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Feb 7, 1992, 8:30 AM, Great Hall

I took my seat at the Ravenclaw table with a hum of greeting.

“Good sleep?” Tony greeted back, halfway through the process of devouring some eggs. He paused as he saw my disheveled appearance. “Or… not so good.”

“Best I’ve had in a week, actually.” I said, blinking as I came to a realization. “Not that it says much, eh?”

Tony snorted into his glass, stiffening in shock as the milk dribbled down his chin and onto the table. He scrambled, trying his best to keep his robes from getting stained.

I shook my head and watched as his very actions got his clothes even more soiled than they would’ve been, otherwise.

“Bloody—” Tony said, shoving himself off of the table and falling on his rear. “Ow!”

I couldn’t help it; I started laughing. The Grey Lady, who was in attendance, took a few moments to stare at the boy with a disappointed expression, before gliding away to another group of students. I didn’t notice her eyes focusing on me, so preoccupied I was with laughing.

Su, sitting opposite of me, did her best to hide her giggles at the sight.

She failed.

“It’s not funny!” Tony said, his face going red as a tomato, even as I helped him back up. “Stop it, you two.”

I tried to smother it as best as I could while I guided him into his seat. Su didn’t even bother stopping.

The cheer around her was palpable, and Tony, seeing the smile on her face, gave up and joined in.

“Ha…” I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye after I sat down again, my body still shaking with mirth as I released more of the stress I’d been accumulating for the past week. “I really needed that.”

“You’re welcome—” Tony said, shaking his head as he tried to wipe the dirty spots dry with no luck. “I think I may have to go and change my shirt.”

I drew my wand. “I could do it for you…? I’ve had to learn the Scouring Charm recently.”

Well, I hadn’t really needed to learn it, but it certainly helped in dealing with the thestral droppings I eventually got onto me. I’d expected some kind of labor when signing up with Hagrid, but the sheer amount of times I had to harvest animal dung was beyond stupid— I wasn’t even allowed to use magic, as that would mess with the… substance’s properties.

“Of course you did.” Tony stared at the wand for a moment, before sighing. “Just don’t aim it at my face, okay? I’ve seen a Fifth Year choke on the soap.”

I felt ill at the very thought. “Yeah, don’t worry. I’ve got you.”

I moved my wand in a quick ‘S’ pattern. “Scourgify!

The milk which had spilled onto the table, the seat and Tony’s clothes vanished without a trace.

“That’s amazing!” Su said, looking at me in astonishment. She checked the table. “It’s all gone.”

“Yes.” Tony said, patting himself over and nodding with satisfaction. “Thanks, mate.”

“Anytime.”

“You know, Adam.” Tony said, musing. “I’m surprised you didn’t bother just taking the Second Year exams— may as well, right?” 

“Yes.” Su said, her voice rising with enthusiasm. “That was a Fourth Year spell you used, you know.”

She blushed under my questioning gaze and spoke in a rush. “I read up on it, the other day.”

I pretended not to notice her over the top reaction over something as simple as a look. You most definitely do not want to open up that can of worms, Clarke.

Su wasn’t a bad person. To be honest, when she wasn’t walking on eggshells around me, she was all right— Hell, she could even be a little mischievous and fun.

I considered her to be on the path to becoming the same as Tony: a valued companion.

Or, are you just substituting your beloved nephew with these conveniently placed children? Part of me thought. They’re not quite the same, but any port in a storm, eh?

I gave a mental shake of the head. No. They’re my friends— nothing more, nothing less. They’re replacing no one.

I noticed that Su was faltering in the ensuing silence and continued to speak.

“Oh, I see.” I said. “Honestly, I just learned a few useful spells here and there. I don’t think I’d be able to do very well on the Second Year tests.”

“It is dead useful.” Tony agreed, smiling.

“Can you…” Su said, hesitating. “Can you teach me?”

I stared at her for a moment, considering the question.

“I suppose I could— as long as you promise to apply yourself, of course.” I said after a moment, nodding to myself. “Yeah. I don’t see why not.”

Su beamed. “Wicked!”

Tony, on the other hand, looked a little dismayed. “Don’t encourage him, Su! He’s already starting to sound like one of the teachers. This will just make him worse!” 

“I mean… ‘Professor Clarke’.” I smirked, my eyes glittering with amusement. “Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?”

Su only looked down, nodding as she failed to hide another blush.

I hid the grimace threatening to appear. She’ll get over this, I hope.

Either that or she’ll get worse. Part of me thought, remembering my previous puberty, as well as watching many people go through theirs. Much worse.

I stowed my wand away and began to pile some food onto my plate as I thought about this problem.

She likely will lose interest in a while. I thought. Once she realizes I’m no knight in shining armor, she will.

At the end of the day, Su was an eleven year old little girl and I was pushing forty years— at least, mentally speaking. The thought of doing anything of that nature with her was repulsive.

All of the students were nothing but children to me, if I were to be brutally honest about it.

I took a harsh bite, ripping my bread apart as a burst of annoyance ran through me. Why was I thinking about hypothetical romantic scenarios, anyway?

What was the point of it? The only people I’d have possibly considered dating were those of age, and I very much doubted they’d go for an eleven year old, no matter how mature I really was.

No. It was a waste of time for everyone involved. Maybe, a few years down the line, I’d engage in such frivolity, but as it were…

I needed to focus on what was important: learning as much magic as I possibly could— and I needed the Room of Requirement for that.

Soon. I promised myself. Having access to Absol meant that I would be able to go anywhere I liked, provided that no one knew I’d left the castle, of course.

And I had seen her fly a few times; she could easily push one-eighty mph for as long as she wanted. It was crazy to even think about.

She truly is majestic. I thought, pulling myself back on topic with a frown. After all of this is over, I’ll use one of my free days to take a… trip to Diagon Alley.

It wouldn’t have been necessary had Snape’s Potions stores not been a total bust. At least I’d been lucky enough not to be caught.

I was about to lament the situation when Tony decided to resume the conversation.

“So, how do you think you did?” Tony said, finishing his meal and leaning back into his chair. “On your exams, I mean.”

I swallowed and licked my lips before turning to the boy. “I’m pretty sure I did well. Pass me the sausages, Su? Thanks.”

I continued to explain, sending the girl a nod as she pushed the plate closer to me.

“Astronomy, History and Potions were probably the most difficult ones, so I’m not sure how the results will turn out there.” I said, shrugging.

“Watch them be Outstandings.” Tony said, smiling. “I don’t expect anything less at this point.”

I could only shrug again after I added a couple of sausages to my meal. “Maybe I’ll be lucky, but I doubt it. History was always my worst subject.”

“Hmm.” Tony replied and left it at that.

I gave an absent nod and resumed my meal, welcoming the lull in the conversation with relief.

No more distractions from my long awaited meal. I took a bite out of the sausage and damn near moaned at the taste. I need to get a House Elf at some point. These little fuckers are too good at cooking. They’ve ruined me.

A few minutes passed in relative quiet before Su said something I didn’t quite catch.

“I’m sorry, what?” I said, reaching for a napkin and dabbing it against the side of my mouth. “I didn’t hear what you said.”

“Professor Flitwick— he’s coming.” Su said, her black eyes flitting between me and something approaching from my left.

The Professor, presumably. I thought, feeling a rush of nervousness. “Oh. Oh.”

Tony grasped my shoulder and gave it a firm squeeze. He smiled and nodded, a look of unshakable confidence in his eyes. “I’m sure you did fine, Adam. A hundred percent.”

I opened my mouth to reply but Flitwick reached us. “Mr. Clarke.”

“Sir.” I started to get up from my seat to greet him, but the professor raised his hand, stopping me.

“No need for that, lad.” Professor Flitwick said, holding out a sealed envelope with the other hand. “I’m sure you know what this is.”

“My results?” I sat back down, wiping a bit of grease off my hand as the man nodded in confirmation. “They’re early.”

“I suppose the Ministry official in charge of this case had a free day.” The Charms teacher mused, smiling as I took the envelope from him. “Go on!”

Feeling a little unnerved by his enthusiasm, I broke the seal and opened it, noting that the envelope included multiple pieces of parchment.

I pulled the first one out and began to read. It said:

“Dear Mr. Clarke,

We are pleased to inform you that you have qualified for early attendance of your Second Year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as part of our department’s accelerated learning program.

Enclosed within this envelope are your grades transcript, as well as the list of supplies you will need for your Second Year.

It brings us great pleasure to be able to assist a fine and upcoming rising star such as yourself.

Sincerely,

Griselda Marchbanks, Wizarding Examinations Authority, Department of Magical Education.”

Forcing myself not to react, I fished into the envelope once again, pulling the transcript out to examine it. I ignored the introductory text and focused on the grades, which were:

Defense Against The Dark Arts: O+

Charms: O+

Transfiguration: E

Potions: O

Herbology: O

Astronomy: E

History of Magic: E

“So?” Tony’s voice pulled me out of my haze. “How’d you do? Don’t leave me in suspense!”

I lifted my head from the parchment to see that every Ravenclaw was staring at me— no, every student in the Great Hall, from the looks of it.

I tensed, ready to get the Hell out of dodge before Tony called my name out again, bringing me back to reality.

Wordlessly, I presented the letter to the boy. Tony took it and began to read, grinning as realization dawned. “We are pleased to inform you… Oh! Yes! You did it!”

Excited whispers broke among the student body, making me feel uncomfortable again.

Is this what Potter deals with on a regular basis? I thought, feeling more agitated. How does he cope? 

“I knew you could do it!” Su said from behind me. I turned and offered her a smile, grateful for the distraction.

“Now, Mr. Clarke.” Professor Flitwick said, and the whispers toned down. “You will be getting a visit from Mr. Hagrid, later today. He’ll be the one in charge of getting your new supplies.”

And a trip to Diagon on top of everything? I thought, smiling. Now I can case the Apothecary without even drawing suspicion!

“Oh, all right.” I said, nodding with enthusiasm. “I’ll make sure to be ready for the trip, sir. I won’t let you down.”

“That’s not what I…” The professor shook his head. “My apologies, Mr. Clarke. I meant that Hagrid will be bringing you your things later.”

“Oh.” I gave the man a tight smile. “My mistake, sir.”

Fuck. So much for that. I fought to keep the irritation off of my face.

“Think nothing of it, lad.” Professor Flitwick said, his eyes turning soft as he finally noticed my stressed appearance. “In fact, that is actually a splendid idea: why don’t you go along with Mr. Hagrid? You’ve been working very hard, after all.”

What the Hell? I thought, blown away by the sudden reversal. Just like that?

It took me a second to realize why he was doing it.

Flitwick was taking pity on me because of the attention I was bound to get for this.

A shopping trip to Diagon Alley would be a way for me to ‘wait out the storm’ of the Hogwarts student body.

I nodded with gratitude, ignoring Tony’s amused mutters. “Thank you, Professor.”

“Of course. I will have a word with Hagrid.” He said. “He’s set to leave at eleven, so be here, then. Any questions?”

I shook my head.

Flitwick smiled. “Then, I look forward to seeing you in Second Year Charms.”

“Likewise, sir.” I said, but he was already walking away, intent on getting himself some breakfast.

There was a long moment of silence.

“Can I see? Tony.” Su called out to Tony, who was now looking at my test results, muttering. “Outstanding plus…?” 

Like a dam breaking, the other students began to flood me with their own questions.

“How’d you do it?” “What’s your homework approach?”

“Know any tips and tricks—”

“Hey, leave him alone!” Tony said as he and Su tried to stop them, but they were overlooked and subsequently pushed aside, unable to resist the strength of the older kids.

“Clarke.” I felt a hand grasping my shoulder and turned to see even more sets of unfamiliar faces. “So, how about you—”

Enough!” A familiar, female voice called out, cutting through the cacophony of questions lobbed at me. “Can’t you see you’re scaring the poor boy?”

I opened my mouth to reply in indignation, only to realize that my heart felt like it was beating through my throat.

Fuck, Clarke. I thought as I forced myself to breathe slower. Get a hold of yourself! It’s just a bunch of kids. It’s not like you’re in any real danger.

It was true, even. None of them posed a threat to me. Did my heart slow down as a result of said realization?

No.

The girl— the prefect, Mira. I realized— forced a student out of his seat and handed me a glass of water.

I looked at it, and then at her, understanding her intention in an instant. I took the glass and brought it to my lips, taking slow, but greedy gulps. The cold water rushed down my gullet, radiating through me with a gentle, soothing touch. I set the glass down with a sigh.

I felt better, already.

“Thank you.” I said, taking a deep breath to calm my nerves further.

“It was the least I could do, considering that someone—” She sent a glare at her fellow prefect, Bashir, who had the decency to look abashed. “—didn’t stop them before they became a problem.”

Bashir muttered something darkly under his breath, but didn’t dare challenge her. Instead, he turned to the other Ravenclaws, looking like he was about to blow steam out of his ears. “Time to clear off. Back to breakfast with you lot.”

The other students grumbled, but eventually acquiesced and left us to our devices.

“That takes care of that.” Mira said, patting my shoulder. “Congratulations, by the way, Clarke.”

I nodded, taking another deep breath. “Thank you.”

If she was annoyed at me repeating myself, she didn’t show it.

“Let me know if you need my notes for your Second Year, yeah?” Mira said as a concerned looking Su and Tony managed to get their seats back.

I frowned, Mira’s statement bringing me a moment of clarity in the haze of general confusion I was muddling through. She’s trying to help me, why?

True, it was her duty as prefect, but this was going above and beyond the responsibilities required of her station.

Maybe she’s just a nice person?

I nearly laughed at the thought.

“I’ll keep it in mind… Mira.” I forced myself to say, affixing a neutral look on my face. “Thank you— again— for the help. I mean it.”

“… Adam.” She nodded in farewell and moved away, heading back to her seat.

“Adam.” Tony said after she left. “Are you okay?”

My expression wavered, but I soldiered on. “I’m fine.”

Tony gave a tight smile and handed my letter and transcript back to me. “Here you go.”

I placed them in the envelope and stowed it in my bag before turning to my meal again.

I took a bite— the food not tasting as warm or as good as it had a few minutes prior. I exhaled through my nose, put my utensils down and tried to make sense of what had just happened.

I could feel that a few people’s eyes were still on me, and— self-conscious as I was— it was giving me no small amount of frustration.

Wasn’t the excitement somewhat extreme? I’d expected a few rumors, but not this level of attention. It’s not like I’m ending poverty and world hunger.

Then again, children were easily impressed… Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.

You’re a source of prestige, now. My mind supplied, even as I continued to ignore the stares, making sure to keep my breathing at a steady rate. A point of pride to Ravenclaw House— naturally, there will be those who want to ride the wave, so to speak.

It still felt ridiculous to me. I’d only passed tests which I would have taken in a few short months, anyway.

How was that, in any way, impressive?

You took your tests early and got Outstanding on almost everything that counts— even got extra points for two of them! And you did this as a no-name, orphan mudblood from the middle of nowhere, no less. Part of me explained as my heart continued to ease its way towards a resting state. The scum among scum rising up in the world despite all the odds— it makes for a good story, doesn’t it? You of all people should know the value of that.

I gave an absent nod to myself even as the students began to leave for their classes.

“Are you going to be alright, Adam?” Su piped up after a minute of silence. “You aren’t touching your food.”

I raised my eyes to meet hers and felt the jolt of surprise at the genuine concern on her face.

“Yeah.” I felt compelled to answer, smiling for her benefit. “I’ll be okay, don’t worry. It just surprised me, that’s all!”

That seemed to set her at ease. Tony, on the other hand…

He’s not buying it one bit, is he? I stifled the urge to smile. He can read me better than he thinks.

“We have to go.” Tony said, sending me a significant look. “Class, and all. Chess, later?”

I nodded, grateful for the space he was giving me. “Of course. Thanks, mate.”

“Anytime.” With one final pat to my shoulder, my two friends left the Great Hall, leaving me alone with whatever few students were likely to be late to their classes.

Friends, indeed. I thought, smiling.

oooo

Path to Hogsmeade, 11:25 AM

“So how will we be going to Diagon Alley, Mr—” I gulped at the half exasperated look Hagrid sent me.

The great big man harrumphed, the deep, gruff sound momentarily overtaking that of the carriage wheels grinding against the frozen earth beneath us. “Just Hagrid’ll do fine, Adam. I’d say we got ter know each other well enough for tha’.”

Yeah. Nothing like shoveling shit to set up the foundations of a lifelong friendship. My lips curled in a dark smirk for an instant before I focused on the half giant again. “Will we be taking the Knight Bus from Hogsmeade? I read about that a while ago. Can the bus really go anywhere?”

Hagrid shook his head, his face pale and almost fearful.

He looks like he’s seen a ghost. I noted. Does he hate it that much?

“…Aye, it can.” He said after a few moments, waving my questions off. “But we won’t be usin’ it. Can’t stand the ruddy thing.”

“Oh.” I said, frowning. “Floo, then?”

Hagrid nodded in confirmation, and the rest of the ride was spent in silence— time I used to think.

I wasn’t going to make an attempt to swipe the blood today, no.

It’ll have to be strictly recon; case the shop, see where everything is, what security measures they may have and try to commit it all to memory.

It was going to be a difficult task, least of all because I wasn’t keen on starting a criminal career so early in my life.

It’s this, or hunt down a wild Dragon. Breaking into Dumbledore’s office is also a fool’s errand; that gargoyle alone would tear me to shreds. I thought, grimacing. Breaking into an Apothecary manned by clerks who likely haven’t done any substantial magic in years is easy by comparison.

We stepped off of the carriage as we reached Hogsmeade proper. 

My eyes were wide with wonder as I stared at the simple beauty of the place. Filled with cozy little cottages, shops, restaurants and pubs which were topped with a thick layer of snow, the village looked like it could have belonged on a winter postcard.

“Aye.” Hagrid said, seeing the look upon my face. “I remember my first time visiting the village.”

I nodded. I’ll have to visit here on my own, from time to time.

My knowledge of Hogwarts’ shortcuts would soon come in handy, I thought as the man led me through the snowy streets.

Up ahead was the Three Broomsticks Inn. I realized I’d smelled it before I even saw it— whatever was being cooked smelled great.

“The Three Broomsticks.” Hagrid said as we walked up to the door. “A fine place.”

“You come here often, I take it?” I said, sniffing the air once more and feeling my mouth water. “The food smells divine.”

Forget the elves, I need to figure out Rosmerta’s secrets, instead.

“Aye.” He said. “Always be sure there’s a good time to be had here, Clarke.”

Before I could continue, he opened the door and held it for me. “After you.”

“Thank you.” I nodded and entered, feeling the rush of warm, slightly smoky air. The place was crowded, with many small groups conversing in both low and high tones, which mixed together in a strangely soothing euphony.

“Hagrid.” The woman behind the bar greeted, in the process of wiping a large mug dry. She was curvy in all the right places, and the somewhat tired smile she wore only seemed to add to her sheer appeal.

“What’ll it be, then?” Her green eyes landed on me as she placed her clean mug down, throwing the rag over her shoulders. “And who are you? Lost, are we?”

“No.” Hagrid said, pushing me forward so she could get a better look. “This is Adam Clarke. He’s one of our First Years— well, I suppose yeh can call yourself a Second Year now, can’t yeh?”

“Oh?” The woman’s eyes widened in recognition. “This is the lad, then? The one who was taking the tests?”

I narrowed my eyes in confusion— something she picked up on. “Word travels fast, Mr. Clarke.”

No wonder so many guys in the books fancy her. I thought, taking a sharp breath. Pretty, easygoing, and smart— hard for most girls to compete with that.

Madam Rosmerta extended a hand over the counter, giving me a soft smile. “Rosmerta’s the name. Owner of this humble little pub.”

I took her hand, Hagrid chuckling at the woman’s words. “Nice to meet you. Adam Clarke.”

“Quite the strong name.” She said, her eyes glittering. “Simple, dependable.”

Common and worthless. Came the instant reply in my mind, cutting through my previous nervous energy. I smiled back with false politeness. The orphanage workers probably named me in less than five seconds— even Riddle had an identity with meaning, nevermind that he threw it away.

“Thank you.” I said and drew my arm away.

“To Diagon, then?” Rosmerta turned to the big man, who nodded and began to reach into one of his many pockets. She waved him off. “None of that, now.”

She turned back to me with a smile. “First time’s for free, Mr. Clarke!”

“Oh! Thank you.” I said, smiling again for good measure.

Not a bad business strategy, all things considered. I wondered how much it would normally cost, but didn’t feel up to asking.

“You’re most welcome.” She nodded and waved her wand, sending three bottles of butterbeer flying over my shoulder. I followed the bottles’ trajectory to the hands of the table of rowdy men I’d spied upon entering the place. “Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

I watched the woman walk over to a small table and begin taking orders.

“This way.” Hagrid stepped ahead towards the fireplace. “Yeh ever used Floo powder before?”

I shook my head as I saw the sign beside it, which said:

3 Knuts For The Floo!
No Discounts!

“No. But it seemed simple enough: handful of powder, into the fire, walk into it when the flames turn green and speak the destination clearly.”

Hagrid nodded, smiling as he gestured for me to go first. “You’re a sharp one, all right. And make sure to shut yer eyes and keep yer elbows tucked in while traveling. Could get some nasty bruises if yeh don’t.”

“Right…” I stepped forward, taking a handful of the powder and staring at the merry, crackling flames. I threw it in the fire, watching as a conflagration of green erupted out of the oranges and yellows of the flames, overtaking them in an instant.

“Go on.” Hagrid encouraged me as I took a few steps forward into the fire. It was warm, like a summer breeze, and not the Hellish blaze I’d been half-expecting.

Good to know the old ‘fire bad’ instincts are still functioning properly.

“Diagon Alley.” I spoke the destination in a clear voice and felt myself get whisked away by the flame.

I shut my eyes and kept my elbows tucked in as I weathered the infernal spinning the ride took me through. My mostly empty stomach made great protests, but the trip was soon over, I thought as I stumbled into a new place, dizzy and covered in soot.

I looked around, trying to get my bearings together. Realizing that I was where I needed to be, I sighed in relief, patting the ash and soot off of me while the fire roared green from behind me, revealing the massive Hagrid.

“Good.” He said, patting himself down before doing the same for me, finding places I hadn’t yet cleaned off properly. “Yeh made it, safe and sound.”

Hagrid missed the frown on my face as he went to greet the owner, Tom. What could he have possibly done if I had said my destination wrong?

Next to nothing, I’d wager. I felt part of me smirk with dark amusement. Your body would likely never be found.

I ignored whatever conversation they had until it was time to enter the Alley.

As the bricks parted to reveal the shopping district, I only had one thing to say.

“It’s so… empty.” I said, noting the lack of people. “Nothing like before.”

“Aye.” Hagrid said in agreement. “No summer or holiday rush.”

I nodded as the large man led me to the big, white marble building. Gringotts.

We passed a harried looking wizard inside, but I did not pay him much mind, instead staring at the goblins with open curiosity.

The teller, sallow faced with a permanent frown, saw Hagrid and gave him the stink eye. “Yes?”

Hagrid dug into his coat and produced a piece of paper, handing it to the teller. 

“I see.” The goblin turned his eyes to me, eyes narrowed— with what, I couldn’t say. “Hornbrook!”

Another goblin, this one stockier in build, stopped what he was doing and came over.

The teller shoved Hagrid’s paper into Hornbrook’s hands with a disgusted sneer. “Here, take them to Vault 777— and keep an eye on the big one for any more funny business.

The other goblin— Hornbrook— glared at the both of us, turned and gestured for us to follow, missing the wince on Hagrid’s face as we did as we were bid.

Do they blame him for the summer break in, maybe? I thought. I suppose that it would only be appropriate to suspect him, considering the timing.

“All right, Adam?” Hagrid said as he noticed I was lagging behind.

“Yes.” I said and matched their pace. “It’s my first time here. Professor Snape didn’t bring me over when we were shopping for supplies.”

“Aye.” Hagrid said as we entered the underground tunnels. “He must’ve withdrawn the money beforehand.”

“Must have.” I agreed, getting onto the cart.

What came next was the most exhilarating rollercoaster ride of my life— old one included.

The cart, seemingly driving itself, twisted, turned, swerved and took nosedives through tunnels and over a gorgeous, underground lake covered with stalagmites and stalactites.

I’m so glad I didn’t eat so much today. I thought as Hornbrook began to speak; the mine cart began to settle down as it reached its destination.

“Vault 777.” He declared, handing the paper back to me and heading towards the vault. “You’re instructed to take three Galleons, fifteen Sickles, and fifteen Knuts. I will ensure that you do not take more. Any attempts at thievery will be met with swift, goblin justice.”

Hagrid grumbled something unkind under his breath, but did not rise to the bait.

“All right; you stay in.” Hagrid said, getting off. Seeing my questioning look, he elaborated. “Ministry orders, for security.”

I hid the scoff and watched the goblin open up the vault for Hagrid, finding the very notion ridiculous. Security, my ass. This place’s security has already been breached by Quirrell. They should be on their hands and knees thanking Hagrid: Voldemort would have already returned, had he not taken the Stone when he did.

Hagrid came back and boarded the cart, handing me the money. “Here you go, Adam.”

“Thanks, Hagrid.” I said, making sure to count it all as Hornbrook joined us.

I was quick to put the money into my pocket, averting a disaster when Hornbrook immediately launched the cart.

This fucking cunt… I suppressed the anger, realizing how petty these goblins could be. No wonder no one likes them! ‘Lawyer Goblin Justfinger’, my ass!

The anger cooled by the time we exited the building.

“All right, Adam. Think you can get yer things on yer own?” Hagrid said, nodding to me. “I have some shopping of my own to do, you see.”

Never before had I been so glad that Hagrid was one of the most irresponsible people I’d ever met.

“Um… All right.” I said, barely able to hide the glee from my face. “I think I can handle it.”

“Good. That’s good.” He said, looking relieved. He pointed towards the direction of Flourish and Blotts. “You’ll find all of yer required books there, I reckon.”

“Right.” I said, pulling my list of required school supplies out. “How long will you be gone for?”

“Not sure. How about an hour?” Hagrid said, adding “just to be safe” under his breath.

“That sounds good.” I nodded and walked away, stopping for a moment to give the large man a wave. “I’ll be waiting there, then!”

And with that, I was off.

The cheerful jingle of coins filled the air as I traversed the cobbled path, snow drifting off of the ceilings of the many shops lining the winding road.

Having money again… I thought, tilting my head as the sounds brought forth long forgotten images of my past life. Feels downright strange.

Purchasing the books took less than ten minutes. The clerks had been somewhat mystified by my presence, but when I mentioned the name Hagrid and shopping, they nodded in understanding, sending me pitying looks.

It was all I could do not to laugh. I exited, two Galleons and some change lighter but many books heavier. All they had was second-hand— it made sense, considering they wouldn’t expect to sell any new textbooks while the school year was still going— but that didn’t bother me.

Saving money was never a bad thing in my book.

It took some walking around, but I eventually found myself in front of the Apothecary. Entering through the doors, I grimaced as I was hit with the stench of bad eggs and rotted cabbages.

“How can I help you, dear?” The clerk behind the desk, a woman in her twenties, said. She looked bored. “Have you lost your parents?”

I shook my head. “No, I’m just exploring. I’m here with Mr. Hagrid to shop for supplies.”

She nodded in understanding. “Oh, of course.”

I stifled a snort. Is there anyone who doesn’t know about Hagrid’s… quirks?

“So, what’re you looking for?” She moved around the desk and made her way to me.

“I was just hoping to browse.” I said. “I want to try my hand at a few simple potions.”

She gave me a once over, as if not quite sure what to make of me.

“Very well. Have at it, then, Mr…” She said, fishing for a name.

I obliged her and extended a hand. “Clarke.”

“Well met, Mr. Clarke.” She gave it a firm shake and directed me to the left. “You’ll find a fair few ingredients for… simple potions there.”

I nodded and moved away from her, keeping my eyes peeled and taking note of everything I saw.

She’s right. I thought, perusing the shelves lined with everything from frog parts to various herbs, as well as the various claws hanging from the ceiling. But the prices on these are pretty crazy. Six Galleons for leeches? One Galleon for a sprig of lavender?

It was insane. This place must’ve been raking in the money. Suddenly, all of the harvesting that Hagrid did— and now me— seemed a lot more significant.

The amount of money they must save on growing their own herbs and creatures— maybe they even turn a profit!

I shook my head and grabbed a few ingredients— enough to make a few boil cure potions. I continued my exploration of the place, noting everything’s position until my eyes landed on the special section.

It was a circular table, placed at the corner of the store nearest to the counter, and filled with expensive looking products.

Bingo. I thought, catching a glimpse of what I was looking for. I came in for a closer look.

At the center of the table lay a series of dragon-shaped vials filled with a dark red liquid. The tag beside them read:

50G͓̽

Holy— fifty a piece! I stared at the vials long enough for the clerk to clear her throat behind me. That’s daylight robbery!

“Something the matter, dear?”

Jumping, I swiveled to her and plastered on a nervous smile, hoping it would be enough. “Oh, um. I was just looking at the vials. The design on the glass looks wicked.”

As far as improvised lines went, I didn’t think it was particularly convincing, but the woman bought it with a roll of her eyes.

She stared down at the small containers in my hand, putting two and two together. “Hmm… making boil cure potion, are we?”

I nodded, keeping the same smile on my face.

“Well, come on, then.” The woman said and led me to her desk to ring everything up.

“That will be eleven Sickles and three Knuts, Mr. Clarke.”

Wordlessly, I handed her the money, which she counted with the ease of someone who’d been doing it for years.

“Very good.” The clerk nodded as a couple entered the store. “Welcome!”

“Thank you.” I said, but she didn’t even hear me, busy as she was with the new customers. I made my way out of the shop at a slow pace, making sure to take note of everything I could.

I would be coming back to this place, at some point— and certainly not for boil cure potion ingredients.

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