Story number 10:
It has been a while since I have written a story and I feel that I was a little rusty with this. Hope you all like it anyway.
That's one way to take down a dark lord!
Harry Potter was physically present in the great hall of Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry but mentally, he was somewhere else. Scanning the decorations set up for Halloween, he was in awe but that was tinged with a bone deep sadness. It was only a few months back that he came to know about his parents and that they were murdered on a Halloween night just like this, some ten years ago.
The world might celebrate this night, but to Harry it was a reminder of what he lost and what he had to go through to reach here. A very lonely childhood with his cousin threatening anyone who chose to talk to him and his aunt and uncle behaving as if Harry did not exist except for cooking and other chores. Once Harry was introduced to the wizarding world, he came to know about his fame and the troubles it brought with it.
Harry only wanted a good friend and to do well in his school. While the first seemed to have been achieved, the second was still a distant goal, and it was ironic that he was slaking off due to his one friend in the school, Ron Weasley.
Ron seemed to do three things to the fullest and to the best of his ability, playing chess, stuffing himself, and slacking off. Harry wanted to do his best at the subjects taught, not only due to the fact that his relatives need not compare his grades with that of his dumb cousin, but also because this was going to be his life and he did not know anything about it. Unfortunately for Harry, his first and possibly only friend turned out to be a very bad influence on his resolve to study. Ron liked to procrastinate and Harry was dragged along with him, afraid to lose the only friend.
Like now, Ron was the very picture of an ogre. He had both of his hands full with the assortment of eatables on the table in front of him. If he was to do that and his aunt Petunia saw the sauce dribbling onto his clothes, Harry would have been given an earful or maybe even a beating for the first time in his life. Harry did not want that, what little love he had for his relatives was due to the fact that though they did not care for him, they did not physically hurt him. That was what kept him from totally hating his relatives. If he had to have any respect from them, he had to act better than what he was now, he had to be better. Simply put, he could not be like Ron. In fact, Harry realized that he wanted to be just like Hermione Granger. Not the showing off part but the knowing it all part, and the hard working part.
Disgusted with quite a bit of food falling onto him and unable to look at his friend, Harry let his eyes rove around the great hall. He had to admit that the atmosphere was festive and the students were enjoying the holiday. No one seemed to notice that it was a day of mourning for Harry Potter. They did not give a thought to his feelings with some of the students coming to him and congratulating him on He-who-must-not-be-named's defeat by Harry's hand. Did they not realize that he did not want the fame; all he wanted to do on this day was to remember his parents.
All these thoughts made Harry realize that he lost his appetite. Still he had to eat something and so began picking his way through a chicken leg. His grief and frustration was compounded by the shame brought on by the realization that Hermione Granger was not there at Dinner.
Harry knew what it was to be bullied; after all he was on the receiving end of his cousin's almost every day. Deep down he knew that he was also an unknowing and unresisting part of the bullying of Hermione. He did not actively aid Ron, but he did not stop him too. Harry remembered the adage, if you are not a part of the solution then you are a part of the problem. In this case, it was true. Harry did not stop Ron's comments or his antics against Hermione. Yeah, what Ron did may not be truly called bullying but considering Harry was the recipient of the same treatment from his cousin, he was not going to dismiss it so easily.
He resolved to be better, be a better friend to Hermione and maybe others in his year too. All these heavy thoughts completely ruined Harry's desire for dinner. He was ready to call it a night and that was when the doors of the great hall were rattled garnering everyone's attention.
Professor Quirrell was the one causing the commotion and he was running between the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables as if the devil himself was after him, his face a picture of terror.
"Troll, Troll in the dungeons!" he screamed at the top of his lungs. "… thought you ought to know." The professor finished and then stood on his toes as if reaching for something high before suddenly collapsing onto the floor.
Silence gripped the great hall for a few precious seconds before the entire student population exploded in a panic, with some of them even trying to run away, to where was anyone's guess. Harry, who was in the process of getting up, flopped back down onto his seat knowing that he was safe in the great hall with many people around rather than wandering the corridors with a troll on the loose.
Albus Dumbledore was enjoying the sweets on offer at the staff table on this Halloween night. Everyone knew that he had a sweet tooth, even the castle elves and so provided for him. He cast an eye towards the Gryffindor table to see if the one boy who he was interested in was enjoying himself. What he saw shook him up rather than increasing his enjoyment. Harry Potter was downright morose; Dumbledore did not understand why. Sure, this was the day Lord Voldemort attacked the Potters and both James and Lily were killed, but the boy did not know that until recently. Why should he be so upset?
He was surprised to see that the transfiguration professor Minerva McGonagall was also not enjoying her dinner and was looking at Harry Potter with sympathy. He looked at her for a minute more, then shrugged his shoulders and went back to his sweets.
Both his musings and his dinner were cut short by the dramatic entrance of Quirrell, Dumbledore would have scoffed at the blatant acting of the man if the situation was not precarious. He could not ignore a troll in the school, even if it was near the dungeons or even if there was not one. He saw the panic in the students and some were even trying to run out of the great hall. That cannot be allowed to happen.
"Silence!" he bellowed. His voice being amplified by a sonorous charm and was instantly obeyed.
Dumbledore did not feel anything from the wards and so was confident in his feelings that there was no troll at all. He knew that it was only Quirrell's attempt to cause a diversion. When everyone would head to the dungeons to take care of the troll, Quirrell would head to get the philosopher's stone. He would play his game still and maybe catch him in the act.
"Prefects," he rumbled, "lead your Houses back to the dormitories immediately!" He made sure that the prefects of the four houses began herding the others and turned to the teachers.
"Severus, make sure that your potion stores are guarded," he gave a meaningful look to the potions master who understood that he was to go to the third floor.
Once the potions master hurried away, and the students obediently began heading out, the headmaster herded the other teachers and led the way to the dungeons.
Harry meanwhile felt panic rise in him. He thought they would be safe sitting in the great hall but the headmaster ordered all of them to return to their dorms. They had to walk through the corridors where the risk of meeting the troll was high. Unfortunately, sitting in the great hall was also not an option as none of the staff was there. With a resigned sigh, Harry started to move to stand in the line that was forming.
He suddenly realized that Hermione was missing and she was probably still in the second floor bathroom and did not know about the troll.
"Ron," Harry hissed but was unable to find the redhead anywhere near him. The Gryffindors in front of him began to move and so Harry was also forced to begin his trek. It was then he noticed that his friend was quite a way in front of the queue and was bracketed by the twins. Remarkably, Ron still had two chicken legs in his hands and was munching on them.
Harry realized that Ron did not even remember about Hermione; on the other hand, the headmaster's orders were quite sensible. Staying in the common rooms or in their dorms would keep the students away from any danger from the troll. Also moving in such a big group may discourage any attacks on them, especially with the prefects with the group who would know at least some offensive and defensive spells.
Hermione may herself be safe in the bathroom she was in, if the troll was indeed in the dungeons and the teachers find it and restrain it.
There was the rub, Harry realized. He was not sure he could trust the professor of DADA, the man was a stuttering mess and the latest stunt of fainting in the great hall knowing there was a troll loose, did not put any confidence in that man. He was meant to teach them defence for crying out loud! Harry decided that he was not going to take any chances, he was going to the bathroom and get Hermione out of there. Hopefully with the troll in the dungeons, he would not be in any danger.
With that thought, he raced away from the group which was already on the second floor but a few corridors from the girl's bathroom near the Charms corridor.
Running full tilt, he was winded easily as being starved by the Dursleys did nothing for his stamina; he was improving with the good food at Hogwarts but it was slow going. He, however was forced to put more speed when he heard a terrified scream followed by a smashing sound that was heard even outside the bathroom. Correctly guessing that Hermione was in trouble and that the troll indeed found the one target that was perhaps vulnerable of all the people in the castle at this time, Harry dashed into the bathroom heedless of the danger.
Harry gasped at the destruction before him. Almost all the stalls were destroyed and only a couple of the porcelain toilets surviving near the troll. The far end of the bathroom was a mess of broken pottery and smashed wood, even the wall had a few dents with some of the masonry falling off. Hermione was huddled in the farthest corner that was towards the corridor and was curled up to offer as small a target as was possible all the while trying to stifle the whimpers trying to escape her mouth. She did not want to draw the attention of the lumbering beast after all.
The troll which was intent on destroying the little witch before it now turned its attention to the latest entry. The wizard was powerful; the troll could tell by the aura he was projecting. So the beast turned its attention to Harry, it would be a feather in its cap if it was able to turn a powerful wizard into a pulp.
The troll swung its massive club and Harry Ducked underneath the swing and ran to jump onto the only intact toilet, standing on the closed seat. He could have joined Hermione in huddling at the far end, but that was certain to give the troll ample time to pound them. By standing before the troll, he could at least be a distraction and something could happen to turn the scales in their favour.
Harry was in a state of utter panic; he never had to face such a dangerous foe even when his cousin was 'Harry hunting'. Yes, his cousin could beat him up badly but this thing in front of could turn him into a paste. He ducked low just in time to feel the wind created by the troll's club ruffle his hair. Harry knew that he could not last any long if things were this way.
'Help,' he desperately thought a prayer to any deity that would hear him. 'Please help me'.
As if in answer to his prayers, and perhaps it was, a flash of fire sprang in between Harry and the troll. The fire was more crimson than the reddish orange of normal flames and it was enough to startle the troll in mid-swing. The fire in turn turned into a bird, the likes of which Harry had never seen and he was transfixed; idly he thought that the bird's plumage was the colour of the fire it was bathed in. What caught Harry's eye however was the sword the bird was carrying in its talons, a sword that was also wreathed in the same crimson flames.
Harry was emboldened by the song the bird, a phoenix he realized, was singing and did not even flinch when it came near. The sword was hanging tantalizingly close now and so Harry did not hesitate to grab it, the flames no longer present but he could feel a comforting warmth spread through him as soon as he touched the sword.
The phoenix flamed out of the room now that its job was done. If Harry had time to think, he would have wondered why the immortal bird did not stay around to help him out. He did not have time to think about that though, as the giant club was again heading towards him in a vicious swing intent on beating him to a pulp.
Harry met the swing with one of his own. Clutching the sword tightly with both of his hands, Harry swung as hard as he could at the club. His effort was rewarded as the magical sword cut cleanly through the massive club as a hot knife through butter. The head of the club flying away out of the room through the open door and come to a stop hitting the far wall. Seeing the result Harry wondered if the sword imbued some of the ethereal flames of the phoenix that brought it to him.
The troll looked at his broken club stupidly for a few moments as if such a thing had not happened before. Probably true, but Harry was not concerned about that. With the troll distracted he had the few precious seconds needed to put it down. He did not want to kill it, but knocking it unconscious works too.
With that in mind, Harry gripped the sword tighter and lunged towards the troll. Unknowingly, he channelled a good amount of his magic into the sword in his hand, and took a swing at the troll's head. He hit the troll's temple as hard as he could with the flat of the blade and it yielded immediate results. The troll slumped down, its legs unable to hold it up and hit the floor on its backside, dazed.
The momentum of the fall carried the troll's head to hit the wall with a resounding crack. To a human such an impact would probably have resulted in a cracked skull, but the troll just shook its head as if trying to get rid of cobwebs. Harry who was standing in front of the troll, was able to look into the creature's eyes for the first time and there it was, as if slow motion, the eyes cleared of an invisible mist. Harry could see the spark returning to them.
Before Harry could ponder on what he saw was happening with the troll, the staff who were supposed to deal with the creature finally burst into the bathroom. Professor Flitwick was in the lead followed by McGonagall, Quirrell and Snape at the end of the line. The potions professor had to do some fancy footwork to avoid smashing into the back of the DADA professor. When he regained his balance, Snape saw an unusual tableau; a troll was on the floor shaking its head trying to get back into reality and facing it with a sword in his hand was a relaxed Harry Potter.
The three professors stood there with their mouths open unable to comprehend what was before them. Their stupefaction was broken by Quirrell who whimpered before sagging to the ground and leaning onto the doorway with a hand over his heart.
Coming down from the adrenaline high, Harry was suddenly back on alert at the sound made by Quirrell crashing to the floor and turned to the open door with the sword coming to bear. Seeing Harry Potter turn to them brought the three professors out of their shock and they moved as one. Profesor McGonagall hurried to the farthest corner of the room where Hermione was already trying to get onto her feet. Professor Flitwick moved to stand guard before the two women while Snape moved to stand between the downed troll and Harry, both the professors turning their wands onto the troll.
Quirrell continued to whimper clutching his heart. This brought the attention of everyone in the shattered bathroom to him, both humans and troll alike. Unseen by the humans, who were staring at the DADA professor with disgust, the troll's eyes narrowed in anger. With a speed belying its size, the troll moved forward towards Quirrell and with a massive swing of its arm, which ruffled Harry's hair again, slammed the professor with a meaty thunk.
Before the astonished eyes of those watching, Quirrell fairly flew in the air before slamming head first into the opposite wall. The distance was not large but the blow was strong enough that Quirrell hit the wall with some force and everyone could head a cracking sound, meaning that something was broken. A few seconds later it was confirmed that the troll broke Quirrell's neck from the odd angle his head was perched when his body hit the ground.
Four wands and a sword turned towards the troll and thankfully none of the professors cast a spell, but their grim expressions showed that they were not too far off in casting at the troll. Harry was surprised that Hermione regained her courage and was even now pointing her wand at the creature. He gave an appreciative smile but turned his attention to the troll.
The creature in question went back to sit on its haunches and tried to project as non-threatening an aura as possible.
The three professors did not know what to do. While it was true that the troll attacked one of them, it was not threatening anyone else. The students were safe, which was the most important part and then it was only Quirrell. It was wrong of them to think that way, but frankly none of the three professors had any sympathy for the man, they in fact were very wary of Quirrell's motives.
"He… spell… me," the troll spoke in answer to their unasked question.
While as a language what the troll spoke was unremarkable, but it was still surprising that the creature spoke in English at all. But then that answered the question about the troll's attack on Quirrell.
The situation was apparently in control but the matter of the troll was out of their pay check, so to speak. As a deputy headmistress McGonagall had some authority over the castle and its inhabitants. As such she could escort the troll out to the forbidden forest, if the other two professors were willing to accompany her. At the same time, she could also bring in the aurors. McGonagall however knew that Dumbledore was very secretive and was not accommodating to the ministry's interference in Hogwarts' matters. So she finally decided that she was going to leave it on the headmaster's head and let him deal with the situation, right now she had to take care of two of her students.
Harry, meanwhile, was getting another shock to his system. He came to understand that professor Quirrell was a stuttering mess and deduced that the man was not at all worth teaching defence. To find out that the man was capable enough to control a troll and used it to harm students was really hard to digest, but the proof was before them. Teachers were meant to protect students, not to put them in danger. Harry was sure that he will not be the only one shocked by the revelation of Quirrell's true colours and judging by Hermione's incredulous expression, he was right.
Before any of the professors could decide what to do next, Harry felt a burning pain from his scar and it was exactly like what he felt whenever Quirrell was near him. That worried him as everyone in the bathroom saw and heard Quirrell break his neck.
Turning to look at the prone form of the DADA professor, Harry could not stifle the gasp of horror that escaped from him. There, around Quirrell's head was a black cloud that was slowly rising and surprisingly, taking a vague form.
By now everyone in the bathroom were watching the vapour form an approximation of a face, a face the stuff of nightmares. Harry watched grimly as the reason for his own nightmares formed a snarling face right before his eyes. How the black mist formed a corporeal face with eyes and mouth, no one knew. But they knew that there was only one wizard who could possibly do it, if it was possible.
It was no mist or vapour, it was the wraith of Lord Voldemort.
The wraith opened its eyes and stared at his nemesis, "Potter!" Lord Voldemort screamed in fury and raced straight at the boy.
The three professors were frozen looking at the wraith form of the most dreaded dark lord in recent times. They knew that Dumbledore was always saying that Lord Voldemort was not truly gone but to see him and that too right in front of Harry Potter was the worst kind of confrontation they could imagine. Even Flitwick did not know offhand any spells that could stop a wraith and the staff members could only watch in terror as the wraith flew towards the Boy-Who-Lived.
Harry instinctively raised the sword in his hand and held it with both his hands with the point towards the racing Voldemort.
Lord Voldemort was furious that the Potter brat, indirectly through the troll, once again derailed his plans. He wanted to get the Philosopher's stone and get back his body and immortality at the same time too, but now he was a helpless wraith.
With the magic he stole from Quirrell, Lord Voldemort would be able to move on his own will for a short time. After that he would have to wait until his tiny core recharges, during that time he would only be drifting with the wind. He wanted to get at least some amount of satisfaction by hurting Harry Potter. With his clouded emotions, Lord Voldemort did not consider the sword a threat. He was after all a little more than vapour and so could pass through the sword without harm and so using his limited magical stores, raced towards Harry.
Harry heard Snape yelling him to get away but by that time the wraith was already onto Harry and surprising everyone impaled itself on Harry's sword. It was so shocking that there was absolute silence for a few moments. Everyone, even Harry thought that the vapour form of Lord Voldemort would pass through the blade; Harry only lifted the sword through instinct, not expecting it to help him defend himself. Seeing the place where the wraith was impaled, smoking a little and crumbling away like dust gave Harry not only a confidence boost but also a grim sense of satisfaction.
The silence was shattered by a spine chilling scream from Voldemort, "What is this magic? Potter, what have you done to me?"
Harry vaguely registered the shocked expressions from the three professors and Hermione. He also saw that Dumbledore was standing at the open doorway with his wand in hand, but rendered immobile due to the spectacle in front of him. All of this was not important for Harry, what was important was that he was able to inflict damage to Lord Voldemort. A thought trickled into his mind that it was probably going to end the Dark Lord for good and he was going to make sure that he did it.
"This is your end Voldemort," with that proclamation, Harry lifted the sword high above his head and brought it right over the wraith form of Voldemort with as much force as he could muster.
There was resistance for a fraction of a second but combined with the force of the swing and the magic of the sword and the wielder, the wraith was cleaved into two. The two halves hovered in the air for a couple of seconds more before exploding into a shower of black dust which, without any breeze present, began settling onto the floor.
In contrast to the oppressive and tense silence before when Lord Voldemort made himself known, his death brought a cheerful silence for a few short seconds. It was broken by an explosive brown haired witch who flew at Harry and grabbed him in a hug cheering all the while.
"You did it Harry, you finally got rid of 'You-Know-Who'."
Relief spread among all the occupants of the bathroom, even the troll somehow looked happy.
Dumbledore moved forward, the stunned look on his face replaced with a wide grin. Was that a slight shimmer in his eyes?
"Yes, well done my boy," the aged headmaster exclaimed.
This was the cue for the other three professors to offer their congratulations too, even Snape whose perpetual sneer was for once absent when he nodded his head in apparent congratulation. McGonagall moved to the boy and began checking for injuries and when she found none, turned her attention to Hermione.
Professor Flitwick was fairly bouncing on his feet. "How do you think that happened? I have never seen a wraith. More than that, I have never heard that a spirit form could be destroyed by a mere sword."
All heads turned to the headmaster who was stroking his beard, obviously in thought. "Hmm…" he muttered before turning to Harry, "I could come up with a few theories," he dithered. "First of all, can you tell me how you got that sword my boy? The sword of Godric Gryffindor himself?"
Harry and Hermione were startled at that. They both looked at the sword in Harry's hand with awe. This sword was apparently a legend.
"A bird…" Harry stuttered and swallowed before regaining his composure. "A phoenix brought me this."
They were interrupted by the same phoenix flashing into the bathroom, its song lifting the gloom and injecting a little cheer into them.
"This phoenix?" Dumbledore questioned with mirth in his voice as the bird landed on the headmaster's outstretched arm.
Harry watched dumbfounded as both the phoenix and wizard looked right at home. He could only nod his head in answer, not removing his eyes from the magnificent bird.
"Did Fawkes carry it like that?" Dumbledore questioned.
A light bulb went blazing in Harry's mind. "Yeah!" he answered excited.
"The whole sword was wreathed in crimson flames," Hermione whispered in awe from beside him. That scene, replaying in her mind brought goose pimples to her.
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled, "A phoenix is not just a symbol of light Harry. It literally cannot tolerate evil and if it could help in mitigating that evil, it would do so." He breathed in a great sigh of relief. "Maybe it entrusted some of its own power to the sword."
The others in the shattered bathroom were thoughtful; it was quite possible. Hermione, however was curious to know the other theories he had.
Dumbledore gave a wry chuckle and patted her head fondly before putting his thoughts in order. "The sword in Godric Gryffindor's hand was purported to slay demons. It was supposed to be the single most powerful sword and a true Gryffindor could wield it in battle as effective as Godric himself. You are a true Gryffindor Harry, not just due to being sorted into that house, but being the only family line descendent from Godric still left alive."
That bit of news threw not only the two students but the three professors also for a loop. He took in the shocked looks of his audience and elaborated, "Oh Yeah! The Potters were descended directly from Godric's line. You, my boy are not only the last Potter but also the last true Gryffindor. Why do you think Lord Voldemort targeted the Potters?"
As shocking revelations go, this was even more stunning. However, it did not last long as Dumbledore got the discussion back onto track.
"No one knows if the magic was in the sword or in the wizard that wielded the sword."
"If it was not in the sword?" Harry whispered.
Dumbledore drew in a deep breath and his tone turned solemn, "Your mother loved you Harry. She loved you enough that she chose to sacrifice her life to protect you. Such a sacrifice leaves its own mark."
He shook his head when Harry's hand flew to his famous scar. "No, it may not be visible, but it is still embedded in each and every part of you. Such is the power of love Harry. Lord Voldemort was a being of hatred. When he came in contact with your magic, channelled through the sword, he could not survive it."
He let it sink for a few moments. "… or maybe it was your determination to save your friends and everyone else from the mad man made you wield the sword in the same way that Godric himself was able to wield."
Giving a meaningful glance to the sword in Harry's hand, Dumbledore finally finished his theories, "… or maybe it was sheer dumb luck." With a wide grin on his whiskered face the headmaster bowed theatrically.
Professors McGonagall and Flitwick groaned at the stunt while Snape grimaced. The two students were shocked into silence before bursting out laughing. The thought that they survived great danger could have added to their amusement.
With that bit of levity, Dumbledore turned to the troll and sighed heavily. He strode to the still crouched being and grunted. What followed was a bizarre discussion in grunts and whimpers which lasted for a few long minutes. It was mostly taken up by the troll and looked as if explaining its actions.
After that conversation, Dumbledore turned to his human audience, "It is as we have deduced. Quirrell apparently lured a member of their tribe to Hogwarts with confounding and compulsion spells. That is the troll he had guarding the …" here he faltered before continuing, "… the treasure. It appears that the troll in question was the chieftain's son-in-law and so the best warrior of the tribe was sent to retrieve their tribesman back."
Gesturing at the troll he continued, "However, our friend here was also caught in Quirrell's spells and we know the result of that."
"If it was Quirrell only, I would have questioned his ability. Now we know that it was the dark lord and not that stuttering fool," Snape muttered while grimacing.
A short silence followed which was broken by Dumbledore clapping his hands and getting their attention again. He almost looked as if he de-aged a lot and quite possibly a heavy weight was lifted off his shoulders.
"Minerva, please escort our two heroes to their common room and once you get them something to eat, come to the third floor," he gazed at her meaningfully.
Once McGonagall nodded her head in understanding, Dumbledore grinned, "Once we dismantle all the 'precautions'…" he refrained from saying what they truly were to keep the two students unaware of what was being hid in the school, "… and get our wayward friend to his tribesman, we could remove the treasure from the school. Now that there is no danger to it, I could return it back to my friend."
The three professors nodded their heads and their head of house led the two children back to the Gryffindor common room. On that way, Hermione remarked that Harry's scar was now lighter and a little difficult to see. McGonagall was surprised for a bit but peering at Harry's forehead, confirmed that it was indeed true.
Harry grinned at that. If it disappears altogether, he could probably live his life like every other student at the school, without people gawking at his scar!