Summary: Quirrell decides that he needs more than a theoretical understanding of the Dark Arts to get what he truly wants.
Characters/Pairings: Quirinus Quirrell, Albus Dumbledore
Rating/Warnings: PG-13, for darker themes
Word Count: 1010
Can the Order post to Tumblr?: Sure.
Dumbledore’s blue eyes didn’t twinkle as he looked at me. “Your theoretical prowess is undoubtable, Quirinus. But theory alone is not a good way to start children off in Defence. They need hands-on training, especially when they’re so young. You know this.”
Bitterness rolled along my tongue and I looked down, attempting to school my voice somewhat. “Perhaps the seventh years, then? Surely they could benefit from the theoretical knowledge that underlies the practical usage.” A sudden hope twinged in me. “Especially the ones going on to university, the ones who might do research in this area. I could do a special NEWT-level class…” My words dribbled off as I looked up at him.
His expression was grave and considering. “Perhaps. Your insights are subtle and demonstrably useful–”
I flushed with pleasure at this praise. He still remembered my utility during the war, providing training to the auror instructors in new ways to counteract curses.
“–but perhaps they are too subtle, even for seventh years. You’ll recall that my translation of your insights to the auror instructors was necessary, and they were adults well-versed in the particular spells you talked about.”
Impotence squirmed within me, my jaw clenching at this hard truth.
“Besides, you’re such a jolly good Muggle Studies teacher. It’s quite nice that you slip some advanced Muggle mathematics into the NEWT classes, even though it’s not officially tested. I know you enjoy that area of Muggle knowledge – especially, what was it? Number theory and probability theory? A little esoteric for the students, but good practice for thinking deeply.”
I nodded, my eyes cast down. The dismissal was clear. “Indeed. And yes, I do enjoy those subjects. Thank you for your time.”
His voice was suffused with warmth and compassion. “Of course, Quirinus.”
Back in my room later, I brooded over our exchange.
My grandfather was a famous mathematician in the Muggle world, a man by the name of Erdos. I got my theoretical skills from him, no doubt. Would that I had inherited his confidence and courage as well. He was an itinerant, vagabond genius – and he was in and out of my grandmother’s life as quick as breath. I never met the man, though countless others had. He was adventurous, eccentric, and brilliant.
Well, inheriting one out of three isn’t bad, I suppose.
I’d never actually told anyone, but I saw spell constructs in color, their structures beautifully illuminated with a sort of sparkling fire. It was so easy to know how to counteract them if you looked at them from the right angle. Just balance the colors, invert the structure, and presto! It dissolved to nothing. Of course, the trick was always how to translate that appropriately – which motions, which words, which strengths were required. And even if it required strengths I didn’t have, at least I knew what was needed.
Of course, it almost always required strengths I didn’t have. Utterly galling. But it’d been that way for as long as I could remember, as my peers had never failed to remind me. Little squirrel, practically a squib. Quirrell squirrel, Quirrell squirrel, little weakling Quirrell squirrel.
I took a steadying breath, riding through the familiar rage.
It was comforting in those moments to remember that there was a time not too long ago when none of the owners of those cruel voices were strong enough either. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named terrified us all, of course – but, at last, I wasn’t the only one who was too weak. A great leveler, the Dark Lord was, whatever other horrors accompanied him. A great leveler, indeed. So much so that my theoretical skills were finally recognized and harnessed and profoundly appreciated.
I began the mental litany of curses I had developed countercurses for. Full Body-Bind, Jelly-Fingers, Entrail-Expelling, Fiendfyre, Lycacomia, Sectumsempra…
That last one had made Snape absolutely livid, of course. I smiled, remembering the scowl he wore when he first heard. His pet construct had been quite a beautiful thing – such lovely angles to it, and a gorgeous winding, intricate shape. But so easy to invert once you could really see it fully. Snape had incredible talent, it was true. I simply had more.
Even if I couldn’t always express it very well.
Thankfully, Dumbledore had seen what I could do, and he had remembered, which was the only reason I had a post at Hogwarts at all. But memories seemed to fade so quickly…
Was it wrong to long for those past days just a little, despite their darkness? Respect was a heady thing, even (or especially) when it came in those small ambrosial sips. And the sips had grown smaller and smaller in the intervening years.
A thought curled in my mind like smoke, lithesome and sibilant.
If I knew how to counter the Unforgivables, that knowledge would be too valuable to ignore, too important to forget. If I truly understood that level of curse, I would know how to counteract it. Knowledge was power.
But how to go about it?
Recent sources, whispered that dangerous thread in my mind. Find the greatest user of those horrific curses the world had seen in centuries, who could produce the cleanest, most potent examples. There were whispers from Albania that the Dark Lord still lived. Of course, Grindelwald would have been a fine option too, if only he wasn’t imprisoned in that damned impregnable Nurmengard. But the Dark Lord, Albania… perhaps… perhaps…
The thought hissed and sputtered, strangling me. No. That was madness, utter madness. There were very good reasons the known wizarding world had feared the Dark Lord. He was the closest thing we had seen to a vengeful god, and it had (rightly) terrified us. That level of power, concentrated in one individual unafraid to use it, was almost unthinkable.
But if he still lived, he’d surely be horribly weakened after that catastrophic, legendary failure with the Potter child. He would be so full of knowledge, brimming with it, but unable to act.
Just like me.
Think on it, little squirrel.