shook his head. “You know what?Fine. Of course you are.”
“The Dark Lord used incredibly dark magic to copy his mind onto mine. No, I amnot as evil as he. If you would like to hear the details, please feel free tonever ask about it again.”
Quirrell still didn’t look up from his inscription.
“As I was saying, you discovered for yourself, Mr. Potter, that it is apersonal flaw of Riddle’s that he consistently underestimates other people.Well, ‘underestimate’ is not quite accurate: he does not consider other peopleto be players of the game in any respect. Your failure in your first battleagainst Sunshine was, in part, your heritage from Riddle. And so it did notoccur to me at the time to try to reason with Dumbledore.”
Professor Quirrell stood up, and turned to regard Hermione. He raised his wandand the circle flared brightly. A thought seemed to strike the DefenceProfessor, and he tapped the line of the circle with the Stone. “Finite,” hethen said to the circle.
The circle of brightness remained, and Quirrell made a pleased sound. “Thatproves that. The Stone makes magic a fixture in such a way that it is asthough there is no magic at all. This circle is magical, and yet it cannot bedispelled because there is nothing to dispel. ”
From his hand fell the two pebbles, and they landed in the circle and swelledinto the shapes of a unicorn and a mountain troll.
Before Harry could even begin to process this, Quirrell pointed his wand atthe two creatures and muttered, “Thuo tei dunamei,” then slashed it towardsHermione.
The two creatures crumbled to dust, and then that too faded from sight.
“Transfiguration sickness is nothing before a troll’s healing, and a unicorn’sblood will preserve life even at the brink of death. Miss Granger will sufferno ill effects, but live as though she always had that power. No lesser forceor magic shall slay her.”
“Thank you,” whispered Harry. The Defence Professor was clearly in a verygood mood.
Professor Quirrell nodded, and Harry didn’t quite catch the odd look in hiseyes.
“Now, the first problem: this is the enchanted body of a dead Muggle. Thebrain could be awakened rather easily, perhaps, but I do not know if her ownmagic would return.”
“I did some research,” said Harry’s lips automatically, “and I think magic isprobably just passed on by a marker gene. Coming back to life shouldn’t changethat.”
“Perhaps. I am not convinced… There may be a better solution.” ProfessorQuirrell glanced towards Sirius. “Sacrificing a wizard to this ritual is apossibility-” Professor Quirrell caught Harry’s sharp look, and rolled hiseyes. “Very well. There exists another ritual that would solve the matter, butfinding her enemy’s blood, father’s bone and servant’s flesh would take time.”
“Let me try something,” Harry said, struck by a sudden thought. He steppedforwards and raised his wand to point at Hermione.
Harry pushed down the joy that was slowly mounting. It wasn’t enough, wasn’tgood enough. There were still people dying even as Harry tried to save thisone. Dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions, billions who had already beenlost. Billions more, who would have done whatever it took, torn realityapart to bring that someone back.
They had failed, or never dared to try, or hope. Most of the world, even themagical world, had come to the conclusion that death was inevitable. Theprospect of resurrection had barely even crossed their minds.
“Professor,” said Harry, “this might work better if I can see the stars.”
Quirrell gave a single nod, and spoke the spell of the Silent Night.
Harry stood in the depths of the sky, lit by the unwavering light of countlessstars.
It hadn’t quite struck him before. Here, tonight, beneath the starlight, hewould begin. He had already resolved to end death, but that wasn’t enough,nowhere near enough. Death should not be, he thought, and never should havebeen. There was hope, here, in this world of Time-Turners and Philosopher’sStones and phoenixes.
Harry would not stop with saving the living. He would not stop with savingHermione.
Harry would not stop until he had saved every single one, wizard or witch orMuggle or house-elf or goblin or centaur or anything else he couldn’t imagine,rescued everyone who had ever fallen into Death’s hands.
Harry would not stop until he realised that dream, until he could watch theSun go out alongside every single person the human species - and any otherthinking species - had ever lost.
We don’t have to put up with it. Nobody, ever, will have to spare a moment tothink about the ones who died before they could be helped. I refuse to lose,or to have lost.
And there was light.
Hermione Granger took her first breath for the second time.
Hermione’s body was bathed in silver fire, even as Harry staggered. Some ofthe life and magic he’d just lost would never return to him, he knew. Itwasn’t much, barely even noticeable, but what he had lost would never return.That sacrifice was permanent.
Professor Quirrell touched Hermione’s forehead with the Stone, and thoughHarry’s Patronus faded away, some of that silver fire yet remained about her.
The sphere of stars slowly faded away.
And then two unfamiliar voices spoke, “Avada Kedavra.”
Harry Potter and David Monroe collapsed to the floor, dead.
< Prev Next >