Escape to Darkness: Chapter One
Harry felt his feet slam into the ground; he fell forward despite being mostly uninjured, unlike Cedric. He let go of the Triwizard Cup as he snapped up his wand and lit it with a whispered, "Lumos."
"Where are we?" Cedric hissed. He too had gotten up – the Hufflepuff was stubborn and determined, if nothing else. Harry certainly hadn't been impressed with any spellwork he'd seen from the other boy's wand. Not that his own was particularly NEWT-worthy.
Harry looked up and took in his surroundings. They had left the Hogwarts grounds completely; they had obviously traveled miles - perhaps hundreds of miles - for even the mountains surrounding the castle were gone. They were standing instead in a dark and overgrown graveyard; the black outline of a small church was visible beyond a large yew tree to their right. A hill rose above them to their left. Harry could just make out the outline of a fine old house on the hillside.
Cedric looked down at the Triwizard Cup and then up at Harry.
"Did anyone tell you the cup was a Portkey?" he asked.
"Nope," said Harry. He was looking around the graveyard. It was completely silent and slightly eerie. "Obviously this is the part where the real Hogwarts champion kills the other and returns victorious, eh?"
Cedric snorted and let out a nervous chuckle as he cast an almost wary eye at Harry. "Wands out, d'you reckon?" Harry, who was already holding a lighted wand, merely raised an eyebrow at the older student. Cedric might have looked a little sheepish as he pulled out his wand, and silently cast a light charm. Harry tried to contain his jealousy and vowed to learn nonverbal casting soon.
Harry kept looking around him. He had, yet again, the strange feeling that they were being watched.
"Someone's coming," he said suddenly.
Squinting tensely through the darkness, they watched the figure drawing nearer, walking steadily toward them between the graves. Harry couldn't make out a face, but from the way it was walking and holding its arms, he could tell that it was carrying something. Whoever it was, he was short, and wearing a hooded cloak pulled up over his head to obscure his face. And - several paces nearer, the gap between them closing all the time - Harry saw that the thing in the persons arms looked like a baby ... or was it merely a bundle of robes?
Harry glanced sideways at Cedric while keeping his wand trained. Cedric shot him a quizzical look. They both turned back to watch the approaching figure.
It stopped beside a towering marble headstone, only six feet from them. For a moment, Harry and Cedric and the short figure simply looked at one another.
And then, without warning, Harry's scar exploded with pain. It was agony such as he had never felt in all his life; he somehow maintained his grip on his wand and retained most of his facilities despite it. Somehow, he almost knew what was going to happen next; from Cedric's perspective, it must have looked as though Harry had preternatural reflexes.
From far away, above the heads of the boys, was heard a high, cold voice, "Kill the spare."
Harry had already brought his wand toward Cedric, who caught the movement and his eyes widened in betrayal. "Depulso!" Cedric, hit by the banishing charm, was flung sideways, just as a swishing noise and a second voice, which screeched the words to the night: "Avada Kedavra!"
A blast of green light blazed through Harry's eyelids, which zoomed by where Cedric had been just a moment before. Harry jumped to Cedric's side, and then glimpsed the shining Triwizard Cup behind them.
"Cedric, grab the cup and let's get the bloody hell out of here!" Harry hissed. Cedric nodded sharply and let loose another nonverbal spell as he pointed his wand at the cup. The gleaming trophy flew towards the boys, who reached out for it together.
The other figure, however, had seen through their strategy and hissed, "Accio Potter!"
Just before Harry and Cedric were able to grab the Portkey home, Harry was tugged to the side toward the black robed figure; Cedric turned his head and yelled, "No, Harry!" before the cup reached his hand and he disappeared with a whirl and the sound of a light wind blowing.
Harry's blood froze in that instant as he saw his only likely escape route clearly cut off. His opponent took advantage of this inattentiveness by calling out, "Incarcerous!" Thick black ropes bound Harry's legs and torso, pinning his arms to his side. Somehow he managed to keep a tight hold of his wand the entire time.
Before he could resist, Harry found himself floating towards a rather large headstone that he could vaguely see was labeled "TOM RIDDLE". While he wasn't surprised at his captor being revealed as Voldemort, he nonetheless batted down a ball of fear that was forming in his belly. Waiting until more ropes had securely tied him to the headstone, he shouted, "Diffindo!" with all his might, wiggling his wand in a crude approximation of the requisite wand movement. Thankfully, it was enough, as his fear was temporarily abated as he found his lower body free of the constrictive ropes.
His captor, garbed in a black cloak and now visibly carrying a bundle of rags in his arms, turned and scowled furiously. Between the rough scraggly blonde beard, poxy skin, and the finger missing on the hand holding the swaddling cloths, Harry realized that it was Wormtail who had captured him. Harry quickly recast the Severing Charm on the ropes binding his upper body and managed to stutter off a "Stupefy," before he was hit again with at least two hexes – one of them might have been an Impediment Jinx – and was immobilized.
He realized that ropes were once again restraining him as he heard a cold, high voice hiss, "The boy is too dangerous to be kept conscious, Wormtail! Stun him, and Nagini will bite him to ensure a lack of interruptions!" The voice seemed quite raspy.
"Nagini," the same voice called out, "Bite the child. He need only be alive a few minutes." Harry furiously called out to the snake opposing orders as a last ditch effort.
"No, don't bite me! Bite something else – maybe the only non-Parselmouth?" The snake ignored his command and sank its fangs deeply into his leg, but Harry did not expect the bewildered face to pop up from under the swaddling cloths in Wormtail's arms.
A red light bursting from Wormtail's wand ensured that Harry knew no more.
Harry woke up alone, with his cheek pressed against a cold stone floor.
He ached. All over, his body was sore. It hurt to move, but he disregarded that fact and made to get up.
'I guess the Cruciatus Curse leaves a bloke a bit sore afterward,' He thought wryly. His left forearm was covered in blood; it originated from his elbow, which had thankfully stopped leaking and was clotted over. Apparently he'd gotten no medical attention since Voldemort reclaimed his wand and stunned Harry. Harry wasn't quite sure why Voldemort had left him alive – as far as Harry could tell, his being alive was a mistake made fourteen years ago that Voldemort had been trying to correct ever since – but finally gained the presence of mind to look around at his new surroundings. His eyes had apparently adjusted to the dim light, because he could see fairly well.
Grey stone made up the floor, walls, and ceiling. Each block was larger than his head. A solid wooden door – and it was solid, not even vibrating when Harry slammed himself against it – was to the right side of one wall, and that was about the only thing that broke up the monotonous décor of the cell. At least it didn't lack space; he estimated it was nearly twenty feet in one direction and almost as much, perhaps seventeen or eighteen, along the wall with the door. The ceiling was high, perhaps as much as twelve or fifteen feet, Harry didn't know. Nearly ten feet up along the wall opposite the door was a hole through which shined a stream of light that projected a circle of luminescence in the middle of the cell; Harry could not actually see outside from the angle, but took comfort in the fact that he was not imprisoned hundreds of feet underground where he might suffocate for Voldemort's pleasure, or some similarly gruesome death.
There was precious little decoration in the room, despite its size – larger than any bedroom Harry'd ever had by nearly double. To one side of the door there was a bucket whose function Harry guessed – sure enough, it Vanished anything that was put inside, as he emptied his bladder as a test. Along the wall to the left of the door was a bookshelf with exactly four books on it; Harry would naturally read them in the coming days and months, but for now skimmed over them. A small three-legged stool was the only other decoration – the remains of a bed, apparently blasted apart when his captors imprisoned Harry, were askew across the room, but a pallet appeared serviceable on the floor. Harry lay down on it, his mood darkening as the reality of the situation descended upon him.
The question, 'Why am I still alive? Why didn't Voldemort kill me?' occupied Harry's thoughts for the rest of the evening. He was quite certain that starvation was to be in order, until with a 'pop', a metal plate appeared near the door with mashed potatoes, some kind of chunky meat Harry couldn't identify, and vegetables all mixed together on it. Next to it was a pitcher of cool water. If his eleven years with the Dursleys had taught him anything, it was that food should never be turned away; Harry eagerly dug in, not knowing how regularly he would be fed in this prison.
His feeding schedule turned out to be once daily. As far as Harry could tell by the stream of light, he was fed just before nightfall, perhaps six or seven in the evening.
At least, when he first began his imprisonment, it was just before nightfall.
He'd never started keeping track of the days, perhaps believing that he was better off not knowing, but he noticed now that once more his dinner came just before nightfall – he supposed it was nearly a year since his imprisonment began, then.
This revelation had initially launched him into a deep despair, and he hadn't felt like rising from his bed for most of the next day. Initially he got over that, of course; his bed smelled terrible enough without him spending even more time stinking it up by laying about in it, and prison only drove him to deeper depression if he didn't at least attempt to occupy himself in some way.
It was his isolation with the Dursleys that allowed him to cope as well as he had, he privately thought – since his early childhood he'd been dreaming up fantasies and was unable to tell anyone about them, so this was not all that different.
Of course, Harry's isolation was not as complete as it could be. Upon his initial imprisonment, he would see visions nearly every night – horrible, violent visions that he almost suspected at first of being horrible crimes he'd committed and forgotten that had landed him in prison.
Later, he deduced the truth, from hours of reflection and consideration. They were not his crimes, but Voldemort's. He was seeing through Voldemort's eyes.
Most nights he saw visions, they were similar. Voldemort and a large group of Death Eaters – usually upwards of ten – Apparated to a house. Oftentimes it was a normal-looking house, which wouldn't have been too out of place on Privet Drive. Inside the house were some wizarding family who didn't have the right blood – a few times it was a Pureblood who'd married a muggle – and they were cursed and killed by Voldemort and his gleeful Death Eaters. The worst part of the visions was feeling Voldemort's emotions during the killings. Particularly once the Dark Lord knew that Harry could see them – the result of a particularly furious Harry who'd raged at Voldemort while he flayed Madam Bones, the aunt of his classmate Susan, into a bloody pulp; surprisingly, he'd left the potent witch alive afterward, no doubt traumatized.
Harry'd become mostly immune to the grisly scenes after only a few months of seeing them repeatedly. After that numbing immunity arrived, Harry found that disinterest in the images, which allowed him to force them out of his mind, granted him some peace. Even Voldemort seemed to think that it was no longer fun after Harry stopped getting upset at the visions. Not to say that Harry didn't feel the same cold fury every time an innocent was slaughtered by a nearly giggling Voldemort; he just banished the feeling and tried to focus on reading one of the same four books he'd already memorized yet again, perhaps reciting a particularly interesting passage.
Troublesome Transfigurations for Townwitches was not a particularly fascinating read for Harry when he was first imprisoned, but that changed as he was able to consider and appreciate how nice it would be to change his own rough-hewn, three-legged stool into a comfortable lounge chair, perhaps, or his straw pallet into a nice four-poster like he'd slept in at Hogwarts.
Charming Charms always reminded Harry of Gilderoy Lockhart when he picked it up, and he smiled in remembrance of how annoyed he'd been, always acting the banshee, werewolf, vampire, hag, or ghoul about to be vanquished by his Professor. He was quite sure Gilderoy used the hair styling charm detailed within to get that slight curl of his bangs.
Enchantments in Baking was a book that Harry swore he remembered Mrs. Weasley owning when he'd gone to their house, but couldn't be certain – regardless, he always read it in fond remembrance of his adopted family who had, he was sure, missed him while he was gone this year.
A Guide to Medieval Sorcery was the final book in Harry's cell, and it was this one that he admittedly spent the most time perusing. He'd used it in preparation for the tournament with Hermione, he remembered. Before the second and third task, if he did recall correctly. Ironically he could now relate to the need for several of these spells he'd previously deemed "useless": spells to mask one's own scent, to dampen a sense of smell, and several different kinds of cleaning spells – caked on grime wasn't affected much by a standard Scourgify. Harry had always before taken for granted the existence of toiletries for personal grooming; a luxury that this prison certainly didn't allow – the conjuration for such toiletries would have been the height of luxury, in his opinion.
It was another day like every other – on this particular one, Harry was still gathering rogue feathers from around his cell from when a bird of some kind had come into his cell and promptly added to his daily conglomerate of food – when Harry first heard the scratching.
It was odd, because no rats scuttled around the prison; Harry had even been shocked when the little bird made it in, because he had suspected it to be charmed with some kind of "Rodent-Repelling Charm", if such a thing existed.
The scratching, Harry quickly deduced, was coming from beneath the wall to the right of the door, slightly underneath. It had gotten more persistent over the three days he'd heard it fairly continuously, and he realized that it must have been another person, another prisoner!
For the first time since early in his incarceration, he entertained thoughts of eventual escape.
He was still harboring those thoughts on the fourth day, when, as he was intently staring – somewhat madly, of course, after a year of solitary confinement – at the spot from where the scratching was emanating. Finally, a square of rock – little more than a slab of slate, from its looks – moved upward as a head raised it from underneath.
An old man he was, Harry saw; dirty too, though that was not unexpected from being in prison and digging. He had a wild mane of white hair, no grey intermixed that Harry could see. His features were gaunt, skeletal, even, and somewhat weary as his head emerged further and he stared at Harry, who was still staring at where he emerged, looking the man straight in the eye, where vivid green met light blue. The intruder quirked a bit of an eyebrow before speaking.
"Ah…it seems I picked the wrong direction, then. How unfortunate." The man seemed to grow even wearier at this declaration. "It can be maddening when you have a 50/50 chance and choose incorrectly, can't it?" Harry still didn't respond to the other's attempt at a conversation. After all, it had been at least a year, and because of that, Harry wasn't entirely certain he'd retained his sanity. Had his fantasies of being back at Hogwarts with his friends finally driven him mad?
"What's the matter boy?" The old man said, setting the tile across his head on the floor and climbing out of the sizable hole now in Harry's floor. His voice was low and gravelly.
"I'm just…" Harry began in a voice raspy from disuse, "still not entirely certain that you aren't a figment of my imagination."
The old man broke into a grim smile, revealing a complete lack of teeth, and chuckled a moment, before replying, "I could tell you I'm not, but then I suspect that a figment of your imagination might do the same." The old man arose entirely from the tunnel and dusted his rags off slightly, keeping most of the dirt off of Harry's floor courteously.
"Now, why don't we pretend for the moment that I do, in fact, exist, and introduce ourselves? I am prisoner number Thirteen, unluckiest of the bunch as my predecessors One through Twelve managed to die quite some time ago, while I yet remain imprisoned." While there was a bit of a glint in the old man's eye as he said this, there was only a small bitter smirk on his face indicating a joke.
"Uh…I'm Harry. I don't know what my prisoner number is or anything." Harry, remembering his manners but feeling quite odd, stuck out his hand in greeting. His handshake was not returned, but merely stared at somewhat judgmentally before Harry dropped it.
"I've been here about a year now," Harry continued somewhat lamely. Still, the old man was doing nothing but staring at him dispassionately. "I'm not quite sure how I ended up here. I'm not a criminal or anything, I've just had the Dark Lord after me most of my life, and he finally caught up to me. Next thing I knew, here I was." Harry finished. The old man nodded slightly as Harry finished.
"You can call me Gelgrin. I've been imprisoned here for fifty years," Harry blanched disbelievingly, and not a bit despairingly at this, "for a multitude of crimes. I've heard of this so-called 'Dark Lord' – from Britain, correct?" The old man paused, then added, "must be quite the wizard to have earned that title."
Harry found his fist tightening of its own accord at this "acclaim" of Voldemort. In but a moment, he banished the ball of righteous fury he found wrenching his stomach and remembered what he'd learned in his year of incarceration – if he didn't let things bother him, they weren't in his mind. Gelgrin was still staring at him intently, but Harry wasn't sure what he was looking for.
"Yes, he's terrorized much of the British Isles for a while now. A decade, then he disappeared for a decade, and he was recently returned. The day I was imprisoned, in point of fact. I imagine he'll be making a bid for full control of Wizarding England soon." Harry watched as Gelgrin seemed to shrug nonchalantly.
"Hmm, interesting. I suppose I now have a proposition for you, young Harry. You see, I have spent the past ten years of my life crafting this tunnel behind me. As you can see, I chose to tunnel in the incorrect direction, and instead of passing through a gap in the protections lining the prison to the North Sea beyond, I arrived underneath your cell. In the other direction from my cell lies a cave that should be the only escape from this rock to the closest village of Oost-Vlieland, in the Netherlands. Quite a swim, but prisoners can't be choosers. Since my mistake included you accidentally – and since you are, as you put it, not a criminal and thus wrongfully imprisoned – you could help me dig and lead to a faster escape for both of us." Harry hesitated only a moment, considering that this was a dangerous criminal who, by his own admission, was rightfully imprisoned for fifty years.
"Of course." He said with his jaw tightened - who knew what kind of devil he'd just made a deal with. The mocking smirk of the skeletal old man resumed as he turned around without a word and crawled back into the hole from which he emerged. Wondering if he was supposed to follow, Harry scrambled into the hole after a moment.
Harry's time in the prison was not, he reflected, normal.
After all, he'd merely woken up one day in an unfamiliar place, stripped of his belongings and freedom. It had taken some time to work out the specifics that other inmates would know before their incarceration – why they were there, expected behavior, and such. Because of this, along with Harry's own tendency to leave things unchanged, probably a remnant from his time at the Dursleys', where nothing belonged to him, Harry's cell remained almost exactly the same as it had the day he arrived.
Gelgrin's cell, by comparison, seemed like an extraordinary place.
Writing lined each and every wall – advanced runic designs Harry couldn't make sense of, mostly, but were fascinating nonetheless – and the entirety of it was filled with things. Instead of the single small bookshelf that Harry had, Gelgrin had three – one was filled with traditional-looking books like Harry had been given to help pass the time, only there were dozens lining the shelf; the other two were stacked to the brim with rolls of parchment. A leak coming from the ceiling had been turned into a supply of water for Gelgrin, who even as Harry looked around washed some of the muck from the tunnel off his face and wrung out his hair. He even had a thin towel which he used and wrung out into the waste bucket.
Harry at first thought Gelgrin's bed had been destroyed like Harry's own when he saw the pallet lying on the bare floor, but as he looked around he realized that Gelgrin must have disassembled it himself for spare wood to build, for instance, the small table at which the stool – which had a back to it like a chair – sat in the stream of light that shone in as in Harry's room.
"This room is incredible!" Harry finally croaked out in awe, his voice still raspy. Gelgrin did not smile in reply, but merely said, "You must have led a rather poor life if a prison cell can be described as 'incredible', boy."
Harry reddened in embarrassment as the slight chastise, and corrected, "I mean in comparison to my own. I mean, look at all the things you have! Dozens of books, and rolls of parchment – are those your own writings? And the table you must have made out of your bed. And the bowl to catch the dripping water!" Harry said, pointing out the highlights. Also of interest were the myriad of steel tools Gelgrin had placed on the table that Harry saw were used for digging. Sharp tools, hammer-like tools, and what looked like a trowel all were there; also there was a thick candle in a metal tray.
"Given half a century, one does what they can with what they are given. Until a year ago, I was provided a new book each year, along with as much parchment, ink, and as many quills as I requested. I even was able to converse with the guards that made daily rounds, and was friendly with more than a few of them throughout my time here. What changed, I cannot say for certain, though the fact that your arrival coincides with the change is…curious, to say the least. I should think that learning about you might give me some insight into the matter." Gelgrin said finally, drawing a cupful of water from the bowl and seating himself at the table. There was no chair opposite him, but Harry stood there anyway.
"Uh…well, where can I start? My name's Harry Potter." He looked for recognition in Gelgrin's eyes, but saw none so he continued quickly, "And Voldemort has been trying to kill me since I was a year old. He killed my parents but was somehow stopped," Harry intentionally left out the suspicions of Dumbledore and Voldemort here as to what "stopped" the Dark Lord, "and ever since I attended Hogwarts when I turned eleven, he or his followers have tried to kill me every year. Right before I got here, he used me as part of some kind of ritual where he got a new body." Gelgrin looked somewhat intrigued, but didn't push Harry to continue.
"Mmm," the old man said darkly. "Now, let us discuss the first thing of real importance – our eventual escape from the inescapable Nurmengard." Harry's ears perked up at this bit of information and tucked it away.
"Now," Gelgrin continued, "my method was to dig for around 8 hours each day until weariness overtook me. I think between the two of us, a solid 12 to 14 hours each day is not unreasonable; the work will also go faster with one of us holding the candle while the other digs. It is…backbreaking work, terribly difficult and uncomfortable to boot. I do not mean to discourage you, but you must realistically understand that." Harry nodded in acceptance.
"Because of that, we'll go through our light more quickly than before, so I'll require that you too shave off the fat on the meat provided in your meals and use it along with mine to make the candle larger. You can also provide…" At this, Gelgrin glanced curiously at Harry's hair. Harry had never taken note of it before, of course, but as he raised a hand to it, it was the same length and messy style it always had been; ever since that bout of accidental magic back when he lived at Privet Drive.
"I use hair for the wick of the candle, Harry." Gelgrin said, not speaking the question he was asking.
"It seems that whenever my hair is removed – cut off, burned off or whatever – it grows back pretty quick. Stems from a bit of accidental magic back from when I was a kid." Harry said.
"Convenient, I'm sure. Since you are young, I assume you are at best a half-trained schoolboy?" Gelgrin continued. Reflecting upon what he'd seen done in the Tournament and by other wizards he knew, Harry thought the description adequate.
"Yes, that's true, Gelgrin." Now Harry was the one to leave his question unspoken – it seemed Gelgrin liked it that way, and would provide the information necessary, leaving Harry to deduce any further answers.
"I see. Once we make good on our escape, it will behoove us both if you were to be more adept than that with your magic. I consider myself a rather accomplished wizard, so in our spare time I might teach you a few lessons. You may also consider yourself free to make use of both the books I was given each year – there are only fifty of them, but we have little else to do – and the many treatises I have written throughout my time here. For now, I have spent many long hours digging and am weary. I do not trust that you know anything about digging, so we shall endeavor to create our escape tunnel after we've both rested."
Gelgrin offered no further dialogue as he turned from Harry to his mining tools, inspecting them carefully before turning to a small flame in which he melted some kind of liquid. Harry got a few different books down and sat down at the edge of the nimbus of light, sparing Gelgrin only a bit of attention as the old man added more wax and hair to his candle in preparation for the next day of digging.
"So Bodrog the Washed sided with Grindelwald?" Harry asked as he drove the spike once more into the dirt before him, freeing more than he shoved into the Vanishing bucket. He scraped it with the trowel, then poked more.
"Yes, of course – that's why the Muggles say that Switzerland remained neutral. Bodrog backed Grindelwald while his brother Norak the Young sided with Britain. Of course, they only did that as a way to ensure that both sides ended up in debt to the goblins – that's their only aim, to enrich themselves, the greedy little toads. Of course, thousands of wizards dying was a bonus for them as well." Gelgrin said moodily as he held the candle by which Harry dug.
They might have only known each other for a few hours, but the pair had found a bit of common ground – Gelgrin made history sound interesting, and Harry knew little of it, since he mostly slept through history class. Gelgrin was working to remedy his ignorance; Harry was just glad of the conversation, the lack of which over the past year had been stifling.
"Yeah, my history class talked a lot about goblin wars; I think they've liked killing wizards for a long time. We talked about a few Giant wars, too."
"Bah, now there's a race of bloodthirsty savages! The temperament of a goblin, only twelve metres tall! Of course, after the Transylvania Slaughter of 1835, most of the really big giants were all killed off. A few of the ministries tricked them into coming to 'peace talks', and were able to attack the giants before they attacked first. Killed almost a hundred wizards, and took weeks of planning, but thousands of giants came. The thing with giant negotiations, Harry, is that not just the leaders come – if you can get them to go anywhere, usually you have to seek them out – but the leaders' mates and the next five strongest of each tribe.
"Just in case someone dies and the bunch have to fight it out to see who becomes the next Gurg. A Gurg is a giant term, which implies both tribal leader and the giant with the most females. I suppose those five also come to split up his women, should the Gurg die. Anyway, because of that, since the wizards knew that all of the biggest and baddest giants would all show up, the entire race was devastated practically in one blow. Brilliant strategy, and we haven't had a real problem with them since." Gelgrin said admiringly. Harry thought of Hagrid, and immediately objected.
"But that's horrible! Most of those giants probably didn't have anything against wizards!" Gelgrin scoffed.
"Child, you know nothing of what you speak," he said condescendingly, "A tribe of giants routinely stomps into the nearest human settlement to destroy it and pick up a few snacks. They've even been known to keep human slaves as cattle – I suppose it's a bit of a delicacy amongst them. What, do you think they're just like you and I, only bigger and stronger?" Harry was about to respond affirmatively before Gelgrin said, "That's ridiculous! Particularly before Transylvania, when the biggest giants were known to have killed things like manticores and nundus. They were about the worst things to live, brutal and terrifyingly powerful. There's a reason the Ural mountains are to this day only sparsely populated by wizards." Harry decided not to speak and merely continued digging. Arguing with Gelgrin was probably not a good idea – despite Harry's interactions with Hagrid, who was only a half-giant, he realized he was quite ignorant of the subject.
"Good that you know when I might know better than you, Harry," Harry could hear the somewhat cruel smirk on Gelgrin's face without looking back. "Of course, giants had a bit of an revolt during Grindelwald's war. See, with all the Russian wizards traipsing hurriedly across the entire Asian continent to get to the front lines during the Battle of Archangel – wizard battle while the Muggles were tied up at Leningrad – the giants took advantage and attacked from behind. Two divisions of wizards went unaccounted for; I believe it was a few years before anyone discovered what happened to them."
Each day in the tunnels was much the same – brilliant stories on important history that Harry had never known and would have never learned if not for Gelgrin. While he was holding the candle for Gelgrin, Harry related his own stories of his time at Hogwarts and a few from his life before; Quidditch had evolved a few new rules since Gelgrin started playing, and he was mildly interested in the new broomsticks that had come out; Gelgrin was also very interested in the teaching staff at Hogwarts, which Harry was all-too-eager to wax poetically about.
"Oppugno," Harry muttered under his breath as he moved his right hand down with a firm flick, as though he was making a wand movement.
"So," Gelgrin asked, looking up from a scroll he was writing, "Do you actually expect that to be of any value, or are you simply bored?" Harry bristled at the nearly constant condescending tone once more in his voice.
"Well excuse me if I'm, as you said, a half-trained schoolboy. Won't do me much good to escape if the only magic I can do is…levitating a feather or something!" Harry said loudly. Gelgrin's craggy face only quirked an eyebrow in response.
"First: I'm glad that I've determined that the guards on this section of the prison, if not the entirety of it, have been pulled from their rotation and thus cannot have overheard your little outburst. Do you actually think sitting in a prison cell yelling about imminent escape is wise, Harry? I knew you were young, but I hadn't considered the possibility of you being exceptionally stupid." Despite Harry's anger at being chastised, he blushed and looked down somewhat embarrassed.
"Secondly," Gelgrin continued in the same emotionless tone, "I completely concur with you being little good to yourself or anyone else should you escape with your current novitiate level of control of magic. However, mispronouncing spells learnt from a book while wildly waving your hand will do little to change that." Gelgrin took out a slat of wood approximately a foot in length and tossed it to Harry, who easily caught it and glanced up, not daring to hope that it was a wand.
"Now, that particular charm – quite useful to order transfigured animals or even conjured ones to attack – is pronounced Oh-puhg-noh. And try the wand movement with that stick, which will be considerably more demonstrative." Harry did so, while Gelgrin just groaned.
"My word," he said in disgust. "I said try the wand movement, not wave a stick around like a baboon!" Gelgrin removed a second stick and demonstrated with a flawless flick with a clear ictus.
"You are a wizard – perhaps you've heard of them, subtle and slow to anger? – not a common ape. Your wand movements need to be concise and exact!" Harry attempted once more, while Gelgrin merely sighed.
"There are twenty-five elementary wand movements, Harry. I strongly recommend that you go through each of them carefully and practice them. I'm going to take a stab in the dark and say that your best spells were the kind where you point your wand in the general direction of the target without much further complication?" Harry nodded, "But of course. For anything more difficult than a Stunning Charm – or perhaps the Killing Curse – you need precise wand movements in order to properly cast. Just work on the twenty-five wand motions. I believe there is a text on their importance and detailed instruction."
"No, no, no!" Gelgrin said frustratedly in French, "I would say you are as ignorant as when you began, but I am not given to hyperbole, so I'll just say you are still exceedingly ignorant!"
Harry replied haltingly, though also in the recently learned language, "Well, I still say that the charm would work the same way."
"Making a little fruit dance across your desk in school is a far cry from animating an object to defend against the Killing Curse. Trust me, it was one of the most advanced animations I ever worked on; as far as I know, the only other man capable of it was Albus Dumbledore!" Gelgrin shouted. It was rare that he said such things, revealing slight glimpses into his past; every time Harry asked for more information, he assuredly stopped talking immediately.
"I just think that my idea would work better, without the need for such an advanced animation. I mean, I've been making pineapples dance since my first year, and I've never tried animation." Harry responded, filing Gelgrin's fifth casual mention of Dumbledore away in his mind.
"Pah! Albus thought the same thing, the silly fool. In fact, the technique is more advanced than you even realize, because usual transfigurations wouldn't allow the statue to see colors! So you must allow it to only see that shade of green, so it can intercept the right curse. Trust me, boy, this is the finest defense against the Killing Curse that has ever existed – short of jumping around like a fool dodging them, of course." Gelgrin's tone had a finality to it, so Harry acquiesced before the old man got even more upset.
They had been digging for two years. Almost more importantly, Gelgrin had continued Harry's tuition for two years. Once Harry stopped "waving his stick around like a deranged squib", Gelgrin actually had many elements of education to impart to the boy. The library he'd amassed – Gelgrin had been given one additional book each year of his imprisonment until Harry had come to the prison – had been the primary thing keeping Harry sane and at least up-to-speed with his classmates, he reckoned, but Gelgrin often nudged him in the proper direction.
Vanishing charms, for instance, were a natural precursor to conjurations in the field of Transfiguration. Charms for making objects move were standard O.W.L. material, along with Color Changing Charms, Silencing Charms, and many others – most were detailed in the many books on household magic that Harry had available from Gelgrin's collection.
Of course, there was no actual practice of magic going on. Gelgrin had been certain to disabuse Harry of that notion early on.
"But I've seen Professor Dumbledore do some magic without a wand!" Harry insisted one day. Gelgrin sighed; Harry knew the implied question was dumb, in his opinion.
"Of course, a certain limited amount of magic is possible using a focus other than a wand. In a similar way, Muggles used to use candles to light their homes, instead of light bulbs. Can candles still be used, Harry?" Gelgrin had finished this explanation as though Harry were a particularly slow toddler.
"Now, were you to, for instance, learn how to light a few candles simultaneously with a snap of your fingers as your focus – quite a difficult prospect, but not impossible – it would be good to impress ignorant schoolchildren with. Other than such limited examples like that, it is nearly impossible. Now, even if you were to work something like that out – and I have, and am able to do exactly five such tricks with a snap, clap, or even a jiggle of my eyebrows – were you to do so within the walls of this prison, you would find alarms going off. So I also suggest that, if you are unable to control your temper, you restrain yourself from acts of accidental magic. Were guards to come investigate your cell, I'm sure both you and myself would find ourselves moved to even more dreary quarters and all our work would be for naught. They'd probably even remove our books…"
And so, despite only doing dry runs of waving his stick properly (still not properly nor precisely enough for Gelgrin's taste, of course) while chanting in Latin, Harry was still confident that once he got out and got an actual wand in his hand, he would be at least as skilled and advanced as his classmates. And since he'd been forced to practically teach and figure out his lessons on his own under loose supervision, perhaps even more so.
The sound of vicious digging woke Gelgrin.
This was unusual, because Harry, with much more learning to occupy his time than Gelgrin who only occasionally wrote, almost always woke up later than the older man. Then, however, Gelgrin remembered the date by looking at the tick marks on the wall.
July 31, 2000.
That explained it, then. Harry took his birthday, which was as close to his anniversary of imprisonment as he knew, particularly difficult each year. A milestone like a fifth-year anniversary would be particularly hard for the boy. Gelgrin barely refrained from sighing in exasperation at his inmate's emotional problems.
"Hitting the tunnel a bit early, eh Harry?" As he did every year, Harry didn't respond, merely shoveling a bit more rocky soil into the Vanishing bucket. The candle was sitting on the floor, but Gelgrin scooped it up and held it to avoid Harry putting it out with reckless dirt swinging.
Harry pounded the wall harder and faster in response.
"This isn't helpful to us, you know," Gelgrin stated, switching to a Southern Italian dialect – there was no reason for Harry to slack off in his language instruction. "Working yourself harder will just wear you out faster, and you'll get less done altogether. And if you bloody up your hands, your efficiency will be reduced all week; I'd estimate a cubic foot or so lost due to your carelessness today."
Harry snarled and tossed the pick (his former knife) to the side. "Well what would you like me to do? It's been five damn years in this hell, Gelgrin! I'm in no mood to read about fucking household charms – again - or listen to you babble as I hold the candle, so tell me what I should do other than dig my way out!" Harry yelled, the tunnel reverberating with his frustration.
"Harry, I expect you to dig calmly while you plot your revenge against those who unjustly imprisoned you. Honestly, you are the most neophyte prisoner I've ever encountered." Gelgrin said calmly. Harry rolled his eyes.
"Oh, and who do you plot against? I didn't think the dark wizard Grindelwald was unjustly accused." He said, finally accusing Gelgrin of his long-time suspicions. The older man was silent for a time.
"By my fifth year of imprisonment, I had thought up many torturous deaths for Albus Dumbledore," he admitted. "Since that time, I have come to the conclusion that I perhaps…misjudged the best treatment of muggles. In answer to your question, most everyone who I have plotted against has already died, anyway. The last, a traitorous dog who was working for me in England and gave the names of many good men for crimes he himself committed, died of dragon pox. Malfoy was his name." Grindelwald said, much to Harry's shock.
"One of his descendants, Lucius Malfoy, was a Death Eater for Voldemort. I'm not surprised – the whole family's pretty slimy, as far as I can tell." Grindelwald chuckled at this, while Harry continued beating the end of the tunnel.
"So, if you will satisfy my curiosity, when did you discern my identity?" Harry turned back at him and raised a questioning eyebrow.
"You weren't really trying to hide it; the slip-ups with you talking about Dumbledore, the obvious allusion with the name you picked, your uncanny knowledge about motivations concerning the second World War. Even as ignorant as I was when I got here, some things stood out." Harry's tone was still a bit bitter, but it seemed that Gelgrin – no, Grindelwald – had managed to deflect some of his anger.
"Ah yes, the name. I had much more success with both Girard and Gerhard; derivations of Gellert, you know, and a bit less obvious. But enough about that; tell me how you're going to kill Mr. Malfoy." Grindelwald mentioned this as casually as one might the weather. Harry's face hardened immediately.
"I think Malfoy is one of the Death Eaters most responsible for my being here. Voldemort was just reborn, so he couldn't have had the connections. The only other high-profile Death Eater…wait a minute, are we close to Durmstrang?" Harry asked, his mind whirling and grasping conclusions as he considered his revenge.
"We are not far…certainly closer to Durmstrang than to any of the other schools; it was my alma mater, you know." Grindelwald replied.
"I'd say Karkaroff also had a hand in it, then. He's the headmaster of Durmstrang; if the post is anything like Hogwarts, it has to be a fairly prestigious position. So Malfoy and Karkaroff together are probably the most responsible." The shadowy confines of the cave shrouded Harry's face, but Grindelwald was certain he wore a contemplative expression there.
"Well then, how are you…no, how are we going to pay those gentlemen back for our imprisonment, Harry? After all, since my own revenge is carried out without me, I might as well aid you with yours. Retirement never held much attraction for me."
"If things have continued like they were when I was in school, then Malfoy's going to be the most openly influential wizard in Britain by now. He'll have pawned off the Minister of Magic position to some lackey of his, but he'll be behind the scenes just like Voldemort, under a pretense of being a generous philanthropist. He no doubt has a carefully construed persona, tooled to be the very image of a wizard everyone strives to be." Harry said, his voice obtaining an eerie calm – just as he'd learned in his first year to avoid visions from Voldemort, he separated himself from the situation and buried his cold fury.
"I take it you have something in mind for him other than a simple evisceration. I learned of an excellent curse for just that; it was made popular by a fellow calling himself 'Jack the Ripper' when I was a young boy, and I encountered him in a rough part of Paris after I was expelled from Durmstrang –"
"No," Harry said, cutting Grindelwald off before he could launch into another fascinating history lesson. "Malfoy needs to see everything he cultivated and planned for ruined, first. I'll kill off his progeny – never liked Draco anyway – to end his line; I'll seduce his wife, ruining his social reputation. I'll reveal that he never actually donated anything to St. Mungo's like he's famous for." At each proclamation, Harry's anger flared more. He nodded, then added, "Then we can eviscerate him, I guess."
"Well, your methods might be a bit simplistic, Harry, but there is, of course, something to be said for passion." Grindelwald's smile was macabre, but his speech gentle. "Of course, political ruination takes some time to engineer. I hope you have a few more enemies to execute, to keep us busy until then."
"…So how did that evisceration curse work?" Harry asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
"Ah, actually it was a series of curses. Strangulation was first, of course, and then while the victim is choking…"