Hello everyone. :) Sorry it's been a little while; college has been extremely busy (and fun) and my time to write has dwindled considerably. I'm a writing tutor this year and I'm spending long hours in the writing center, which only adds to my already very packed schedule of classes and homework! But I'm still working on this story any moment I can, so no worries. This is kind of a transition chapter, so hopefully it's not too boring. Enjoy. ^_^

Chapter 17: The Spell

"How many boxes of Pureblood Weekly came in this morning, Harry?" asked Miss Rosier from the other room.

Harry was busy sorting through crates and stacks of cardboard boxes in the back room. Examining the labels on a shipment in the far corner, he yelled back to her, "Seven!"

"Very good, bring one box out and restock the rack at the front."

Harry pulled his wand out of his pocket and said calmly, "Wingardium leviosa." The aforementioned box hovered up into the air and Harry guided it along with his wand as he made his way out to the front of the shop.

He'd been helping Miss Rosier out for many days, now; in fact, tomorrow he would return to Hogwarts. Miss Rosier had offered to accompany him early Monday morning to the nearest magical fireplace so that he could Floo his way to a grate close to King's Cross. It surprised Harry that he wasn't yearning to go back to school. Just a week and a half ago, going back to Slytherin had been his salvation from enduring the summer with his family. Now, however, he was quite enjoying himself working in Knockturn Alley. While he was looking forward to returning to Hogwarts, he certainly wouldn't have minded staying with Miss Rosier, either.

As he stepped into the storefront, Harry noticed with passing interest a short man with dark hair and a small, straight moustache. He was perusing the middle aisles, which were full of various trinkets and magical gadgets.

Harry enjoyed watching the customers that came into the store; sometimes, children and teens entered to buy candy, but many of the folk were middle-aged or older, with quieter demeanors. They weren't after candy, but instead were searching for different kinds of items. The dark characters that came into Knockturn Alley were of a much more suspicious sort, and the things they were looking to purchase only confirmed that.

Harry directed the box to lower itself to the ground right next to the magazine racks, and then he began to transfer stacks from the box into the stand. Once he finished that particular task, he went straight onto the next thing Miss Rosier asked of him. He liked the young woman quite a bit. Although she could be very sharp at times, she was extremely intelligent and often had long conversations with Harry before they went to bed. He'd learned that her mother had died a few years ago, and as she had no siblings, that had left her to inherit the shop alone.

When Miss Rosier was busy, though, or didn't have a job for him, he often spent time writing in the diary Mr. Malfoy had given him… or thinking about the mysterious Tom Riddle inside it.

Who are you? Or what are you? Harry had asked in response to Tom's unexpected introduction.

I'm an imprint of a memory. Although I'm sixteen years old in this book, I might be much older in your world right now. I'm certain I'm not dead, though. What year is it?

1992, replied Harry bemusedly. But how can you be sure about not dying?

I do not doubt that my Slytherin ambition served me well in life. My aim was to conquer death.

Harry ignored the second part of Tom's comment. Surely "conquering death" was simply a lofty teenage dream. Instead, he was distracted about Tom's mention of Slytherin.

You went to Hogwarts? You were a Slytherin, too?

Naturally, Tom had replied, and Harry could practically the haughtiness in his tone.

Harry had continued to write to Tom over the next week, but he couldn't help being strangely wary about the character that the diary contained. As wizarding mothers so often liked to remind their children: "Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain." Harry knew this was a sound piece of advice… in most cases. Exceptions sprung to his mind as he searched for justification. For example, didn't Dumbledore and the rest of the Hogwarts faculty trust the Sorting Hat?

Despite his misgivings, Harry was drawn to this intriguing Tom Riddle – a Slytherin like him… a sharp, engaging, witty boy that Harry enjoyed conversing with. He would be careful with the diary; that much was for sure. But for now, he'd continue to write in it. Tom was a refreshing friend to have while he stayed with Miss Rosier.

Harry's last day in Knockturn Alley passed quickly, perhaps because Miss Rosier kept him unusually busy. Harry suspected that she was trying to get as much done as possible before he went off to school. That night, as she passed him a bowl of soup for dinner, she spoke to him quietly.

"When I offered for you to stay with me, I didn't realize just how much of a help you could be, Harry."

Harry looked down into his soup, embarrassed at the praise. Lily had rarely said anything like that to him, except maybe a few times when he was little.

"If… if you don't figure something else out, for next summer… you're welcome to stay with me again," said Miss Rosier meekly.

"Really?" asked Harry, his green eyes bright as he looked up at her. "You're serious?"

"Completely," she responded. "You're a good worker, Harry, and more than that, you're a promising boy. I enjoy your company."

"I'd love to have a place to come back to," admitted Harry. "I was worried about where I'd go next summer. I wonder if my parents even care at all where I've gone off to."

Miss Rosier pursed her lips sourly. "Those Potters," she spat. "Any decent wizarding home would be proud to have a son like you."

Harry blushed deeply and finished his soup. As he settled onto the couch for bed, he pulled out the diary.

Hello, Tom, he wrote.

There you are. Time passes painfully slowly without someone to talk to.

It must have been terrible to wait out the decades before I wrote in your diary, said Harry with a grimace.

Yes, well, I knew it was a very long time. The writing paused for a moment, and then resumed. So, Harry – you never did tell me. Why did you run away from home?

My family and I… we don't get along. They're all Gryffindors, the whole lot of them, and all my ancestors were, too. On my dad's side, that is. My mum is Muggle-born.

A Mudblood, you mean, Tom corrected him.

Yes, of course, wrote Harry hastily. I wish she'd been pureblood. It's hard enough to be accepted in Slytherin as a half-blood.

Ah, yes. There, I can empathize with you… because regrettably, I too am a half-blood. Harry could imagine the revulsion in Tom's expression.

Really! There aren't too many of us in Slytherin. Did it give you trouble, too?

At first, a little. I grew up in a dirty Muggle orphanage. But at Hogwarts I became so powerful and influential that before long, everyone forgot my origins. I was committed to the pureblood ideal enough so that my disgusting Muggle father was forgotten.

That's what I wish I could do, said Harry. Except I don't think anyone will be likely to forget my family any time soon, what with Eric being my twin.

What's so special about your twin?

Oh – you wouldn't know, that's right. He's famous for defeating the Dark Lord as a baby.


Lord Voldemort's killing curse was rebounded back onto him when he came to murder my brother.

There was a very long pause after Harry wrote that. The time stretched so long that Harry began to worry that Tom's enchantment had run out.

Tom? Harry wrote tentatively.

I'm here. The script appeared very slowly.

Is something wrong?

No – nothing. You should get to bed, Harry. You're going back to Hogwarts tomorrow.

Harry blinked. Tom had never wanted him to stop writing before.

Well, all right. Goodnight.

Goodnight, Harry.

Harry placed the diary on the ground next to him and stretched back, pulling his blankets up. He wondered about Tom's odd behavior, but soon his thoughts drifted to returning to Hogwarts. For a while he lay awake thinking about his classmates and school, but then his thoughts shifted into dreams, and finally Harry slept.

- - -

"It's time to get up," said Miss Rosier, shaking his shoulder.

Harry blearily opened his eyes and looked out the window. The sun was just peeking over the horizon.

"Why'd we have to get up this early, again?" yawned Harry as he ran a hand through his messy hair.

"I promised I'd see you to King's Cross, remember? But I do have to be back here before the shop opens for the day," explained Miss Rosier, walking to the kitchen.

"Oh yeah," mumbled Harry. He made his way to the bathroom to take a shower. When he got out, feeling much more refreshed, he wiped the condensation on the mirror away and examined his reflection.

His cheeks had thinned out a little over the last year, giving him a slightly older appearance. Although he was still short for his age, he'd grown a few inches – he was now about 5 feet tall. With his finger, he traced the long, thin scar on his cheek, feeling the pale, raised line. Harry wondered idly why Eric had never asked him where it came from, but then he remembered that up until the Parseltongue incident, Eric hadn't been speaking to him. Geran's fang was still hanging on the chain around his neck, and Harry held the tooth for a moment, soberly remembering the snake that had died trying to protect him.

Harry shook the water off of his hair and got dressed. He walked out of the bathroom to be greeted by the scent of eggs and sausages wafting through the air.

"That smells delicious," he said.

"You need a good breakfast to see you off," said Miss Rosier with a smile. "It's the least I can do."

"Thank you," said Harry earnestly. He helped himself to a plate and dug in. During the time he'd been staying with Miss Rosier, he'd noticed that at times she acted decidedly motherly. He supposed that looking after someone brought out that instinct in her, even though she was just a single young woman in her late twenties.

"Do you have everything packed and ready?" asked Miss Rosier as she sat down across from him, sipping a cup of coffee.

"Yeah, everything's all set to go," said Harry after swallowing a mouthful of scrambled eggs.

"I know you probably know all this already, but I just have to say it," said Miss Rosier. Her thin face took on a stern expression. "Don't you go associating with Mudbloods and Muggle-lovers; they're a bad influence. Keep up with your studies, and if you need anything, go to your head of house – above anyone else, especially that Dumbledore, the head of Slytherin will be on your side."

Harry cocked an eyebrow at that. It seemed to him that most of last year, Snape had actively worked against him because he was James Potter's son.

Miss Rosier caught his expression. "What? You don't believe me?"

"My head of house is Severus Snape. He hates my entire family… including me," Harry informed her.

"Bah," said Miss Rosier, waving her hand dismissively. "If you show him that you are, for all intents and purposes, not actually a part of your family, you may help him to see the truth. Severus Snape is an intelligent man. If you can get him to see beyond your last name, I am sure you'll have quite an ally, indeed."

"Perhaps," muttered Harry, although he still did not sound convinced.

"Harry," deadpanned Miss Rosier. "Severus served the Dark Lord alongside my father. He is the right sort."

He had always suspected that Snape had been a Death Eater, and his father had said as much, but not until now had Harry gotten confirmation of that fact. Interesting. "All right, then. I'll try to get him to see me in a better light."

"Now you're speaking sense," said Miss Rosier brusquely. "Come, now, Harry. Let's gather your belongings and be on our way."

Harry complied, rising and walking to his trunk, which was placed near the entryway. He shrunk the trunk and put it in his pocket, like he had done before. While he waited for Miss Rosier to be ready, he slid a hand through his wild black hair, trying to tame it, although it obviously didn't help because it continued to stick up all over. Miss Rosier appeared a moment later wearing some Muggle clothes; they looked very strange on her. Harry had never seen her wearing anything but fine robes of a deep purple, blue, or green.

"Such barbaric clothing," said Miss Rosier, as she self-consciously smoothed her blouse. "If it weren't for the International Statute of Secrecy and the Muggle departments of the Ministry, I'd wear my robes for all to see at King's Cross. Damn those Muggles to hell," she added in a mutter.

Harry gave her a small, placating smile, and said, "I'm sorry you have to dress like that for my sake."

"Oh, Harry – please don't think that this is your fault. Only Muggles are to blame; if it weren't for them, we could exist without hiding our magical world," she said resolutely. "Muggles make us fugitives in our own country, Harry. We'd all be much better off if they were all purged."

Harry thought that 'purging' the Muggles sounded a bit harsh, but at the same time he could see Miss Rosier's point. Wizards had to take all sorts of measures to ensure that Muggles remained unaware of the wizarding community; hell, there were entire departments of the ministry devoted to keeping Muggles oblivious. The magical world had to waste so many resources trying to keep itself a secret…

"Well, let's go, then. No time to tarry," said Miss Rosier, interrupting his thoughts. They headed down the stairs, which led into the backroom of the store, and then made their way out a side door.

It was early morning and Knockturn Alley looked strangely cheery to Harry. The place was practically deserted, and the rays of morning light were shining onto the cobblestones and storefronts. A light breeze ruffled his hair as he followed Miss Rosier down the road.

"How far is the nearest Floo grate?" he asked her.

"Oh, not far off – just a few blocks more," she replied.

As it turned out, she was right; just a few minutes later she turned and led him down a dusty side-street. At the very back, a large but dilapidated old fireplace was built into the wall. A tiny bronze box was installed at its side. As Harry watched, Miss Rosier took out two Knuts and slid them into a coin slot in the box. It opened up to reveal a mass of Floo powder inside.

"I've paid for yours, as well, so go on – take a pinch," said Miss Rosier, gesturing toward the dispenser.

"Thanks," said Harry as he scooped some out. As soon as two pinches had been extracted, the box snapped shut again. Harry suspected that the dispenser was spelled with a refilling charm.

"You first, Harry," said Miss Rosier, as she lit a fire in the grate with her wand. "The destination is Etern Alley – it's a small wizarding shopping plaza, just a few minutes' walk from King's Cross."

Harry walked to the edge of the fire. He threw the Floo powder in – the fire turned emerald green in response, and he stepped forward immediately. The fire felt like a warm rush of air. He opened his mouth and spoke confidently, "Etern Alley!"

After some brief moments of a peculiar spinning sensation, Harry landed at the other end. He stepped out of the fireplace and dusted his clothes off. He had appeared in what looked like a small, outdoor garden placed on the side of a commercial plaza. Hedges and flowers lined the pathway to the fireplace he'd just come out of.

He turned to look back at the grate, and barely a moment later Miss Rosier appeared in the emerald flames. Wispy strands of her plain brown hair stuck out a bit from the journey, and as she stepped out of the fireplace, she wiped the ash off of her clothes and smoothed her hair back into place.

"Good, good," she said. "Now come this way."

Harry set off behind her once more as she guided him across the bright plaza. It wasn't a very large area; he estimated that the square contained about eight shops, all getting ready to open for the morning. The place reminded him of a very clean, miniature Hogsmeade – at least, a lot like what he could remember of Hogsmeade from the few times he'd visited there with his family. Miss Rosier led him down a bright street that jutted off from the plaza.

"This street here is a residential district. Most of the tall buildings at our sides are flats, much like mine above the shop in Knockturn Alley. Of course, this is more of a place directed toward light wizards," Miss Rosier explained. "The section that we're in right now is actually what's defined as Etern Alley – it's just that the Floo grate for it comes out at the end, by the shops."

"Ah," said Harry, taking in his surroundings with interest.

They finally reached the end of the wizarding section as they passed through an archway that was hidden to Muggles from the outside. When they appeared on the opposite side, Harry was struck by how dirty and populated the streets were, compared to the magically clean, pristine pathways in Etern Alley.

Muggles live in this filth? he found himself thinking, as some straggly-looking people rushed passed him in a hurry. Cars squeaked and swerved on the street, honking every so often. Harry followed Miss Rosier along the sidewalk which guided them down the road to King's Cross. Parts of the concrete were cracked and covered with dirt, and on occasion a cigarette or empty can littered the path. If only they could cast a quick 'Scourgify', he thought with pity. Their world would be so much nicer.

Finally they arrived at the train station of King's Cross. Miss Rosier and he walked the rest of the distance to the pillars between Platforms 9 and 10, and once they reached that point, the young woman turned around and smiled at Harry.

"Have a great year at school, Harry," she said to him fondly. "Write me on occasion, will you?"

"Of course, Miss Rosier," promised Harry. He swallowed and looked up into her kind brown eyes. "Thank you so much for everything."

"You're welcome," she replied quietly. Harry took his shrunken trunk out of his pocket, and after Miss Rosier cast a quick distraction charm at the Muggles around them, she enlarged the suitcase and took off the feather-light charm so it was of a normal weight. "Now you'd best get to the other side; I have to be back at the shop in fifteen minutes."

Harry nodded. He couldn't help himself as he rushed forward suddenly to give Miss Rosier a quick hug. She returned it warmly. "I'll miss you at the shop, Harry. But next summer, perhaps, eh? Go on, now," she said kindly, indicating toward the pillar of Platform 9 ¾.

"Goodbye," said Harry, and with a quick scan around at the people, he slid through the barrier.

- - -

"Maybe he's ill!" someone said hopefully.

"Maybe he's left," said another voice, "because he missed out on the Defense Against the Dark Arts job again!"

Severus Snape turned the corner of the corridor to the very unwelcome scene of Ron Weasley and Eric Potter. The two boys hadn't noticed him yet, as they were looking down the hall to their left. Severus noted that the second-years appeared remarkably disheveled and perhaps even injured – he could make out the bluish-yellow tint of a bruise on the Weasley boy's cheek, and the Potter boy's robes were ripped and torn in several places.

"Or he might have been sacked!" said Weasley enthusiastically. "I mean, everyone hates him –"

"Or maybe," Severus interjected in his coldest voice, "he's waiting to hear why you two didn't arrive on the school train."

Eric and Ron spun around at once, their expressions exactly the same: an extremely satisfying mix of shock and dread. Severus couldn't help the tight, vindictive smile that appeared on his face. Oh, this was good. He could get these two nuisances in very much trouble, indeed.

"Follow me," he said icily. "I'm sure Professor McGonagall and the headmaster would be quite interested in your… endeavors this night."

Severus could practically feel the fear emanating off of the two of them. He soaked it in like sunshine. It was about time that Eric Potter and his little friend felt the consequences of their actions. Just like James, the Gryffindor Potter couldn't resist the chance to be the center of attention – as if he didn't have enough of that already!

He led the boys up to the headmaster's office. Surely Dumbledore wouldn't deny that their actions had been foolhardy and entirely worthy of expulsion. At the very least, they would get some justifiably severe punishments.

"In," ordered Snape, as he led them past the gargoyle and up the spiral staircase to the headmaster's office. The two Gryffindors walked ahead, their steps falling heavily as if to a death march.

"Ah, Severus – and Misters Potter and Weasley," said Dumbledore without a hint of surprise. "Impeccable timing, I must say. I'd only just finished giving this year's start of term speech."

Severus gaped at Dumbledore's flippant tone. What was he playing at? "Albus, are you aware of how these two miscreants arrived at the school?"

He slapped today's issue of the Evening Prophet onto the desk. "They were seen," Severus hissed. The headline flashed at everyone in the room: FLYING FORD ANGLIA MYSTIFIES MUGGLES. Weasley seemed to shrink into himself at the sight of it.

"Yes, I am quite aware, Severus," said Dumbledore, this time a bit more soberly. "Please explain why you did this," he said quietly, addressing the two boys.

"Eric spent the night before the start of term at my house, sir," said Weasley, his voice shaking slightly. "We were… we were running late to get to Platform 9 ¾, but I swear, sir, we were just barely on time."

Here Eric picked up. "And yet – the barrier sealed itself before we could get in. We couldn't get to school... so we figured that flying the car would get us there almost just as quick."

"And the deplorable appearance of your clothes?" questioned McGonagall as she walked through the fire into the room. Her lips were impossibly thin.

"Well, we kind of had a crash landing… into a tree that fought back," explained Weasley, rubbing his bruised cheek slightly.

"The Whomping Willow?" clarified McGonagall, her eyes widening. "My goodness," she muttered. "That certainly explains your… state," she finished with a pointed look at their bruises, scrapes, and scratches.

"Rubbish luck for a place to crash, if you ask me," murmured Weasley.

"But why didn't you send us a letter by owl?" asked McGonagall levelly, ignoring the redhead's statement. "I believe you have an owl, Mr. Potter."

Potter gaped as if the possibility had never passed through his mind. "I… "

"Honestly, headmaster – just get on with it and tell them they're expelled," snapped Severus, tired of all this dilly-dallying.

"I do not think that a mere moment's lapse in judgment deserves expulsion, Severus," said Dumbledore softly. "Although I must impress the seriousness of your actions on the both of you."

Here the old wizard's tremendously blue eyes peered over half-moon glasses at the two boys. The expressions of the Gryffindors were still grave, but not as much as before. Severus noted with a frown that the knowledge of their non-expulsion had given them an evident sense of relief.

"Mr. Potter: you will serve detentions with me for the first two months of school, each weeknight. Mr. Weasley, you will serve detentions with Mr. Filch for the same length of time. Is that clear?" asked Dumbledore.

Weasley's face, in particular, looked as sour as if he had swallowed a fresh dose of skele-grow. Potter appeared less stricken.

"You may go," said Dumbledore. The two boys left, and McGonagall followed a moment after. Severus, however, stayed. He had some things he wished to discuss with the headmaster…

"Albus," asked Severus with a hint of suspicion. "How do you intend to punish Potter in his detentions?"

"I intend to train him," said Dumbledore simply. "With much more vigor and much higher expectations than I'm sure he would find comfortable."

"Train him?" exclaimed Severus. "But that hardly constitutes a punishment, Albus!"

"He will be pushed to his magical limits," replied Dumbledore. "It takes a physical toll on the body not unlike scrubbing trophies for hours – although it also engages the mental sphere. I think it a fitting way to both reprimand the boy and use the time efficiently, for his sake and for the sake of us all."

Severus forced himself to accept this, but the state of things left a bitter taste in his mouth. Of course James' son would not be punished, but instead rewarded with magical training!

"Albus… I am also curious. How in Merlin's name did you smooth over the Quirrell incident at the end of last term? I haven't heard any questions asked about the incident. None at all."

"You and I – and Harry Potter, of course – are the only ones who know what happened in the mirror room to protect the Stone," began Dumbledore slowly. "The official story is that Quirrell perished in an unfortunate incident potion accident; that he attempted to make a brew to treat his stutter and he poisoned himself in the process. Naturally, you 'inspected' the body, and as a potions master, were qualified to make this diagnosis."

"A reasonable story, I suppose," admitted Severus.

"Yes, and no one questioned it… but I am concerned about Harry," said Dumbledore thoughtfully. He sat back in his chair. "It seems as if he has as much magical potential as his brother."

"Of a decidedly darker sort," pointed out Severus. "I still can't quite manage to understand how he was able to cast such a dark spell on Quirrell so easily. Perhaps the mirror knew of his capabilities, strengthened by adrenaline; that is the only explanation I can think of."

"Indeed. That potential is worrisome. However, it does give me hope that his wand was, in fact, dealing that damage against our enemies – Voldemort and his possession of a dark wizard. Perhaps, despite his magic's tendencies, his parents' lessons have resonated with him," reasoned Dumbledore.

Severus snorted. "When I saw Lily in the hospital wing last spring, I was astounded, Albus. She hardly paid any attention to her Slytherin son; it was as if she was obsessed with Eric, even though he was the less injured of the two. As much as it pains me to admit it, I doubt Harry took any light lessons to heart with parenting like that."

Albus blinked. "Really, Severus? How exactly did Lily act?"

"Surely you must be aware of it," said Severus. "She seems to favor her Gryffindor son to no end, to ignore her Slytherin one. While I would expect that of any other light witch, I never thought that Lily would go so far."

"Ah," said Dumbledore softly. He sounded sorrowful more than anything. What was the old man up to?

Severus regarded him with suspicion. "Albus, do you know something about this?"

"I… an explanation came to mind just now, as you were telling me of Lily's behavior," said Albus. He took a breath and leaned forward. "Soon after the attack and Eric's encounter with Voldemort as a baby, I had a discussion with Lily and James. I told them of my suspicions – that I did not think that Voldemort was vanquished forever, and that their son might have to face him again one day and defeat him completely. Naturally, they were afraid for Eric's future, but they were also anxious that they wouldn't be able to raise the boy to be the strong, righteous leader that he'd have to become; they were very young parents, you know, and raising even a normal child is a daunting task. After we parted ways that night, I had an idea to help them."

Severus stared at the old man curiously. Dumbledore sighed deeply and began to stroke his beard slightly.

"I performed a spell on Lily and James the next day – the Alienare Curam spell."

"I've never heard of it."

"Few have; there is not often an application for it, so it for the most part has become lost in tomes, only interesting as a theoretical perspective," explained Dumbledore. "It is a minor compulsion spell, which nudges the Potters' thoughts in the direction of Eric. It was a useful tool to keep them attentive to and aware of Eric at all times; with attention comes love, and with so much love directed toward their son, Eric is sure to be raised correctly, to become the savior we need."

"Interesting," commented Severus. "But how does this tie into Lily's actions toward Harry?"

"To work correctly, the spell must transfer love and attention from another source," said Dumbledore. "I used Harry as that source, because I knew they would be extremely attentive to their other son as well; surely there would be extra to spare for Eric. He was the best choice, because they were unlikely to care for someone else, besides Eric, of course, as much as they would for Harry."

Severus' brows were furrowed. "But why would you do something like that, Albus? Normal parental affection wouldn't suffice?"

There was a long, painful pause.

"You don't know what it was like," Dumbledore began softly. "I knew that the child of the prophecy would have extraordinary magical potential, that he would be the next great wizard of the century. When I visited a young Tom Riddle, all those years ago at his orphanage, I didn't know he would be the next dark lord. But having seen how he turned out, I am forced to blame the lack of attention, affection, and love in his life."

Dumbledore rose from his chair and began to pace wearily around his office, looking older than ever.

"I had to assure that the next magical prodigy would not become a dark wizard, would not follow that path. Instead, I needed him to be the lightest of all light wizards – the epitome of good. For this he would need so much love and affection from his parents, and I, as powerful a wizard as I am, cannot create love or affection. So I borrowed it. I spelled them to use an extra dose of the affection they would have given Harry, and instead transfer it to Eric."

Aged blue eyes surveyed Severus. He couldn't read the emotion in the old wizard's eyes. Was it regret? Resignation? Thoughtfulness?

"And yet, magic always continues to surprise me. When I cast the spell on Lily and James all those years ago, it was only to be a tiny voice in the back of their minds to attend to Eric a touch more than to Harry. But I fear the magic has mutated, if you will. It has delved far deeper than I ever intended into their characters over the years, latching onto their anxiety and pride over Eric's accomplishment, and causing more neglect of Harry than I'd care to admit.

"Ah. It's so ironic, is it not, that I may have done precisely what I had intended to prevent? I never dreamed that Harry's powers would be at the same level as Eric's; that two magical prodigies would arise. And now he has dark tendencies, just as much as Eric leans toward the light."

"You may have created a rising Dark Lord, Albus," said Severus flatly. "He will certainly have the magical power of Lord Status when he grows older, and you know that he was able to cast that spell against Quirrell."

"Yes, Severus. But as I said before, what gives me hope is that his dark magic was directed against dark wizards. He may be predisposed to that type of magic, but as long as he continues to act against Voldemort, I feel like he may be on the right path after all."

"We can only hope so," said Severus quietly. "But now, what do you intend to do about the spell? Can you revoke it, knowing the damage it has done?"

"I'll see if I can. There is, after all, a counter-spell, but it may take a very long time to tailor it correctly to the spell's mutated state. I'll have to do some diagnostic exams on the Potters; then we will see what can be done," resolved Dumbledore.

"Good," replied Severus. He knew how terrible it was to be neglected; his own father, Tobias, used to vary between neglecting Severus when he was sober and abusing him when he was drunk. Both were hurtful, even if just mentally. No one deserved that.

"Now, why don't you go give your Slytherin first years their start of term speech in the dungeons," offered Dumbledore. "As you can see, it seems I have work to do."

Severus nodded. "Goodnight, Albus."

He left the office and strode down to the dungeons, deeply immersed in his thoughts. What struck him most of all was that his Lily – whose love was so pure, precious, and deep – had been forced to divert those emotions from her very own son.

He could think of no greater tragedy.

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