Feb 18, 1992, 4:50 AM, Far Above Lancashire
I had to stop. The pain was getting to be too much.
You can’t stop. I thought over the roar of the freezing winds. Don’t be a dumbass. They’ll catch you for sure, and then you can say goodbye to being a wizard.
I shook my head and cringed once more, my left shoulder sending fresh lances of pain through my upper body.
“Absol.” I said, my voice weak with tiredness and just barely able to be heard above the roar around us. “Set us down. I can’t…”
My faithful friend slowed her speed and tilted at a forty five degree angle, descending with a gentleness that never failed to surprise me, despite having come to expect it.
She touched down in the clearing, slowing her gait until it was safe for me to get off. I did so with great difficulty, feeling my body protest with stiffness added to the piercing pain going through me.
Dropping onto the snowed-over grass, I felt myself stumble and fall flat on my face, my legs too weak to support my body.
I writhed from the impact, muscles tensing to impossible degrees and forcing ever increasing stabbing pains through my shoulder.
I lost myself in the agony, marveling at how much it hurt to be alive at that moment.
This isn’t even the Cruciatus. A faint part of me whispered with a touch of mocking amusement and self-pity. Are you really going to keep crying over that pathetic, little cut?
It doesn’t feel pathetic. I shot back, wiping the snow and dirt off of my face.
Absol settled next to me, wrapping us both up in her winged embrace and licking the blood on my shoulder in an attempt to clean what little of the wound she could reach from the cut fabric.
Focus, Clarke! My mind roared. Get a hold of yourself.
I swallowed and closed my eyes, taking long, deep breaths to settle my nerves.
As the temperature rose, I felt my shakes disappear and realized that I felt dryer than a desert.
I supposed that flying around for hours in mid winter hadn’t been the best of decisions, but it wasn’t like I had much of a choice.
It was either this, or fighting an actual Dragon— or even worse, fighting Fawkes and the Headmaster in his own damn office. I thought, my shoulders shaking from the morbid amusement and making me cringe from the pain again.
Absol squawked with disapproval.
“Sorry, girl.” I muttered weakly. “I need to— I need to look at my shoulder.”
She chirped, but kept her wings closed around me, from what I could tell— she and I were still invisible, after all, and her warmth was still ever present.
She wants me to do it here. Under her wings. I realized. The cold air would probably have done more harm than good to me. “You’re smarter than me, you know that?”
I could have almost described Absol’s next chirp as pompous. I drew my wand to help with the undressing before thinking better of it; this wasn’t a magical area, and the Trace was still in effect, as far as I knew.
Stowing my wand away, I unclasped my cloak and placed it on Absol’s back. Taking my shirt off was a much harder task than expected, I realized as I whimpered with every motion, feeling the sweat and blood infused shirt fight me every step of the way.
Once it was off, Absol began to lick the skin around my shoulder wound, careful not to touch the injury itself.
“What’re you…” I said, preparing myself for the agony to come but feeling nothing but a spike every few moments— still very painful, but nowhere near where it was before. “I see.”
Some kind of anesthesia in her spit. I theorized. I’ve never read that about thestrals before, though it makes some sense, I guess. A lot of animals do this, so it might be one of those tidbits of knowledge that are assumed to be known. I’m sure there are probably some debriding agents in there, as well.
As if to prove my point, she turned her attention to the wound in question, her tongue lapping over my cut with gentle strokes.
I took a deep, relaxing breath and felt my shoulder sag in relief. I leaned into my friend, grateful to have brought her along.
I reached into my pocket with my good arm and felt for the vial of Wiggenweld I’d brought with me for this occasion. My fingers brushed past the vial of Dragon’s Blood and found nothing else.
I frowned and checked my back pocket, grimacing and snatching my hand back out at the sensation of moist fabric and shards of glass.
I must have broken it in the duel, or maybe while riding. I thought with a sense of dismay. Damn it. Better check the Dragon’s Blood, just in case.
Wiping my hand on my pants, I made sure to check my front pocket again. There was no moisture, and I felt no cracks in the glass.
I nodded, sighing. At least, all of this wasn’t a waste.
The Wiggenweld Potion was a bust, but I would figure something out. I always did.
I just needed a quick fix to tide me over until I got to my room, where I had another vial waiting for me, in my trunk.
I felt around for my shirt and tried to tear a strip off, to no avail. “Damn it. It sucks being a kid.“
If I could use my wand right now, I’d have already been ready to go, ages ago.
Absol gave me a nudge before grabbing the other end of the shirt with her beak.
I smiled. “You are carrying this team, Absol. MVP.”
Tearing it up was still a Hellish exercise, as I had to exert what little energy I’d been able to regain from that short rest, but I soon found myself with a long strip of cloth cut from the bottom of the shirt.
I felt Absol lick my shoulder a few more times for good measure before I placed the cloth on top of the wound, binding it tightly with the help of my friend.
I took my time putting everything back on before sagging, tired again.
I need to get back to Hogwarts. I thought. I need to get up.
My body, however, refused to respond, comfortable as it was in my friend’s protective embrace.
Here, I could rest and recover, away from any of the dangers awaiting outside of the boundaries of her wings.
Who in their right mind would leave such safety? I relaxed, taking in my surroundings for the first time since I’d landed.
This place… I thought, eyes widening slightly. I know it. I’ve been here. Beacon Fell— it has to be.
I turned my head to the right and saw the expected stone carvings of various animals, peppered throughout the ancient forest’s snowy clearing. The silence was ever-present, as few animals dared to tread out in this weather, showing nature’s calm, deep slumber.
In the distance, I spotted the ancient remnants of a stone wall, meticulously preserved by the locals— That wall has seen many battles throughout the ages. It’s older than some nations out there.
The first time I’d come here, staring up at the tops of the ancient trees, I had felt like a child again, excitement and wonder present in my eyes. I smiled at the thought.
How had Absol known to bring me here? Could it have been by mistake?
I felt my friend tug at my cloak as she began to stir. She didn’t need to speak for me to understand what she wanted.
If I stayed where I was, I knew I would fall asleep. This place felt safe, but it was only an illusion.
This was, after all, the wilderness. You never knew what you could find here.
Up, Clarke. I thought. Get up!
With some effort, I got back to my feet with a shiver, noting that I felt a little better than I had, not ten minutes prior.
Keeping my inhales long and deep, I noticed the telltale signs of a headache settling just behind my forehead— a strong one, at that.
I took a tentative step forward, keeping myself steady by leaning on Absol’s body.
Good. I thought with a mental nod after letting go of my friend and seeing that I could stand on my own. I can resume the journey back, I think.
It would be painful and downright miserable, but the prospect of warmth, a cozy bed, and food would keep me going for as long as it was necessary.
I felt Absol brush up against me from behind.
I turned and felt for her back, climbing up with some assistance. Tying the strap to my hand, I stared at my surroundings for one last time, giving myself a silent vow to return here, someday.
“Time to go.” I whispered and held onto my friend as she took to the air once again, the world beneath turning into a blob of darkness set against the gradual lightening of the sky, signaling the imminent return of the morning.
I soon lost myself in the haze of tiredness, cold and muted pain, holding onto a single thought with everything I had: Just a bit longer.
The thought repeated itself like a mantra, echoing in my skull and making my headache even worse.
By the time Absol delivered me to my dorm window, I had just enough remaining sense and energy to cancel the Disillusionment Charm, put the Dragon’s Blood somewhere safe, down the spare vial of Wiggenweld in one shot and collapse onto the bed like a puppet with its strings cut.
I was aware of the pain before I even realized I had woken up. Groaning, I shifted in bed, wincing as I felt my shoulder flare in pain.
My wince deepened into a grimace, the events from the night before crashing into me with the ruthlessness of a particularly irate loan shark.
That’s right. I thought, pushing myself off of bed with a weak huff. I exhausted myself. I really need to figure out how to Apparate when I’m better.
I reached for the canteen at my bedside and took long, greedy gulps of water, feeling my body cry out in relief.
Setting the canteen back down, I noticed the gleaming vial of Dragon’s Blood beside it.
This was my idea of a safe hiding place? I thought, shaking my head before focusing on the vial. This is what all the planning was for.
I frowned and moved away to face myself in the mirror, unclasping my cloak and taking my shirt off to assess the extent of the damage.
My black eyes hardened at the sight. I reached up to touch my face, trembling fingers brushing up against my pallid, dry skin.
I pressed my lips together, feeling the various scabs which formed overnight protest with weak flares of pain.
Not to mention my legs— I resisted the urge to groan, not wanting to turn my attention down there. It hurt too much.
Riding Absol had almost been as damaging as the Auror I’d fought against.
I looked down at the binding on my shoulder, stained red with blood, but no longer feeling moist.
I winced as I pulled at it. The feeling of my skin clinging to the now bloodied rag was most unwelcome, but with some effort, I managed to get it off.
My breathing turned a little shallow for a few moments as I recovered, poking and prodding the wounded flesh. It still hurt, but it was nowhere near the levels of pain from the night before.
My eyes roved over my bruise and scrape riddled chest and arms— more signs of the intense fight I’d taken part of.
That man had been good. I thought, feeling a strange rush come over me despite the situation. A real challenge. Would the other Auror— Whitshed, I think his name was— have proven to be just as tenacious?
My opponent had deduced my use of invisibility and was able to track me with an ease I couldn’t quite fathom.
Was it a spell? Was there some Disillusionment counter-spell taught to the Aurors, or did he make it up himself? I needed to look into it.
The entire point of invisibility is that you couldn’t be found. I thought. This is a weakness that almost cost me everything.
My mind brushed the possibility of delving into the void again, before I shook my head. The void was what had gotten me into this mess, in the first place.
I sighed and zeroed in on my injuries again.
I’ll worry about the void later. First things first. I thought with narrowed eyes. Injury assessment.
I scrutinized myself from every angle, but the worst of it was the cut on my shoulder. The rest were bruises, small cuts and some scrapes— already half healed due to the potion I took just before sleeping.
The Wiggenweld Potion is still going through my system. I thought, noting the faint warmth permeating through me. That means I need to supplement the healing process with nutrients— food, in other words.
I snorted at my apparent need to refer to things in more scientific terms. Monkey has ouchie. Monkey need food to heal. Monkey good again. Monkey strong.
I laughed, cringing even as I did so. “I really am a hopeless case, aren’t I?”
My eyes found the vial of Dragon’s Blood again and narrowed with solemn purpose. I’d almost killed a man for this and crushed another under a door.
Was it worth it to send these fellows to St. Mungo’s over a small vial of blood?
This thing was fifty Galleons. I thought. Fifty! That’s close to a thousand pounds sterling. Even if I worked for months, I still wouldn’t have earned enough to get half.
I remembered the orphanage workers complaining about their wages. Nineteen ninety two wasn’t the time of plenty for the little guy.
You could always have stolen the money off of some students. The sly part of me thought. You were able to reach Malfoy’s pouch quickly enough, after all. And he had quite a bit.
I shook my head. Not even Draco had been carrying that much money in his pouch; this meant I would have had to target more than one person. Robbing the entire student body for their scraps was an idea as stupid as Mount Everest was high.
Besides, the Auror would recover. Injuries like the one I inflicted on him could be fixed in a matter of hours by their Healers. A few days of bed rest and he would be right as rain.
I flung the matter far from my mind and struggled to walk in the direction of the shower, improving my gait with each step.
My legs are killing me.
Discarding my remaining clothes, I turned the knob and felt the hot water invigorate me as it cascaded down my body, washing away the grime, dirt and blood.
After a careful scrub down and rinse, I went back and threw my ruined pants into the center of the room. After I grabbed the wand off of my nightstand, I tore off another strip of cloth from the shirt with a Cutting Charm.
Disinfecting it with a Scouring Charm, I bandaged myself again and threw the remains on top of the pair of pants.
These clothes have outlived their usefulness, and I can’t risk being identified, no matter how remote the possibility of such a thing happening is. I pointed the wand at the ruined pile. I can always get something else for myself, later. That job with Hagrid can’t get me insanely expensive things, but it can get me a shirt and a pair of pants.
“Incendio.” I cast the spell, placed the wand back and continued to towel my hair down, watching the slowly burning pile with a gleam in my eyes.
Done, I vanished the remains with a mutter of “Scourgify“, and got dressed, taking great care to not injure myself any further.
Who knew that an all purpose cleaning charm could be so effective in doing away with evidence? I smiled for a second before turning my eyes away and heading out of the room, taking the vial of Dragon’s Blood with me.
Much as I’d love to take a long, long nap… I thought as I passed through the common room, getting a smile and wave from Mira, who was sitting with a few of her friends.
I waved back and continued my way outside of Ravenclaw Tower. I have to maintain the illusion that I’ve been here at Hogwarts, the entire time the events took place.
I passed through the cloistered corridor and stopped, feeling eyes on me. A quick look around showed that there was nothing, so I looked out onto the courtyard.
I found myself face to face with the ghost of Ravenclaw House, the Grey Lady.
She floated before me, her black eyes staring at me unblinkingly.
“Can I help you?” I said, leery of her presence.
The ethereal woman blinked at my question, a look of veiled curiosity settling in her dark eyes. She opened her mouth, as if to speak before closing it again.
Her eyes sought mine, but I refused to make contact, instead keeping my attention on her waist-length hair and her pale skin.
She must have been quite the woman in life. I thought.
It was true that she was friendly to members of our House, but it always seemed like it was something she did out of a sense of duty, rather than it being her desire.
It made sense, of course: Lady Helena Ravenclaw was paying an endless debt borne out of her betrayal to her mother.
The Grey Lady didn’t answer my question, instead gliding backwards, away from me. Her eyes remained glued to me, even as she faded through another wall.
What the Hell was that about? I thought, unnerved. Does she know about my trip?
I steadied my breath and resumed the course with a shake of my head. How could she know? No, something else was going on.
My mind was troubled for the remainder of the walk.
I entered the Great Hall, wincing at the cacophony slamming into me and making my headache worse.
Is it just me, or are they all louder than they should be? I thought, pressing my index to the side of my head and rubbing circles into it. Maybe it’s because I’m recovering…
I found my friends already seated and moved to take my place beside them, grunting out a quick greeting.
“Hey, Adam. All right?” Tony greeted me back from my left. Across from us, Su did a cute, little wave, her mouth too full to talk.
“Yeah.” I said, trying to keep the raspiness out of my voice as I piled food onto my plate. “You?”
There was no reply.
I took a bite, and then another, before realizing he wasn’t going to answer.
I turned to him. “Tony?”
The boy was staring at me, concern shining in his eyes. “Adam… you look terrible.”
I frowned, thinking quickly. “Wow, thanks, man. And here I thought I wasn’t actually ugly.”
“No!” The boy freaked out at my conclusion, almost knocking over his glass. “…No. That’s not what I meant, Adam.”
Su giggled, covering her mouth and then speaking in a false, chiding tone of voice. “That wasn’t very nice, Tony. You hurt his feelings.”
The boy sighed, exasperated, and hung his head in defeat. “I can’t win this one, can I?”
I took another bite of sumptuous chicken breast, nodding in false wisdom. “One learns to accept defeat when one must.”
Tony sighed again.
“But, Adam…” Su called out from the other side of the table. “Tony does raise a good point— no matter how thoughtless it was. Are you all right?”
I nodded, keeping the movement nice and slow, and smiled her way. “Yes. I’ve been running myself ragged these past few weeks— I guess all that stress is finally taking its toll on me. I definitely needed that long sleep.”
“You need a lot more of it, from the looks of it.” Tony said and tapped my left shoulder, sending stabs of pain through my upper body. “You’re as pale as a ghost.”
I forced myself not to cringe, my whole body tensing for a few moments.
“Well.” I said, trying to keep my breathing steady and hiding it under the guise of clearing my throat. “That’s the plan, remember?”
Tony nodded twice. “That’s right— I was wondering why you went to sleep so early yesterday.”
“Me, too.” Su said in agreement. “But it makes sense, because your interview is on Sunday, right?”
What? I frowned for a second before nodding. That’s right, I do have an interview.
“Yes.” I said, watching as my two friends came to their own conclusions on the matter.
Friends. The sly voice mocked. Do friends lie to each other like this?
They wouldn’t understand. I shot back, biting into a chicken thigh.
“You’ll need all the rest you can get for that.” Tony said, shivering. “I hate interviews— people just asking you questions over and over. Never ends!”
I frowned in agreement. “That makes two of us.”
“Three.” Su corrected me.
I gave her a weak smile, turned back to the food and did my best to ignore the annoying voice in my head.
A few minutes later, I sat back, having had my fill.
“You know, speaking of the paper…” Tony produced a copy of the Prophet and placed it beside my empty plate.
I blinked at the sight of it, feeling my blood run cold at the image it depicted on the front page. It was the site of the Apothecary, crawling with Aurors and Ministry officials.
They’ve already reported on what happened?
I moved my plate to the side and unfolded the paper, reading the article on the front page.
HORROR AT DIAGON ALLEY
UNKNOWN DARK MAGIC KILLS AUROR
There are blunders, and then there are blunders. We’ve seen signs, again and again, that Diagon Alley has had many incidents with ne’er-do-wells, the most famous of which was when Gringotts’ security was breached by Dark wizards and witches unknown.
This time, however, tragedy struck at the Apothecary. Known far and wide as the premiere locale to supply merchants with ingredients for potion-making, the Apothecary has been the business of choice of many wizards and witches— myself included.
“Only a single thing was taken, and I don’t even understand why.” Sarah Green, owner of the establishment said, wiping tears from her eyes.
But another thing was taken, that day; a life. Auror Maxwell Turner, alongside Auror Trainee James Whitshed, had been conducting their patrol when they found indications of a break-in occurring at the Apothecary.
It is unknown what occurred next; only that Auror Turner and Auror Trainee Whitshed were rushed to St. Mungo’s, with Auror Turner tragically losing his life before he could receive treatment, and that the Apothecary was only missing a single vial of Dragon’s Blood.
“There was so much blood…” Sarah had tearfully told everyone. “I was so scared.”
The first Auror at the scene, Lucy Grayson, was baffled by the events.
“It just wouldn’t mend!” She said, nerves frayed from her failure. “I realized that I had to rush him to St. Mungo’s, but it was too late.”
The Healers at St. Mungo’s were similarly astonished.
“It was a deep, but simple cut. I heal their like every other day!” Healer Brandon Ledger said, shaking his head. “But any attempts at restorative magic seemed to fail on our patient. It was clear that there was some Dark magic afoot, but we couldn’t, for the life of us, even identify what it was— let alone how to treat it. Sadly, he had lost far too much blood by the time he was brought to us, and was gone by the time we administered the Blood Replenishing Potion.”
Ominous words. Could this be a sign of darker times to come? With He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named defeated at the hands of Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, are we witnessing the rise of a new Dark Lord?
The Head of the Auror office, Rufus Scrimgeour, refused to comment on such a question. Trust the Ministry to…
Dead. My eyes hovered over the word. Dark magic? I used the Shield Charm.
“Wow.” I said, giving the paper back to the boy and trying to sound surprised. “That’s crazy.”
“First, the attempted theft at Gringotts.” Tony said, taking the offered paper and rolling it up. “And now, this attack…”
“You reckon they’re related?” Corner asked from Tony’s left, looking dubious. “This was written by Skeeter. I’ve heard my mum talk about her: ‘a tendency to tell tall tales, she has,’ as mum would say.”
Opposite of him, Boot laughed.
“Yeah, maybe you’re right Michael.” Tony said, flushing red with embarrassment.
“It’s a bit of a mystery though, isn’t it?” Su chimed in. “Nothing but a single vial was taken. What would he want Dragon’s Blood for?”
“Who knows? Besides, the Aurors probably stopped him before he could take any more.” Michael said with a shake of his head.
I stared down at my empty plate, focusing on the discarded bones of the chicken I consumed.
That man isn’t recovering in St. Mungo’s, after all. I thought. I killed him.
Those three words echoed in my mind, sending reverberations through my body.
He’s dead because of me. I thought, frowning as I realized something even stranger and perhaps more disturbing. Why don’t I feel anything?
“—arke? Clarke? Are you listening?” Tony’s voice brought me back to reality. “…Clarke?”
I didn’t reply, instead pushing off of the table, acutely aware of the vial of Dragon’s Blood in my pocket.
“You’re right.” I tried my best not to sound hurried, but the words still came in a noticeable rush. “I should get some more rest.”
I walked out of the Great Hall at a brisk pace, missing the knowing stare Professor Quirrell sent my way.
I had to end this. I didn’t want this guy’s death to be for nothing.
I killed him. The thought repeated itself unnecessarily.
I lost myself in my haze of determination, not even remembering to Disillusion myself until I was halfway to the Seventh Floor.
Soon, however, I found myself standing in front of the familiar wall of the Room of Requirement.
The words formed before I even had the chance to walk back and forth.
THE STRONG BLOOD
“I have it.” I produced the vial as proof of my claim, the dead quality of my voice surprising me.
The words on the wall shifted.
Had I not been so out of it, I would have thought the words odd, but in my current state, I didn’t even think to question anything.
I just wanted to get it over with.
The words faded as a dark, wooden door, banded with gold and silver formed in their place. Needing no further invitation, I swung the door open, marveling at how heavy it was.
What is this? I thought and entered the dark space, the door disappearing behind me.
The torches lining the walls lit up with eerie silver flame, shedding light on my surroundings. I was in a massive, circular chamber made of stone, which was black as pitch and— I realized as I knelt down, ignoring the burning pain in my thighs— unbelievably smooth.
I got back up, my eyes taking in the singular path laid out before me, noting the torches placed on either side. Beyond them lay a depthless chasm; I knew that, if I fell, there would be no coming back.
Ahead of me, at the room’s epicenter, I spied an altar atop a raised platform. There didn’t seem to be any indication that this place was built by human hands. Only magic could have been used to create something like this.
This whole place is one monumental, solid piece. I realized, the strangeness of my environment snapping me out of my funk. Where am I? There’s absolutely no way this is still the Room of Requirement.
I stepped forward, the standing torches on either side of me lighting with multicolored flames, shifting from reds, greens, blues and every hue in between with no rhyme or reason.
I had no idea what this signified, but instinct provided the answer where my mind couldn’t. Put simply, this was pure chaos.
In other words, this was life energy. Remarkable. No wonder the room said it would kill me if I tried anything.
I pressed forward, the torches lighting up with every step I made until I reached the base of the short stairway.
Swallowing down my trepidation, I ascended it with great difficulty.
At the top, I found myself staring at a gray crystal, sitting lifelessly on the surface of the small altar.
No. I realized, giving it a closer look and watching it give minute twitches every now and again. It’s moving, but it’s like it’s bound by something. I probably don’t need to guess what’s caused this.
“It’s obvious what you want.” I said to the open air. “But, just in case I’m misunderstanding, you want me to pour the blood on the crystal, right?”
I felt the rush of air from behind me and saw the multicolored flames leave their torches for a few moments to form a ‘YES’ before returning to their rightful place.
I nodded and turned back to the crystal, which had grown darker in the last few instants.
No wonder the Castle has been pressuring me. I realized and unstoppered the bottle, tipping it over with great care. Perhaps a few weeks later and this crystal would be completely gone to the darkness.
I didn’t know what this thing was for, nor did I know what exactly would happen if I ignored it, but I wasn’t willing to wait and find out.
The blood fell onto the fragile crystal, disappearing into it without a trace.
With a look of fascination, I held the vial over the crystal, letting the last of the droplets flow into it before stepping back and waiting.
I looked around, wondering what the deal was when the crystal rose and flashed a blinding white, forcing me to scrunch my eyes shut.
When I opened them again, I gaped at the sight, my skin breaking into goosebumps. I thought the chamber had been alive before, but it paled in comparison to what I saw and felt in the air now.
Lines of pure white had emerged from the altar, flowing to its base and outwards like a life-giving river, forking and splitting itself into every inch of the room. I stood there, mesmerized by the sheer beauty of it.
“Welcome, Adam Clarke, to the Chamber of Knowledge and Life.” I turned so fast I felt a wave of dizziness go through me, but I forced myself to endure it and looked at the newcomer with surprise.
The Grey Lady, ghost of Helena Ravenclaw, gave me a mysterious smile.
“Or should I call you… the World Drifter?”