Title:The Vanishing Glass
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or Lord Voldemort. No money is being made from this fan work.
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: Sorry this took me so long. I have to be in such a singular mood to work on the tale. Rest assured, though, it is not abandoned!
PART III: The Mirror of Desire
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, or you wouldn't have come here."
~ 'Alice in Wonderland'
"Harry!" the voice was almost bursting with excitement. "Harry, I've found Trevor!" This was such enormous news that it brought a surprised Harry awake at once, blinking in bright light. Neville Longbottom was lying on his stomach, pointing at something under his bed. Harry had assumed that his ward mate's toy toad had been lost ages ago, now just a memory of a plush toad jumping around in Neville's head. Happy for his friend, Harry eagerly bent down to see.
It wasn't a toad – fake or otherwise – lurking under the hospital bed. It was a small, grey cactus in a pot. Instead of spines, however, it was covered in little boils. The plant was pulsating slightly, giving it the rather sinister look of some diseased internal organ. "Umm… Neville…?"
"I suppose it wasn't really surprising, he's been a bit peaky for ages. Poor Trevor. No wonder I couldn't find him. Did I tell you that my Uncle Algie got him from Assyria? He's a Bufo Mimbletonis. It's a really rare species." Harry continued to stare at the plant. He could have sworn it hadn't been there last night when Neville had woken him to search for Trevor. The cactus was… sort of toad-shaped, he supposed, if you unfocused your eyes and looked at it from a certain angle. Was this another test? Was Neville one of them too? Or was he really going mad? Maybe it actually was a toad and Harry was the one imagining a plant? The other boy looked up at him. "What is it, Harry? Oh, I can't wait to show you, he has this really cool defensive mechanism–"
Harry stood up, stepping back. He ached with disappointment. Up until now he'd felt a kinship to Neville. Both of them had been abused by nutty uncles. And sure, Neville had a few weird fixations, but mostly he was okay. Seeing him like this… "It's a plant," he said stupidly, because it was the only thing he could say.
"Not for much longer," Neville said proudly. "And he still enjoys flies, don't you Trevor?"
"I'm… I'm going back to bed and turning off the light. Night, Neville." Harry flicked the switch and climbed back into bed, squeezing his eyes shut. I'm not mad.
"…Harry, my boy, I'm very sorry your relatives are such awful people. I quite understand. My own brother was once arrested for goat rustling." Professor Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and, though his face was solemn, his blue eyes were twinkling. At first Harry had hoped that the professor would believe the truth about why he'd been sent to Hogwarts. But whereas Dr Snape had outright accused Harry of lying, Dumbledore just didn't seem interested in the Dursleys at all. "Now, how have you been this week? Have you been taking your medication? Hagrid tells me you haven't had another seizure, which is splendid news."
"Everything's been fine, sir." Harry said, trying to be cautious even as he fought the desire to hit something in frustration. The professor's affability was worse than Snape's sadism. At least with Snape, he'd know where he stood. It was impossible to guess what Dumbledore was thinking about Harry's answers.
"And I trust you've heard the good news about Mr Longbottom's toad?"
"Er… yeah – of course – I'm his roommate." What does he expect me to say? "I mean… Neville's over the moon." Harry tactfully neglected to mention the creepy cactus-thing.
"So I understand. Lemon drop, Harry?" Dumbledore held out a bowl of small, yellow lollies.
Harry's forehead burned with pain for a moment - you are right to be afraid and keep your secrets close – and then it was gone. "Sure, thanks…" Harry popped a sweet in his mouth. "Um, sir… how is Dr Quirrell? Last time I talked to him, he seemed... umm…."
Professor Dumbledore shook his head sadly, "Oh, I'm afraid Quirinus has left us. I blame myself, you know. He was a talented young doctor… but he had… difficulty managing the strain of such a complicated, high profile case. Now, where were we–?" What happened to Dr Quirrell after Voldemort had… possessed him? What did Dumbledore mean when he said Quirrell was a talented doctor? Harry blinked, shaking off the thoughts. That… thing hadn't happened. Harry had experienced a seizure… it wasn't real.
"You mean Voldemort, sir?" Harry interrupted, his heart jumping at the professor mentioning the man whose crimson eyes and soft, hypnotic voice haunted his dreams. The fire in Dumbledore's office seemed to gutter and crackle oddly green at the mention of the supposedly cursed name.
Dumbledore glanced at the fireplace and then gave Harry a penetrating stare over his half-moon spectacles. It felt like he was x-raying Harry's brain. At last Dumbledore sighed and shifted in his chair, smoothing his neatly-creased, plum trousers. "Lord Voldemort will be moved elsewhere tomorrow," he told Harry gently. "Believe me, I understand why you sought him out – I still miss your parents very much myself – but Voldemort will give you neither knowledge nor truth. Men have wasted away trying to understand him, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad not knowing if the warped creature before them is real or even possible."
"You… you knew my parents too?"
"Certainly, I knew them. Lily Evans and James Potter were two of my most promising students. They came to Hogwarts fresh out of university, both of them already brilliant doctors in their own right." Harry had never known his parents were doctors, or that they had worked at Hogwarts. They must have been assigned to Voldemort's case – that must be how he knew them. Uncle Vernon had always said the Potters were useless good-for-nothings. But they couldn't have been penniless good-for-nothings, could they? How could they have left Harry so much money if they were?
"But I caution you most strongly against going to Voldemort for answers, Harry. People come to Hogwarts every week to see him. Relatives of those he has killed, specialists who think he can help them make a name for themselves, or those who were once his followers and who now pose as victims. Mostly, Voldemort believes them to be beneath his notice. But, occasionally, he shows one of them nothing less than the deepest and most desperate desire of their hearts. He is a mirror, Harry, a terrible mirror without a soul and I ask you not to go looking for him again."
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. "Sir – Professor Dumbledore? Can I ask you something?"
"Obviously, you've just done so," Dumbledore smiled. "You may ask me one more thing, however."
"What did he offer you?"
"I?" For the first time, the professor looked uncertain. He sighed again. "Insanity, cruel dreams, and neglect of the only thing which makes life worthwhile… Goodnight, Harry. I'll see you next week."
Dumbledore had convinced Harry not to go looking for Lord Voldemort again. Harry needed to focus on convincing the doctors he was sane enough to leave and thinking about Voldemort – let alone seeing Voldemort – just made everything crazier. He wished he could forget about what he'd seen; he still wasn't sure about how much of it was even real. He took his medication like Dumbledore and Snape told him. It didn't stop the nightmares: eerie red eyes and Dr Quirrell screaming, driven insane by his own patient. Then he was Quirrell, walking through a strange forest, and a snake was kissing him, bathed in green moonlight –
Suddenly, Harry's forehead spiked with pain - Harry… It was the ghost of Voldemort's voice, smooth and full of chilling promise. He looked up. His name had been painted neatly on the grey hospital wall in red ink.
"Go away," Harry told the red word. "I'm not interested in anything you have to say. You drove Dr Quirrell as crazy as you are."
More writing appeared. Harry's scar was aching as scarlet letters formed up on the grey wall, as though drawn by an invisible hand: Quirrell was weak. He is in Azkaban Ward now, amongst the other weaklings with pretensions to understanding. Don't you want to know the truth, Harry? I can give it to you.
"So I can end up as insane as he did? No thanks. Dumbledore was right about you."
The pain in his head increased sharply and the words came faster, smudging together. Quirrell was not mad and neither am I. Professor Dumbledore and Herr Grindelwald are never as wise or as right as they pretend. It is their great secret. They do not wish for us to speak. You know that Hogwarts Asylum is not what it appears. Terrible things have happened here, Harry, things which have been covered up for many years. Let me show you, and you will see why we must escape this place before it happens again; before you are trapped to wander forever in a forest of your own.
Harry could not help the shudder that ran through him at the thought of Voldemort's awful cell and the strange trees that dominated the man's delusions. "Great, a conspiracy theory – because that sounds sane." But the truth was that the writing had a point. Harry had never been to a mental institution before, but he was pretty sure that Hogwarts wasn't a normal hospital. That something off was going on here. He was talking to sentient graffiti, for god's sake. "You know what? Fine. Show me. Whatever."
Tom Marvolo Riddle.
"What's that supposed to mean? A Riddle? Thanks, that's just what I don't need right now."
"Um… Harry?" It was Neville's voice. He sounded scared. Harry turned round. Neville was pale with shock, staring at the wall.
Harry was ecstatic. "You can see it too?-!" A bead of sweat rolled down his nose and Harry reached up to wipe it away. His fingers were darkly bright with something that smelt, looked, and tasted very much like blood.
It was the same shade of red as the words Voldemort had written to Harry. "Oh no…"
After he'd cleaned up the mess, Harry had made Neville promise not to tell anyone about the messages he'd daubed on the wall. He moved his bed to cover the stains, claiming that sleeping next to the window was too cold. The blood didn't prove anything, right? Only… Harry was beginning to believe that it did. How else could he explain what had happened? It's true, I'm going mad. Fuck. Fuck-fuckity-fuck.
It didn't stop him asking Hagrid about Riddle. "Sure, I knew Tom…" the big orderly nodded as he stopped by Harry and Neville's dormitory room to check on them. "E was 'ere when I firs' started work at Hogwarts. Years ago, it was. He can't 'ave been much older than you two are now… One o' that German fella's – Grendel something – anyway, one of his patients. Nice kid when he was on them anti-psychotics. We used to go hiking together in the forest. You kids doin' okay, then? Dr Spout said I should look in on you, Neville. How's Trevor?"
"He's good. What happened to Riddle?" Neville asked, at the same time as Harry said "You mean Grindelwald?"
"Things went… bad." Hagrid looked away, "Two girls died an' the doctor was arrested. They almost closed Hogwarts. Never saw Tom after that. Some said Dumbledore had 'im moved someplace 'e couldn't hurt anybody. You used to hear stories once in awhile. About how 'e escaped or was still locked up in some secret chamber, doped up to 'is eyeballs, hissin' that weird snake language o' his…"
"Snake language?" Harry repeated, remembering his first visit to Voldemort's cell.
"I shouldn't have said that."
"Hagrid, is Riddle… Voldemort?"
Hagrid looked furious with himself. "I ain't saying nothing." And despite every effort, that was all the information Harry managed to get from the orderly.
"Did you know Voldemort's real name was Tom Marvolo Riddle?" Harry asked Luna during Art Therapy. He must be truly desperate asking Loony Lovegood – as Malfoy called her – for help. Oh well, everyone was loony at Hogwarts, officially. It couldn't hurt.
Luna hummed softly under her breath, her pale hair falling across her face as she carefully finished her drawing. "That's interesting." She looked across at him, tilting her head, eyebrows lifting with curiosity. "An anagram. I am Lord Voldemort. Voldemort. Hmm… I think I'll call him Fluffy."
Harry couldn't think of anything to say for a moment and looked down. Two smudges of red stared up at him, the oily pastel staining the fingers of his right hand crimson. There was no colour for Voldemort's skin. Just crisp, white paper. He brushed his left hand across the smooth emptiness of the page, imagining smoother flesh. Just as hard, just as cold. "I don't… um… I don't think he has any hair…"
"Oh, Fluffy has plenty of hair, see?" Luna lifted her picture up. It was a three headed dog. "He's the guardian of the underworld. You'll have to get past him to get to the Dark Lord." She leaned closer, pointing at the dog. "Look…" she whispered, "you just have to find the secret door." And Harry saw that the animal was sitting on a trapdoor; a discrete line of black under Fluffy's tail.
"Where? I mean… how do I find it?" He was just being nice, that was all. Not seriously thinking about the plausibility of his answers being under a mythical dog's arse. He wasn't that desperate. Luna was crazy, Harry was sane.
"It's in your head, of course. Where else would it be? Why, have you lost it?"
"No," he snapped.
"It's all right," Luna withdrew, taking a fresh piece of paper from the pile. "I think my next picture will be a unicorn." She smiled serenely to herself. "Doors open both ways. I'm sure he hasn't forgotten."
Harry crumbled the paper, compacting it viciously between his hands. That's what I'm afraid of.