There is a disclaimer on all previous chapters and I do not recommend you reading this or any subsequent chapters before the earlier ones. This is a major reimagining of the original narrative of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and really needs to be read from the start.
And yes, I've checked moon charts for 1991 and the description is correct.
Chapter 29: Pain and Pleasure
Harry woke with a start and bolted upright in bed, suppressing a moan as unwilling muscles cried out. He looked around to see hazy outlines and vague shapes. Someone had removed his glasses.
"Good morning, Potter." Professor McGonagall said, a few feet away.
Glasses were pressed gently into his left hand and he pushed them on awkwardly with his left hand, suddenly aware that his right was heavily bandaged and clumsy.
As the world became clear again, he saw a grim expression was engraved on the head of Gryffindor house. Questions flooded his mind, but he waited for her.
"How do you feel, Potter?"
He rolled his shoulders, flexed fingers and toes and took a deep breath. He was sore all over and his throat felt thick like he'd drank treacle. Unsure whether words would come out he tried, "Okay."
McGonagall adjusted her square spectacles on her nose and sat back in her chair, her expression softening. "That's good, you've been asleep almost two days now."
Harry coughed, "Quirrell – troll – what?" He croaked out, making to stand.
She restrained him with a firm hand. "Don't you worry about that Potter, it's being taken care of. You just focus on getting better."
That felt like a dismissal. "What happened? He asked firmly.
McGonagall frowned so deeply that her thin eyebrows almost met. "You did something very impressive, dangerous and surprising, Potter. You cast a spell that should have been beyond you and it worked – most successfully, I might add – against a creature that would normally shrug off something like that. Not many wizards could face down a full-grown mountain troll and live to speak of it, let alone have the strength to sprint back across half the castle to tell about it. Your body wasn't ready for the amount of power generated by casting a spell like that and as such it was damaged by it. What was the incantation you used?"
Harry couldn't remember for a few seconds until the memory of the pain and power flashed back through his mind. "Stupefy, I remembered reading about it in a defensive magic book I got in Diagon Alley."
McGonagall allowed herself a thin, pale smile. "That is a spell we normally wouldn't teach to you until third year and then only if you were part of the Junior Dark Force Defence League. It's an OWL-level and beyond level spell for most people. Now, I know Professor Dumbledore has a few questions for you." She withdrew her wand, twirled it around her fingers and muttered something inaudible under her breath upon which a silvery ghostlike tabby cat burst from amidst a cloud of glistening white vapour and stood, licking a paw in mid-air. She fixed the cat with a hard expression and spoke to it. "Headmaster, Potter is awake and appears healthy. We're waiting for you whenever you're ready."
With a flick of her wand the cat disappeared in a puff of vapour.
Harry raised his eyebrows in question.
This time McGonagall's smile was much broader. "A useful spell for sending messages across long distances. It does have other applications, but they're not any business of yours yet."
Harry resolved to look it up as soon as everything else had settled down. His throat was starting to sting painfully. "Water?..." he croaked.
McGonagall handed him a glass of cold, sweet water that soothed the pain in his throat. He relaxed back in his pillows for a few moments and the next thing he knew, someone was pushing open the great wooden doors to the hospital wing. Dumbledore strode in wearing robes of such a dark blue that they appeared black, with small embroidered silvery birds covering the cuffs and collar.
McGonagall stood at once and hurried over to the headmaster, exchanging rapid words out of earshot.
The ancient wizard nodded sombrely and approached the bed.
"Good morning Harry." He said, his bright blue eyes appearing a little tired and without their normal twinkle. "You gave us all a fright there for a moment."
"Sorry s-sir." Harry croaked. "What happened to Q-Q…" his voice trailed off. It seemed to be the greatest of efforts for him to speak at all.
"I will speak of Professor Quirrell in a moment, Harry.' Dumbledore said. He crossed his right leg over his left as sunlight caught off his half-moon glasses. 'First however I'd like to talk to you about the troll. I trust that I do not need to state how dangerous and cavalier your actions were and that you should have come to myself or any of the other teachers first?"
Harry nodded, feeling himself flush.
Dumbledore sighed and straightened. "in which case, I will tell you that you managed to stun a mature mountain troll into a comatose state from which it awoke only an hour ago. It has since been transported back to its clan in Denmark from where it claims to have been snatched some time ago. Unfortunately, the lack of intelligence demonstrated by most trolls seems generous and high-reaching compared to this specimen and it was able to give us no more information than he was told to smash things by 'little man with magic stick' which, given their size could mean any male in all of Hogwarts with the exception of mister Filch and Hagrid."
Harry made to speak but was interrupted by a bony hand.
"As for Professor Quirrell, that is a very different matter and one with which I must ask for your help. Do you remember, before you went to sleep that I asked permission to look at your memories of that night?"
"Well, I saw many interesting things, several of which I'm sure would be enough to see Professor Quirrell spend several months in the wizard prison Azkaban. For instance, while you do not know what was spoken between him and the troll, I do speak Giant quite well and it seems that Professor Quirrell had some very specific goals in mind that night."
"What did he say?"
"More important that 'what' would be 'why' at this time, Harry. Professor Quirrell is unwell, I'm afraid to say. He regained consciousness on the way here and… well he injured Professor Sprout quite badly and ran amok around the school before being rescued from Fluffy by Professor Snape who was himself injured in the process."
"Fluffly? What was he doing going to the third floor?"
Dumbledore eyed him with concern. "Unfortunately that is something we do not know at this time. As I told you before in my office, Fluffy is guarding something of vital importance. What concerns me is what the professor meant to do with said object."
"What is Fluffy guarding, sir?"
"That I cannot tell you Harry, I am sorry, but both myself and all the other teachers are sworn to secrecy on the matter. While I took a stroll through your memories of the day, I could not help but notice how observant you are and as such I would like for you to do me a favour if you would?"
"Stay away from Fluffy and stay out of trouble for the rest of the year. The thing being guarded is to be removed as soon as possible by its owner and everything can go back to normal. We suspect Professor Quirrell has been suffering from aftereffects of a trauma he suffered during his travels in Albania. He will be returning to work after a spell in St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries."
Harry frowned, he couldn't remember what he had given Dumbledore permission to see, but it must not have included the weird mindreading slave-punishment from the Defence Against the Dark Arts class.
"Okay." He said finally.
Dumbledore smiled, wrinkles crinkling around his ancient eyes. "Good. Please understand that we structure the way we teach magic here for a reason – you might be capable of doing bigger things, but that doesn't mean it's safe. We're trying to develop you and your fellows into functional members of society, not wildfires. Just stick to the curriculum and we can avoid any more accidents like this." He pointed at Harry's mummified hand at the last.
"Thank you Professor." Harry said, unable to believe that they hadn't figured out what was going on with Quirrell.
Dumbledore stood and excused himself, followed by McGonagall who departed with a gentle pat on Harry's leg. After a few minutes of peace, Madame Pomphery arrived at his bedside and informed him he could leave the hospital after she changed his bandages.
"You stunned a troll? Cool!" Fred Weasley said with awe when Harry told him, George, Faye and Boris later in the clubhouse.
"Yeah, but look what it did to me!" Harry said, wincing as he lifted his bandaged hand. It was Saturday afternoon and most of the school had gone to visit Hogsmeade which meant the clubhouse was virtually deserted.
"Serious burnout, you're lucky you didn't break your wand." Boris said. He had drank more than a litre of his weird blue concoction which had resulted in his skin turning the colour of a blueberry and him stretched out half-conscious on one of the couches. These were the first words he'd uttered in half an hour.
"That's possible?" Asked Faye.
"Of course it is," said George, "it can happen when you don't know what the bloody hell you're doing and pour out too much power. It's called Fracturing – when the core is burned out channelling too much power.'
"Well I'm not going to try it again for a while." Harry laughed weakly.
"Why not?" Fred cried as if he was ashamed of Harry's cowardice.
"Well I don't want to kill myself or my wand, do I?"
Fred rolled his eyes, "God, you first years are stupid – pass me that bottle Boris, that's better – stupid, the teachers only show us easy stuff you know, all of the good spells and rituals are difficult or knock you around the first few times."
George released a bark of laughter, "Like the first time Lee tired the Fidelius charm and lost all his hair!"
The older students fell about laughing. Harry and Faye eyed them, wondering if they were serious.
George recovered himself first and locked eyes with Harry. "So you think it's much worse with Quirrell than old Dumbledore's making out?"
"Well they know best, don't they? I mean he's been sent to St. Mungo's already. They'll fix him up in no time." Faye said. "My uncle Titus had his entire left arm regrown last year after his flying lawnmower exploded."
"Look, Dumbledore's under a lot of pressure with all this." Fred replied, "Whatever he's keeping hold down the corridor is some serious business and I imagine he'll be glad to be rid of it."
"Which is why I can't see Quirrell returning any time soon." Boris put in with a belch.
"Well I don't trust him." Harry said. "And now that dog's stopped him once, he's going to be better prepared next time."
"You're really serious about this, aren't you Harry?" Faye said, looking hard at him.
Harry nodded. "I know it sounds weird, but the things I heard in his head sounded like he was being tortured, forced into getting this thing from the room with the dog. I don't think he's going to stop just because he was caught out once."
Something in his tone seemed to catch Fred and George's attention and they sat up straighter. "So what're you saying Harry?" Fred asked.
"I think that when Quirrell comes back, we should keep an eye on him, make sure he doesn't get anywhere near that room."
"Didn't Dumbledore specifically tell you not to get into any more trouble?" Faye said, sounding distressingly like Hermione for a moment.
"Well yes, but it's not like I'll be wandering round the school blowing up trolls. We'll just be keeping an eye on someone who is already causing trouble. Look, if anything happens, we can just tell Dumbledore or one of the other teachers, can't we? That way it'll be sorted and we can just get on with our exams, alright?"
Faye couldn't argue with that and the twins were more than happy to spend time spying on a teacher.
Harry's bandages were removed three days later and for almost two months there was no drama, insurrections, betrayals or anything out of the ordinary time everything calmed down. The weather turned quickly from wet and warm to cold and stormy as they entered November. There was a lot of chatter around the school, with people constantly asking Harry what had happened on Halloween night. He decided that silence was the best policy, which seemed to end up having the effect of increasing interest in him.
"You know the problem, though don't you Harry?" Hermione asked at breakfast on the last Saturday of November.
"What's that?" Harry said as he tried to beat Ron and Seamus in a race to consume a seven-sausage and egg sandwich.
"Isn't it obvious?" She asked, rolling her eyes in the way that infuriated everyone. "You have mystique now. People are obviously going to be more interested in you now. First the attack by You-Know-Who, surviving the Avada-Kedavra…'
'The what?' Asked Dean.
Hermione ignored him without breaking stride, '… and now you manage to not only survive being attacked by a mountain troll, but to almost kill the thing! Do you have any idea how hard it is to stun any of the giant races?'
From the blank looks on everyone else's faces she gathered that they didn't and carried on. 'Well, if you actually read up on any of the giant races, from the trolls to storm giants, you'd know that they're all very magically powerful and it takes a lot more power to affect them than it does a human.'
'How do you know all this, Hermione?' Faye asked, softly, 'I mean, I've been raised by wizards and I don't know half of what you do. It's amazing.'
Red spots appeared on Hermione's cheeks, highlighting the tiny freckles on her nose. 'I… just read a lot. After professor McGonagall came to my house in June, I spent as much time reading and researching as I could.'
'I did that too,' Said Harry, leaving Ron chewing in his wake, 'but there are third years I've spoken to who don't know half of what you do.'
Hermione was looking down at her plate now, the red flush filling her face. 'Well, I did find out after you Harry and I… never mind. I just read a lot, that's all.'
'What's the matter?' Asked Lavender who was playing with a plate of very ketchup-y scrambled eggs.
'Nothing, leave it alone.' Hermione said, her eyes brightening with threatened tears.
'Okay, we'll leave it, don't worry.' Faye shuffled down the bench next to Hermione and put a comforting arm around her shoulders.
Seamus looked at Harry, Ron and Dean with raised eyebrows that questioned whether girls were actually human and looked about to speak when the staff door opened.
Professor Sprout walked in, leaning heavily on a cane; her normally wild crown of hair looked thinner and was scraped back and tied into a pony tail. Her skin was pale and looked chalky and she lowered herself heavily into one of the high-backed teachers' chairs. More than a dozen Hufflepuffs – her house students – leapt to their feet and ran over to the table.
'Bloody hell.' Seamus said under his breath. 'What happened to her d'you think?'
Harry frowned. It wasn't public knowledge that Professor Spout had been injured by Quirrell – most just assumed that it had been the troll that had put their Herbology teacher in the hospital wing.
McGonagall went to work shooing away the students crowding around Professor Sprout and after lunch they filed out of the hall to collect their transfiguration tools.
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