My new Harry Potter fanfic! I hope you enjoy it. It's dedicated to Cynthia, who's probably way too preoccupied to be reading fan fiction right now, but who I want to know, if she eventually ends up reading this, that my thoughts and love are with her.
The first two paragraphs are quoted from the first book.
Harry Potter and the Sympathy of Souls
Part I: Nicolas
Chapter One: The Truth
"I always value bravery" the chalk-white face smirked evilly "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."
Harry sprang toward the flame door, but Voldemort screamed "STOP HIM!" and the next second Harry felt heat against his cheek at a red spell shot past him, missing him by a hairsbreadth.
Quirrell raised his wand to cast this spell again, but this time Harry was expecting it, and he ducked under the spell with an ease that came from months of dodging Bludgers at Quidditch practice. Quirrell scowled and cast the spell again. Once again, Harry smoothly avoided it. Quirrell's face was twisted in a snarl of frustration.
"You can't keep on dodging spells forever, Potter. I'm going to hit you eventually. Might as well just give it up now."
"Wanna bet?" taunted Harry "I could go at this all night, 'sfar as I'm concerned."
Quirrell rolled his eyes, and lazily raised his wand in the air "Accio Stone" he incanted, and Harry watched in horror as the Philosopher's Stone shot out of his pocket, and before he could grab at it, landed straight into Quirrell's hands.
Quirrell examined the Stone with a look of rapt fascination. Now that the Stone was in his possession, he seemed to have forgotten Harry. Harry tried to take advantage of his distraction by creeping up on him, hoping to knock the Stone out of his hand, but he had hardly taken a step when Quirrell waved his wand distractedly at him, and Harry found himself bound in ropes for the second time that night.
Quirrell spared him a cruel smirk "It's been a pleasure, Potter, but I'm afraid I must be off. Dumbledore will probably be here any second." he removed his turban, tapped it with his wand, muttering "Portus". The turban glowed blue for a couple of seconds, and a rumbling noise emerged from it, before it stilled again. Before Harry could so much as blink, Quirrell had lightly placed his hand on it, and vanished noiselessly.
No sooner had Quirrell departed, and a tall figure rushed through the flaming entrance. It was Albus Dumbledore, but not as Harry had ever seen him before. His hand was held aloft like a sword being held expertly in the hand of a dueling champion, and there was a truly chilling coldness in his eyes as he glanced at the place where Quirrell had been only seconds before.
"I'm so sorry Professor!" gasped Harry, trying to keep standing straight "I tried to stop him, but he knew so much more magic than me, I didn't have a chance."
Dumbledore turned to look at Harry, and his eyes softened. "I'm not blaming you, Harry. You did the best you could. Voldemort is one of the most skilled wizards in the world, and Quirrell himself is quite an accomplished duelist; it would be quite unfair of me to expect you to succeed."
Harry nodded at him gratefully, and Dumbledore smiled gently as he waved his wand and dissolved the ropes around Harry.
"In fact," Dumbledore added "I am quite impressed with how far you did manage to get. Not every eleven-year-old could have gotten this far in my obstacle course."
Harry felt his neck warm, and looked down shyly. Then, he raised his head up in surprise as something occurred to him "Sir? How did you know it was really Quirrell who stole the Stone? And how did you know it was for Voldemort? We all thought it was Snape!"
"Professor Snape, Harry" corrected Dumbledore gently "And as for your question, I think you will find that if you fight someone as long as I have been fighting Lord Voldemort, you tend to recognize their ah, shall we say, unique style. This plan had Lord Voldemort written all over it, unfortunately, though I had hoped that I was wrong. And now, Harry, there is much to do. It is quite unfortunate that Voldemort has managed to acquire the Philosopher's Stone, but all hope might not be lost yet. My friend Nicolas Flamel has been anticipating it being stolen for quite some time, and I think he might just have prepared for the situation of it falling into the wrong hands. So the next step would be to contact Nicolas immediately and tell him what has happened. Would you care to come with me to my office?"
Harry gaped at Dumbledore "You're letting me come with you?"
Dumbledore put his hand on Harry's shoulder. "Tonight, Harry, you have taken upon yourself the responsibility of an adult, and as such I feel that you have the right to be treated like one. Most children would have been too scared to try and do anything about the Stone being stolen. By taking initiative, I feel that you have proven to me that you are mature enough to know what is happening."
Harry felt his face heat up once again and muttered his thanks.
"Not at all, Harry" chuckled Dumbledore "Now come."
They made their way through the fire to the riddle room, where Dumbledore selected the same bottle Hermione had used, drank from it, and instructed Harry to take a sip himself. They both passed through the purple flames, and emerged in the room with the chess pieces. They were all repaired and had already reset themselves to the starting position of the game.
Harry looked around for Ron, and Dumbledore caught his movement. "I have already sent Mr. Weasley up to the hospital wing where he is being taken care of by Madam Pomfrey and your loyal friend Miss Granger is there with him. You may join them once we finish our conversation with Nicolas."
"Thank you, Sir." Said Harry earnestly, feeling a weight slide off his back.
They reached the opening in short time, Dumbledore levitating them over the Devil's Snare, through the trapdoor, to the room where Fluffy was still snoring as a radio in the corner hummed out classical music.
A short walk later, Harry found himself facing a very ugly gargoyle, which moved aside once Dumbledore uttered the password "Pumpkin Pasty". After a short ride up a moving spiral staircase the somewhat reminded Harry of muggle escalators, they were deposited outside a wooden door that Dumbledore gently pushed and entered, revealing his office.
It was a brightly lit circular room with a large desk in front of a large shelf on which the sorting hat perched. Above the shelf, were rows and rows of portraits, all of them seemed to be napping, though a rather ugly man with a black moustache was still awake and watching them curiously. Scattered around the room were little spindly-legged tables carrying strange little silvery instruments, making all kinds of curious noises. One was emitting puffs of smoke every few seconds.
A beautiful red and gold bird was perched on the desk, and made a musical chirp of recognition as Dumbledore entered. Harry felt his insides warm, and the pressure building inside his chest ease a little, and looked at the bird in surprise, but it had gone silent again.
"Fawkes is a phoenix, Harry." Explained Dumbledore "Its song is famous for its soothing and calming effect. It is the reason that phoenix vocal chords are a common ingredient in most calming potions."
Harry resolved to never drink a calming potion ever, and nodded his understanding.
Dumbledore made his way to the back of the room, retrieved a chain of keyes from his pocket, and unlocked a great black cabinet standing against the wall. Harry gaped in shock as the cabinet door opened to reveal a fireplace. A real, honest-to-Merlin fireplace, flames crackling in it merrily, sitting inside the cabinet.
Dumbledore went to his desk, took a handful of greenish powder from a curiously carved bowl on his desk, then returned to the fireplace and threw the powder into the flames.
To Harry's surprise, the fire turned emerald green. Sometimes Harry forgot how little he knew of the wizarding world until he encountered one more thing of which he had no knowledge. Before Harry could recover from the shock, Dumbledore had already bent down, and placed his head inside the fire!
The fire seemed to have no adverse affect on Dumbledore, who called out "Number Two, Deadman's Lane, London!" There was a pause for a couple of minutes before Harry heard Dumbledore's voice again, muffled through the fire.
"Perenelle! It's me, Albus…. Yes…. I'm quite sorry to be calling at such an hour, but it's an emergency. Could you please ask Nicolas to come over immediately?... Thank you, Perenelle, again, apologies for the late hour…. Good night."
Dumbledore removed his head from the fire, and the fire returned to its original colour.
Walking slowly to his desk, the Headmaster sat down on a huge chair behind his desk, and gestured for Harry to sit down as well. Harry lowered himself into a chair facing the Headmaster's desk, and waited to see if Dumbledore would say something, but he seemed content to sit in silence, waiting for Nicolas Flamel to arrive.
A few minutes had passed, and Harry had started to fidget on his chair nervously, when he heard a whishing sound behind him, and turned to see a tall figure stepping out of the fire. Harry figured this must be Nicolas Flamel.
He looked different from Harry's expectations. Harry had imagined him extremely old and wrinkled and wise, but exuding an air of energy. A bit like an older version of Dumbledore. After all, if there was anyone else in the wizarding world who he could imagine discovering how to make a Philosopher's Stone, it was Dumbledore.
The figure standing in front of him was nothing like Dumbledore. For one thing, he didn't look old at all, he looked like one of those men whose age could be anywhere from thirty to fifty, but there was something wrong with his features. Harry couldn't quite place it, but it was as if his features were blurred, or slightly melted. Nevertheless, he was quite a handsome man- tall, with short black hair and brown eyes.
"Dumbledore!" he announced, and strode straight up to the Headmaster's huge desk, paying no attention to Harry. Harry couldn't decide if the man hadn't noticed him, or if he was simply ignoring him. Either way he said nothing, and watched the following interaction in silence.
"You said it was an emergency." Said Flamel, ignoring the Dumbledore's offer to take a seat "I assume that means there was another attempt to steal the Stone. Was it successful?"
Dumbledore nodded his head gravely "Yes, Nicolas, I'm afraid it was."
Nicolas Flamel nodded "I figured as much. Why have you called me here?"
"Well, back in July, when I first broached the subject of the Stone being in danger of being stolen, you assured me that the Stone had plenty of protections on it. I think we have reached the time for you to reveal to me the protections you have placed on the Stone so that we may use them to prevent Lord Voldemort from using it before it is too late. Was there perhaps some sort of spell on the Stone that allowed you to summon it back to your house if it ever got lost?"
With a wry smile, Flamel shook his head. "No, Albus, there was no such protection on the Stone. However, you need not worry, I am quite confident in my spellwork. Voldemort will not manage to produce elixir of life from the Stone."
"I would feel more confident if I knew the precise nature of the spells you have placed on it." Insisted Dumbledore.
"I think not, young man" replied Flamel "I have put extremely powerful spells on the Stone. Spells that, if knowledge of them was to fall into the wrong hands, could cause quite a bit of damage and devastation. Now, I believe that you would not misuse these spells, Albus" he said, holding up his hand at Dumbledore's protest "but I don't trust this information to stay with you. I can't ignore the fact that you brought a complete stranger into this meeting without consulting me." here he turned to Harry for the first time. "All these details are extremely sensitive, and yet you see fit to let this young man know everything that is going on."
Harry, feeling extremely uncomfortable, was about to offer to leave the room, when Dumbledore spoke for him: "Harry here discovered Voldemort's plot to steal the Stone on his own, and once failing to contact me, he went after the thief himself, trying to stop him from getting it. He braved all my traps and obstacles in order to try and prevent the Stone falling into the wrong hands. I trust him with this information."
Nicolas Flamel's eyes widened in shock, and he glanced at Harry, looking impressed. "This boy managed to subvert all your obstacles and traps? But he can't be more than twenty years old!" he turned to Harry "A man of such meager experience getting through traps set by Dumbledore is quite a feat, I am impressed."
"You have lived so long, Nicolas, that you are no longer a good judge of age in other people. Harry is eleven years old." Corrected Dumbledore gently.
"Eleven?!" exclaimed Flamel "On his first year ever of magical training he has managed to accomplish this?"
He squatted down till his eyes were level with Harry's and scrutinized his face carefully. "He must be a prodigy! A genius!" his face now held true respect as he searched Harry's face carefully.
Harry felt his face heat up at the undeserved compliments. "I'm really not all that smart, honestly. It was mostly Hermione! All I did was play the flute to put Fluffy to sleep, and catch the key. I mean, I guess I'm really good at flying, but I'm not a prodigy or anything like that!"
"Fluffy?" Nicolas Flamel was now looking quite puzzled "Don't sell yourself short child. I don't know the exact nature of the enchantments your Headmaster had put around my Stone, but I do know that he is a wizard of the highest caliber. Even finding the place in which the Stone was hidden must have taken astounding magical talent. Now you must explain to me, who is this Fluffy, what is this key you speak of, and what does it have to do with flying?"
"Fluffy was the first thing guarding the Stone. He's a huge dog with three heads." Harry said, starting to explain.
Nicolas nodded, and then said "Start from the beginning. I want to know exactly how it is that you managed to discover that there was a Stone in the first place, and how you discovered where it was. Then tell me about the traps you needed to face."
His eyes were glinting, and he was looking at Harry eagerly. Harry felt slightly bad about the disappointment Flamel was bound to suffer- there really wasn't anything extraordinary about his magical powers, and Flamel would realize that soon enough. Perhaps he would want to talk to Hermione? She was the smart one, after all.
Harry looked nervously at Dumbledore.
"Oh, this is much more important than breaking a few school rules!" cried Flamel "I assume that's what you're worried about? Do not worry, I will personally make sure that you will not get into any trouble for whatever it is you have done to find the Stone!"
Harry nodded, and started by telling him about Dumbledore's announcement at the feast at the beginning of the year.
"But that's absurd!" cried Flamel "Announcing to the public where the Stone was hidden would have made Voldemort's work so much easier! I'm sorry Albus, but I must say I'm quite disappointed."
Harry looked nervously between Nicolas, who was looking quite upset, to Dumbledore, who was staring at Nicolas with an inscrutable expression.
"I had my own reasons to do what I did, Nicolas, and I can only hope that you will give me the benefit of the doubt, and trust me to have known what I was doing."
Flamel nodded "You are right, Albus. I will reserve judgment until I hear the rest of the story. I apologize for interrupting, Harry. Please continue."
Harry haltingly told Flamel about the midnight duel and discovering Fluffy. He told him about his conversations with Hagrid, about the conversations he overheard between Quirrell and Snape, and about realizing that Hagrid had accidentally given away the secret to getting past Fluffy. He talked about sneaking out with Ron and Hermione, about going through the trapdoor, the Devil's Snare, the flying keys, the game of Chess, the already knocked out troll, the logic puzzle, and finally- Quirrell, Voldemort, and the Mirror of Erised.
When Harry reached the point of the story in which the Stone suddenly appeared in his pocket, Dumbledore interrupted in order to explain. "I believe I can explain how the Philosopher's Stone ended up in your pocket, Harry. I have placed quite an ingenious enchantment, if I may say so myself, on the mirror, which only give the Philosopher's Stone to one who wished to find it. Find it, but not use it for their own selfish means. A person who wanted to use the stone so that they could live forever or be rich, would simply see themselves drinking elixir of life, or sitting in a pile of gold. Your pureness of intention is what allowed you to succeed in getting the stone where Quirrell failed."
"Oh," mumbled Harry "Okay, so I guess that's why the Stone went into my pocket." Then he proceeded to tell Dumbledore and Flamel about what had happened after he had got the Stone, lowering his head in shame when he reached the part where Quirrell had taken the Stone and escaped.
When his story was finished, Harry looked nervously up at Nicolas Flamel, who had gone quite pale during the telling of the story.
"…So you see, Sir," he finished awkwardly, "I don't really have any great magical powers after all, I just had smart friends and a bit of luck."
Nicolas's lips twitched and a small smile formed on his face "No, you went after Voldemort without having any special magical talent or reason to believe that you would be able to stop him. That is extraordinary in quite a different way. Call me Nicolas, Harry."
Harry felt the blush that had finally left his face return in full force. Nicolas winked at him and then turned to Dumbledore. "I'll admit that I was unsure about letting you remove the Stone from Gringotts, but I was glad I had consented to it once I learned about the break-in and the near miss. I saw it as confirmation that you were trustworthy. Now, I don't know what to think."
"Nicolas," implored Dumbledore "trust me when I say I had my reasons. I wouldn't endanger your Stone and your life for no reason. I am very sorry that I cannot explain my motivations at the moment, but trust me when I say I knew what I was doing."
Nicolas had frozen in place, though. "I had forgotten about that. Now that the Stone's gone, Perenelle and I have nothing to keep us in this world. I dearly hope that you had a good reason for guarding my Stone so carelessly, Dumbledore, though you won't tell me what it was. Let our deaths be on your head."
"Nicolas" there was endless sorrow in Dumbledore's blue eyes "I am really and truly sorry."
Harry stared at Flamel in horror, the repercussions of him no longer having the Stone suddenly clear to him. To his surprise, Flamel was smiling, but there was a bitter edge to his smile "I have enough Elixir of Life stored up to last Perenelle and I for a short while yet. Long enough to get all our affairs in order, certainly. Though I feel that I know you well enough by now to know your intentions were good, Albus, I don't think I can forget what I have discovered tonight. You probably won't be seeing me again."
Dumbledore lowered his eyes "I understand, old friend, and I do not blame you. Goodbye."
Nicolas tilted his head to him in return "Goodbye Albus, I hope for your sake that you know what you are doing. I must return home and share the news with Perenelle. First, though, I would like to have a private conversation with Harry. Surely that isn't too much trouble, Albus?"
For a split second, Harry thought Dumbledore was going to protest, but he bowed his head, and gave them permission to use any empty classroom they would like for their conversation.
Nicolas strode out the door to the office, and Harry followed him, feeling too scared to look at Dumbledore, too scared to see the powerful, energetic wizard bowed down with the weight of regret. He strode out silently, without looking back.
Nicolas led Harry down the hall, and pulled him into the first empty classroom they came across. Shutting the door behind them, Nicolas waved his wand at the door in a few complex movements, muttering in a language that sounded like Latin. "Silencing charms." He explained to Harry.
Turning, he waved his wand, transfigured two of the chairs behind one of the desks into comfy-looking couches. He sat down in one, and gestured for Harry to sit in the other.
Harry was feeling quite confused by now, but sat down, turning his seat to face the alchemist, and waited for him to speak. There were a few seconds of silence, and then Nicolas sighed and looked at Harry.
"I don't like what's going on here, Harry. You don't deserve to be involved in the mess that seems to have come of this whole story, but somehow it seems like you are in the very center of these sinister events. You are a good kid, Harry, and I want to help you, you don't deserve to be part of this nasty business."
"Nasty business?" questioned Harry "I'm not sure I understand."
"War is always nasty business" replied Nicolas with a wry smile "and it did appear to me that you did not understand the extent to which you have been played."
"Harry, I am sure that you are a very accomplished young wizard, but there should have been no way for you to get past Albus Dumbledore's traps. He is one of the most skilled wizards of this century. For a young boy who only discovered magic this year, a three-headed dog and a giant Chess match must have seemed like quite the obstacle. But note that you were able to overcome every single trap in the whole mess without using any spell more complicated than the fire spell. You do not understand the extent of Dumbledore's magical powers. I do.
"Let me give you an example: There is an enchantment that the ancient Egyptians used in order to guard their tombs. They concealed the openings to their tombs with such obscure spells, that in order to discover where the opening to them is, you must run your arms over the entire pyramid, muttering a very specific and complex enchantment, until you find the location of the opening. Now, I happen to know that Albus Dumbledore is familiar with this enchantment, because during our correspondence in the days of his youth, I explained this enchantment to him as an example of the use of Arithmancy in combination with potions in concealing spells. Albus was very interested in the spell, and made quite an effort to study that particular enchantment. I expected him to use that spell for sure. Voldemort's servant would have had to run his hand over every part of the castle until he found the opening to the room in which the Stone was kept, and do it without being detected or discovered. It would have taken him months and months just to find where the Stone was hidden. And what did Albus do? He just announced out loud to the whole school that the third corridor was forbidden, making it obvious to anyone who knew about the Stone, that it was being kept there. It was incredibly irrational and irresponsible!"
Harry felt as if his stomach had sunken to his knees. He now felt extremely foolish for being so flattered when Dumbledore had kindly told him that 'not every eleven-year-old could have gotten so far' in his obstacle course. Finding out that Dumbledore could easily have done a spell so complex that Harry would never have even been able to find the place of the Philosopher's Stone, never mind get into it, made Harry feel sick to his stomach.
Normally, he would not have been so quick to believe Nicolas Flamel. Dumbledore had always stricken him as a very kind and wise old man, with pure intentions and just the slightest bit of mischief in him. Harry would have been much more inclined to disbelieve Flamel if it weren't for a few simple reasons: Dumbledore was acknowledged far and wide as one of the most skilled wizards of the century. It was quite difficult to believe that he couldn't prepare an obstacle that wouldn't be overcome by a first-year student with hardly any knowledge of magic. In addition, the way Dumbledore had inclined his head guiltily at Nicolas's accusation that he had been lax in guarding the Stone, seemed like an admission of guilt to Harry.
He turned back to look at Nicolas who had now finished catching his breath, and had gone back to ranting. "And even if we assume that these protections were the very best that Albus could do, it still seems like he wanted Voldemort to get past the traps. Take the room with the last trap- the potions. The parchment with the riddle basically told Voldemort how to get past this trap. Why did he leave any potions at all? If he hadn't left any potions, the thief would have been stuck in that room between the two fires for quite a while! At the very least he could have filled all of the vials with poison, with the hope that Voldemort might actually poison himself, but he did no such thing! By telling the thief how to get through the trap, he was basically encouraging him to continue his attempts to steal the Stone!"
"Why?" Harry asked, feeling confused and scared "Why would Dumbledore do that?"
"I don't know, Harry, but that isn't the only thing that concerned me: Voldemort is a very talented wizard. I have never had the opportunity to duel him personally, but I have dueled with Albus before, and the fact that Albus hasn't managed to defeat him yet tells me that the stories of his great magical power are true.
"As such, there is absolutely no way that Voldemort would have failed to get past any of the traps. He is quite the intelligent man. You say that he was having trouble getting past Fluffy for most of the year, but he could have easily put the person who fed Fluffy under the Imperius curse, a curse that forces the person under it to do whatever the caster orders him to do" he added at Harry's look of incomprehension "and made that person put poison, or a sleeping potion in Fluffy's food. So, we have established that Voldemort could have gotten to the Stone within a week. The only obstacle that would really have slowed him down would have been the Mirror of Erised, and according to what you told me about your encounter with it during Christmas, we see that that particular trap was only implemented four months into the school year, Voldemort should have had the Stone and been long gone by then. But instead, he chooses to only attempt to steal the Stone at the very end of the year, which happens to conveniently be the same day you discover how to get past Fluffy. It seems to me, Harry, that both Dumbledore and Voldemort wanted you to be down there in the chamber when the Philosopher's Stone was stolen."
He finished his speech, and looked down at Harry, at which point his eyes softened. Harry figured that he was probably very pale and looked quite terrified, and Nicolas was worried for him.
"Harry, I promise you that I will do all that is within my power to help you. Something very suspicious is going on around here, and you seem to be in the center of it. I will admit that I do not understand neither Albus nor Voldemort's reasons for involving you, but you are a good child, and I will do all that is in my power to help you get out of this mess. I just wish I could understand what is so special about you that has caused two such powerful wizards to involve you in their matters."
"Well," said Harry slowly, "not that I'm saying I'm special or anything, but maybe it's because they think that I've defeated Voldemort when I was a baby."
"Defeated Volde-" Nicolas began, then stopped, eyes wide "When Dumbledore called you 'Harry' earlier, I didn't think. Harry Potter?"
Harry nodded, feeling quite awkward. He knew he wasn't at all like other people imagined Harry Potter to be- a brave and powerful wizard who was scared of nothing. He was afraid to disappoint yet another person.
Nicolas wasn't looking disappointed, though, he was looking pensive. "Well, that certainly explains some things. Perhaps Dumbledore thought that if you were to encounter Voldemort again you would somehow manage to vanquish him once and for all? And you said that Voldemort tried to convince you to join his side, perhaps that was Voldemort's motivation for wanting you there?
"But that still leaves quite a few questions. Why would they both put so much stock in you defeating Voldemort? Please don't be offended, Harry, but from what I head of what happened that night that you defeated Voldemort, I had gotten the impression that it was your mother's sacrifice that caused Voldemort's killing curse to rebound back on him, not anything to do with you.
"Albus wrote to me, you know, after the night your parents were killed. He wanted to know my opinion on whether it was possible for your mother's sacrifice to have protected you. Because I have so many years of experience with different kinds of magic, people often write to me asking for my opinion on some enchantment. I replied to Dumbledore that it was my belief that your mother's love for you was, in fact, the thing that had saved you. That means that it was your mother who really vanquished Voldemort, not you. You were only a baby, you have nothing to do with it. I hope this knowledge doesn't distress you."
Harry wasn't distressed, he was relieved. "That's what I keep on trying to tell people! It couldn't have been me, I was just a baby, I don't know any special magic or anything!"
Nicolas smiled. "It is good to see that you have not allowed your fame to get to your head, but have rather thought about the matter rationally. However, this still leaves us with a mystery: If we have established that your survival and Voldemort's defeat occurred because of your mother, why are Voldemort and Albus so interested in you?"
Harry shrugged. "I have no idea."
"Neither do I." admitted Nicolas "But I'll tell you what: I will give you a way to communicate with me, and if you ever discover more about this mystery, or if you ever need my help, contact me, and I will do my very best to assist you."
He waved his wand, and a piece of parchment appeared out of this air. After that, Nicolas traced his wand over the parchment as if it were a quill, and words appeared on the parchment just as if Nicolas had written using an actual quill. "This is my address." He explained "If you were to send a letter simply addressed to 'Nicolas Flamel' it would find its way into the pile of mail I get from different scholars around the world. This address is for my friends and family- it will ensure that your letter will arrive straight into my hands, and that I will see it right away. I have a feeling that your troubles aren't over yet, Harry. Write to me if you need help."
Harry nodded his head gratefully, and stowed the piece of parchment safely in his pocket. He dearly hoped that Nicolas would still be alive when he actually needed help, seeing as now that he no longer had a constant supply of Elixir of Life he was going to die eventually. He didn't say anything, though, he thought it would be tactless to remind the man of his eventual demise. Especially as Nicolas looked quite a bit cheerier now, and Harry couldn't help but think that he had forgotten for a short while that he and his wife were now going to die.
Should Harry say something? He cleared his throat awkwardly "I'm really sorry about the Stone."
To Harry's confusion, Nicholas didn't look sad or worried, he looked slightly uncomfortable. "Uh… It's fine, Harry. Don't worry about it."
"I can't forget it." replied Harry "It's kind of my fault that is was stolen, because maybe if it weren't for me Professor Dumbledore would have guarded the Stone properly instead of making it so that I could get to it. I really feel bad for this, especially after everything you've done for me. So thank you. Really. I can't say how sorry I am."
Now Nicholas was looking positively guilty. He scratched his head awkwardly, and looked down at Harry for a long time. "I need to tell you something, Harry. This is very secret, and I really shouldn't be telling you this, but I can't let you live with this kind of guilt, especially if it isn't your fault. So I'm going to tell you something, but I need you to know that this is very sensitive information that could do a lot of damage if it fell into the wrong hands. The only reason I'm trusting you with this is because you are a good person and after what I've seen tonight, I believe you deserve to know. Especially if the lack of information will cause you to feel like my death is on your conscience. So I'm going to tell you, but first I will need to cast a spell to ensure that you will never be able to reveal what you have been told to anyone ever. I'm sorry for the lack of trust, but if this information falls into the wrong hands….. Well, I've seen what it causes and it's not pretty. Do you want to hear what I have to tell you?"
Harry considered it for a few seconds, and then nodded his assent.
"Very well." Said Nicolas. He got up, and started walking around the room, chanting something in an unfamiliar language while doing so. Once he had completed a circuit around the room, the walls glowed brightly for a moment, before returning to their normal color.
"The spell I have just cast will make you unable to reveal anything you hear while you are in this room. You will not be allowed to say it, write it, or even hint at it. The spell reads your intentions, so if you think of a different way to reveal the secret to another, it will prevent you from doing it. I'm sorry for the lack of trust, but I feel that this is a necessary precaution."
Nicolas faced Harry, and scrutinized him for a second, and then burst out laughing. "There's no need to look so serious Harry. I fear I have stressed the gravity of this information a bit too much. Back around 600 years ago, what I am about to tell you was common knowledge. True, when this knowledge was misused the results were devastating and the knowledge was buried, but only a very small handful of people did use it in the wrong way. I have full trust that everything will be fine and that you will do the right thing.
"Now, where should I start? You will probably be happy to hear that there is absolutely no chance of Voldemort managing to return to life with the help of the Stone, seeing as he didn't actually steal the Philosopher's Stone."
He chuckled at the look of surprise on Harry's face.
"You mean the Stone was a fake?" he had to confirm.
"Not only was it a fake, Harry, but I've never actually owned a Philosopher's Stone in the first place. In fact, I rather doubt it's possible to make one."
Harry's mouth had dropped open in shock, and Nicolas's lips were twitching as he suppressed the desire to burst out laughing once more.
"Allow me to explain. There is a phenomenon that has been documented to occur about once every century. The first recorded case happened around the fifth century, when a woman named Marian came to the greatest wizard of that era- Merlin, claiming that she and her husband were immortal. According to Marian, about three years into her marriage, she and her husband had stopped aging. Though she looked as if she were in her early twenties, Marian swore that she was over fifty. Her husband, Jeremiah, had died a fortnight before, having been tragically killed after the roof he was fixing for their home collapsed, and he was buried under the rubble. Jeremiah's spirit remained in this world, but not in the form of a ghost, but rather as a disembodied spirit that was actually capable of communicating with those around it and possessing small animals.
"Merlin was shocked, and after having preformed extensive tests, he came to the conclusion that the couple was indeed immortal, and even managed to design a ritual to give Jeremiah his body back.
"Merlin came to the following conclusion: the couple was so devoted to each other, that every time they kissed, every time they made love or even stroked their spouse's cheek, Jeremiah and Marian gave each other a tiny bit of their soul. By the time Jeremiah had died, half of his soul was in Marian's body, and was tying him to the mortal plane, preventing him from moving onwards.
"This phenomenon is called a Soulcrux. Since then, more couples have come forward, claiming to have created a Soulcrux between them. Many scoffed at this fanciful and romantic explanation, but I think that you, Harry, understand better than anyone just how far the power of love can go. After all, your mother's love for you is the reason that you are alive today."
"So, there's such a thing as soul mates?" Harry asked, grimacing slightly at the syrupy notion.
"I'm not sure." replied Nicolas thoughtfully "Are there some couples who are destined to meet each other and fall in love, or is it just that some people have a capacity to love and devote themselves to another that most others don't? Perenelle likes the idea of soul mates, I myself am not so certain."
Harry nodded thoughtfully. "So you and Perenelle, you have a Soulcrux?"
"So why are you telling everyone that you're alive because of the Philosopher's Stone?" asked Harry, perplexed.
"I was just getting to that." replied Nicolas. "The Soulcrux was always a very obscure phenomenon that not many people were aware of, because of the rarity of something like it occurring. The century I was born in was very unusual though, in that the century before there had been more Soul-bound couples than there had ever been before- six, in fact. So around that time the Soulcrux was beginning to become common knowledge, instead of an obscure term that few recognized. By the time I was born, only one out of these six couples remained, but the Soulcrux was still something fairly well-known."
"Wait a second." interrupted Harry "If all those couples don't die, how could it be that out of six couples there was only one left? What happened to the other ones?"
Nicolas sighed. "What you need to understand, Harry, is that living forever isn't as glamorous as it sounds. In fact, it can get downright depressing. Waking up one day, and realizing that all your family and friends are dead by now, and all the people who ever knew them are dead too, and that in a hundred years or so everyone who is alive now will also be dead, that there is no one that remembers the time when you grew up, and soon, no one will remember this time either. It gets to you. Most of the couples decided to eventually let themselves die. Whenever one of them dies, their spouse is the one who keeps them alive, but if they both die- that is the end, and the couple will pass on.
"Perenelle and I are quite unusual in the amount of time we have lived. I think we have probably lived longer than any other soul-bound couple, but it's quite common for a couple to allow themselves to pass on after two or three centuries. Six centuries is quite the anomaly. Now, do you have anymore question, or shall I continue with the story?"
Harry shook his head "I think I understand everything now. You can continue."
"Around the time that Perenelle and I realized that we had formed a Soulcrux between us, there was a great stir in the magical world, when a man named Herpo Fawley, later to be known as Herpo the Foul, claimed to have discovered a way to replicate the effects of the Soulcrux without the need to meet the right person and fall in love. You can imagine that over the years many people were jealous of the immortality that we couples were granted, and were frustrated by their inability to find a person with whom they could form such a connection. Therefore, this announcement generated much interest and excitement all over the world.
"Very soon, though, the Fawley's method was announced, many people changed their minds about wanting to go through with it. According to Fawley, there was an additional way to separate your soul from you body- if it couldn't be done through love, then it could be accomplished by tearing up the soul.
"When a person experiences an act of extreme violence or hatred, it splinters their soul. Usually, if given time, the soul will heal on its own, usually therapy will help speed the process. The ritual Fawley presented, however, took advantage of the wound in the soul, and used it to separate a piece of soul from the main part, and seal it away in an object, thus tying the person to the mortal plane, with the same effect as a Soulcrux. An object such as this was called a Horcrux, as in horror, both for the terrible things a person needed to experience in order to splinter his soul, and for the horror that followed a person once the soul is splintered.
"The soul is only splintered by acts of extreme violence and hatred- it usually happens to victims of torture or rape, sometimes child abuse. If a person has not experienced anything like that and wants to create a Horcrux, they must perform an act or murder, rape or torture in order to splinter their soul.
"Once people realized this, most gave up on the idea; people weren't willing to sacrifice that much in order to be immortal. Still, there were some people who created a Horcrux: people who had experienced enough horror in their life to splinter their soul, and people who wanted immortality bad enough that they were willing to commit the atrocious acts necessary to splinter the soul. At the beginning, people were quite suspicious of the Horcrux, but it was still considered acceptable to make one, the main consensus was that if people wanted to splinter their own soul that was their choice to make.
"Things quickly changed, however, when the effects of having a Horcrux became clear. When a person's soul is splintered, it will heal eventually, naturally. Even people who have experienced even the worst atrocities are able to eventually move on with their life. A person who has experienced or witnessed sever violence, will ideally be able to get over it some day. With some time, and love from their family and friends, they will manage to wake up every morning without remembering what has happened, they will be able to make new experiences for themselves, they will learn to not be weighed down by their past. By making a Horcrux, though, you are not allowing the soul to heal. You are not allowing yourself to get over what has happened. A person who has made a Horcrux out of their experience with rape or torture, will constantly be feeling the way they did when their soul was torn- the terror, the horror, the hate.
"As a result, most of the people who created Horcruxes committed suicide within a couple of months at the very most. Some of them, though, the ones who created Horcruxes because of an intense will to survive, refused to commit suicide. Eventually, in order to deal with the intense emotional pain they went through every single day, people like this created more and more Horcruxes until their soul was so torn up that they were incapable of feeling any more emotion. They effectively became psychopaths.
"You can imagine how the wizarding world looked at that time: suicide rates were through the roofs, and people who used to have friends and family, who used to be loving and kind, were suddenly becoming psychopaths- killing anyone who got in their way, including their most loved ones. It was devastating.
"All the witches and wizards who hadn't made Horcruxes, which still constituted about 95 percent of the population, united in their fight against Horcruxes. All books about the creation of Horcruxes were burnt, family members were destroying their loved one's Horcruxes, and then trying to piece their souls back together. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes the person was too far gone to be able to recover, and had to be killed."
"How do you piece someone's soul back together?" asked Harry, morbidly curious.
"You need to destroy the Horcrux- the object in which the piece of soul is kept, so that the piece of soul inside can connect back to the original soul. There have been some cases in which the person did not want to destroy the Horcrux as the object it was in held sentimental or material value, and managed to achieve the same effect as destroying the Horcrux through other means. This was managed by repairing the soul from the even that caused it to be damaged in the first place. The method of accomplishing this differs, depending on how the soul was torn in the first place. A person who's soul was torn because of a traumatic event that they went through, can usually begin the process of mending the soul by talking about what has happened, and coming to terms with it. Therapy helps. A person who tore their soul by committing an act of violence and hatred, mends their soul by feeling remorse. In any case, it is quite an unpleasant process, but it did manage to save quite a few people who were lost to the madness of the Horcrux.
"Now let us return to the story. Within a decade, all the people who had created Horcruxes were either dead or healed. By general consensus, all books about Horcruxes had been destroyed and all Horcrux-related deaths were blamed on the black plague which was claiming millions of lives in the muggle world at that time. No one spoke of Horcruxes anymore, and within the next generation, all knowledge of them was lost, though I'm sure some of the darker families still secretly discussed these theories in private.
"Since the idea of Horcruxes was inspired by the phenomenon of the Soulcrux, books discussing the Soulcrux were destroyed as well. Perenelle and I were personally approached by many people with the request that should we live long enough to see the birth of a new generation, we would tell them nothing of the Soulcrux. Both Perenelle and I vowed to keep the knowledge to ourselves.
"We kept that promise, and so it happened, that around fifty years later, a time in which most people no longer knew what a Soulcrux was and Alchemy was the latest fashion in the wizarding world, people started to notice the Perenelle and I never aged. Rumors about Perenelle and I possessing the Philosopher's Stone started to surface. We would have denied the rumors, but we had no other explanation to give to why we were not aging. Finally, we decided to confirm the rumors and announce that we did indeed have the Philosopher's Stone. We said that it was I who invented it, since I myself had taken a keen interest in Alchemy during that time, and had accumulated enough knowledge on the subject that we would be able to make the story realistic. Sure enough, everyone bought the story.
"We explained our reluctance to display the Stone by explaining that we were afraid of it being stolen.
"But the Philosopher's Stone story turned out to be a problem as well. We were constantly waking up in the night to hear odd noises, only to realize that someone had broken into our house with the intention of stealing the Stone. Once, the thief even captured us and tried to torture Perenelle for information. Thank Merlin we are both accomplished enough fighters to fend him off."
"We tried leaking wrong information about our living quarters, claiming we lived in Devon rather than London, but a surprising amount of people still managed to find our living quarters despite my elaborate spell work- it seems that greed is quite a motivator to overcome even the most complex enchantments.
"Finally, I created a fancy-looking rock magically, deposited it in the bank, and let Gringotts deal with all the thieves. That's where it stayed until last July, when I got a curious letter from Albus Dumbledore saying that a supposedly dead dark lord was going to steal it. I told Dumbledore that I had placed many protections on the Stone, which I assume is why he didn't bother to put a simple anti-summoning charm on it, but after he insisted to guard it himself I thought I might as well let him."
"But it was all just an act?" confirmed Harry "Voldemort can't really use it to return to life? And you and your wife won't actually die?"
"Yes, Harry. You have nothing to worry about."
"You're a very good actor." said Harry admiringly "You seemed really angry at Dumbledore for not guarding the Stone."
"I was really angry at Dumbledore for not guarding the Stone. He thought he was holding my life in his hands, and he treated it so callously that I am, frankly, quite insulted. He took the risk of Voldemort returning to life for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, and endangered an innocent child's life in the process. My anger was certainly not an act."
"Oh." said Harry, slightly cowed.
"I do think, however, that my expression of grief and fear at the prospect of dying, was true theatrical genius." Added Nicolas with a sly smile.
Harry laughed politely, but then moved on to his real question "Why did you tell me all this, if you've worked so hard for so long to keep it secret?"
Nicolas's face shifted, as he sat up straighter and looked at Harry with an expression of utmost seriousness. "Well, firstly because I didn't want you to feel guilty over supposedly playing a part in my death, but there's another reason I felt you should know.
"Eleven years ago, when Voldemort tried to kill you, his killing curse rebounded on him, by all rights he should have died. And yet, tonight you have witnessed that he is still alive. Maybe not in the traditional form, but his soul is still present in the mortal plane. In fact, his form of existence is quite reminiscent of what happens to a person who is connected to the land of the living through a Soulcrux once they die."
Harry saw where this is going "So, Voldemort has a Soulcrux? No, wait, he's really crazy and evil, he has the other one. A Horcrux?"
"I have no proof, but it certainly seems like that might be the case. And since it looks like, for reasons of their own, both Albus and Voldemort are trying to create a situation where you will fight Voldemort, I think you have a right to know. If they will do their very best to make sure you fight him, you know that it will happen eventually. When it does happen, I think it is important for you to know this information. I can only hope that by telling you this I have helped."
Harry nodded "Yeah, I'm glad you told me. Thanks."
"Good." replied Nicolas, rising from his seat, and waving his wand, canceling the spells that he had cast on the room "I will take my leave now. It's been a pleasure talking to you, Harry, though I wish the circumstances had been less worrying. Goodbye."
"Wait!" called Harry "I have one last question."
Nicolas raised his eyebrow.
"How are you going to explain it to Dumbledore when you don't die?"
Nicolas's brows furrowed. "I do not see why that should be a problem. Albus Dumbledore may be healthy for his age, but I doubt he will live long enough to realize that Perenelle and I should have died by now."
"You said that you and Perenelle only had enough Elixir to last you for a short while." said Harry, feeling distressed "Do you expect Dumbledore to die really soon?"
The fake alchemist laughed as he regarded Harry. "A short while for me, Harry, and a short while for you are very different concepts, I think. I meant I would still have enough Elixir to last us for a decade or two, but for a young child like you, I suppose even a year would be considered quite a long time. Do not worry, I think my cover story remains safe. Goodnight." and he was gone.
"Goodnight!" Harry called after him, and then wearily headed off to bed after what felt like the longest day of his life.
End of the incredibly long chapter.
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