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Harry Potter: The Path of Indifference #4

End of Year 1 at Hogwarts

Gene Potter was the Boy-Who-Lived, a somewhat famous wizard who survived what was thought to be the only spell that never failed to kill a struck target. He knew that since he was old enough to walk on two legs. He admitted it gave him a bit of confidence, a swagger in his step. His mother made sure to keep it down to just a swagger, so he didn’t turn into an earlier copy of his father.

Still, he came to Hogwarts with some fairly high intentions. The first was to ace as many courses as he could, getting nothing less than above average scores in Transfiguration, Charms, and everything but Potions.

He didn’t kid himself, Snivelius wouldn’t let a Potter pass his class with exemplary scores.

Draco Malfoy was hostile on the train ride, but their parents were like that overall to each other so it was expected. That wasn’t going to change any time soon. As long as he didn’t cross the line, neither would Gene.

Then, there was Harry.

Harry was a nerd for all intensive purposes, Gene originally thought. He always stayed in his room or went somewhere with a book in hand, never really talking to anyone. He wasn’t surprised when he got into Ravenclaw at all since it would suit him.

To have Malfoy tell him—no, gloat—that his own brother had sided with him was unforgivable. Gene had originally thought that maybe Draco had bullied Harry into telling him or manipulated him somehow. That had to be it.

Slytherin were the bad guys after all! Every other house agreed. It had always been that way, even before his parent’s time.

Either way, he decided to confront Harry with the intention of getting him to renounce his allegiance with that ferret…and learned that he didn’t know his brother nearly as well as he thought he did.

For starters, he didn’t even know Harry was that decent with a wand he had only gotten. He never recalled Harry practicing with one before school started. His source in Ravenclaw—well, a fan—told him that he received a letter from a bat of all things. Gene didn’t even know he had a friend outside that Terry boy.

Harry was hostile to nearly everyone in his own house and seemed to relish learning about the dark arts in DADA. Then he learned that Harry was something of an apprentice to Voldemort—well, Quirrell, before he knew he was possessed—and it explained his growth. Harry was going dark…

In all honesty, watching Harry charge that spell up left him wondering if he was truly going to do it. It was a relief when Harry turned the spell on Quirrell. Yet, Harry didn’t say whether or not he would have done it if it weren’t Voldemort asking, but Quirrell instead.

So, waking up to see Madam Pomfroy hovering over his brother and trying to prevent him from going on a premature journey to the ‘Next Great Adventure’ as the older Headmaster often said, and then telling the Headmaster everything he knew so far, he decided that Harry wasn’t Light or Dark.

Gene simply didn’t know Harry at all.

A Few Hours Later

Harry woke up, still in shock and giving short answers to question presented by the nurse as Gene had entered looking for him, after being cleared an hour ago and speaking to the Headmaster.

“So…” Gene rubbed his head, not really sure how to follow up given the circumstances. “How are you doing?”

“This was all your fault!” Harry snapped, spinning around and training his wand on his brother. It was shaking and not from the potions he took. “Voldemort was supposed to be dead! You were supposed to have killed him! If you had finished the job, QUIRRELL COULD HAVE LIVED!”

“Now, now…” the aged voice of the Headmaster reached the pair’s ears and they turned to face the source. “Harry, settle down. What happened was the fault of neither one of you…”

Harry took a deep breath and lowered his wand before Dumbledore ushered out the other Potter and then returned.

“Harry, Gene told me you were Quirrell’s apprentice,” he said in a calm tone, as to not agitate the boy still in shock. “I’m going to need you to tell me everything you discussed with him and he taught you. Understand?”

Harry looked at him in the eyes blankly and nodded, starting with the first conversation. He kept the conversation compartmentalized, never noticing the feather drop touch on his mind before the man left—leaving him alone with thoughts of vengeance towards the Dark One.

“He’s going to come back,” Harry said to himself, steel in his voice. “And when he does, I’m going to be ready. I’ll do what Gene should have.”

“You’re being foolish Potter,” Snape said, appearing from the door like a phantom and maintaining his professional detachment like an art form. “Even if the Dark Lord were to return, he would most likely amass a large force, starting with those he had in his service beforehand. What you claim would have you—a single person—going against an army.”

“I’ll find a way.” Harry tightened his face and met his eyes, falling prey to the second Legimens’ mental invasion. “He has to be taken out, somehow.”

“Let the matter drop,” Snape rebutted coolly. “You can’t fight what you don’t understand—and you don’t understand the mind of one such as him, or those who would follow him. You must learn thy enemy and act with logic, not emotion when dealing with such people. And most of all, you must be decisive, not grieving in pity like a defeated dog.”

Snape went over the same series of questions that Dumbledore did in order to buy time to finish weeding through his memories and mind. Then he spun on the sole of his shoe and left the room, having gotten the information he needed from the boy’s mind.

Dumbledore, for all his calm, was quite livid.

Voldemort had been subtle in his act and laid the seeds for a thirst for power, much like he had as a young boy, into Harry. He could not afford to simply react to the subject. The first thing Dumbledore did was gather the twins’ parents. Sirius Black accompanied them, having been catching up on old times when they were Floo’ed.

“First off, before this matter somehow gets out,” Dumbledore looked to the Potter couple, “James and Lily, there’s been a problem with the boys. Gene managed to get off relatively unharmed, but Harry will need a few days to recover from the emotional trauma more than anything.”

“What happened?” James asked.

“It would seem Tom Riddle—also known as Voldemort—has begun attempting to return,” Dumbledore stated gravely. “To that extent, he attempted to use the Philosopher’s Stone as well as both Harry and Gene to get it.”

“Harry?” James rubbed his chin in thought. “Why was Harry harmed?”

“Tom had been possessing one of my staff members, sadly, and developed a close bond with him. Tragically, Harry ended up killing Professor Quirrell to protect Gene,” Dumbledore told them, before going into the events from both boys’ perspective. “I’d recommend that they are consoled on their actions before—”

Just then the door opened to his office and Professor Snape appeared. “I beg to differ on that assessment. Having James try to play an adequate father now will only serve to further drive away the smart one. He’ll be stronger for it if he gets over it himself.”

“Oh?” Dumbledore arched an eyebrow. “What makes you so sure Severus?”

“I took a look at his memories—”

Lily looked aghast. “You read his mind!”

“Yes. Yes I did,” Snape admitted. “To see if Quirrell had used any mental compulsions or spells on his mind during their time together and further more to be thorough.”

Dumbledore pouted. “That was unnecessary.”

“For all we know he could have been subtly compulsed to kill himself, so it was a necessary evil,” Snape shrugged. “I believe it was worth it given what I learned.”

“You had no right—” James started.

The Headmaster raised his hand and cut him off. “If I may ask, what did you learn, Severus?”

“I saw how he was treated with things his father seemed to lack—attention and respect. Voldemort played him like a fiddle, taking advantage of the gap in his defenses James created with his negligence for favoring his other spawn. There was a minor compulsion to avoid spending excess time with either me or the Headmaster, seeing as the two of us were likely to see the influence Quirrell had on the boy. Had the ruse continued and Voldemort would have slowly twisted him into an effective and dangerous servant.”

Snape smoothed his robe and finished, “Anything else I learned had nothing to do with this matter, so I will be silent out of respect for the boy.”

Sirius snorted. “Since when are you that nice? You read his mind without consent!”

“I’m not a nice person, Black,” Snape told him. “We established that long ago. I have no intention of changing, much like you still don’t have any regrets to sending me off to die via murder-by-werewolf—which would have had him taken to Azkaban or euthanized. The reason I am here is because I am good at what I do and because I know how Voldemort thinks. The reason I respect the boy is because he is much like I was as a student, which was why I went as far as I did to ensure his mental health.”

“He’s nothing like you were.” James claimed.

“Like you would know?” Snape shot back calmly. “Even before entering his mind, I knew him better than you did.”

James scowl deepened. “You were—”

“Smart, creative, an expert on potions, and capable of curses that would leave you lying in a bloody ditch had you not had your lackeys like Black around…just as he is.” Snape continued. “Much like me he is not fond overall of the Marauders, hates that useless sport of Quidditch, doesn’t waste his effort on earning that useless cup, and cares not for others opinions of him, all of which earned him a place in my books—unlike the other spawn.”

“Those are grounds for a duel!” James stated, reaching for his wand.

“BOYS!” Lily said and cleared her throat, having been silent long enough. “Snape, please continue reasonably. You claimed to know how Voldemort would think best. Is there a chance one of my sons could be going dark or to Voldemort’s side should he return?”

Snape pursed his lips. She never did speak casually to him after his slip of the tongue…to both her and Voldemort. “The fact that he seems to have more interest in the muggle side of things and possesses more knowledge than the incompetent professor Dumbledore has working there now, served as one bonding point for him and Quirrell, but suggests otherwise. At the same time, Quirrell had made up for deficiencies in his upbringing and granted him what he wanted. Looking into the boy’s mind with his master’s aid no doubt gave him a leg on trying to train him.”

James raised an eyebrow. “What deficiencies?”

“Negligence, if it wasn’t clear before.” Snape answered. “The boy is more of a credit than your other spawn and I distinctly believe that has to do with the lack of influence from James and his minions. Somehow he’s turned bad parenting into a boon.”

“Severus…” Dumbledore warned.

Snape let the jab drop. “He excels in potions to the extent he found a way to destroy Howlers, safely and economically with a few suggestions from yours truly, in his First Year. He is capable of some higher conjuration—a normally Six Year subject—having gained an insight into his talent into it since James’ other spawn has taken to his capabilities in transformations, but is working harder than ever to make up for the skill he lacks. Lily, your talent in charms seemed to have taken root in dark charms instead for him, and he knows materials at least a year in advanced of his classes.”

Dumbledore nodded. It was always interesting to see a student apply himself…even given the circumstances. “What is your final verdict, Severus?”

Snape took a small breath and said, “He’s not one who would follow another as a servant or a sheep like much of his house, cares too much about muggle affairs, and is too smart to be a Death Eater. However, he’s too intrigued to back away from his interest in the Dark Arts. Quirrell’s death had the benefit of driving a wedge of hatred between Voldemort while also has him lashing out at his brother. It would be prudent to let things take their course at the moment and see one which side of the line he leans more to.”

“Yes, I see,” Dumbledore muttered. “Very well. I’ll agree with you, but he should be monitored in case Tom makes another play and so he doesn’t do anything rash while still grieving.”

“Can we see both of them?” Sirius asked.

“It would be inadvisable for Ravenclaw Potter,” Snape pointed out.

“He’s our son!” James argued. “We’re his parents!”

“He doesn’t see either of you as more than acquaintances,” Snape countered, looking to Lily softy and pursing his lips. “He has never once, consciously, called either of you by anything other than your names in the last year, has he?”

Lily blinked and shuffled through her thoughts. Looking back, Harry rarely confided in anything and stayed with his head in books or out…

“Hm…” Dumbledore stroked his beard in thought, looking over to his phoenix as it slept. “Perhaps this summer all of you should sit down and have a nice chat. In the meantime, I’ll see if I can’t have his Head of House keep a look out for him. I believe Gene will be willing to come in, so I’ll send for him.”

“Snape,” Lily called as her husband and Sirius waited for Gene to arrive. “Can we talk? In private?”

Muffliato.” Professor Snape cast, encasing them in a field that sounded like white noise to anyone else, and then stood in front of her in a slightly guarded pose, wand behind his back and stiff. “Yes.”

Lily took a deep breath. “Since you seem to have a more insightful look into my child’s behavior and he’ll probably listen to you, could I ask that you keep him away from going down a road he can’t come back from. Encourage him to communicate more within his house, make friends, not bottle things up—”

“You don’t want him to wind up like I did,” Snape stated. She nodded, as expected. “That’s a lot to ask Lily. Much like you never forgave me for that slip of the tongue to this day. ”

Lily scowled. “You betrayed—”

“I acknowledge it,” he said curtly. “I wanted power and I wanted you, Voldemort offered me both and I sold out your husband and children. I will not forget the sins I’ve committed, Lily, nor will I expect to be forgiven for them. Even now I will admit that I have not changed much barring your involvement and the sheer fact you show as much professionalism to me as you do is a miracle alone.

“What I am saying is that it will be hard to prevent because the boy has vengeance on his mind and the path it leads to is never one that can be fully corrected without closure. Even then, it is a fragile recovery depending on how much of his life it consumes.” Snape took a long sigh. “However, I shall do what I can.”

“Thank you…Sev.”

Hearing her address him by his nickname for the first time in years made his cold heart warm a little. He knew it was just so that he would do it. Lily would do anything for her children, including allowing him delude himself in thinking that it was a small step forward to how they used to be the best of friends.

He didn’t mind.

Some Time Later

On the fields outside the castle, Harry brandished his wand and steadied his trembling hands. This wand had been used to kill. Even if not directly, it was a murderer’s weapon.

Noctis Fluxio!” Darkness poured out of his wand against the rock outcropping, eroding it centimeter by centimeter, before he withdrew the stream to the tip of his wand and it spiraled into a black-rimmed orb that was fired like a cannon ball at the outcropping. “Vorago Sphaera!

On impact the darkness expanded and the swallowed itself like a miniature black hole, imploding at clearing out a section of the outcropping and leaving smooth remains. Harry dropped to his knees in exhaustion at the drain of a spell—

Just like that apprentice…

—before the ghostly voice of Quirrell echoed in his ears. Harry and turned and searched for the mentor to no avail. He was gone, his body cremated with the condition it was in.

“Just another hallucination…” Harry muttered, grasping the violet scarf around his neck, before making his way to his new haunt. The last few nights had been Hell for Harry, so he found himself going to Myrtle’s bathroom for comfort, quiet, and a place to brew a custom Sleeping Draught. The pre-teen made his way back to the bathroom and was greeted by its more permanent resident.

“Cheer up Harry,” Myrtle said. “A boy as young as you shouldn’t look so dead inside.”

“Could he come back as a Ghost?” Harry asked. The contents of the question were obvious.

“Harry…”Myrtle attempted to lay a hand on his shoulder and comfort him, but the limitations of her half-life prevented it. “Believe it or not, you probably spared him from such a fate.”

Unable to live. Unable to die. Only to linger in the realm of the living while being unable to interact with ease, watching as friends and enemies, descendants and generations leave the world behind until no one who you knew could be reached.

Ghosts were truly pitiful yet fascinating creatures in Harry’s eyes.

“Oh, lookie what Peeves’ found!” The poltergeist wandered into the bathroom, intent on the usual routine of tormenting Myrtle. What did they expect? He was chaos given form after all and she was an easy target. “Lil’ Murderer Potter and the Cry Baby.”

“Get out of here Peeves,” Harry warned. The poltergeist had gotten it all over school that he was a murderer and most of the castle was terrified of him. Even Terry and the others kept their distance in their house. “Mess with Myrtle again, and you’ll be as terrified of me as you are of the Bloody Baron!”

“Oooh, the big bad murderer is making threats—”

Phasmatis Canis!” He summoned a Gytrash, fully-formed and ready for action as he applied the Oppugno Jinx. “Get. Him.

Have you ever heard a poltergeist scream as a Gytrash attempted to rip out its short and bulgy neck? Well, Harry and Myrtle can say they have. While neither was particular fond of overt violence, there was something soothing about just vengeance being wrought upon the poltergeist. It wouldn’t kill the chaos, but it could hurt it.

When the day to leave Hogwarts finally arrive, Harry breathed a sigh of relief and one of anger. The relief was that he didn’t have to see any of the bastards in his house for a few months. The anger was because they’d gotten one last slight over on him. Letters hovering over his trunks denounced him a murderer and his items were thrown about. Luckily nothing was stolen and his important notes were kept reduced in his pouch on his person.

Then again, stealing from someone they called a murderer would be suicidal, wouldn’t it?

He was a murderer, and would not allow himself to think otherwise. But he wouldn’t let others call him one. Only someone who had stained their hands for the sake of another had the right to call him that.

Not a bunch of emotionally-driven, academically-ravenous teens.

“Mr. Potter?” Harry’s Head of House’s voice pulled him out of his thoughts.

“Professor Flitwick,” Harry said, keeping his eyes down as he packed his trunk with the scattered articles and mentally swore to learn more locking charms. No, screw the locks—he was going into booby traps! No mercy. “Is there something wrong?”

“No…well,” he waved his wand and several books appeared. “These were apparently willed to you by our dear departed Quirrell.”

Harry noticed the one on top was a copy of Quirrell’s Ghoul Studies book, Spectral Beings and Spells. There were notes all over some of the pages as he thumbed through it. “Why me?”

“We believe that before…He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named completely possessed him, he felt a kinship to you,” the short professor told him. “Mind you, we had to check these for any traps or particularly dark knowledge that was unsuitable for you. Headmaster Dumbledore cleared them today.”

“I see…” Harry touched his scarf tenderly and then took the books and added them to his trunk. “Thank you, Professor Flitwick.”

On the train ride, he read through the book he had been willed in his empty compartment as the door slid in and Terry came in with Padma and Isobel. He made a mental note that they seemed to have caution looks on their faces, even though Terry and Padma were practically dragging in Isobel.

Sitting down on the opposite side of him with the others, Terry asked a simple question. “How’ve you been, Harry?”

“Given you’ve been ignoring me since Quirrell’s death, it begs the question of why you chose now to appear and ask.” Harry answered, his eyes never leaving the book. “Let me guess, you figured I wouldn’t murder you on the train ride home since there was no way to stash the bodies? Or was it because with everyone going home and excited, they’d never notice you slipping into the same compartment as the sole murder at Hogwarts.”

“It was just that…” Padma trailed off, searching for the proper words.

Isobel filled in for her. “You were declared a murder, a professor was dead, and you were in the infirmary and no one else was allowed in until the Headmaster declared otherwise. It didn’t look good for you. We couldn’t be seen with you for our own sakes.”

“Your cold and blunt honesty is both refreshing and heartless at the same time,” Harry said. “I don’t know whether to be hurt or impressed by the sheer and factual way you said that to save your own reputations you cut me off…well, you I can understand, but not the other two.”

“What were we supposed to think?” Padma asked.

“Think for yourselves,” Harry’s eyes narrowed as he closed the book. “I did the same thing I did when that troll was about to finish you and Granger: what I had to in order to save Gene’s life. For it, I lost the man I mentored under, can’t get to sleep without sleeping draughts, and I’m stuck there with a reputation as a murderer and a potential Dark Wizard.”

“If it’s that bad, why not leave?” Isobel asked plainly, stating the obvious solution. “My sister mentioned that with your reputation affecting Hogwarts, once it gets around given the sheer number of people who know and will tell their parents, you’d most likely be expelled to save face. You could always leave before then.”

“Dumbledore won’t expel me and James and Lily won’t let me leave,” Harry answered. “Hogwarts isn’t the only magical school, but with the Headmaster’s backing and the fact that those two are my legal guardian’s means I don’t have a say on that front. I tried to see if I could get a transfer to Durnstram, but that wasn’t happening since too many factors involving Gene, James, Lily, and Dumbledore are involved. They say Hogwarts is the safest place for me to be nine months out of the year.”

“You were going to leave?” Terry asked aghast. “We’re your friends.”

“More like acquaintances,” Isobel stated. Padma elbowed her in the ribs slightly.

“Would it have mattered?” Harry asked. “When I was in that Hospital Wing, the only ones who visited were Dumbledore, Snape, Gene, James, Sirius and Lily. Four of them I wanted nothing to do with, one questioned me about my crime, and the other did the same but gave me advice that I intend to take to heart.”

He may not have known it, but professor Snape had defined a path for Harry to take. “Even after I got out, where were any of you…friends or acquaintances?”

They were silent.

Myrtle was the only one who actually listened to me and tried to understand me,” Harry said with heat in his voice. “When I was actively grieving over the life of a man who became a slave to one who offered him more power rather than reaching for it himself, none of you were there—not for fake sympathies or crap, but to at least counter the sheer number of lies floating around our house calling me a Dark Wizard in the making or stop them from violating my privacy and tossing my belongings around!”

That last one was directed to Terry since they shared a bunk in the first-year dorms. He was again met with silence.

“Hogwarts isn’t safe,” Harry said, recalling thrice he nearly died in one year and deciding to not waste his time trying to point out their betrayal to him any further. “No matter what they say, any school that has enough hazards to warrant as many close encounters and safety hazards as this one leaves me wondering if the standards for magical safety are up to code. Between Bullies, Peeves, the Forbidden Forest—I am not coming back here unprepared next year. I will train my ass off since I am stuck here, and Merlin help anything or anyone that gets in my way.

“As for you three, either you can stay by my side or you can stay out of my way.”

Harry spent the rest of train ride alone until they reached the station. Once there, he cast a Bedazzling Hex and slipped past his parents to catch the Knight Bus out to Diagon Alley to see his favorite witch.

She was pleased to see him. “Hey Harry. I hadn’t seen you in awhile. I found your aunt Petunia’s number and address from when you asked me not too long ago.”

Ah, leverage, Harry thought, before switching over to the matter at hand. “Sherry, can you hold the pouch and stuff in it. I have a feeling I’m going to be in trouble and don’t want my parents finding anything.”

The American witch raised an eyebrow. “Why? Harry, did you do something…?”

“Umm…how much do you know about what happened in July at school?”

“Nothing, why?”

“I’ll be straight,” Harry gathered his courage. She and Arthur were the only people he cared enough about to worry what they thought. “I killed a professor before he could kill me. I can’t give you the exact details because of an oath though.”

She looked aghast. “A-are you serious?”

“I wouldn’t lie about that,” Harry told her. “Not to you. I…I need sleeping draughts to get to sleep.”

“Oh Harry…” she rushed over and gave him a hug.

“You’ll hear about it once it gets around, being Gene’s brother and all…” Harry said. “I considered the man a mentor and he willed some books over to me—I don’t want them to take them from me because he made a mistake. It wasn’t his fault and I-I didn’t….”

Shh…” she told him petting his hair while she embraced him. In her arms, he allowed himself to cry. “Let it out...”

For the moment, he was simply a boy who could act his age and cry at the loss of someone important to him.

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