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Strong Blood

December 25, 1991, 11:30 AM, Ravenclaw Dormitories

I awoke to the abrupt sound of my dorm room door opening, followed by excited footfalls.

I could’ve sworn that I locked the door. I thought and sat up to see Anthony Goldstein, who stood there with a present in hand.

I relaxed at the sight of the boy, slumping forward slightly.

“Happy Christmas, Adam!” He chirped, with eyes bright and face grinning.

I rubbed my eyes, feeling a slight headache coming. “Tony? What time is it?”

“It’s almost noon. You overslept.” Tony said, still holding the present up while I slowly made my way out of bed. “I let myself in.”

“Wasn’t it locked? The door.” I blurted before I could think.

Tony laughed in response to that. “I might’ve unlocked it.”

That brought an amused smile to my face. “Mastered the Unlocking Charm? Very nice.”

Tony puffed up and held the present to me. “Are you going to pick this up, or what?”

I snorted, reached for the wand at my bedside and Summoned the wrapped present with a muttered “Accio!”

The item flew in a straight line, ending up in my hands and filling the air with a rattle.

“Show off.”

“Hmph.” I shook the present— a box made of wood with many small pieces on the inside, I gathered quickly.

Huh. I thought, curiosity rising. Wonder what he got me. Maybe chess or checkers?

I unwrapped the present, listening to the boy talk. “I thought you might like this; I wasn’t sure, though.”

I opened the wooden box, stared down at the intricately carved set pieces and smiled. “This is great— I love chess. Thank you, Tony.”

Tony seemed to relax at that. “I got my mum to send one over here— it’s not Wizard’s Chess or anything, but…”

I smiled to assuage the boy’s concern. It seemed to do the trick.

“Moving the pieces myself is more fun, anyway.” I said, placing the chess set on my bed.

I looked at the boy and hesitated. “I— erm— I didn’t really get you anything. Sorry.”

“I know.” Tony waved it off. “I know that… what with your— your situation?”

“Oh.” I said, understanding what he was getting at, but I still felt bad and a little embarrassed. “Thanks Tony. I’ll get you something next year, okay?”

The boy seemed as though he was about to refuse my offer. However, the stubborn look on my face ended up making him reconsider. “All right. Next year, Clarke.”

“Glad you agree, Goldstein.” I replied, mimicking his gruff tone.

The boy snorted and jumped on my bed, setting up the chess board, excitement in his eyes. “Come on, let’s play a game or two.”

Why do I feel like he got the chess board for himself, and I just so happen to be a good excuse to use on his mom? I thought, watching his eyes light with excitement as he got everything ready.

Because that’s exactly what the little scheming devil did. The sly part of me answered. This is one devious kid.

I couldn’t help but agree.

“All right.” I said, joining him. “I want to play the black pieces, though.”

“Too late!”

oooo

Hours later, at the Great Hall

Maybe I should’ve decimated him a few more times than I actually did. I thought, watching the boy get a superior look on his face as I moved my knight into position. Let’s see how he does, this time.

We’d been playing game after game for hours, and only the feeling of our stomachs protesting got us to come to the Great Hall— naturally, we brought the damn chess set with us.

“Check.” I said, stretching my arms and wondering what his next move was going to be.

I couldn’t help but be impressed as the boy got his anger under control and focused all of his attention on the game.

He’s got impressive focus.

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, Tony started to move his piece.

“It’s a trap.” Ronald Weasley said, startling the both of us. I turned to see him standing there, alone. “He’ll checkmate you if you make that move.”

He saw right through me, huh? I thought, impressed at the redhead’s discerning eye. Not that I’m particularly great at this game, but he’s still a child and can read my moves.

“Weasley.” Tony sent the boy an annoyed look. “What do you want?”

Weasley shrugged and moved to sit with us. “I was just bored, Goldstein.”

“Well, go away.” Tony said before the boy could take his seat. “Where’s Potter? Go and hang out with him.”

“He’s…” Ron said slowly, scratching the back of his head. “Busy with— erm— a gift. But he’ll be here soon, and…”

A gift, eh? The Cloak of Invisibility, no doubt. I thought. On that note, I wonder if I should seek the Mirror of Erised out?

At the very least, I needed to find that mirror; it would prove to be an interesting thing to study.

Also, I was somewhat curious as to what my reflection would be.

I figured that my desire was obviously to pursue magic in all of its forms, but what if the mirror showed me something else?

I shook such thoughts away. I had to figure out what was up with the Castle’s dislike of me, first. That involved going to the Seventh Floor, which I’ve been avoiding ever since that episode.

“Didn’t take you with him, did he?” Tony said, scoffing.

Ron frowned and looked like he was going to say something he would likely regret later.

“Tony.” I said before that could happen. “Let’s give him a chance.”

“What?” Tony said, aghast. “But he insulted you— and Granger.”

“I know. I think he’s trying to say sorry.” I said, nodding for Ron to sit with us. “’Forgive and forget’, I think it goes? Hermione forgave him, after all. And it’s Christmas, right?”

Tony gaped like a fish, in response.

Ron blinked and sat down, his befuddlement slowly giving way to relief and gratitude. “Erm— thanks, Clarke.”

I can’t believe this.” Tony palmed his face.

“Hey, it could be fun.” I said, patting the ginger beside me on the shoulder. “I can tell Ron here is quite good at chess.”

“You can?” Both boys said before glaring at each other.

“I reckon I can beat you in under five minutes!” Tony claimed, eagerness and anticipation entering his eyes.

Oh, you poor thing.

Ron smiled and began to set the pieces up. “You’re on!”

Tony got absolutely annihilated in under four.

Say what you will about Ronald Weasley, but strategy is where the boy has always excelled. I thought. A natural kinesthetic learner? Maybe that’s why school doesn’t appeal to him and he’s seen as lazy. Food for thought.

“Your move with the King was bold.” Ron complimented, setting the chess pieces again. “But I’ve seen it before, so I knew what to do. Want to play another?”

As the boys slowly got past their dislike of each other through some good old fashioned competition, I helped myself to some roast and potatoes, as well as a glass of orange juice.

I love that the house elves know my preference in drink, now. I thought. Though, a nice, cold can of soda would be great, too.

Come to think of it, why hadn’t anyone introduced soda to the Wizarding World yet? Would it break some kind of law to do it?

I didn’t think so. It was just a beverage. If I could mass produce the stuff, that would likely make me quite the pretty penny.

I’d have to add that particular idea to the list.

I knew that, while I could conceivably hole up somewhere and study magic to my heart’s content, I would still be putting a considerable amount of time into gathering resources.

Another thing to consider would be the cost of research material.

The cost of school supplies was likely so low that it was easily covered by the Ministry— I rather doubted any form of reigning government would waste money on more than what was absolutely necessary.

What about knowledge outside of school, though? At the moment, I had access to Hogwarts’ extensive library, but that was only going to last as long as I remained a student.

What were my other options?

I continued to ponder this as I ate, barely paying attention to Tony and Weasley’s chatter.

“Does he do that often?”

“You have no idea.”

I stifled the eye roll and forced myself to focus on my train of thought, lest I lose hold of it.

Books cost money, and rare books probably much more. I scratched my chin. It’s likely even worse for materials… I’ll need some kind of cash flow to acquire all of this. I have to work within my means, but it’s definitely doable.

There were so many ways I could go about it.

Introducing and selling soda was a fairly mundane idea, all things considered, but it was a free market; no competition in sight.

Another idea was a lot more harmful and involved breaking into various ATMs, using the stolen money to buy gold and then exchanging said gold for Galleons at Gringotts.

Or you could straight up exchange the paper money with them for the Galleons. The sly part of me said. Why waste the time getting gold? Unless the gold has more value than the British Pound… choices, choices…

All of this effort and planning was just so I could have the opportunity to conduct my research uninterrupted.

Another path, I reckoned, was joining the Unspeakables at the Department of Mysteries, though I had absolutely no idea what that entailed.

A position within that secretive organization would most certainly place me in a position with considerable access to knowledge and resources, but I’d likely have to answer to someone else, which was a definite no.

I will not have my pursuits limited by someone else’s ideas on what I should and should not do. I thought. I will not compromise on this.

Any further pondering was interrupted by Ron turning and accidentally driving his shoulder into mine, in the process.

Annoyed, I sent the boy a look.

“Sorry.” He said with a wince before addressing someone behind me. “Harry! You’re back.”

“Yeah.” Harry Potter said as I turned to greet him.

“Potter.” I said, rubbing the soreness away.

“Clarke.” He nodded at me and at Tony as well. “Goldstein.”

“Potter.”

“Ron, what’re you doing here?” Harry asked once the greetings were over.

“Oh, um..” Ron said eloquently.

“He came to apologize.” Tony beat me to it, surprising me. I had expected him to say nothing— he hadn’t seemed very keen on forgiveness, after all.

I guess I don’t know this kid as well as I think I do. I thought. Or maybe he’s being civil just because it’s the right thing to do?

“Oh.” Potter said, his posture slackening with the information. “Brilliant!”

“Yeah.” Ron cleared his throat before he gestured at the chess set. “Want to play?”

Potter smiled and nodded. “All right. I’ll just sit next to Goldstein.”

The doors to the Great Hall opened, revealing Hagrid.

“No need.” I said, setting down my fork and pushing off of the table. “You can take my spot.”

“You sure?” Potter said, sounding unsure.

“Yeah.” I nodded towards the half-Giant. “I just wanted to talk to Hagrid for a bit, is all.”

Anthony, who had been staring at me in confusion, nodded. “All right.”

I turned and moved across the Great Hall, to stand in front of the big man.

“Mr. Clarke.” Hagrid greeted. “Happy Christmas.”

“Happy Christmas.” I returned reflexively, trying to piece together what I would say next. “I wanted to say that, um…”

Hagrid only waited patiently.

I took a breath to collect myself.

“I wanted to thank you for what you did for me.” I said. “And not— you know— telling anyone.”

A soft smile graced the large man’s face. “Think nothin’ of it, lad. I know what it’s like ter have no one in the world care about yeh.”

He grasped my shoulder, his expression turning solemn. “That’s no way for a young lad to live. Leads nowhere good— mark my words, young Clarke.”

My eyes widened slightly. He was talking about his own childhood; Hagrid had lost his father in his first year of school, hadn’t he? At least, that was my recollection of the events.

His mother was a Giantess who didn’t care for him because he was too small— in Giant standards.

The sort of life he’s lived— enduring humiliation and suffering— I’m surprised he hasn’t gone on a killing spree to rival Greyback. I thought.

If Hagrid ever decided to go rogue, very few people would actually be able to put him down.

I nodded, mirroring his expression. “I will. I promise.”

Hagrid smiled and patted my shoulder. “Good. You stay on the right path, and there’ll be no stopping yeh. And if you need any help, my house is always open to you, young Mr. Clarke.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Thank you.”

“Think nothing of it.” Hagrid said, taking his hand off of my shoulder and nodding towards Tony, Weasley and Potter. “Now I believe you’ve got friends waiting?”

With that, I let him through, watching the man take a seat with the rest of the teachers.

“Adam!” I heard Tony call for me from the side. “Your turn!”

I stared at Hagrid for one more second before turning and making my way to the group of boys.

Stay on the right path, huh? I thought and sat next to Tony.

oooo

9:00 PM, Grand Staircases

Returning to the Room of Requirement was turning out to be a nightmare.

You would have thought it’d be simple: take the stairs to the Seventh Floor and get to the room. Of course, directions as simple as those got skewed when Hogwarts Castle decided that it had other plans for me.

Those plans involved these stupid, inconvenient staircases.

It seemed that the stairs were adamant on keeping me away from the Room of Requirement.

How did I know this?

Well, I’d just spent the last thirty minutes getting detoured, turned back and rerouted.

Were the staircases able to read my desires?

The thought sounded ridiculous to me, and yet… it made sense.

The school couldn’t get rid of me fast enough, that day. Is it still angry with me?

I frowned. Should I turn back? If it doesn’t want me here, then maybe I shouldn’t try my luck.

No.

I shook my head.

The school was fine with the likes of Riddle and many others like him living under its roof, but it was going to give me attitude over what was basically an accident?

I’m not so easily dissuaded, Hogwarts. I thought. I’m getting to where I need to be whether you like it or not. Now, let me through!

The stairs did not obey and— excuse the pun— magically put me on the right path.

I guess I’ll have to do this the hard way.

I made my way to the Eighth Floor and readied myself to do something stupid. Taking the staircase leading from the Eighth Floor down to the Sixth, I positioned myself carefully, waiting for the right moment.

This is stupid, but here goes!

I jumped off of the ledge, aiming my leap to reach the Seventh Floor. With a hastily yelled “Spongify!” I crashed into the softened stone floor with a thud, keeping my right arm up so the wand did not take any damage.

For the next few seconds, I struggled to regain my senses, dazed as I was by the impact.

Thank God for the Softening Charm. I smiled and rubbed my sore side— that was going to hurt later, for sure. “Finally, the Seventh damn Floor.”

“Did someone say something?” A portrait of a man in a bathtub said.

I winced and kept quiet, staring down at my still invisible form. My Disillusionment Charm was still holding, thankfully.

That was the stupidest stunt I’ve done so far— in both lives. I thought, resisting the urge to whoop in exhilaration. But damn, was it fun.

I began to move through the Seventh Floor, keeping my gait slow as I slowly regained my balance and center. Just before I turned the corner leading to the hall where the Room’s entrance was, I heard the sound of two men speaking.

Good thing I didn’t dispel the Disillusionment Charm. I thought and slowed down, carefully peeking around the corner. My eyes went wide at the people there.

What are they doing here? I thought, letting out an involuntary gasp.

Luckily, the two were too far away to have heard it.

Shit. They know about the Room? I don’t remember any mentions of Snape and this place— and Dumbledore only found it when he needed to take a dump, once.

“Not that I do not enjoy the occasional night-time stroll with you, Headmaster…” Severus Snape said, shooting the wizened old wizard a look of irritation. “But why are we here? It has been some time, and I have some potions in need of… Careful supervision.”

“Not to worry, my friend.” Albus Dumbledore said, eyes twinkling. “You will be there just in time.”

Snape did not reply, adopting a stony expression.

“Ah… There.” Dumbledore said, pointing at the exact spot where the Room of Requirement’s entrance should be. “That is the source.”

“The strange magic you spoke of, earlier?” Severus took a step forward, assessing the wall.

Shit, they’re onto me. I didn’t move, the sudden fear rooting me in place. Don’t panic, Clarke. Stay cool. Keep it cool. Maybe they aren’t.

“I don’t notice anything of note…” Professor Snape said, but drew his wand regardless. “Though, I’ve never known you to be the misleading sort.”

Dumbledore took a step back, giving the much younger man a nod to begin.

Snape tapped his wand over the wall and closed his eyes. “I can feel… Something.”

He stepped back and moved his wand in a counterclockwise spiral, before sweeping it to the left. Nothing happened.

Snape opened his eyes and tried to burn a hole through the wall.

He continued his attempts, even going so far as to vocalize his spells, an expression of intense concentration on his face as he filled the hall with multicolored lights.

Still, he failed. The wall remained unfazed.

“Whatever lies beyond this wall, it’s beyond my ability to trespass.” Professor Snape said, impressed.

“Curious.” Dumbledore said as Snape continued to stare at the wall. “Curious indeed. I do remember finding a room full of chamber pots, somewhere around here, and I had been in dire need of a toilet. Alas, I never found it again.”

“Surely you’re not implying that, beyond this wall, there lies a… bathroom?” Snape said, an eyebrow raised from the strangeness of the situation he was finding himself in.

“It is possible.”

What the hell is this conversation? I resisted the urge to laugh. If they found me, then it was all over.

“Nonsense.” Snape scoffed. “Why place such powerful protections on a bathroom, of all places? No, this must be something else. A hidden room built by the Founders.”

“You mean…?” Dumbledore’s eyes widened at the implication.

“The Chamber. Yes.” Snape said with a nod.

They thought this was the Chamber of Secrets?

“What the Hell.” I mouthed.

After a few moments, I nodded to myself: I supposed, with the available information at hand, it made sense that they’d reach such a conclusion.

There was a long moment of silence as the two men drank in the implications of their findings.

“Why now?” Professor Snape finally said.

“I’m afraid I do not follow, my friend.” Dumbledore said.

“Why are we detecting it now?” Snape elaborated. “Why not last year, or five years before? Five years from now?”

“I do not know.” The Headmaster shook his head. “Perhaps the events which occurred fifty years ago are about to reoccur.”

Snape stayed silent, though he seemed unconvinced.

“Or perhaps…” Dumbledore mused, placing a hand against the wall. “No spell is everlasting— even a Gubraithian Flame can be snuffed out with enough time. It is possible that the protections are finally beginning to fade.”

“So, in essence, we must wait for the defenses to weaken further.” Snape nodded before turning his attention to the wall. “I am impressed you were able to detect the faint, lingering traces of magic here. The hidden benefits of being Headmaster, I presume?”

“The position of Headmaster does have many benefits, my boy.” Professor Dumbledore chuckled and shook his head as he took a few steps back. “But this is not one of them.”

“Then…?”

“There are a certain few wizards who have come into contact with… ancient and powerful artifacts, which allows them to, provided they have the requisite knowledge, detect the existence of other such artifacts.”

Snape absorbed the statement for a moment, before speaking. “And you are one such wizard, I presume.”

“I do find myself to be among their numbers, yes.” Dumbledore said with a nod, a grave look overriding his normal, twinkling visage. “Another is currently locked within the topmost level of Nurmengard Castle.”

Snape said nothing to this, though his eyes narrowed.

I understood why: the old man was talking about Gellert Grindelwald, arguably the worst Dark Lord this world had ever seen.

I’d read a few books about him when I was researching the Shield Charm— I thought I’d find a nugget of information to help me develop it.

It did help, somewhat, but I ended up learning a lot more about the man in question. He was one of the most infamous Dark Lords in history, with claws set in almost every corner of the Wizarding World.

The only reason he hadn’t succeeded in his conquest of the world was standing not twenty feet away.

“And what… artifact, may I ask, is hidden behind this wall?” Snape said.

Dumbledore did not answer, sending the man a pointed look, instead.

“Another secret.” Professor Snape’s lip curled in disgust. “Of course.”

“Do not mistake my reticence for a lack of faith in you, Severus.” Dumbledore said, his tone chiding. “But my relationship with these items is of a more… personal nature.”

The Hallows? The answer immediately came, catching me completely off guard. That doesn’t make any sense! How can one of those be here?

“I see.” Snape said, pulling me out of my thoughts as he turned to leave. “If there’s nothing else, I shall take my leave.”

“Thank you for your help, Severus.”

Professor Snape did not grace him with a reply, leaving the old man alone in the corridor.

I watched him pass me by, staying as still as I could before turning my attention back to Dumbledore again. The venerable wizard’s expression turned unreadable. “Could it be that the Stone has slumbered here at Hogwarts, all this time? I never noticed… No.”

The man shook his head and seemed to visibly force himself to walk away from the wall. He was so distracted by his own thoughts that he likely wouldn’t have noticed me even if I were fully visible.

Still, I stayed frozen in place until long after he was gone.

Once I was certain that there was no one else here, I began to breathe freely again.

“What the fuck!” Was the first thing that came out of my mouth.

The Resurrection Stone was here? How was that possible?

The stupid rock should be somewhere in the Gaunt residence, with protections set up by Voldemort to keep it safe. I thought. How is it here?!

I took a long, deep breath to calm myself.

That can’t be it. The third Hallow can’t be here. I moved to the door, an idea forming in my mind. The Deathly Hallows are artifacts of death, itself— or at least linked to death.

Maybe, just maybe, Dumbledore hadn’t found traces of a Hallow, but whatever remained of my Curse of Entropy?

That sounded like a much more likely answer.

I bit off the reflexive curse. I played with forces far beyond my understanding, and now the most powerful wizard alive took notice. That was not at all good. If I were to be discovered…

Azkaban, or worse; being an Unspeakable’s test dummy. How the hell do I deal with this? I felt the stress slowly getting the better of me. Think, Clarke. Think! How do you solve this?

My gaze turned to the Room’s entrance and I began to walk back and forth three times, saying: “I need to see the Dummy”.

Nothing happened.

I let out a sharp breath and tried again. “C’mon, please.”

Nothing again.

I was about to swear before writing appeared on the wall.

In angry, bright red letters, it said:

BEGONE DEFILER

I stared at the response open-mouthed. The Room was talking to me!

The shock from the event faded quickly as I realized the implications of the displayed words. “Look, I just want to make things right— to help you get better!”

The words merged together into a haphazard swirl of color, as if the consciousness controlling them was confused.

Eventually, after a minute of tense silence, the words began to reform:

YOUR DESIRE IS GENUINE

WE REQUIRE STRONG BLOOD TO HEAL

“Strong blood?” I repeated, very confused at the words. “What does that even mean?”

The words faded into the wall. The Room did not answer my question, leaving me alone in the corridor.

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