December 30, 1991, 5:15 PM
It was through sheer luck that I was able to beg off having to spend time with Tony and the others, today.
Potter and Weasley were going to take Tony to Hagrid’s to introduce the two. As expected, I had been asked if I wanted to come along.
Thank the stars and heavens that my quick wit was one of the few things from my old life that had accompanied me to the new one. I thought as I entered my temporary base of operations.
Children can get pretty clingy when they start forming bonds. I locked the door behind me and let out a long, suffering sigh. It’d be cute if it weren’t so troublesome.
I had a feeling Tony could tell that there was something not quite right about me.
It was inevitable this would happen, of course— we’d been in close quarters for months now.
Dealing with someone on a personal level like that… you tend to learn a thing or two. At the start, you could be detecting something simple, like a habit or a musical preference.
As the relationship grows, however, you begin to get an insight on the person’s true self from the way they speak, behave and react when faced with various scenarios.
Tony knew that something about me was strange, even if he didn’t say anything out loud.
I could see it in his posture, in the way he hesitated around me at times.
He still considered me a friend, of course, but he was beginning to wake up to the reality of what a relationship with me looked like.
Growing pains, maybe? Hopefully, he’ll get over it.
I’d had similar experiences back at the orphanage, though I hadn’t bothered making any friends, then.
My patience is a thing of legend, but dealing with children younger than ten is where I draw the line. I thought. And the only reason I’m making friends here…
I stopped my train of thought, remembering Quirrell’s words and the implications therein.
The man was right, in a sense.
At first, I’d set out to make a few friends to ensure that the staff was off my back, as well as to avoid any uncomfortable parallels that the Headmaster might have seen between myself and Tom Riddle.
There were plenty of orphans who had attended Hogwarts between my time and that of Riddle— and they hadn’t become stark raving dark wizards.
Still, there was no need to take crazy, unnecessary risks in this sort of situation.
And so, I ended up playing my game.
How’d that turn out? I thought with great sarcasm.
Befriending Terry Boot seemed like a good idea at the time, but it had proven to be more trouble than it was worth.
Him selling me out to Malfoy still surprised and annoyed me every time I thought about it.
Then again, children always did have issues thinking things through.
Emotional creatures with gross overreactions. I resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of my nose as I set my pack on my workbench.
I called it a workbench, but it was actually two long desks pushed together against the far corner of the room.
It was the principle of the thing, really; a bit of trickery I played on myself to increase my motivation levels.
Something about calling it a workbench, rather than a desk, made it more appealing for me to work on.
If I had to pinpoint the source of this behavior, I would have looked towards the ludicrous amount of time I spent playing video games in my previous life— specifically role-playing games.
A workbench means I can have some kind of game progression. I thought, pulling out my notebook and leafing through its pages, my eyes only catching the titles and relevant points.
Considering it’s not even been five months since I came to Hogwarts, the sheer amount of progress I’d made was nothing short of astounding.
And it wasn’t because I had prodigious talent, no.
Of course, I wouldn’t have gone as far as to say I had absolutely no talent— quite the opposite. However, my success was due to experience, for the most part.
I had decades of studying, logical thinking, self-discipline, and a massive bag of mental tricks like ‘the workbench’ to build upon the strong foundation.
Riddle, on the other hand? He had been the epitome of young talent.
He had mastered some form of telekinesis as well as a pain curse before he’d even gotten his hands on a wand.
And when he eventually did… The whole of the Wizarding World shook. I thought. What was I compared to that?
Everything. Part of me said. Unlike you, he doesn’t know the truth of things. Death is not the end— the soul persists.
That thought reminded me of an old line from a book series I once read. “What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger.”
That particular book series won’t even be published until a few years from now. I thought. Assuming the author’s in this universe as well. Maybe he’ll actually finish it this time? I could use the Imperius on him… “George, finish your damn books, already! And don’t be fooled by the smooth words of Benioff and Weiss!”
I snorted and shook my head, bringing myself back to the matter at hand.
Comparing myself to Voldemort was a pointless endeavor. My only true competitor would always be myself. That was how progress was achieved.
“And to start off this progress…” I muttered as I reached the page concerning wandless magic.
I’d first thought that wands had been made mandatory as a form of surveillance by the Ministry, placed on the people to keep them in line should certain undesired situations arise.
Knowing what I do now, it seems as if wandless magic is more of a complicated and difficult skill to learn— at least, here in Europe. I mused, writing a quick note to do more research before closing the book.
The note was concerning an old, half-faded memory about some school in Africa teaching its students to cast spells without a wand.
I didn’t know how to go about achieving anything like that— all of my previous attempts had ended in failure.
It would be yet another thing to research— becoming a true telekinetic was a dream come true for me— but now was not the time.
I moved past my workbench and reached into the hiding spot, undoing the Disillusionment and snatching the middle book with a bit of effort.
“Cauldrons of Blood.” I read the title out loud as I traced my finger along the book’s spine, inhaling the scent of aged parchment. “A Collection of Strength.”
Placing it upon the workbench, I hovered my wand over it.
I was able to carry it, so it might be safe— but I may as well check. I thought, remembering the ear-splitting shriek I’d heard the night Potter and I were in the Restricted Section.
Let’s see if this works.
Gathering my will and desire to stay safe, I extended my senses, traced my wand in the pattern of a question mark and tapped the book once, incanting. “Inspicere.“
A moment later, the tip of the wand lit up with a calm, steady and soothing blue.
I nodded and cancelled the spell, a small smile forming on my face as I began to write in my notebook. “Scanning attempt made with use of my very first created spell: Inspicere.“
I’d gotten the idea after being unable to find any information concerning non-specific danger detection spells.
I’d wasted hours looking for answers that weren’t even there. Granted, it was possible that I hadn’t searched hard enough, or that the books in question were in the Restricted Section.
Having the book of spells to detect harmful magic be in the Restricted Section— the place full of books likely to attack you with harmful magic— I wouldn’t be surprised if this is some Professor’s sick and twisted idea of a joke.
The idea to create a detection spell of my own had come to me as I thought of Snape’s attempt to reveal the secrets of the Marauder’s Map in Harry’s Third Year— would that even happen two years from now, with my being here?
I shook my head, focusing on the matter at hand. Snape’s spell failure notwithstanding, it got me thinking of creating my own.
As expected. I continued to write. The tip of the wand lit up with a blue light, signifying safety. The spell seems to be functioning as I intended.
I stopped and stared down my words. As spells went, this wasn’t particularly complex to conceive or pull off. Its one and only function was to detect danger.
The wand’s tip would light up in two different colors depending on the answer.
If there was no danger, it would go blue, as it just did. However, if there was any danger, it would turn red.
There were, of course, some glaring limitations to this spell. For example, it wouldn’t be able to quantify the level of danger itself.
Attacked by a dragon? Red. Accosted by a chicken? Also, red.
In one situation, a few half-hearted kicks would end the encounter. In the other, I’d be burnt to a crisp in a matter of seconds.
I bit my pen as I leaned back in my chair, staring at the inconspicuous book.
I was almost afraid to open it, not sure how I’d deal with my spell failing after it all had seemed to go so well.
I sighed, gathered my nerves and opened the book to the first page.
Nothing happened; no screams, no curse, no random transformation into a monster book trying to eat me.
All was well.
My smile broke into a full blown grin. “Hell yes. I am the best.”
I luxuriated in the overwhelming elation for a while longer before closing the book, getting up and bringing the other two over.
Another enthusiastic cry of “Inspicere!” showed that the second book, Samson’s Sanguine Serums, was also safe.
Canceling the spell, I then hovered the wand over the third and final book: A Compendium of Blood Draughts by Theodus Walker.
“Inspicere!” I drew my wand in the question mark pattern and tapped the book.
The wand’s tip glowed an ominous red. My elation faded, replaced with a healthy amount of fear and wariness.
“Shit.” I said, taking a small step back before shaking my head. “What’s wrong with it— maybe some kind of screaming book? Maybe a stinging hex… I’m being stupid. If it were that dangerous, something bad would have happened to me already.”
I checked myself over, and I didn’t see or feel anything out of the ordinary. Perhaps opening it would trigger whatever it was that was unsafe about this book? Maybe, as long as I didn’t open it, I would be fine.
I nodded at my own logic, though I still didn’t make any move to come closer. Fear had a way of doing that to people.
Man up, Clarke. I thought, swallowing down the fear and moving forward.
I swished and flicked my wand, guiding the book back to its hiding place with a quick, “Wingardium Leviosa.”
Giving it one last stare, I turned back to the other two books.
“Two out of three.” I muttered and took a seat, opening the first book once again.
With any luck, I would find the answers I sought there. If not, well… I was going to learn the art of Cursebreaking in a few years, anyway. I guess I’ll have to start it early.
But, for now, it was time to dive in. I skimmed the book’s table of contents, flipped to chapter one and began to read.
1:00 AM, Halls of Hogwarts, First Floor…
I pinched the bridge of my nose as I moved unseen through the hallways.
My destination? The kitchens.
The Moon bathed my surroundings with its beautiful silver light as I glanced out of an open window, seeing snow covered land in all directions.
I licked my lips, wondering if the house elves were even still awake at this time of night.
Awake or not, they probably have leftovers lying around. I thought as I found myself in front of the kitchen entrance.
As before, I tickled the pear and turned the handle, but my eyes widened with surprise as I saw an elf already there, with food in hand.
“Here you go, Mr Invisible!”
My mouth parted open even as I took the warm bread in hand, the surrealness of the experience turning me speechless.
“Bye, now!” The elf gave a salute and snapped its fingers, closing the door quickly.
I stayed in place for a while, wondering just what on Earth had happened. Another few more seconds of stupefaction and I was able to finally get a hold of myself.
“What the Hell.” I blurted out, staring down at the bread. “They can see me.”
No. I thought, my nerves settling as I took the first bite out of the bread and exited the kitchens, drifting aimlessly through the halls. The elf called me ‘Mr. Invisible’. That means they could not see me, so the spell is working.
Yet, they’d been able to detect me, all the same. Was it by sound?
I shook my head. It couldn’t have been.
I stared down at the bread in my invisible hand; it looked like it was floating— an amusing sight.
The bread’s also fresh. I noted, ignoring the rush of humor coursing through me. Somehow, the elves had known of my hunger and prepared something just for me, meaning they’d likely known of it as soon as my hunger made itself known.
I stopped in my tracks. I’d all but confirmed that the castle was aware of my presence when it tried to keep me away from the Room of Requirement.
I took another bite of the rich, delicious bread and nodded to myself. It made sense; Hogwarts Castle was aware of my presence, which meant that its caretakers, the house elves, were also aware, somehow.
It was information fed through the magical link they shared, much like Harry’s connection with Voldemort. How this link worked, I had no idea.
This begged the question: did the Headmaster also possess this awareness?
Can’t be. I thought. He would have detected me near the Room of Requirement, otherwise.
Unless he’s playing some kind of long game? Part of me thought. You’ve always thought poorly of ridiculous theories pertaining to the manipulative and evil aspects of Albus Dumbledore, but what if even a sliver of them is true?
If they’re true. I snorted, projecting no small amount of derision and contempt. Then we’re all well and truly fucked. I may as well kill myself right now— save myself the trouble.
If Dumbledore were a megalomaniac, then he would have brought Potter up under his care, where he could impart his own values onto the child.
Discerning malicious intent out of everything around us is no real way to live, anyway.
I took a deep breath and continued my trek, taking occasional bites out of my food and thinking of what I’d read in Cauldrons of Blood, so far.
The book had no mentions of ‘Strong Blood’. Granted, I was only six chapters in, so there was much more ground to be covered before I moved on to the next.
It did, however, have some interesting recipes for a few potions, one of which would induce a faster growth rate in wizards and witches.
It had been an attempt to speed up a wizard’s metabolism so that they could mature into adults at a faster rate— at the time, wizard children reaching their majority was a rare occurrence, as they were killed off by the witch burners before they were of an age to attend Hogwarts.
For a potions book, there had been a heavy emphasis on just how evil the muggles were.
In fact, I was getting the distinct impression that the book was specifically written to teach future generations how to empower their wizards to eventually subjugate said ‘barbaric and savage’ muggles.
Because of course. I snorted with no mirth. Now, if these potions actually worked as intended, they might have succeeded in their endeavors.
That metabolism enhancer? It carried the “insignificant risk” of reducing your overall lifespan. The author had the firm belief that it was a small price to pay for the continued survival of “the children”.
That led to the uncomfortable realization that this man had likely fed said potions to whatever children were in his care— whether his means of acquiring said children were legal or not was up in the air, though the painted picture seemed to point to a less than savory answer.
It was a morbid and terrifying line of thought, but an important one, nonetheless.
I’d known that magic wasn’t sunshine and rainbows from the beginning— my own Curse of Entropy was the biggest example of this, after all.
Still, the question lingered at the back of my mind like a particularly stubborn tick, sucking away at my psyche and attempting to skew my morals.
To get to the pinnacle of magic, I’ll need to test my magic, won’t I? Thoroughly, at that. But how do I go about this without becoming a danger to myself or others?
I cringed at the thought of Tony or Hagrid being annihilated by any of my attempts to learn about the magic of the void.
Or worse, myself. I thought with a shiver. Losing myself to the void, piece by piece…
I huffed and pondered on the enormity and sheer variety of problems I had to deal with, finishing the last of the bread.
I wasn’t sure how long I stayed there; it could have been an hour or a scant few minutes, but it was long enough that my neck was sore and I was all but ready to call it a night.
Picking myself up and dusting myself off, I meandered back into the direction of Ravenclaw Tower at the pace of a particularly hurried snail.
That was until I spied a reflection off of a shiny surface to my left. I had almost missed it, hidden as it was by the door left ajar.
Was this what I thought it was?
I stepped closer and took a peek inside, seeing a rather large mirror sitting in the corner. It is.
My tiredness gave way to the rush of adrenaline, making my head pound with every beat of my heart. I cancelled the spell of Disillusionment and pushed the door open, stepping inside.
The closer I got to the damn thing, the more imposing it became. I gulped as I stared up at the top of its golden frame and gazed upon the inscribed words.
“I show not your face, but your heart’s desire.” I mouthed— I had read these same words so many times in my life— both in the books and in various fanfictions— but to be standing here before them was both an honor and a source of nervousness and excitement.
I looked around, specifically avoiding the reflective surface in front of me, for the moment.
The abandoned classroom it had been placed in was like any other, unremarkable in any way. The sight clashed with my recollection of this iconic setting.
What’re you waiting for, Clarke? Part of me thought with equal parts disdain and impatience. Are you scared of what you’ll see?
Of course I’m scared. Who wouldn’t be?
Time passed me by at a glacial pace, the air torturous with its absolute silence as I tried to work up the nerve to look into this magical artefact.
This is one of the pinnacles of magic. I thought, staring at the Mirror’s very edge. Able to look into my soul and discern what I yearn for.
What was it that I longed for?
If you’d asked me, three months ago, I would have known without a shadow of a doubt: explore the mysteries of the world and master every magic I could get my hands on.
However, now that I was standing before the mirror, I found myself confused and perturbed in more ways than one.
I stared down at my shaking hands. Why was I hesitating? The answer was lying right in front of me.
All you have to do is look, Clarke.
So, I stared into the mirror before I lost my nerve. I felt something envelop my form, nudging me to come closer to the mirror.
How peculiar. I thought as I obeyed the Mirror’s request and took one step forward, staring at my reflection.
I froze, seeing someone else look back at me. That face… I remember it.
I raised my hand to my cheek, my nose, watching as the reflection did the same. It looked nothing like me, and yet it looked exactly like…
Exactly like my previous body at… eleven years of age? I continued to check myself over. The blue eyes, the big nose, the brown hair, the scar over the left side of my lip I got from a bout of recklessness— this is my old body. It’s been so long…
My reflection smiled as it drew its wand, conjuring and levitating a handful of legos in the air with an ease borne from years of practice and mastery— entertaining a rather familiar child below.
I swallowed with difficulty as the young boy gave a toothy grin, showing missing teeth.
I remembered; he’d lost them the day before and had put them under his pillow because…
Because I told him about the tooth fairy. I stared down at the lad, ancient heartache spilling forth. I remember. James, it has been a long time.
My nephew from my previous life tried to catch the floating legos, getting more and more annoyed at my reflection until it winked and floated a piece down to him.
James took the Lego in hand and looked up at my reflection with such adoration that my heart twisted.
I reached out to the boy, seized by the need to touch him after all of these years, to give him a hug.
My hand pressed against the frigid, hard glass.
I drew it away with a flinch, the cold sensations sending a strong shock into my system.
I stepped back, raising a hand to my wet cheek— I was crying, it seemed.
I wish I had never come here.
The previous sense of awe gave way to anguish, and honor to cold fury. “I shouldn’t have come here.”
“Clarke?” A familiar voice came from the doorway. “You found it, too.”
I wiped the angry tears away, and turned to Harry Potter, wondering just how much he had seen of my moment of weakness. “Yeah. I guess you can say that. You came for a look, too, then?”
Potter didn’t answer, instead moving forward with almost desperate purpose.
I nodded and shifted so he could stand beside me and gaze upon that which he could never have.
That which I can never have. I stared into the mirror again, watching as my previous self continued to entertain my nephew with magic. James… he’d be nearing his twenties, now. He’s probably forgotten all about me…
Anguish took hold of me again. On some level, I’d known this. I knew that my family had to bury me, that they all eventually moved on, as with all things in life.
What had been the point of mourning a life I could never go back to?
My reasoning was nice and logical, but try as I might, I could not look away from the Mirror’s surface. They’re gone. He’s gone.
“I brought Ron here, and he saw himself as Head Boy and Quidditch Captain.” Potter’s voice cut through my inner crisis, sounding almost resentful, if not deeply disappointed in his friend.
The silence hung in the air for a few heavy moments before I broke it.
“Not surprising, it’s a normal kid’s desire.” I said.
“… Is that what this mirror is?” Harry turned to me. “It shows me what I want?”
I shook my head, watching my nephew run circles around my reflection. His brown eyes were alight with childish delight and wonder that tore me apart on the inside.
“Not just what you want.” I held firm and drew my eyes away from the boy, looking at the massive pile of magical books sitting at the table behind my reflection— so, my desire was to master magic and come home. “But what your heart desires. Read the inscription at the top, but backwards.”
A few seconds later, Potter spoke. “I show not your… Face. But your heart’s desire. I see. So my parents…”
He stopped himself. I gave the boy a quick look.
I nodded. “I see a family I’ll never regain, as well.”
Potter sent me a look, as if he couldn’t quite figure me out.
“How can you be so calm about this?” Potter asked, letting out a burst of incredulous anger at my attitude.
“Calm, am I?” My voice rose. “Oh, not at all, Potter.”
I ignored the boy’s flinch, letting the faintest hints of my anger come to the surface. “I feel like breaking this mirror into a thousand bloody pieces, but… But I don’t think whoever put this thing here would appreciate my actions.”
“You would be right, of course, Mr. Clarke.” The wizened old voice came from behind us, much like I thought it would.
Harry snapped to the old man, stammering at being caught out of bounds in the middle of the night.
Dumbledore raised his hand. “Peace, Harry. You are not in trouble.”
At that, the boy relaxed and turned back to the mirror.
Like a junkie looking for his next fix. I realized, feeling a great swell of pity for the lad and helping of disgust for myself.
I’d known of this thing’s power, and yet it had almost ensnared me, all the same.
“Professor Dumbledore.” I greeted.
“I see you two boys have divined the true nature of this mirror all by yourselves.” Albus said as he stepped forward, gazing into the mirror.
I wondered what he would be seeing. His sister, healthy and whole? Grindelwald as he was in their youth and not the megalomaniacal killer he turned out to be? Himself reunited with his brother Aberforth?
Perhaps a combination of all three. I thought.
“Yes.” I said, refusing to look at it again.
In the deepest recesses of my suppressed heart, I knew that, were I to look upon the mirror again, I would not stop.
“An insidious magic.” I added, turning away from the damn thing and staring at the opposite wall. “Whoever thought this was a good idea didn’t realize what a horror it would turn out to be.”
The old man turned his gaze to me. “I fear you may be right about the Mirror of Erised, young Mr. Clarke. Often, we do not understand the impact of our actions until they are taken. By then, it would have already been too late.”
Harry forced his gaze from the mirror, as well, and focused on the Headmaster. “Too late, sir?”
Dumbledore placed his hands on our shoulders as he coaxed us away from the Mirror’s grasping tendrils.
Distracted as I was by the storm of emotion inside of me, I had not noticed the sheer grip the Mirror’s magic had on me.
This thing really is a trap. I thought, watching the ancient man leading both of us away from it. Dumbledore’s will is indeed strong.
“The Mirror is a frightening work of magic, as it gives us neither knowledge nor truth.” Dumbledore said when we were clear of its range. “Men have wasted away in front of it— even gone mad. That is why, after tonight, it will be moved elsewhere.”
I nodded, while Potter looked alarmed.
“I urge you two: do not go looking for it.”
“I won’t.” I said, throwing the mirror one last glance before the Headmaster led us outside of the room, locking the door behind him.
“I won’t, either.” Potter added, with little enthusiasm.
I didn’t blame him.
“Good!” Dumbledore graced us with a smile before continuing. “Now, I believe it’s long past the time for you two to be asleep. Shall we?”
The trip back to Ravenclaw Tower went in silence. Potter kept throwing me a few glances when he thought I wasn’t looking, but I was too busy going over every detail I’d seen in the reflection to focus on that.
The Mirror of Erised was an abomination, but the reflection it showed of myself, having mastered magic and reunited with family…
I will make it a reality. Nothing will get in my way.