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Grand Theft Blood

Feb 17, 1992, 6:00 PM, Halls of Hogwarts

I still couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Draco Malfoy following me— why? Was he so invested in his vendetta that he was willing to seek me out at any time?

What was even more confusing was the strange, almost desperate look I’d seen on his face, which threw a wrench in my vendetta theory.

If he’s going for revenge, why did he look so downtrodden? More than that; why didn’t he bring Thing 1 and Thing 2 along for the ride? I thought, scratching the back of my head as I shifted to the right, avoiding what would have been a collision with an older Hufflepuff— oh look, it’s Cedric Diggory— who looked to be in a hurry.

I watched him walk away for a while, before finding a nearby, empty room and undoing my Disillusionment Charm.

It wouldn’t do to get lost in thought and then bowl someone over due to my inattention. My skill with Disillusionment was a secret I intended on keeping for as long as I could.

The rest of the trip went without further incident. I passed through the doors of the Library and felt the glare of the resident vulture fixate on me.

I felt my mouth quirk in amusement as I caught a short glimpse of the woman in question.

Nice to know that some things are still the same. I thought.

As far as Madam Pince was concerned, my rapid progression only meant that I would sully even more of her precious books.

I shook my head, feeling rueful. Guilty as charged, I suppose.

I found the group at the usual study table, already hard at work. They hadn’t waited for me. I didn’t blame them— I think they finished their classes nearly an hour before I did.

The only one facing my direction raised her head at my approach and smiled, her black eyes glinting with happiness. “Adam, you made it.”

The rest of the group turned in their seats, sending me nods and smiles of greeting before going back to what they were doing.

“Hey, everyone.” I greeted, keeping my voice low as I circled the table and took a seat next to her. “Sorry I’m late. Got held up by a few things.”

“I thought as much.” Tony nodded in understanding, lifting a rolled up copy of the Daily Prophet. “Word is that you’re a rising star.”

I grimaced in disgust, letting out a faint groan. “Please, don’t.”

“Don’t ‘what’, exactly?” Tony said; he seemed to be enjoying himself, I realized. “Don’t talk about how your star power is going to sweep us all away?”

This sent a wave of amusement through the group; Su giggled, Ron snorted, and Potter cracked an awkward smile.

Hermione, on the other hand, hadn’t even acknowledged me past her initial greeting.

I sent a look towards the rest, and they all shook their heads.

I pursed my lips in understanding; ever since I’d been announced as a Second Year, Hermione’s behavior had changed. It was unnoticeable to most people, but to us, it was like a lighthouse in the dead of night.

I’d expected a bit of jealousy— well, a lot of it, really. It was only natural for anyone to react in this way. Who wouldn’t wish to be proclaimed as a prodigy?

But it wasn’t jealousy which was driving Hermione now; no, it was her determination to succeed.

I watched her poring over a book on Transfiguration before Su poked my shoulder to get my attention.

“Yeah?”

“Did you have a good day, Adam?”

My mouth twisted into a half-smile.

“Yes, I did.” I said. “The Second Years are still pretty leery of me joining their ranks. There’s one that was even almost… unpleasant about it.”

Su looked sad at that.

“I’m sorry, Adam.” Su said, grasping my shoulder to offer me some support.

“It’s all right.” I said, nodding towards what she was working on. “Any progress with what we were practicing earlier?”

A gleam of excitement appeared in her eyes, answering my question before she’d even spoken.

Su nodded, smiling nervously. “I think I’ve got a good handle on the spell now.”

“That’s great!” I nodded again. “Then I look forward to seeing it in action later.”

Her smile turned a bit more brittle at the prospect of having to do a live performance. I held off on the snort, instead sending her an encouraging smile.

Confidence issues reaching the Moon, that one has. I thought with fondness.

“Tomorrow?” She said, now timid.

“How about Sunday afternoon, instead?” I said, getting her to relax. “This Saturday— I want to do nothing but sleep in bed all day.”

At that, Tony chuckled before looking over his shoulder in mild paranoia.

“Afraid she’ll come and get you?” I asked.

“You should’ve seen him earlier, Clarke.” Ron said, sharing a grin with his best mate. “He made this strange sound with his—”

“Yeah…” Tony cut in, leaning forward with an almost aggressive purpose. “Let’s not talk about the sound that I definitely did not make.

Potter raised both hands in surrender, a look of innocent confusion on his face. “What sound?”

Even Hermione, deep in her books, shook with suppressed laughter.

I smiled, glad to see that she wasn’t gone to the world, before blinking in realization.

I suppose this is what the others see when I get drawn into one of my brain storms. I thought, shifting in my chair as I noticed Harry, Ron and Tony staring at me.

“What’s with the looks?” I said, bringing my hand up to touch my cheek. “Is there something on my face?”

“What do you want?” Ron said, the abruptness and hostility of his voice clueing me onto the fact that there was someone behind me.

I swear to God… I thought as I turned, seeing my newest stalker. Of course, it’s him. He’s being rather persistent this time, isn’t he?

“Clarke.” The blonde boy said, nodding his head towards the exit. “A word?”

I opened my mouth and closed it, not sure how to react to this development.

“Sod off, Malfoy.” Ron said, eyes narrowed in a glare. “No one wants you here.”

“Yeah.” Tony agreed. “Why don’t you go back the way you came? Take those two brutes with you— where are they, anyway?”

Malfoy bristled as the boy looked around for Crabbe and Goyle. I knew, however, that he would not find them.

“I can go and get Madam Pince, Adam.” Hermione said, having shifted her attention off of her books.

“Fine.” Malfoy said, shaking his head and turning to leave.

I blinked and watched him walk away for a few moments before getting up to follow.

“Adam!” Came the confused noise from Hermione. “What are you doing?”

“What’s it look like?” I shot back as I hurried after the kid. “Watch my things, will you?”

“He’s gone bloody mad, he has. What do you reckon, Su—” I heard Ron exclaim before I got too far away from them to be able to hear the conversation.

I spied Malfoy, who was hurrying out of the Library like a bat out of Hell. I blinked and hurried as well to catch up, wondering just what the blazes my dumbass was doing.

What the fuck are you doing, you fool? My mind screamed at me. Have you forgotten who this is?

I hadn’t.

Let me remind you then, just in case. The voice continued. This is the boy who’s been following you since the start of the year, attacking you every chance he got, and for what? Because the two rich, noble cunts he calls parents had a steamy night together and you were born to people with no magic? Are you so—

Enough. I thought, drawing my wand and preparing myself in case of a trap. I saw the expression on his face when he was following me, and the one here. That’s not the face of a person looking for a fight.

I’d seen many faces like this in my past life, as well as in the orphanage. That, in fact, is the face of someone who’s feeling lost and defeated. What the Hell happened to him, to make him be this way?

I caught up enough to start calling after him. “Malfoy!”

The blonde stopped, forcing himself to turn and blinking in mild surprise as he saw me approach. He stood still, his grey eyes glued to the ebony stick held in my right hand.

It wasn’t long before he and I were standing a few feet apart from each other, but the boy’s eyes hadn’t changed position.

“Malfoy.” I said again, raising my voice to get his attention.

He finally drew his grey eyes up to meet mine, but only pursed his lips, swallowing.

“You said you wanted a word, Malfoy?” I said, tilting my head.

Malfoy only looked away.

Great, now he decides to lose his nerve? I rolled my eyes, turned and prepared to walk away, hands still keeping a tight hold on my wand. “All right. Come find me again when you actually want to talk.”

“No, wait!” He cried out, his voice gaining an almost desperate note.

I stopped, hiding a smile as I turned back to him. I killed my amusement, instead adopting a neutral expression.

“All right, then.” I said, giving him a nod and still keeping an eye out for any sudden interlopers. “Let’s hear it.”

“I wanted to say that I’m sorry!” The boy said in a rush, nearly screaming the words out.

What the fuck. I would have laughed, had what he said not sent me into a rollercoaster of confusion. Did Malfoy just apologize to me?

“Come again?” I said before coughing and clearing my now dry throat. “You’re sorry?”

“…Yes.” The boy repeated, looking away from me once more. Saying those very words seemed to pain him.

I narrowed my eyes and tried to wrap my head around the situation.

Stall.

“Is this a joke, Malfoy?” I said, still not convinced by all of this. I looked around, holding my wand at the ready as I waited for the boy’s cohorts to show up. “Some kind of elaborate ruse to lure me out where your little group of buddies is probably waiting?”

“No.” Draco was quick to deny, irritation spreading over his face against his will. “I didn’t want them coming with me. Took ages to lose them.”

He doesn’t seem to be faking it. I thought, eyes narrowing. Am I underestimating his ability to lie? He’s already tried to get Potter into trouble with the whole ‘midnight duel’ thing…

“Right…” I said, keeping my wand up. “So, what exactly are you apologizing for?”

When in doubt, fish for information. I thought. Maybe he’ll let something slip.

That seemed to stump him. “What?”

“You said sorry, right?” I pushed the issue, watching his nod of confirmation. “I presume that there’s something you’re apologizing for?”

The boy stared at me for a few moments before shaking his head. “You know why.”

No, no getting off easy for you, blondie. “I’m afraid I don’t. Why don’t you enlighten me?”

“For following you and…” Draco blurted out, bristling as he attempted to lower the tone of his voice. He said something else, too low for me to catch, and then he clammed up.

Interesting.

“I didn’t catch that last part, Malfoy.” I narrowed my eyes, as if that would somehow help me hear things better. “And… what?”

He didn’t answer for the longest time. “For calling you a Mu—” 

Draco stopped himself from finishing that word.

I stifled a laugh. The spoiled, racist, filthy rich kid stereotype, Draco Malfoy, was apologizing to me for said racism? 

Pull the other one. I narrowed my eyes at the boy again. No, something else is definitely at play here. But what?

“So, what’s really going on, Malfoy?” I threw him a curveball.

“What…?” Malfoy gaped, before mastering himself and hastening to add. “No, I’m just apologizing, that’s all.”

It was too late, however.

Gotcha.

“Not that I don’t appreciate you coming out here and following me after Charms—” I stopped, smiling at the expression of dawning realization coming onto the boy’s face. “Oh yes; you were quite hard to miss, Draco. Those nice shoes of yours can be heard from a mile away.”

“Wha—”

“It’s just that…” I cut him off. “I don’t see you as the apologizing kind, you know? Certainly not giving one to a Mudblood, of all people.”

His eyes widened at my use of the slur.

“Fascinating word, really.” I said. “Mudblood. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Quite nice; Mudblood!”

“You…” Draco said, totally lost at this point. “It’s an insult, Clarke.”

“So it is.” I said, raising an eyebrow. “What’s your point?”

“You’re not supposed to like it.” He insisted, shaking his head in dismay. “That’s the point.”

“I’m not supposed to, no.” I said in agreement. “But you are mistaken about something, Malfoy; I never said I liked it, now did I?”

Draco didn’t have an answer to that, so I took it as a sign to continue.

“I just find it amusing, that’s all.” I explained, moving to lean on the wall to my left, inviting him to do the same. “It’s a meaningless word.”

“What are you…” Draco moved in front of me, not at all comfortable.

“Well.” I said. “I’ve bled before, and it seemed pretty red to me, Draco. Not at all like mud.”

“Don’t be stupid, Clarke.” Draco snapped, fire entering his eyes and a flushing red with annoyance. “That’s not what it means, and you know it.”

I smiled without mirth, my eyes as cold as chips of ice. “Of course, I know it. The reality is like I said: it’s a word with no true meaning or purpose.”

Draco shook his head again and looked like he was about to explode.

I stifled the sigh and raised my index, bringing his attention to my wand again.

“Hear me out, Malfoy. And then, we can both go our separate ways.” I said, nearing the limits of my patience. “Deal?”

Draco closed his mouth and swallowed, his sense of self-preservation winning out over whatever nonsense his family had shoved into his head.

“Go on.” He said with a nod.

“What’s the difference between you and I?” I said. “Excluding the obvious things like money, of course.”

“Your kind, you take our…” Draco was about to speak further, but the sight of my wand stayed his tongue.

I lowered it as a show of good faith. “Don’t worry; I’m honestly curious as to what you think.”

“I…”

“I don’t mean what your parents think, or even what your friends think.” I cut in, trying to be gentle. “They’re not the ones I’m asking this question to; what do you, Draco Malfoy, think?”

Draco reeled as if slapped. I doubted he’d ever been asked a question like this before.

He isn’t ready for a talk like this. I realized with some disappointment. I suppose there’s no point to drag this out any further.

“You’re a smart wizard. Just think about it.” I said, stowing my wand in my robe’s pocket. “I accept your apology.”

Draco swallowed, turned and left without another word.

I watched him go, wondering when the dream was going to end. This is too ridiculous to be a dream, to be honest.

Still, I wondered, for a moment, how much of what I told him would stick.

The Grey Lady glided closer to me, eyeing me with a certain curiosity. Was she trying to gather some juicy gossip for the other ghosts? I shook my head; she didn’t seem the type, really.

“Adam.” I heard Hermione’s voice come from behind.

I turned towards her with surprise, forgetting about the weird ghost for the time being. “Hermione. You heard all that?”

She nodded; a conflicted look settled in her eyes.

“Well, what did you think?” I said, gesturing at the boy as he turned a corner and disappeared from our sight. 

“He’s vile.” Hermione said, glaring at the last spot he stood in. “And petty, and a bully.”

I nodded in agreement. She hadn’t answered my question— not really.

“All true statements. But…” I said, letting the last word hang in the air.

“But…?” Hermione repeated, not quite following.

“But is that who he really is, or what his family raised him to be?” I asked.

Hermione’s frown deepened. “I don’t know.”

“I’ll admit, Hermione: I, too, don’t have a clue.” I said. “That’s why I’m giving him a chance. Maybe he can be better, and not let others mold him into whatever shape they want him to be.”

“That’s very kind of you, Adam.” The girl said, but, from the look on her face, I could tell that she wasn’t at all convinced of the boy’s chances.

“Thanks.” I said, pushing off of the wall. “Let’s head back? I’ll help you with what you’re studying.”

Hermione beamed, leading the way back to the Library. “Yes!”

oooo

Feb 17, 1992, 9:00 PM, Ravenclaw Dorms

“You sure you don’t want to play a few games?” Tony asked for the fifth time, not taking the hint.

“Yes.” I gave him an almost saccharine smile, overflowing with such false sweetness that it took the boy aback. “You should play a few with Su. I’ve got some things to do before bed.”

Tony nodded, looking irritated with me. “Fine. See you tomorrow.”

With that, he left.

I closed the door behind me, feeling the anticipation of what was to come overwhelm my body with a magnificent rush.

I worked to get my breathing under control.

I’m about to commit at least three crimes tonight. I thought, shaking the anticipation off with limited success.

I supposed it was better than being a nervous wreck.

I started by Summoning all of my notes regarding diagnostic spells, as well as anything even remotely related to blood and its uses before placing them at the center of the room.

Incendio!”

I opened the window as I watched the haphazard pile of parchment burst into flames.

I stifled a wince, wondering whether I was being too paranoid, before shaking my head. This is a literal paper trail. Getting rid of it is the right move.

It was one thing to snatch books from the Restricted Section and return them shortly thereafter; but, having notes with specific information on the sort of spells I would be using to get to my target was something else altogether.

The last of the fire died, leaving nothing but a pile of ash in its wake.

I leveled my wand at the pile. “Scourgify.

The ashes vanished. I left the window open as I moved about my room, getting all of my things ready.

Discarding my Hogwarts robes, I donned a simple, black cloak over my old orphanage castoffs; the cloak was a gift from Hagrid for my first week at work, though it had been burgundy, at the time.

Magic really is incredible. I thought. One spell and I dyed the whole thing in an instant. It’s a wonder there’s even a clothing industry at all.

What was the point of getting new clothes if you could keep your own in tip top condition for the rest of your life?

I shook my head. Now was not the time to get lost in tangents.

Focus. I thought, checking myself over. The clothes are simple enough not to point anywhere specific, and the hood will hide my face, in case someone breaks my Disillusionment Charm.

“I’m ready.” I murmured, nodding to myself before turning to my bed and messing about with the pillows to make it look like I was asleep.

“All right.” I stepped back and exhaled. Time to go.

I checked myself in the mirror for one last time before I cast the Disillusionment Charm, tapping the wand atop my head; my hooded form shimmered out of sight.

I nodded to myself and nudged the door open slightly, peeking out of the gap to see if there was anyone standing outside of the First Year rooms.

Coast is clear. I exited the room, closed the door behind me, and made my way down the stairs and through the common room.

I spied Tony and Su, who were sitting together near the fire and playing chess, speaking to each other in low tones.

Glad to see they’re spending time together and learning to get along. I thought and forced myself to look ahead.

However nice it would have been to hang around and play with my two friends, I had a mission to accomplish.

Everything I’ve done so far, all of my preparations will be for tonight.

I reached the exit of Ravenclaw Tower and waited, losing myself in the buzz of conversation, the crackle of the fireplace and the steady ticks and tocks of the Common Room’s clock for a while.

It was some time before the entrance opened, revealing a Fifth Year girl.

This one’s in the Quidditch team— a reserve, I think?

I hugged the wall, watching as she passed me by, filling the air with the overpowering scent of jasmine, freesia and rose.

Bloody Hell, that stinks. I scrunched my nose and resisted the urge to wave the aromas away, instead moving out of the Tower before the door could close.

I maintained my stride, taking a breath of clean air as I made a face. That was rank. Someone needs to send that girl to a few perfume etiquette courses.

Once I was far enough away from the Tower, I relaxed and let my feet carry me out of the Castle proper and onto the grounds, casting a charm to keep myself warm.

The night sky was alive with raw energy, a veritable treat for the eyes as they glittered with cozy warmth in a vast, dark sea of endless cold.

A slow tension steadily creeped its way through my body, taking me in its soft, but deceptive grip.

I passed Hagrid’s hut, seeing a short glimpse of the big man behind one of his windows.

Making sure to keep low and slow, I snatched a few of the fresh rabbits he kept and brought them along, making sure to Disillusion them, as well as erase my tracks.

From there, the trip to the thestral’s territory took another ten minutes.

Absol was right where I expected her to be. Her eyes found mine, bypassing my invisibility with frightening ease.

I smiled and lifted the dead rabbits, cancelling the spell and reappearing in the clearing.

“Brought you something.” I said, throwing the rabbits forward.

Absol pounced on them like a ravening lion, tearing into her food with ferocity and wild abandon.

It was always humbling to see.

If she really wanted to, she could kill me before I could even react. I thought, always fascinated by her feeding. No amount of knowledge would save me, then.

Someday, I would have to figure out some kind of permanent, physical defense against these kinds of creatures.

Projects for the future. I smiled with amusement mixed in with the slightest hint of trepidation. Bold of me to assume that I’ll be coming home from this.

You’re committing burglary, not going into the deepest vault of Gringotts. Part of me scoffed. You think some clerk is going to fight you to the death over a fucking bottle?

I shook my head. You never know with these wizards. Total nutcases, every last one of them!

I settled down with Absol, relaxing as I felt her body’s heat wash over mine. At the edge of my vision, I saw the lustrous forms of the other thestrals frolicking around the treeline and squawking at one another.

I smiled and leaned into my friend. “Are you up for a trip tonight, Absol?”

Absol nudged my head with a weak chirp, her breath reeking of rabbit and blood.

“Still too bloated, eh.” I said, getting a mischievous look. “Maybe we should start you on a diet.”

That earned me a poke from her beak, sending a light lance of pain through my right shoulder.

I reached up and rubbed it with a hiss of pain. “I was kidding. You know I’d never do that to you, Absol.”

Absol crooned and leaned into me, mollified by that statement. I smiled as the pain faded, before looking up into the sky again.

“I never used to know any of the stars’ names, before.” I said. “On my old Earth, I mean.”

Absol rumbled, acknowledging my words and telling me to continue in one move.

“There was no point to knowing them, really.” I said, shaking my head. “What’s the use of memorizing constellations if city lights hide them from view?”

I sighed, rubbing my eyes before turning my gaze to the Moon in the distance. “Now I can name so many that it would boggle my old self’s mind. Being in this world was something I always dreamed about, but now that I’m here, part of me just wants to go home. Is that weird?”

Absol didn’t answer, content to rest and digest her food in peace. I supposed I shouldn’t have expected one.

It was some time before Absol rumbled again, nudging me to show that she was ready.

I nodded and got to my feet, giving myself a quick pat down before turning to my friend. “You sure you’re good?”

Absol nodded, presenting her side to me so I could have an easier time placing the straps I’d been using on her. Grabbing one, I twisted quickly and used the momentum from that to get my small, scrawny butt up on the thestral’s silken back.

I’m so glad I practiced this move beforehand. I smiled, patting Absol’s neck a few times. My first attempts had been nothing short of horror fests.

I held onto the strap, tying it securely around my hand before shifting my knees to rest behind her wing joints.

With my other hand, I drew my wand and Disillusioned the both of us.

“All right.” I said, stowing it away. “I’m ready, Absol. Let’s take a trip to Diagon Alley.” 

Absol unfurled her massive, leathery wings before crouching. In the moment it took for me to blink, we’d rocketed up, already reaching halfway to the top of the massive trees of the Forbidden Forest.

I felt the rush of air press down on me with the weight of five Hagrids as my friend passed the treeline in less than a second, soaring to the southeast— in the general direction of London.

Fast. I could barely hear my own thoughts over the tremendous roar of the wind around us. I bent forward as well as I could to protect myself from the slipstream. 

A few seconds later, I could see the mountains beneath, looking up at us as if we were the stars, themselves.

I love this. I thought, my gaze drawn to the Moon on my left, and then to Hogsmeade, below.

I lost track of the time, instead focusing on the vast stretches of land unfolding in the distance. I spied the lights of a few small towns, marveling at how minuscule they appeared from my position.

It would be a few hours until I finally reached London, I realized with a shiver. Casting that Warming Charm before taking this trip was a good decision, though it’s doing a lot less than I hoped it would.

I wondered how bad things would have been had I not cast it, before shivering again.

Very bad. I reckoned. I suppose there’s nothing to do but enjoy the view.

The time could have been used to go over my plan again, but it was as simple as plans could get: disable the store’s defenses, get in, take the dragon’s blood, get out.

I shook my head and let myself get lost in my surroundings, trusting in Absol to take me where I needed to go.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, I heard Absol’s chirp as she tilted downwards, revealing the orange lights of London below us.

I shook myself out of my boredom induced haze and held onto her with all of the strength my small body could muster.

There was no need to worry, however; Absol landed with the grace of a cat, the only sign of her arrival being the small breeze created by her flapping wings. I glanced at our surroundings and slid off of her back, sighing in relief.

Firm land. I thought, stretching my limbs to work the stiffness out of my body, and looked around.

The streets were empty; a few street lights lined the alley— lit by magic, no doubt— but the stores were dark and well shut.

I undid the strap around my hand and gave Absol a few pats. “Wait for me here, won’t you?”

The invisible thestral gave me a light nudge to show that she understood.

“Thanks, Absol.” I said. “I’ll come to you when I’m ready. Even if there’s trouble, just wait here, okay?”

She nudged me again, and I smiled. Good girl.

And with that, I turned and stared at my target. Thestrals are scary. Absol has probably never been here, but she got me within a ridiculously short distance of the place. Hell, she could have dropped me on the roof, but she took the time to find a small corner of the Alley and landed there to avoid as much notice as she could.

“You are one amazing friend, Absol.” I said, getting another nudge— this time, towards the shop.

Yeah, yeah. I snorted in amusement for a few moments before the apprehension and excitement wiped it away. Time to start ‘Operation: Grand Theft Blood.’

I crossed the street and stood before the shop’s entrance, unable to see anything past the door.

I drew my wand.

Time to get to work. I thought, pointing the wand at the door and keeping my voice as low as a whisper. “Inspicere.”

The wand’s tip lit up with a faint red.

I frowned and began the second stage of the spell, running the wand in a lambda pattern. “Inspicere Empiricus.

A second later, my eyes unfocused as a rush of information hit my mind.

Thank you, fanon, for the great spell idea. The thought rose, one among many in the jumble of information being slammed through my forehead. I see. So, the door’s got a Locking Charm, with some kind of alarm spell layered into it if the door ever becomes unlocked, or if the spell is lifted.

If I used the Unlocking Charm, or the General Counter-Spell, the alarm would, without a doubt, trigger and ruin the whole operation before it even started.

Tricky.

I turned my gaze to the windows of the place and re-cast my Inspection Spell, nodding after analyzing the results. Same story. No matter— I have another idea.

I turned my wand to another part of the door and re-cast the spell. The wand’s tip lit up with blue. Bingo.

I shook my head at the sheer ridiculousness of it. Those lockpicking videos on YouTube are finally coming in handy. Why go for the lock when I can go for the door hinges?

Even better, the alarm was tied to the Locking Charm, itself— since I’m not technically undoing the charm, everything should go well; at least, in theory

I swished and flicked my wand, levitating the hinge pins out of their spots, ready to run away at the slightest sign that the alarm spell would go off.

Taking a deep breath, I took the final hinge pin out and bit my lower lip as the door shifted downwards from the pull of gravity.

Nothing happened. No alarm, no hidden trap, nothing.

I didn’t dare to celebrate, as I still had to— very slowly— open the damn thing from the wrong side. I focused and cast the Levitation Charm one more time, trembling as I moved the door open inch by inch, expecting to trigger the alarm at any second.

Come on… Just a few more inches.

I took a deep breath and deepened my concentration, managing to create an opening just large enough for me to fit my small body through. Exhaling through my nose, I took a few seconds to get a hold of myself, looking around to see if there was anyone watching.

Clear. I thought and turned to the dark gap I’d created, swallowing. Right. Unto the breach.

It was a tighter fit than I’d hoped, I thought as I was hit with the off-putting stench of herbs and various animal parts. I didn’t dare take another step forward; the darkness ahead was foreboding and drove a chill through me, despite the shop’s warm air.

I stood there, forcing my breathing under control as I held my wand aloft and cast the Wand-Lighting Charm. Lumos.

My surroundings lit up with an eerie silver, and I took a moment to run through my memory of the inside. The Dragon’s Blood should be to the right.

I stepped forward on the tips of my toes, testing each board under my feet before fully committing. It took a long, long time, but I eventually found myself in front of the Apothecary’s special table, staring down at all of the expensive potions and ingredients.

Jackpot. I thought, snuffing out the light with a quick Nox and holding the wand over the table. “Inspicere.

The tip of my wand lit up with red again. Figures.

I supposed I couldn’t blame them for the extra security. The contents of this table were probably worth at least ten times more than the rest of the store, combined.

Moving my wand in the lambda pattern again, I invoked the next stage of my spell. “Inspicere Empiricus.”

I closed my eyes, frowning as I took in the complexity of this particular spell. These are apothecary shopkeepers. What the heck is this?

Moving anything on the table would trigger another alarm— with the same anti-dispel protection as the door, which I expected. What I hadn’t expected was the subtle weaving of some kind of curse over the table’s surface.

My eyes unfocused again for a few seconds, before going wide with understanding; a petrification curse.

If I touched that table, or anything sitting on top, I would trigger the curse and be petrified until someone found me, the next day.

I stifled a curse and stared at all the vials of Dragon’s Blood, their dragon-shaped, glass heads taunting me with beady little eyes.

I can’t grab anything, I can’t move anything with magic, I can’t undo the protections without triggering the petrification curse… What the fuck do I do, here!?

The minutes passed with agonizing slowness, and I found myself staring at the Apothecary’s doorway, wondering if I should leave while I still had the chance. It didn’t seem like I would be able to solve this problem.

Maybe, if I had the time to consider it, I could break out the paper and ink and get to—

That’s it! My mind roared as inspiration struck. The ink!

I felt myself smile a little. The spell I’d learned to refill my ink cartridges was going to be the one to help me get past this preposterous protection.

But, will it work?

I ran the simulations in my head for a few more grueling minutes, looking towards the exit on occasion, before nodding to myself. I couldn’t find a reason for it to fail, but it would be a massive risk.

I’ve come so far, already. I thought and lit my wand up again, moving towards a nearby shelf full of vials of potion. Why stop now?

Making sure to check the shelf for any protection spells beforehand, I snatched a vial of a similar size to the Dragon’s Blood glassware and inspected it before nodding. This’ll do.

I moved back towards the well protected table, undoing the Wand-Lighting Charm and holding my wand at the ready. With the vial in one hand, and my wand in the other, I performed the Switching Spell, hoping to God that this would work.

It was too dark to see what happened, but I could still move, so I knew I hadn’t triggered the curse, at least.

Lumos. My wand lit up once more, revealing the crimson liquid in the vial. Yes! I did it!

My elation didn’t last very long, as I heard voices approaching from outside.

Fuck! I thought, a sudden tidal wave of fear sweeping through and freezing me in place for a few moments. You couldn’t have waited five fucking minutes?

The voices got closer, and closer. I forced myself to move as slow as I could, killing the light as I approached the door.

Just keep walking. I thought. Just keep walking.

“Hey, you see this door?” One of them said, and I could tell it was a young man from the sheer excitement that bled from his voice.

“Aye.” The other one replied, his voice gruff and low. “Looks like we have found ourselves a thief, Whitshed.”

I was quick to realize that there could only be one way out of this.

This was what all the practice was about. I thought. I guess I’m about to find out how well I measure up to fully trained wizards.

I bit down on my fear and placed the vial in my pocket, my wand held at the ready. I waited until one of the men stood directly behind the door and made my move.

Depulso.

The door flew forward, tearing through the locks and taking the man behind it for a ride. I didn’t see what happened to him, as I moved to the side to avoid sudden spellfire from the other one.

A second later, the alarm sounded— a keening wail which set my teeth on edge. Still, I kept myself focused on the man peeking from the left side of the doorway.

“This doesn’t have to get ugly!” He shouted into the store. I felt, more than heard, the shift of the floorboards above. The owner was coming, and soon I would be fighting a battle on two fronts.

Shit. What should I do? I thought, even as I moved myself to the right, trying to get a bead on the fellow. He kept himself well covered, however.

He knew that, if I tried to wait for him to poke his head out, I would eventually get distracted by the owner.

New tactic. I thought and cast the Knockback Jinx on the window from his side, blasting shards of glass every which way.

I rushed out of the doorway like a madman, hoping the sudden chaos would act as a good enough distraction. I felt a spell clip my left shoulder, sending a line of searing pain through it— but he hadn’t caught me.

The man quickly rose to his feet and watched the small trail of blood I left behind as I tried to get away.

“Hidden, were we?” The man called out, and I dove, his follow-up spell flying overhead. “I can see you now.”

How?

I shook the thought off, realizing that there was no time to consider such a question. I had to make a getaway, but if he could see me, then I had to deal with him first.

A quick glance showed that his partner, Whitshed, was pinned beneath the door, unconscious. I could do this.

Fine. I thought, forcing myself to ignore the burning pain in my left shoulder. Let’s see if Quirrell’s ‘lessons’ came in handy.

I sent curse after curse at the man, but the Auror danced around my spells, his face shifting into an expression of amusement at my ineffectual attempts at hitting him. “Thieves, good at sneaking around like rats— but dueling?”

He blasted the stone beneath my feet, sending me stumbling to the right. A beam of red missed me by a hair’s breadth, dissipating into the stone with a hum.

“Piss poor performance, from what I can tell.” He laughed. “Stupefy!”

He almost had me, with that. I thought, scrambling to my feet as he sent another stunner.

I raised my wand and immersed myself in the unshakable confidence of my ability to defend.

Stronger than steel. Stronger than diamond.Protego!”

A thick, half dome of translucent white appeared in front of me, absorbing the red beam without issue.

“Well, well.” The man said, eyebrows raised. “Perhaps not as terrible as I thought. I’m impressed, actually! Let’s see how long you can maintain this, thief.”

And then, the onslaught came, just as strong and just as terrible as Quirrell’s had been. In a few seconds, I knew I wouldn’t last very long. I was already exhausted from everything I’d done before.

As if to prove my point, the shield cracked, drawing the Auror’s laugh again.

“Won’t be long, now!” He said, his enthusiasm renewed at the prospect of laying me low.

I wracked my mind for a solution, before my eyes lay on the small, coin shaped Shield Shard floating behind me.

My eyes narrowed. I have no choice but to try it.

I ignored the pain in my shoulder and raised my left hand, linking it with the shield and holding it in place— a neat little trick I picked up through experimentation; it wouldn’t reinforce the shield any longer, but it did free my wand up.

I didn’t waste a single moment, hovering the wand over the Shard behind me, and casting my next spell. “Praetexo!”

The Shard disappeared from view.

I concentrated further, spinning my wand in a circle as I imagined the shield’s edges were being honed to one as thin as an atom. “Protego Confindo!”

I cringed as another spell struck the shield, and, knowing the next one would break through, cast my next spell in a hurry. “Depulso!

I swung my wand wildly and dove to the side as my shield was torn in half by a slicing line of purple, cutting through the floor as if it were made of butter.

The man approached my downed form, looking down on me with a smirk.

“You had a bit of fight in you, thief, but you never had a—” He stopped and stared down at his stomach. “—chance?”

The man fell to his knees, letting go of his wand in favor of pressing his hands against his stomach. I scrambled away from him, watching as he dropped to his side, pushing harder into his midsection as blood pooled beneath him.

My spell connected. With horror, I realized what had happened. His stomach— I cut through it.

The pain in my shoulder flared, snapping me out of it.

I needed to leave, to get out of here as fast as possible.

“You…” I ignored the nameless Auror’s words in favor of stumbling to where the invisible Absol was supposed to be.

I felt her tongue running over my left shoulder and licking my blood, causing me to cringe in pain.

“Help me, girl.” I said, putting my wand in my pocket and doing my best to climb onto her back. With every failed try, I felt my panic rising, but on the fifth attempt I managed to get on.

The shopkeeper’s voice rang in the middle of the alley, and the sound of pops and cracks began to fill the cold, frigid air of the night.

The Aurors were here in force.

Tying the strap to my hand, I held onto Absol for dear life. “Get us outta here, Absol. Before they catch us.”

Absol wasted no time, rocketing past the roofs of London within half a second. Another two, and we were far above London, and flying back to Hogwarts.

I continued my silent vigil, half expecting the Aurors to follow us on brooms, but none came.

I’m not stopping until we’re at Hogwarts. I thought, hoping that my shoulder wound wasn’t too bad— ‘cause if it is, I’m in deep shit.

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