January 6, 1992, 4:30 PM, Headmaster’s Office Entrance
I stared at the large stone gargoyle in front of me— a fearsome and strange oddity, given the circumstances.
Knowing that this was a school, it had always seemed strange to me that a gargoyle of all things would have been defending the Headmaster’s office.
They were originally used as a way to ward off and, in some cases, judge evil; are the wizards aware of its significance to muggles, perhaps? I thought as Quirrell spoke the password.
The statue stirred to life and moved aside, revealing the spiraling staircase behind it.
“In y-you go, Mr. Clarke…” Quirrell said. “I will b-be off—”
“Ah, Professor Quirrell!” Came the jovial, squeaky voice of Professor Flitwick from the left. “Just the man I wanted to see. Mr. Clarke, go on ahead! I will be joining you in just a moment.”
I nodded, gulping as I went up the stairs.
He doesn’t seem to be mad at me for anything…
I stopped at the door to the Headmaster’s office and knocked three times.
Twix, huh? I thought, mouth watering slightly. I haven’t had that in so long… The first thing I’m gonna do this summer is get a Twix bar.
“Come in!” The muffled sound came from the other side.
I blinked and swallowed, feeling uneasy. The voice that invited me in was not Dumbledore’s, but I shook the unease away and opened the door.
I took my first steps into the legendary room. It looks exactly like I’d imagined it when I first read the books— a place of rich history and eminence.
I let my eyes slowly take in every detail, from the various gadgets and doohickeys, to the portraits of the previous headmasters lining the walls, the empty perch for Fawkes, the large desk and the hat sitting on the shelf behind it.
“Sorting Hat.” I greeted, realizing that it was the one who had bid me to come in.
“Adam Clarke.” The Sorting Hat said, looking as dirty as it was during the Sorting ceremony. “Be welcome. The Headmaster is occupied at the moment, but he will join you shortly.”
I gave a strained smile, latching onto the amusement like a lifeline. “Are you doubling as a secretary?”
The raggy old hat barked out a laugh, setting me at ease. “Nothing else to do around here— you don’t expect me to sit on a shelf and be useless all year, do you?”
In all actuality, I had.
“I suppose that’s fair.” I said, rubbing the back of my neck as I moved to look out of the window, which was left slightly ajar.
I drew away from the slight shift in temperature and feasted my eyes on the winter wonderland beyond.
“Well, if you really want something to do… Have you ever considered taking up the role of the school’s Quidditch commentator?” I offered, turning back to it.
“…” The Hat didn’t say anything for a while. “I have not.”
I hmphed, smiling. “You’ve certainly got the voice for it. Maybe even sing a few songs at dinnertime?”
“An interesting suggestion, Mr. Clarke.” Albus Dumbledore said as he opened the door in the back of the office, startling me.
“Headmaster.” I jumped in place, grimacing as I tried to get myself under control. “I, erm…”
“I like his ideas, Albus.” The Hat said, taking pity on me. “Well, perhaps not the Quidditch commentary— the weather can be quite the terrible thing, and for an old hat like me…”
I nodded in understanding, appreciating the timely save. “Fair enough. It would be nice to listen to you sing from time to time.”
On that note… I would love to be able to listen to my favorite songs again. I thought, the feeling of loss making itself known for a brief moment. None will even come out until at least a decade from now— and that’s only if the artists who created them are still here on this Earth.
I shook the thoughts away before my mind began to play half-remembered renditions of my favorites.
Dumbledore smiled as he went down the staircase and stood by his desk’s large chair— more like a throne, really.
Hogwarts is the Castle and he is its King in all but name. I thought.
“What say you then, Sorting Hat?” Dumbledore said, his eyes bright behind his half moon glasses. “Would you care to join us for this evening meal?”
“Delighted, Headmaster. I’ll have to think of an appropriate song.”
“Splendid!” The Headmaster said with a smile and gestured for me to take a seat. “Please, sit.”
“Thank you, sir.” I took my seat, pulling down on my shirt to make it look a little less wrinkled. “May I know why I’ve been called here?”
“I would rather wait until your Head of House comes before discussing this with you, but you may be at ease, young Mr. Clarke.” Dumbledore said, smiling again as he sat opposite of me. “You are not in any trouble.”
I nodded, relaxing in the large chair. Quirrell had told me the same thing, of course, but I couldn’t help but view any word from that man’s mouth with distrust.
Dumbledore, though— I can trust him to tell the truth in a scenario as mundane as this. Hell, I can even probably trust him with my life, if things really did go to shit.
But you wouldn’t trust him with your secrets, though. Would you? Another part of me whispered in dark amusement. And there are many of those, aren’t there? Imagine if you told him about the location of the Resurrection Stone?
There was no need to imagine. He’d already been cursed by the ring holding the stone in the books— the events would repeat, much the same.
Think about it. The voice continued to urge me. You could get rid of the meddlesome old fart without expending any effort, whatsoever. Riddle’s Horcrux will do it for you! Free of charge.
What’re you, a slimy car salesman? I thought back, feeling my ire rising. Piss off.
“In fact, I daresay it’s the opposite.” Dumbledore smiled and was about to say something further when the door to the office opened, thankfully distracting the Headmaster from noticing my face.
I turned to see Professor Flitwick walking as quickly as his tiny legs could carry him.
“No, no.” The man said, waving us down as we moved to greet him. “No need to get up, gentlemen.”
I nodded in relief and watched him make his way here. I wondered if he’d ever considered looking into charming a pair of stilts for himself. After some thought, I realized it would just look too stupid to be feasible.
Still, that got me thinking…
What about a magical mech— something that can run, swim and fly while protecting its user? I thought, images of great battles flying through my mind. I’ll add it to the list. This one is also quite a bit on the ridiculous end of things, though— a long term project for curiosity’s sake.
“Sorry I’m late, Albus.” The Charms Professor said by way of greeting, taking the seat to my right. He sent me a smile and nodded. “Mr. Clarke. I hope you didn’t wait too long.”
“Professor.” I nodded with respect. “It was no trouble.”
“It’s as Mr. Clarke says. There is nothing to forgive, Filius.” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled as he clapped his hands together. “Now, I believe we have kept our guest in suspense for long enough, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yes, I suppose.” Flitwick said, a slight smirk gracing his features for a moment before his expression turned serious. “Mr. Clarke… Lately, I’ve noticed you paying less and less attention in class.”
I winced, not having expected that. Was Dumbledore lying to me when he said I wasn’t in trouble?
“Relax, Mr. Clarke.” Flitwick said, hands raised in an attempt to placate me. “I do not intend to punish you for it— I know why you do it.”
I nodded, beginning to understand what this meeting would be about. All right. Things are starting to make a bit more sense, now.
“When you first showed me your ability with the Summoning Charm, Adam, I was very impressed— shocked, even.” The diminutive professor said. “And so I began to watch you. You’ve already mastered the First Year Charms curriculum, haven’t you? Dare I say, your entire year’s curriculum?”
“Yes.” I said, before shaking my head. “Well… I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it— I still, erm… have a lot of trouble with my Transfiguration? And History is… History.”
Flitwick smiled slightly at the history remark but pressed on. “That’s not what I’ve heard from Professor McGonagall, lad. You may not be the top student in the class, but she’s deemed your work to be impressive.”
I glanced in Dumbledore’s direction, wondering what he would think about this. However, the old man stayed quiet, content to watch us.
“I don’t know, sir.” I said, shifting in my seat. “It’s not that my Transfigurations are unsuccessful or even bad, it’s…”
“Go on, lad.” Flitwick said, urging me to keep going when it seemed I wouldn’t answer.
“I’m not sure how to explain this, really.” I said as I collected my thoughts. “I’m scared that, when I’m casting a spell of Transfiguration, that I’m… hm… have you ever heard of something called the ‘atom bomb’?”
Flitwick’s blank look told me all I needed to know.
“A weapon, I take it?” Flitwick said, sending Dumbledore a curious look. “I doubt the term ‘bomb’ could be applied in any favorable way.”
“Just so, Professor Flitwick.” Dumbledore explained, his face shifting to a look of grave understanding for a short time, before he schooled it back into a pleasant visage. “The weapon of which young Clarke speaks is one of great destruction— created by the muggles in the forties, and used to great effect.”
As the ancient man spoke, I was reminded of the old interview with Oppenheimer about the atomic bomb.
‘Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.’ The man had quoted the line from ancient Hindu scripture, but it had always stuck with me.
Now more than ever. I thought. My connection with the Void is inextricable. Am I also a destroyer?
“I’m afraid I don’t understand, Albus.” Flitwick said, scratching his chin in confusion.
“It is not common knowledge to wizards.” Dumbledore said, his eyes resting on me for a moment. “But muggle science has made incredible strides over the past century— I’m afraid I cannot do the explanation justice in the span of a short conversation. My apologies, Filius. I can, of course, recommend a few books which cover the topic quite well.”
“Please.” Filius nodded with a smile.
“But, to bring us back to the matter at hand, I understand young Clarke’s concerns.” Professor Dumbledore said, smiling at me. “There is nothing to worry about, lad.”
At my dubious look, he decided to elaborate. “I will not go into great detail, but… suffice it to say, Transfiguration spells move in such a way that the… atoms, as the muggles put it, remain undisturbed and quite stable— again, this is a simplified explanation.”
“I— All right, Professor.” I said, half tempted to ask if he was absolutely sure I wasn’t going to glass the school and the grounds when I tried to turn a matchstick into a needle.
They’re giving me way too much leeway, already. I thought. No need to push it. Plus, if anyone would know about this topic, it would be Albus ‘I just learned some Alchemy on the side’ Dumbledore.
“Very good.” Dumbledore said with a nod. “With that said, might we circle back to the subject of this meeting?”
“Of course, Albus.” Professor Flitwick said, straightening up. “I wish to… accelerate Mr. Clarke’s education.”
I sucked in a sharp breath. I’d correctly guessed that my Head of House was going to say that, but it still managed to evoke a sense of surprise within me.
“Accelerate?” Dumbledore said, leaning forward on his elbows and steepling his fingers together. “That is a most serious request.”
I turned my attention to Professor Flitwick.
“Yes, and I would not make it if I was not absolutely sure that it would be for the lad’s good.” Flitwick said, his voice full of confidence. “In fact, I have just had a short conversation with Professor Quirrell.”
Flitwick turned to me with an expectant look. “Would you care to demonstrate the Verdimillious Charm for us, Mr. Clarke?”
I leaned back in my seat, not having expected such a request.
“…Sir?” I said, before realizing what he was getting at.
I shook the nervousness away and stood up for the impromptu test. “Is there… anywhere that you would like me to cast it? I don’t want to, erm… break anything.”
“Not to worry, Mr. Clarke.” Dumbledore moved with a strange swiftness to stand behind me.
I turned to see him, the Elder Wand firmly in his grasp. It took all I had to not yelp in surprise as I felt the power of its void touch my senses.
This thing is a fucking beacon…! I thought, looking away from the man and playing things off like I was simply nervous. It reeks of void energy. It’s no wonder Dumbledore could sense my Curse of Entropy! ‘Deathstick’, indeed. How’s he hiding such power? Is he even aware of what he’s holding?
“Are you all right, my boy?” Dumbledore asked.
I nodded, thinking quickly. “Yes, sir. I just didn’t expect you to, erm… At your age— I’m just going to stop talking before I say something even more stupid.”
“Nonsense, Mr. Clarke.” Dumbledore said. “You will soon learn that wizards retain their vitality for a very long time. I myself like to stay in shape by bowling.”
Don’t think of Dumbledore in a bowling alley, don’t think of Dumbledore in a bowling alley, don’t think of… the image of Dumbledore in a bowling alley flashed in my mind. God damn it!
The incredulous smile that spread over my face was infectious, it seemed, as the other two reciprocated it.
Pointing the wand over my shoulder, Dumbledore conjured a wooden dummy. “There is your target, Mr. Clarke.”
I nodded and stared at the Headmaster’s quick creation for a few seconds, marveling at the intricate details in every aspect of his conjuration, from the engravings on the helmet, to the intricate, flowery patterns on the sword resting at its hip.
It was a work of art.
If I had an inkling of this man’s experience, I could make a sizable fortune out of custom built furniture alone!
More than that: he’s literally creating things with a wand absolutely steeped in void energy. I thought, doing my best not to look his way. It’s incredible.
Taking a deep breath, I shook the thoughts away, got my wand out and slashed it at the dummy. “Verdimillious Tria!”
The poor dummy’s nose was scorched off by the green sparks, the remaining stump igniting almost instantly, sending a light flash of heat our way.
I watched for a few seconds as the fire spread over Dumbledore’s conjuration.
“Remarkable.” Professor Dumbledore said and pointed the deathstick at the small fire, killing the flames in an instant.
“Indeed.” Flitwick nodded his head in agreement before turning his attention to me. “Mr. Clarke, if you were asked to cast that spell as the practical portion of your final exam in Defense, you would have earned an Outstanding.”
I gave a slow nod to that. I supposed, after some thought, that this was inevitable. I’d kept my ability with the Disillusionment Charm and a few other spells hidden, but anything else?
Not so much. It would have been a pain to fake my ability in class, anyway. Purposefully failing my spells felt like I was dragging a rusty knife over my arm.
It was also a very tiresome thing to do— pretending to be something that I’m not, that is. The minor lies and omissions to my friends haven’t done any serious damage to anyone, so far, but it’s only a matter of time before the stress and guilt of it all would begin to weigh on my mind.
“How about this, then? An impromptu Charms exam!”
I turned to see Flitwick pointing at a new addition, sitting on Dumbledore’s desk.
A pineapple— I see. He’s going to ask if… “Sir? What am I supposed to do with this?”
“Your task is to make this pineapple tap dance.” He said, gesturing at the pineapple. “You have five minutes, Mr. Clarke.”
Knew it. I thought, but still failed to maintain a serious expression because of how silly a pineapple tap dancing would look.
I shook my head and put my full focus on the fruit, missing the amused looks Dumbledore and Flitwick sent each other.
How to go about this?
The obvious route was to cast the Dancing Feet Spell on the ‘legs’ of the pineapple. Tarantallegra was a spell that First Years had the aptitude to learn, after all.
I raised my wand, ready to call the spell forth, before stopping and turning to my teacher.
“Does it matter how I reach the result?” I asked, face shifting in a slight grimace as I clarified my question a little more. “Which spell I end up using, I mean— is there a wrong answer?”
My Head of House didn’t answer for a few seconds.
“No. As long as you can make the pineapple tap dance, that will be sufficient.” Flitwick said, interest and curiosity shining in his eyes. “How you do it is up to you.”
“Thank you.” I nodded and shifted my attention back to the pineapple.
I could use a special iteration of Locomotor with a specific, programmed ‘route’. I thought. If that doesn’t work; bog-standard Tarantallegra will have to suffice.
I reviewed what I knew of the Locomotion Charm, as well as tap dancing, before nodding to myself. This can work. As long as I can properly visualize the pineapple in my mind, there should be no reason for this spell to fail.
I took a breath and stepped forward, raising my ebony wand and pointing it in the direction of the pineapple.
I drew in my desire to give this pineapple new life and let it out, molding it with my intent.
The pineapple defied gravity as it flipped itself upside down and stood on the two longest spikes of its top.
Dance for me, you little fruit!
I shifted my spell’s shape and made it cover the pineapple’s two new ‘legs’. Then, I willed them to move in what I hoped to be a good rendition of a tap dance. The right side of my jaw began to feel curiously warm, but I ignored it in favor of redoubling my focus on the pineapple.
“Splendid!” My Head of House cried as he watched my creation dance. “Ingenious use of the Locomotor spell! I would go so far as to say it is another spell entirely.”
I didn’t answer, keeping my full focus on the pineapple.
“You may stop now, Mr Clarke.” Flitwick said, snapping me out of it.
I let go of the spell and turned to the professor as the pineapple fell back on the desk with a mild thud. I opened my mouth to speak but stopped, instead raising my hand to my cheek.
It came away wet and slimy. This is… spit?
“I— I, erm…” I said, quickly wiping the side of my face with my sleeve as I flushed in embarrassment. “I hope that was good, sir.”
“Good, he says.” Flitwick said, looking amused. “Mr. Clarke, that was above and beyond anything I expected of you— of anyone below the fifth year, for that matter.”
“…Sir?” I stopped rubbing my face and stowed the wand in my pocket. “I’m guessing I was expected to use the Dancing Feet Spell?”
“Precisely.” Flitwick said as Professor Dumbledore vanished the pineapple and dummy before taking his seat, once more.
We followed suit.
“You’ve demonstrated an aptitude seldom seen in wizards today.” Flitwick continued. “In fact, I haven’t seen talent of this caliber since, well… Lily Potter.”
“Harry’s mother?” I blurted as Dumbledore straightened in his seat.
“Yes.” Flitwick said, nodding as he closed his eyes in remembrance. “She was studious and eager to learn— much like you are, in fact. You will find no better example of a brilliant witch.”
“Her son, Harry, he’s… well…” Flitwick opened his eyes and shook his head.
“Perhaps this is not an appropriate thing to speak of.” Dumbledore said, giving the professor an out
“Yes, yes.” Professor Flitwick shook his head. “Of course.”
Looking between the two, I felt a little annoyed on Potter’s behalf.
Schools really are the same everywhere you go. I thought and was going to open my mouth to speak before thinking better of it. Doesn’t matter how great of a teacher you are if you can’t even recognize the importance of motivating your students to want to learn, in the first place.
“Mr. Clarke.” Professor Dumbledore said, steepling his fingers as he maneuvered the conversation back on track. “You’ve demonstrated that you possess the aptitude and ability to take your end of year exams early.”
He let the statement hang in the air before continuing. “At Hogwarts School, we do not generally offer students these options unless they have proven that they are truly phenomenal.”
Huh. I thought. Is that why Hermione never got the chance to skip ahead? She wasn’t considered good enough? That doesn’t make any sense. The girl’s the most studious spitfire I’ve ever met.
“What is it, my boy?” The Headmaster said.
I can’t figure out whether the old coot is being kind to trick me into saying something to reveal myself, or whether he’s being genuine.
“Was it really that impressive?” I dared to say. “I could barely focus on anything else.”
“True.” Professor Flitwick allowed, smiling. “I’ve never seen such tremendous concentration before.”
I blushed and looked away. Don’t remind me that I fucking drooled in front of two of the most powerful wizards in the United Kingdom.
“With that said.” Professor Flitwick continued as if not noticing my embarrassment. “What you’ve done with a spell as simple and limited as the Locomotor is nothing short of… dare I say it, ingenious. I’m not sure I could have accomplished it, myself, to be frank with you.”
Is he serious? I straightened up in my chair. “Ah… Thank you, Professors.”
“Think nothing of it, my boy.” Dumbledore said, standing up as the conversation drew to a close. “Now, I believe we’ve taken up enough of your time, Mr. Clarke. Your friends must be worried.”
Flitwick pulled a watch from his pocket and jumped in surprise. “My, my, the time flew by, indeed. Not to worry, lad; I’ll make sure to keep you informed as to the time and place for your tests.”
“Thank you, again.” I nodded, got up and made my way to the door.
“Think nothing of it, Mr. Clarke.” Was the last thing I heard before the door closed behind me.
The Sorting Hat’s singing at dinner was a massive success.
11:30 PM, Temporary Base of Operations
I read through the passage again and rubbed my eyes.
This can’t be real. I thought, pushing off of the workbench and pacing back and forth.
“Did I read it wrong?” I said out loud before shaking my head. “Don’t be a fucking moron, Clarke.”
Of course I read it right, but honestly… I wish I hadn’t.
I kicked a nearby table in frustration, which did nothing but create some temporary noise and stub my big toe. “Damn it. Fuck!”
I ignored the pain and resumed my agitated pacing. “What the hell am I supposed to do?”
You could always do nothing… the stubborn part of my messed up psyche said. Let the Castle hate us and call us ‘defiler’; we don’t owe it anything. Never have.
Don’t I, though? I thought, shaking my head. It’s my fault that this situation arose in the first place. Shouldn’t I be working to fix it?
I pinched the bridge of my nose when no answer came. Not for the first time, I wondered whether I was going insane.
Referring to myself in the second person or in the first person plural, actively speaking to myself…
I shook my head— it was probably the nerves messing with my perception of things.
There was no way I was going crazy. I focused on the matter at hand.
The dark, leatherbound book sat there, as if taunting me. I grimaced and opened it again, flipping to the appendix in which I found the innocuous passage.
It was a list of substitution ingredients meant to enhance the quality and effects of certain potions.
“Appendix C: Substitutes, herbs, minerals, organs, blood…” I read again, glossing over the page until I reached the relevant passage. “Note that certain blood substitutes could be used with varying degrees of effectiveness in potions, with some increasing it and others decreasing it. Most notable are the strong bloods taken from certain fauna— the phoenix and the thunderbird. Dragons can function just as well, though the blood needs to be that of an adult.”
I tore my attention away from the book, pulled the chair back, twisting it away from the bench and took a seat. “Fuck me. This can’t be real.”
I sagged, the enormity of the situation beginning to weigh down on me.
I have to break into Dumbledore’s office and take blood from Fawkes? This is crazy.
“Fuck this.” With a wave of my wand, I sent the book into its hiding spot, before concealing it with a muttered “Praetexo.”
I put away my wand and moved forward to rest on my knees, struggling to process the whirlwind of thoughts and feelings running through me. Fear, anger, and a sense of tired incredulity warred within my body, ripping me of my focus at every turn.
“Why can’t things ever be easy?” I laughed, feeling the walls closing in around me again.
No answer came.