Quirinus Quirrell thought hard, his wand in his outstretched hand shivering like a withered twig. He knew, from the wisdom passed down by the thousands of great witches and wizards before him, defending another spell was not in the list of his options. Death was, on the very next move of his enemy but the next move would be soon and it pained him to go before he had brought to life all his dreams of glory, reverence and importance.
He stared into the vicious black infinity of the Albanian forest. Lighting a light would mean instant death. He could hear the stillness of the wind and the beating of his own heart. Making the slightest noise would mean instant death.
Quirrell felt like crying out. He wanted to laugh at the moment he thought he could tame the Dark Lord in his weakened state. His venture could not have gone more wrong.
Suddenly he fell to the ground, his life flashing before him in short glimpses. He saw himself, a frail young boy being tossed through the goal basket by some Hufflepuff seniors in the Quidditch ground and then, diving away from a troll’s club, and it continued.
He concentrated hard, a moment later being twisted and sucked into a singular point of his pre-existence.
A loud scream of rage filled his mind, verging on the point of rupturing the eardrums. Quirrell, paralyzed with fear, heard the exact words he instantly wished he could unhear.
There was a crack, loud one, startling the street dogs into a mad bark in all directions. A thin, pale man with light blue eyes, dilated with terror, and draped in a long flowing robe suddenly appeared in the street. Quirrell knew he would have to change his position but was in no state to disapparate again. He did not know a better place in the world for him to hide from the Dark Lord at the moment.
Quirrell scrounged through his memories of Kolkata for a hiding place while looking around for his wand which he had lost the grip on while disapparating. That scream and the voice still reverberated in his head, painfully. He found his wand, a nine-inch alder with a unicorn hair core, a majestic wand in all terms, lying in a puddle of rainwater.
For a while Quirrell looked at the spot he had apparated at. Then, pointing his wand at it, muttered, ‘Dedesdus!’
He looked for another while and then nodding to himself, turned back and walked down the street, towards the river.
I am a great magician, Quirrell thought, with an emphasis on the adjective which had been much more confident just an hour ago but now faltered, his voice mixed with doubt.
“I fought the vampires alone, all alone,” Quirrell muttered under his breath. “They always thought me weak. I shall prove them wrong.”
Even though consumed in a moment of bravery which dawns upon one when his greatest fear recedes out of sight, Quirrell moved swiftly on the river bank. He searched for an empty boat, keeping himself hidden from the Muggles eyes by a simple Disillusionment Charm. Battling would be easier near water. And then there was always the option of transfiguring into water, facilitating a silent and quick flight in the worst case to any part of the world. Transfiguring into air was way too difficult and Quirrell being brutally honest to himself, as one often does in moments of utter hopelessness accepted his own lack of confidence at attempting magic which had yet been achieved only by the Dark Lord.
It was a small but solid-looking boat, fastened to the bank by a steel chain. It would serve the purpose, a bigger boat would only attract more attention. He pointed his wand at the chain in a lazy fashion, his mind preoccupied with forecasts of the oncoming battle. If it really is coming, he thought.
“Evanesco,” he said and proceeded to lift himself onto the boat while the chain dissolved into thin air.
Quirrell noted the sudden chill in the air as the boat slowly slid out in to the calm waters of the river Hooghly, the bridge a majestic reminder of Muggle innovations, though not without the help of the wizarding community for there was a pillar there at the centre of the bridge supporting it upright, unknown to eyes which could not see through the disillusionment charm. He had been often sent on behalf of the Ministry to refurbish the charm at the pillar as it tends to wear off after some time.
Quirrell looked straight at where the pillar was supposed to be. It had been quite a challenge to make the human ships go straight through it but Dumbledore had found the solution and it had been a matter of pride when Dumbledore sent him over to put the hexes on the pillar.
An ear-splitting crack jolted him back in to the present. He looked towards the direction he had come from, almost expecting the enemy to be standing there, ready to launch upon him at any moment. Quirrell held his wand before him, shivering, more from the cold wind than fear.
“Protego totalum,” he murmured. Then with a sudden afterthought he added, “Ravagle!” If he was to die alone, he thought, he would die like a true Ravenclaw.
There was a screech, powerful, dominant and in all measures, royal. The eagle swooped down onto his shoulder and sat there, still, looking straight in the direction of the loud noise earlier. Quirrell sensed the stiffness of the beast and the danger it implied. With a new flow of confidence in his veins, he waited.
The first indications of the enemy’s approach came with the flickering of the lights on the bridge. From his peripheral vision Quirrell could see the hidden pillar reappear as the lights of the entire area died out.
“The charms have been removed,” he spoke softly to the eagle. “He has removed them. He-who-must-not-be-named.”
The eagle’s eyes were grim set towards the front. Not batting an eyelid it looked as a cloud of air darker than the black night sailed over the river towards the boat. Quirrell stood up, pointed his wand at it and with all his strength shouted, “Avada Kedavra!”
A bolt of green sprung from the tip of his wand and moved towards the dark cloud. There it stopped and then swirled with the black cloud, seeming to mix but then suddenly rebounding back towards him. Quirrell was seized with terror, unable to think as the protective shield he had put up shattered and the bird fell down beside him in the middle of a screech. He heard the voice in his head.
You don’t, mud-blood.
There was a sinister laughter. Quirrell sent a burst of air towards the dark cloud. The cloud moved out of the way, moving swiftly towards the bridge and then disappeared.
The sudden stillness caught in Quirrell’s throat as a huge lump of fear. He frantically looked all around, grimacing at the sight of the dead eagle at his feet.
There was a series of cracks from the bridge and as Quirrell turned towards it he knew it was breaking. It took a moment for him to take his eyes off the great Howrah bridge splitting in half, crumpling in the middle down into the river, uprooting from both the ends of it as the entire hidden pillar was hurled towards him.
Quirrell waited. This was the longest wait of his life. The pillar shooting towards him as he waited for it to get close enough seemed to happen in slow motion. And then his hand had gone up and he had conjured a shield. The massive pillar had hit it and pinning Quirrell below it, it had sunk to the bottom of the river, the tiny boat rendered into several floating splinters.
He knew he would die. He did not care to cast a head-bubble charm. He waited for his life to end, pinned down to the bed of the river under the concrete pillar. He did not protest when the voice inside his head asked him to be the Dark Lord’s slave. He had given up. He had accepted his new master.
The pillar lifted off him by a spell not performed by him but his hand. His cuts healed themselves as he stuck his hands on his sides and swam towards the land at a speed of not his own strength. His destination was London but not by his choice. He swam low, keeping almost to the riverbed, as his master Voldemort wished. He felt a new energy through him, dark, powerful and magnanimous.
Unknown to the boy under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive in Little Whinging, his previously destroyed archenemy now stood with a new body, a wand between his fingers, smelling the rich Kolkatan air, like a snake’s stance before diving for its prey.