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Payback

October 3, 1991, 6:30 PM, Room of Requirement

I stood in the middle of the Room, staring at my obstinate target— a test dummy.

Again.

I held my wand aloft and twisted it in a spiral before tapping my target on the head.

Praetexo.”

The dummy shifted colors for a few moments before returning to normal.

I frowned, but went to my desk and took notes.

Target has changed its coloration from beige to a light grey, signifying that progress is being made with the spell.

Further testing required. It seems that intent truly is the key to spellcasting, though a solid grounding in magical theory and the various effects achieved through wand motions and wandlore itself in generalhave a great impact on the effectiveness of the spell.

Best educated guess: knowing that incantations and wand movements are unnecessary, then the spells themselves heavily rely on intent.

Though, it is not as simple as simply willing something to happen, but utilizing one’s intent to affect changes in the magical energies(?) being channeled.

The wand motions and incantation likely create easy mental pathways to streamline the processa sort of buffer(?) technique to give the mind some slack from directly controlling the magical energy?

Repeating the motion and incantation reinforces said mental pathways, much like how muscle memory is created: repetition until you reach success.

I lifted my pen and stared at the words I wrote, muttering. “If that’s the case…”

If that was truly the case, then what was the point of learning spells at all? Why not simply learn how to work the energies of magic into usable patterns?

From what I remembered, Tom Riddle had been able to actively use magic before he’d even owned a wand— levitation, some kind of torture spell, a few other things.

I pulled my special notebook and added another goal to the list: learn how to channel magic itself to work spells, rather than adhere to the current imposed system in place.

Why would I have even bothered with something like this?

Knowing the Ministry, I figured the current magic system served two purposes: one, it streamlined the process so that wizards could quickly learn specific spells in order to get jobs.

For example, there were spells relating to Herbology, spells for clothes like the ones Madam Malkin was using when I’d visited Diagon Alley. I was sure there were spells specifically tailored to healing, and so on. The domains were too varied for me to count.

The second reason was a little more sinister: information suppression. Whether it was intentional or not, I didn’t have a clue. Perhaps the suppression was due to how much of an annoyance learning this particular technique was?

That’s if it even is a technique. Part of me countered. You’re working with the bare minimum of information and assuming that you don’t need to learn spells, only how to channel magic itself. Baseless assumptions.

If I’m right. I shot back at myself. Then I do only need to learn how to channel magic, itself.

However, was I willing to sacrifice my grades at school just to test out this wild, baseless theory?

Probably not.

Was I going to test the hell out of it in my free time, though?

Hell. Yes.

But first… I moved back to the dummy and tried the spell again, twisting my wand in the correct motion and speaking the incantation, focusing my intent on adding the properties of a chameleon to its skin.

Its colors and textures very slowly shifted to match whatever was behind it— in this case, the stone walls of Hogwarts. Two seconds later, the spell failed, leaving me slightly winded.

I took a deep breath and sank in my seat. “It worked. I actually did it.”

Granted, I barely held it for a second or two, but it was still magic above the Fifth Year level, and I was doing it as a First Year.

Then again, I was much older than any of the students, mentally. It made sense that I’d grasp these sorts of spells. I was likely only held back by my own inefficient methods of channeling the magic.

Only practice would solve something like that.

“Yet another thing to research.” I muttered and noted something down in the special notebook. Where do wizards derive power? Inside of the body? From another plane of existence? If so, why do we get tired after using spells?

Did the body behave as a medium for the magic, thus forcing it to expend its own energies to weather the stress, or was the power within the body itself?

I sat back in my chair and pondered this particular question.

A dragon was a magical creature, whose magic lay in its breath of fire, as well as the hardness of its scales. A phoenix was able to teleport, carry great weights, and resurrect itself. A basilisk could kill with direct eye contact.

All of these examples used magic in their bodies, in some way. The logical conclusion to this would be that a wizard’s body contained magic.

Otherwise, why would I have needed to get matched with a wand, in the first place? It would have needed to resonate with whatever’s inside me.

Nodding, I added a few points to research and closed the notebook. There were still things I wanted to practice, but I didn’t want to go overboard and find myself in the Hospital Wing.

The previous time had been bad enough.

Oh, yes. Two days ago, Malfoy had gone full on sneaky and tagged me with a spell— the same one Bletchley had used on Boot just outside this room.

“Furnunculus.” I mouthed the incantation and frowned. That entire situation had been a shit show. At first, I’d felt betrayed by the boy who was supposed to be my friend, but after further thought, I realized that my dismissive attitude, followed by the condescension had likely driven him down this path, so I shared some of the blame at the very least.

It didn’t mean that I was willing to patch things up with the boy, of course. One of my guiding principles in life was to never let my guard down around traitors.

I sighed. Dealing with children was proving harder than it needed to be. I had hated socializing in school in my previous life, and it seemed that this new slate was quickly turning out to be more of the same.

The only answer is to be overwhelmingly powerful. I reasoned, beginning to pack my things. It’ll also help in the long run. If I learn how to fight, I’ll survive long enough to truly pursue all of the mysteries magic has to offer. Plus, it’s not like learning battle spells will count as me being idle.

I nodded, placing the final item back in my new bag before shouldering it.

This bag was something else— bigger on the inside, and very light. I’d gotten it from this very Room.

After my encounter with Draco and his stooges, I had decided to seek the Room of Requirement again; more specifically, the Room of Hidden Things.

I had been looking for an Invisibility Cloak, but it was not to be. I did, however, find this bag, instead.

It was old and the straps were clearly worn with use and age, but it had a charm to make it light as a feather, as well as bigger on the inside. A quick Reparo had put it back into working order, netting me a very useful item— especially when I eventually had to go back to the orphanage.

I wanted to explore the Room of Hidden Things further, but I also didn’t want to arouse suspicion from any of the Prefects— or worse, the teachers.

It was already getting late, I thought as I looked outside of the window created by the Room. Its magic never ceased to amaze me. I saw the Great Lake shimmering with the light of the slowly setting sun, the previously blue sky taking on hints of yellow, orange and red.

Soon enough, the sky would be black, I thought as I turned away from the window and exited the Room, the door fading into the wall and leaving nothing behind.

I began the trek to the Great Hall.

The coast, so far, was clear. Still, I held my wand at the ready, smiling slightly as the steady heat emanating into me soothed my nerves.

By the time I reached the third floor, I breathed a sigh of relief and joined the herd of students making their way to dinner.

I was the odd one out, as these were all Hufflepuffs and obviously older than I was— Third or Fourth Years from the looks of it— but I doubted that Draco and his posse would have dared to lob spells at a large unsuspecting group of older students and hope to get away with it.

Minutes later, I was at my regular seat on the Ravenclaw table, patiently waiting as Goldstein attempted conversation with me. I nodded at the right times and asked all the right questions. He seemed pleased enough that he scooted closer to me.

“Um… want to see my coin collection later?” He said hopefully, though there was a hint of hesitation in the way he said it.

I blinked. I’d never known the boy had a fascination with coins from the books. Then again, all I could remember was a few favorable scenes involving him from Order of the Phoenix, and that he was a half-blood.

“A coin collection, huh?” I repeated the words, smiling slightly as an old memory dislodged itself from the deepest recesses of my mind. Once upon a time, I’d indulged in the practice.

“Yes.” He hedged, and continued at my nod. “It’s ever so fascinating— you can learn alot from a nation’s old history and culture from the coins they used in the past.”

“Or, even now, I’d reckon.” I smiled, my view of the boy rising up several notches. Here was a lad with a head on his shoulders.

“Exactly!” Goldstein blurted out, though managed to catch himself. “So, um… You want to?”

I guess Granger isn’t the only one having issues making friends, huh? I stifled an eye-roll. I seem to be taking in strays, left and right.

“Sure, I’d be interested in seeing what kind of collection you have.” I gave my consent.

“Brilliant!” His voice rose several octaves, drawing the attention of the older students.

Goldstein shrunk into himself, embarrassed at his own outburst. “I mean, um, cool. That’s cool.”

“Cool.” I piled some food onto my plate just as Boot finally showed up, Michael Corner awkwardly shuffling next to him.

My eyes barely went over Boot— he didn’t deserve the least of my attention, I thought to myself— settling on Corner’s constipated face. Was he one of those kids who had trouble falling in step with other humans?

I briefly tensed as the two took their seats. Thankfully, Corner took the seat directly next to mine, saving me the trouble of asking Goldstein to switch.

Wouldn’t that have been awkward?

“All right, Clarke?” Came the fake greeting from Boot.

I had to give him credit: if I hadn’t witnessed his betrayal firsthand, I’d never have guessed that he’d been the one to sell me out.

Why was he even addressing me, anyway? Was it out of a sense of guilt? Was he trying to make amends in some way, or was it another trick to lure me into a false sense of security?

He’d straight up ignored me for the first few days after the incident— something which I’d been very glad for. Navigating that situation would have been too much effort for my liking.

I decided to continue my façade of ignorance, if only to keep the boy unaware of my true thoughts. Knowledge was power, after all.

“Yes.” The reply came easily enough; I gave a fake smile. “Yourself?”

You’re not the only one who can play this game, kid.

“‘M fine.” was his mutter as he began to pile food on his plate, his way of ending the conversation. I shrugged, glad to be done with that.

oooo

October 16, 1991, 9:00 AM, Ravenclaw Dorms

Waking up had been tougher than usual— I’d overworked myself with spell practice the day before.

I had been having trouble shedding the grogginess that came with a little too much sleep, but discovering that my shoes were not where they were supposed to be filled me with just enough panic to wake me up fully.

I checked under the bed— perhaps I’d accidentally sent them there. Still nothing.

Another check, and I finally found my shoes. I’d kicked them off too hard and they’d found themselves behind the door.

For a few moments, I’d thought that Boot had tried something new to spice things up a tad; a bullying tactic à la Luna Lovegood.

I had been just about ready to smash the boy’s face against the wall, had he tried anything.

I sighed and took a deep breath. My paranoia was getting out of hand.

But how can I feel safe when I have a traitor from within and enemies on the outside waiting for an opportunity to strike at me? I wondered.

True, it was just schoolboy shenanigans, but it could just as easily turn into something worse, maybe even permanent. We may have been attending a school, but it was a school of magic.

Innocuous spells could be adapted to inflict bodily harm, possibly death on others. I’d read Lord of the Flies in my previous life.

A child’s mentality would often be brutal and vicious while remaining strangely innocent. Children were the most dangerous creatures to hand power to— and every child in this castle was equipped with a tool capable of warping reality.

Was my paranoia unhealthy? Yes.

Was it justified? Also, yes.

What to do about it, though? I needed to go back to basics. Arguing and reasoning never worked with kids. The time at the orphanage reminded me of that fact very quickly.

The unexplained events occurring around me— my accidental magic, as I now knew it to be— had instilled a sense of fear in the other kids. It was one of the few saving graces of this existence.

Perhaps a repeat performance? I thought slowly.

A show of strength so ridiculous that none would dare cross me. Boot was currently not doing a thing to me, but Malfoy and his posse were still trying to catch me alone and unawares.

They needed to be dealt with.

My mind began to whirr with ideas: direct confrontation was thrown right out of the window; casting spells from a position of stealth had merit, but it could ultimately be traced back to me through basic investigative questions, followed by wand-checks.

I briefly considered the idea of using prank items— I was sure Zonko’s would appreciate the patronage— but decided to leave that idea be for a while.

Pranks would cause an escalation, as they were harmless enough to not warrant punishment, but humiliating enough to stoke the fuels of revenge in children’s hearts.

I didn’t need anger. I needed them to fear me, to fear my power so much that the thought of crossing me wouldn’t even be considered, let alone brought to reality.

I shivered, wondering if this was how Riddle conducted his business from the get-go. I shook my head.

I was nothing like the nutcase. This was just proactive self-defense, nothing more to it. I didn’t derive any particular satisfaction from the act.

Hell, I would have preferred to continue learning the intricacies surrounding the Lumos spell than learn how to disillusion myself, as well as learn spells for dueling.

I was quickly getting sick and tired of wondering whether the next corner I turned revealed a band of boys and girls in black and green with nasty looks and equally nasty smiles, their wands exploding with spells to give me pimples, turn my teeth huge, or make me vomit up slugs.

I nodded to myself, once again convinced that what I was doing was the proper course of action, even if it were not necessarily the right thing to do.

Considering the backwards society I now was a part of, I rather doubted that going to the teachers would do a single thing.

Malfoy’s family was loaded, his father had friends in high places and would probably cause a whole lot of trouble for the teachers— if they even believed my tale, in the first place.

No, I would have to do this on my own.

“After classes today.” I told myself. “I’ll just adjust the plan to distract the boy with other problems, rather than make him fear me.”

And I had just the solution.

oooo

It was now six thirty in the evening, and I was having dinner; a simple, light plate of meat and veggies, washed down with a cup of water.

I pondered on the slowness of the day as Goldstein regaled me with tales of old Italian coins his mother had found when he was seven.

Classes had progressed at a snail’s pace. History of Magic, and double Herbology; Herbology was an interesting enough class, to be sure, but all I could think about was the actions I was about to undertake.

Even now, as I waited for the right moment, all I could feel was the crushing boredom associated with doing nothing.

It’s almost time. I thought as the students began to stir in their seats, the long day finally taking its toll on their young bodies— except mine.

The anticipation of what I was about to do alone filled me with energy. With a nod to Goldstein, as well as a few other of the Ravenclaws, I excused myself and exited the Great Hall. I went through a few hallways, ignoring some of the early leavers and finally finding an empty spot.

Twirling the wand around my head as though I was wrapping myself with rope and finally tapping it on my forehead, I spoke the spell.

Praetexo.”

This was it, the spell I’d been practicing almost religiously for weeks, now, to the exclusion of all else— save my schoolwork, of course.

It wouldn’t do to arouse any sort of suspicion, I thought as I felt the spell’s slimy effects, like a raw egg dribbling down all over my body, hiding me from view.

I checked myself once, twice, and nodded in satisfaction.

I wasn’t completely invisible, but this would do quite well in the darkness of the evening and night. Smiling, I headed towards the Great Hall again, and camped its doors.

Soon enough, the students began to exit the Great Hall in droves, animatedly chatting amongst each other as they headed towards their common rooms.

I spied the older Slytherins beginning to exit and waited until Malfoy and his posse were in sight, before following them quietly.

I did my best to watch my step, not having learned the spell to silence my footsteps— it would have taken me another week or two to enact this plan, and I’d already been waiting for quite a while.

Besides, they hadn’t even turned their eyes towards me, and I was already adept at moving silently, especially on floors which didn’t creak when I put my weight on them such as the stone floors of Hogwarts Castle.

“Draco.” One of the girls of the group, Parkinson, sidled by the blond haired boy, her voice almost sickly sweet. “Did you by any chance finish your Charms homework?”

“I might have.” The boy replied, but said nothing further.

“Do you think you could…” Here, the girl hesitated. “Help me with mine?”

I stifled an eye-roll at the painfully awkward conversation and focused on keeping up with the group while maintaining my silent movements, instead.

The girl continued her efforts to get the boy to spend time with her, but Draco had, to his credit, managed to deflect all of her questions and swing the conversation back to safe topics, like making fun of Potter and Weasley.

“Have you seen their pet Mudblood, though?” One of the boys, Theodore Nott sneered. “Follows them around like a lost puppy.”

“How pathetic.” Another girl threw in, drawing laughter out of the group.

I narrowed my eyes at the interplay. This was what Potter was up against. It was racism so subtle and so ingrained into the society that even kids were talking about Muggleborn like they were subhuman.

And, when something was subhuman, it opened up a great deal of things you could do to that person without it being morally or legally wrong to do— like, say, disallow them from job advancement, hunt them down like animals, try them for ‘stealing’ magic, and whatever other excuse the corrupt were able to come up with to justify their unnecessary, baseless hatred.

What was even the point of it all? Were the Muggleborn truly that threatening to the Purebloods?

I’m sure the Germans saw their Jewish population in much the same way. Stealing their jobs and livelihoods, or whatever other piece of propaganda the Nazis had used to turn its people against the Jews. Part of me reckoned as I followed the group into the dungeons, shivering slightly as the temperature dropped a few degrees.

I’d never been here late in the evening, and the temperature shift most likely ensured that I would avoid it as much as I could, in the future.

I continued to follow them past the Potions Classroom until, a few minutes later, we reached a stretch of bare wall.

The kids, amusingly enough, turned around to make sure that no one was there. I stood still as all of their eyes passed over me without a hint of recognition on their part.

I’ve practiced this damn spell for way too long to be caught by a bunch of kids in the dark. I felt a superior smile make its way over my face.

“Purity.” Draco spoke, and the passage opened up, the sound of stone grinding against stone filling the air for a few moments before they filed into the common room.

Of course, the damn password is ‘Purity’.

Slowly, I followed them inside, making sure to keep my breaths slow and steady, despite the insistent and slightly sped up beating of my heart.

Eventually, it too calmed down and allowed me to relax enough to be able to observe my surroundings once again. I stuck to the corners, away from any lights and anything I could have possibly stumbled upon.

I kept my eye on all of the students, making sure to stay as small a target as possible. I wasn’t able to hear anything the First Years were saying, as I was too busy changing my position every few minutes in order to avoid the boisterous and rowdy students.

It was somewhat intriguing how the Slytherin students only let their hair down in the confines of their Common Room. I’d never seen such behavior out of them in my time here, so far.

Coupled that with what I’d already observed from the book series, and I knew that they were truly insular as a group.

It was insidious, in a way. With the group always closed off, it disallowed students from looking up different lifestyles, or worldviews.

True enough, I doubted that the Slytherin House was full of backstabbing, conniving pieces of trash, but the ones considered to be the leaders were.

Leaders were people like Flint, Bletchley, and Draco Malfoy. Arrogant, capable of violence, of petty cruelty and much more. With a leader so horrible, was it really a surprise that the general Slytherin student was perceived as malicious?

I knew, even as part of me voiced its intense dislike of this House, that such a viewpoint would force these kids to stick to the group that much more.

The leaders swayed them, and the other houses forced them even further away. It was an endless cycle, a feud created centuries ago by people whose names no one remembers anymore.

Aside from the big two: Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin. Such stupid names, I’d thought when I first came across them in my previous life.

Here, however, they were revered as almost gods. Them, Merlin, and Morgana Lefay.

It’s a shame, I thought as I watched the crowd of kids’ energy slowly wane until they were all sleepy little messes. All of this potential, wasted by the power hungry and the corrupt. People with ambition and cunning reduced to becoming simple thugs and future enforcers of inhumane laws.

Still, it wasn’t my job to fix things. Hell, I wouldn’t have known where to start, even if it were my job.

I gave a mental shrug at the entire line of thought— my own safety was a bit more important to worry about, in this situation.

I’d made it all the way to the Slytherin Common room, a feat which the Slytherins liked to say hadn’t been done in seven centuries.

Days since unwanted entry: 0. I thought with a smile as I noticed the First Years finally deciding to turn in. They even go to bed as a group. The brainwashing level is ridiculous.

I didn’t immediately follow them, using the darkness as cover and spying the movement of the group from afar, turning corners only when it was necessary for me to do this.

I’d already avoided bumping into a few older years, this way. A tense minute later, I noted where their dorm room was, and slowly made my way back to the common room.

Now, came a hard part of my plan: waiting.

Luckily, the Slytherin Common Room was almost empty, so it was a matter of finding a place to sit and counting down the hours— wait, no; they had a clock in here.

Wouldn’t have been much of a Common Room without one, I supposed. Still, this would make my job a little easier.

I took a spot in a dark, unused corner and let myself rest. As long as I remained immobile, none of the remaining students— Sixth and Seventh Years from the looks of it— would have noticed me.

I listened in to their conversations, half expecting them to be talking about evil Mudbloods and whatnot. I was pleasantly amused to note that they were speaking of Ancient Runes, instead.

I’d never seen the point of taking a course like this— at least in canon, anyway. The fanon version of Ancient Runes’ progression into the Curse Breaking field made it sound like becoming a magical version of Indiana Jones.

In reality, it was more along the lines of old languages learned to be able to read ancient texts. Still useful to learn, to be sure, but not important enough to have it as a gradable class.

I would learn them on my own time, and the Room of Requirement would provide the necessary progression of books, if the studious Granger or the monstrous Pince didn’t tell me, first.

Worst case scenario, if all else failed, I could simply ask the Ancient Runes professor, or the workers at Flourish and Blotts’ in the future. It wasn’t a huge deal.

A quick check to the clock showed that it was past midnight— had I really been sitting in the same spot for hours? I stifled an amused snort and slowly got to my feet, stretching out the kinks and feeling a dull ache over my lower body.

That’s what happens when you sit on the cold, stone floor for hours. I thought and took a deep breath to center myself. Slowly, I reapplied the Disillusionment Charm, just in case it was anywhere near failing.

A few seconds of checking myself, and I was ready.

Slowly, carefully, I inched my way to the dorm room of the First Year boys. I reached the door, stopping just next to it and going completely silent.

Then, I simply listened. For minutes on end. I noted the snores and soft breaths of the various boys, slowly getting used to their rhythms, before finally deciding to enact the final, hardest part of the plan.

The door opened slowly, but soundlessly— I praised whatever higher being there was up there that the door hinges had been oiled— revealing a large bedroom with five beds lined up on one side, with a small lounging area on the other. At the foot of each bed lay the individual trunks of the students.

Conveniently enough, Draco’s bed was the first one.

Convenient, and predictable. Since he’s the supposed alpha of the group, he gets to pick the bed nearest to the door. I thought derisively as I watched the boy in question sleeping peacefully, a smirk on his face. You don’t look so tough, now, Drakey boy.

I shook the thoughts away and knelt by the trunk, opening it very slowly. I sifted through the trunk’s contents, grabbing a small bag of what felt like money, as well as snatching a few knick knacks, here and there.

I got to my feet, leaving the trunk open before heading towards the farthest bed in the room— Nott’s bed. This was the beauty of the plan, right here.

I placed the knick knacks under Nott’s bed and then opened the boy’s trunk, placing Draco’s bag of gold inside before closing it gently.

The boy, Nott, twisted in his bed, and for a moment I thought I’d woken him up. I stayed extremely still, ready to bolt at a moment’s notice.

A full minute passed with me not moving a single muscle.

Nott began to snore, and loudly.

Satisfied that my cover wasn’t blown, I slowly inched my way outside of the room, gently closing the door behind me and making my way outside of the Slytherin Dorms. The Common Room, aside from a pair of Sixth Years getting a little intimate, was empty.

I eyed the pair and recognized them as part of the group who’d been talking about Ancient Runes, earlier, before shaking my head and making way towards the exit.

With a mutter of ‘Purity’, the passageway opened, revealing the dark dungeons of Hogwarts.

I left the Slytherin Dorms, sighing as I shedded a massive weight off of my shoulders.

With this, Malfoy will be too busy looking over his shoulder to bother with me. I thought, a smile making its way over my face. At least for a while. If he still keeps at it, after, then…

Well, I now knew where the arrogant boy slept, and I was certainly not going to waste any time if he persisted in his destructive behavior.

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