Summary: Just before Quirrell's first meeting with Harry in the Leaky Cauldron. In response to challenge #165: Where everybody knows your name.
Characters/Pairings: Quirinus Quirrell, Voldemort, Rubeus Hagrid, Harry Potter
Genre: General, Drama
Rating/Warnings: PG-13 for some very implied Quirrell/Voldemort.
Word Count: 807
Can the Order post to Tumblr?: Yes
If yes, your Tumblr username: N/A
The word caressed me awake, and I blinked slowly in the darkness. The gentle, affectionate tones of my favorite grandmother's voice slid into something deeper and sultry with promise. I recognized the layered shift immediately, squelching my reflexive twinge at the wrongness of it. I knew he took an almost scientific interest in manipulating my emotions.
There is something we need, and you will procure it. The whipcrack of command ran through me like electricity, sparking along the braids of the familiar's bond.
Of course. What is it?
The Philosopher's Stone. An image swirled in my mind of a shrouded object in a vault deep underground, with watchful goblin eyes all around and the scorched scent of dragon fire.
I swallowed hard. It's in Gringotts.
That's correct. Vault 713. Hence the dragon potential.
You want me to break into a lower vault of Gringotts. The thought careened through my mind, clattering with incipient panic.
Yes, Quirinus. And your trepidation is tiresome. This is an invigorating challenge, and you will rise to it with exquisite grace. His voice pulled at my core, bending and shaping along the braided paths.
I blinked slowly. Your faith in me is great.
My faith in what we can do together is exactly as it should be. Flex your intellect, little squirrel, and let's see what we can create. The words stroked through me with velvet precision, sharpening desire to a frenzy of focus. Won't it be delightful to outwit them all?
That it would. My muscles tensed low and tight with the potential of it.
His voice was a whisper of secrets as we crafted our plan, soft and flickering as a serpent's tongue.
After several hours, his approval licked through me. It's a good plan, Quirinushko. Well-thought.
A responsive starburst of contracting sensation sang through me, pulling me taut and emptying me into unconsciousness.
The execution would, of course, involve very precise timing. I would wait in the Leaky Cauldron until circumstances seemed propitious -- the place held a certain nostalgic warmth for me since I had been something of a regular before Albania.
The wholesomeness of it slapped me in the face when I walked in the door. Which, of course, was abstractly amusing, as wholesome wasn't the first word that came to mind when you entered the Leaky Cauldron. But its memories plucked at me as soon as I saw Tom, the barkeep. I had been so different then. Considerably purer of heart, as it were, and so much feebler.
And you will return to that persona while you are here. An iron vise clamped my thoughts. Remember your diffidence, little squirrel.
Of course. I knew the necessity of it, though it was maddening to hide my new strength. This was a place where everyone knew my name, from Tom to Dedalus Diggle over there in the corner to flighty Doris Crockford. So close to Hogwarts, and especially here, I had been seen and known. I had to slip on the mask of what-was.
And so I hunched my shoulders and lowered my eyes, despising the confines of my remembered weakness.
Now, now, Quirinus -- console yourself. Think how much fun it will be to get away with everything we've planned. They'll never suspect you.
If I play this part well.
Which you will. Because you are strong. Now hunch a little more into your drink and twitch.
Humor from him was a rare enough occurrence that it caught me by surprise. I disguised my laughter as a cough just as Rubeus Hagrid walked in with a small boy in tow.
Hagrid was another who had known me, and I listened with half an ear to Tom's greeting.
And then to the revelation of Hagrid's young companion. Harry Potter.
The sudden focus of Voldemort's interest was excruciating, a razor intensity that shredded my thoughts. The cough that choked me this time had no humor behind it.
Go to him. Greet him. I wish to see him.
His will moved through me as if I were a puppet, stringing my spine straight. I relaxed into it -- experience had shown that it didn't hurt as much if I let it flow through me instead of fighting. After a moment, I slumped down again and turned to face Hagrid and the boy.
Remember your role. The half-giant is watching. And Quirinus, his voice flicked at me with a cool sharpness, try not to overdo it this time.
I felt a twinge of disdain that was wholly my own. I had fooled Hagrid so easily upon my initial return. He was an obstacle so minor, it was barely worth reckoning.
I shuffled forward, tensing my right eye so that it would twitch in a thoroughly useful nervous tic, and prepared to encounter the Boy Wonder in the flesh.