Title: The Vanishing Glass
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Lord Voldemort. No money is being made from this fan work.
Rating: M (in later chapters)
Summary: Falsely imprisoned inside Hogwarts Asylum, Harry is determined to prove he's sane. But after taking a walk down the third floor corridor at night, he starts to think he might be crazy after all. AU!HP/LV for Ziggy Sternenstaub.
Author's Notes: This isn't going to be a long story, three or four short chapters at most. Just a small gift for a friend.
PART I: THE REPTILE ROOM
"How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
"How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spread his claws,
And welcome little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!"
~'Alice in Wonderland'
"–Harry Potter," he answered diffidently, defiantly but with an undertone of guilt, knowing he shouldn't have let himself get caught in the hospital's third floor corridor. Dr Quirrel raised his eyebrows and his mouth jerked into a smile that didn't reach his pale eyes. Harry took a step back from the young doctor, unnerved by the sudden interest which glinted there. This is all Malfoy's fault. Stupid fucking Malfoy and his stupid fucking dare.
"Harry P-P-Potter!" Suddenly Dr Quirrel bending over him, exclaiming with almost feverish affability; one of his eyes was twitching. "C-can't t-tell you how p-pleased I am to meet you!" Harry took another two steps back. The doctor scurried closer and placed a trembling hand at Harry's shoulder. "I was hoping you'd c-come, of c-c-course. P-Professor Dumbledore thought w-we ought to wait until you w-were further a-along with your treatments. B-but I always t-thought you should m-m-meet him – it will be f-fascinating – I'll send my notes to y-your Dr Snape, n-never fear, ha ha!"
"He's not my Dr Snape!" Harry snapped as he was dragged down the stone corridor, still silently cursing Draco Malfoy. He'd so wanted to get one in Malfoy's eye. Draco would never shut up about the fact that he was better than everyone else, that his father chaired the board of governors, and that he was just passing through on his way to a bright future in the family business. Apparently Draco had done something bad – really bad – and his father, who (according to Harry's favourite orderly, Hagrid) was a big cheese in the mafia, had managed to get him locked up in Hogwarts instead of prison, until whatever it was cooled down.
Malfoy was as irritating as hell and brilliant at getting under Harry's skin; which was why Harry had been sneaking through the freezing hospital corridors at night to sneak a glance at a crazy serial killer – it probably wasn't the stupidest dare Harry had ever accepted, but it was up there with the best of them. And now some creepy psychiatrist was blathering incomprehensibly about how he'd been waiting for this moment.
"…We k-keep most of the v-v-violent patients in Azkaban Ward in the basement levels but it can g-get cold down t-there and he terrifies all the o-others – things are m-much b-better now t-that he has half a floor to himself…" Quirrel swiped his ID through multiple door-locks as they hurried along.
Harry knew next to nothing about the man he'd been dared to catch a glimpse of. The staff didn't like to say the name, said it brought bad luck. Lord Voldemort. He didn't know if Voldemort was an actual lord or if it was just some moniker like "Jack the Ripper". He'd killed a lot of people… was some kind of political terrorist. It was always Voldemort visiting specialists came for. Harry could see them from the windows of Gryffindor Ward, getting in and out of their expensive cars. Luna told him Voldemort was an evil sorcerer who was kept in a dungeon with walls covered with magic spells so he couldn't escape. But that was Luna, who said there were unicorns in the nearby national heritage park and warned Harry to always check the toilet before he sat down because there were man-eating snakes in the plumbing. Not exactly the most reliable source of information.
Their destination was behind yet another thick door, warm and dark. Someone had turned the heating systems up high. A balding, rat-faced orderly with watery eyes got clumsily to his feet, wiping what Harry hoped was sauce off his uniform. "Everything's normal Dr Quirrel – he's asleep." Somehow, without a stutter, he managed to sound more nervous than the manic doctor.
"W-well, he'll wake up, P-P-Pettigrew – he's g-got a guest." He turned back to Harry. "We'll be watching off t-to the s-side. J-just call out if you n-need…" he trailed off, too distracted to finish his sentence. And the two men disappeared behind another door, leaving Harry alone in the darkness. He shivered, afraid, hugging his chest. You have got to be kidding me.
Suddenly, light flooded Harry's vision and he startled back, blinking and covering his eyes. The forth wall, he realised, wasn't a wall at all but a window into the next room. It was a barren and sterile place, unremarkable but for the creature asleep on the hospital bed within.
Harry wasn't crazy. Sure, he was messed up – Stonewall High did that to a person. It never really improved on Goyle shoving his head down a toilet on the first day of term. Being kept in a cupboard by his aunt and uncle didn't help either. But he'd never been to St. Brutus' Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys, despite what it said on the file he'd found in Snape's office. Uncle Vernon made all of that up. So no, not crazy. Just a kid with greedy relatives who was unlucky enough to have inherited a big pile of cash from his dead parents.
His plan of convincing his doctor that he wasn't mad pretty much died when Harry was introduced to Dr Snape, who made it clear he wasn't going anywhere fast. Snape completely bought all the crap the Dursleys had spun, and Harry's attempts to tell him the truth only ended with "paranoid narcissist" added to his diagnosis, along with the damning line: has delusions his relatives hate him and want him locked away in order to steal his fortune.
But looking at Voldemort, Harry found himself wondering if he really was delusional. If he truly had gone off the deep end and hadn't realised, because what he was staring at wasn't… wasn't human. It was a skeleton with skin the same colour as the whitewashed walls, with long, spindly fingers like etiolated spiders. Its hairless body shone with a pearly gleam in the dull cell, seeming almost scaled under the clinical lights. Instead of a nose, it had two reptilian slits set into its flat face. Harry stared, mouth open, trying to persuade himself the creature was the result of extensive surgery, or some disfiguring disease. Something that belonged in the horror films Uncle Vernon occasionally let Dudley watch when Aunt Petunia was asleep and Harry had occasionally managed to see bits of from the hallway. He'd got to watch half of Eraserhead once.
It was asleep, one long limb hanging off the side of the mattress, the other resting behind its bald skull. For a moment, Harry thought it had a cut on its face, a livid red slice over one eye, but then the other eye opened and he was caught in a hypnotic scarlet gaze, bisected with alien, feline pupils.
Lord Voldemort seemed to move gracefully from at rest to predatory in seconds. His over-large hospital gown fluttered around his emaciated figure like the robe of an angel or a ghost. Their faces were level, but Voldemort was much taller than Harry was and would have towered over him had not the floor been lower in the other room. Long, milky nails tapped against the thick, plastic glass. Maybe this isn't real – maybe it's some kind of test to see if I crack…? It could be a trick, just a big television or something. But it didn't look or sound as if the man – if it was possible to call him that – was on a screen. It was like being in the reptile room at the zoo, staring at a deadly creature that could kill you with one bite. "Er, hello?"
"Have you come to rescue me?" Voldemort's voice was cold and dispassionate, tilting his head to stare at Harry with large eyes, like a curious child. The hiss of his quiet voice seemed to trail through the air long after the words had been spoken. But Harry could sense he was amused by this strange, nocturnal visit.
"No!" he replied quickly, moving away from the window.
For a moment, the sanguine eyes widened. Then the monster smiled. It was a cruel gash in the porcelain face. "Are you certain? All you need to do is vanish this glass. We could be free together, you and I."
And so hypnotic was that gaze that Harry actually thought about it for about half a second. "I'm not stupid, thanks. And, um, vanish the glass?" The freaky, murderous snake-man could stay in his cell forever, as far as Harry was concerned!
Voldemort laughed; a mad sound. "The glass at the edge of the forest, Harry. Fifteen years, it's been. I am ready to be free of this desolate place."
"Um… forest?" Wait, fuck – "How do you know my name?-!"
"Your mind is hardly closed. Can't you smell it – soil rich with dead leaves – little animals hunting and being hunted through the scented trees? The stench of fear and hunger on the air." And as Voldemort spoke, the tall limbs of ancient flora seemed to creak through the cell. Shadows twisted around Harry and the hospital lighting dimmed to moonlight filtered through a great canopy. He was standing in the middle of a wood, foliage rustling around him accompanied by the solitary hoot of an owl in the distance.
"I can be a generous lord, Harry. Vanish the glass and all your desires can be made manifest. Do you not wish to be special, set apart, revered?" A jewel-eyed, pearly snake dangling from a tree-branch spoke with Voldemort's voice.
"Not really," Harry didn't want his life to be any stranger than it already was, "I'd settle for being normal. What on earth – where are we?-!" And, just as fast as it had come, the forest was gone. Voldemort stood before him, the breath from his lipless mouth and tiny nostril slits misting the viewing glass.
"I have seen your heart and it is mine. I too was an orphan. I can take you away from the filth you are forced to endure. I can cherish you as your blood relatives never have. Special. Special to me. Vanish the glass, Harry Potter and join Lord Voldemort…"
It was… tempting. Even though every brain-cell was telling him no-no-no-no, the words were persuasive, he was in their thrall. Harry had always dreamed of an unknown relative turning up on the doorstep to rescue him from the Dursleys. Somehow Voldemort's unnatural appearance made it seem like something out of a fairy tale, a real promise from a genie who could read minds. But this was a deformed murderer locked in the most secure room of a mental hospital. Yet if Harry had been able to do the impossible thing Voldemort asked, if it was just a matter of pushing a button, he might have done it under the sway of that eerie voice.
"W-wonderful!" Dr Quirrel was suddenly behind Harry, clamping his hand on Harry's arm, making him jump. "C-c-couldn't understand a w-w-word of it, Mr Potter – H-Harry – but h-he hasn't spoken to anyone for over a-a d-decade, you know. From what l-little we've been able to g-guess at from his oc-c-casional muttering to himself, he's under the impression he's l-lost in an Albanian f-forest. Remarkable!" Harry glanced back at Voldemort, but he had retreated back to his bed, ignoring the doctor and Harry both. "Next t-time perhaps you might move up to actual w-w-words! But a genius idea o-on your part to try hissing at him like a s-s-snake! He r-really engaged w-with you!"
"Um, Dr Quirrel, I didn't–"
"Intuitive, i-inspired! T-this is exactly t-the b-b-breakthrough I've been waiting for. You'll c-come again, w-w-won't you? I know Professor Dumbledore c-can be s-strict about this sort of thing, but my research is at a-a c-critical stage…"
"Sure," Harry agreed, more to escape the place than because he wanted to return. He glanced around at Voldemort, the back of whose bald skull was visible – he wasn't given any blankets. It was sad if he truly had been in solitary isolation, being stared at for fifteen years, Harry supposed not talking to anyone for that long would drive anyone crazy...
When Harry woke up the next morning, shaken awake by Neville in the eternal search for a missing toy toad, he wondered whether the whole thing had been just some surreal dream. Hogwarts wasn't such a bad place really. Harry didn't have to get up early and make breakfast for the Dursleys, he was given clothes that fit him, the orderlies prevented the violent nuts from attacking anyone, and he didn't even mind Neville waking him up at weird hours asking about his imaginary toad. Apparently, Neville's Uncle Algie accidentally dropped him out a second-story window when he was little and he'd never been the same since. Harry thought the uncle should be the one in the loony bin – but then he had a bias against uncles in general.
He played along, idly peering under the bed for the missing stuffed animal, and resolved not to take any more of the pills Snape had prescribed. He rubbed the scar on his forehead – it was playing up today. He'd got it in the car crash that killed his parents. Sometimes it gave him headaches. Dudley used to say Harry was brain-damaged.
Maybe he was right.