March 5, 1992, 11:30 AM, Potions Classroom
I stared down at the darkening, simmering blue liquid, trying to judge how long I would need to keep the fire going.
Alef Ard pinged for me in a way I had come to expect from it, over the past few weeks.
With a wave of my wand, I killed the flame and began to count, watching the Potion with a close eye. I dare say it is perfect, so far. Your cues are very much appreciated.
The spirit of Hogwarts buzzed with happiness, its presence brushing up against my own for a moment, much like a cat would with its owner.
It’s so innocent. I thought to myself, outside of the spirit’s senses. And affectionate, besides. If Alef Ard ever were to fall into the wrong hands, it would spell disaster.
I pushed such thoughts away with an ease borne from decades of practice and gradually added the Salamander Blood to the mixture, stirring it anticlockwise.
It took a full minute of stirring for it to reach the desired color— a bright green— at which time Alef Ard pinged again for me.
I took the mortar and pestle from my kit, as well as a small container of wartcaps.
The Fire Protection Potion. I thought, crushing the caps into a fine powder and making sure not to get any of the stuff on me.
The powder was an interesting substance which could harden the skin into a thick, hard crust. While it was harmful on its own, it could still be used in a defensive Potion due to its protective qualities.
The Potion that I was brewing, in fact, was the same concoction which was sitting at the end of Dumbledore’s little obstacle course on the Third Floor.
I added the powder to the cauldron and began to stir clockwise for around ten seconds before stopping at the expected ping.
I pulled the stirring spoon out, watching with an impressed look as the potion took on a bright red color.
You sure know your timers. I complimented the spirit. I supposed it shouldn’t have been surprising; having observed students for around a millennium, it was bound to pick up a few things.
Alef Ard responded with an affectionate mental nudge.
I transferred some of the Potion from the cauldron to the vial, stoppered it and headed towards the front of the class, ignoring the stares I got from my Second Year peers for finishing early.
“Professor.” I greeted.
“Mr. Clarke.” Professor Snape did not look up from the stack of homework that he was going through. “Extra ingredients are to the right.”
Was he assuming that I messed my class assignment up?
I stifled the urge to glare. He really was an unmitigated douchebag. Damn talented one, though.
“I’ve finished my Potion, sir.” I decided to stay cool.
That got him to look up.
His black eyes beheld the bright red liquid in the vial before him. He took it from me and scrutinized it from a few angles before placing it in the completed section.
“Passable.” He said, turning back to his work, though he kept his eyes on me. “You may pack up your things and leave.”
I blinked and nodded. “Thank you, sir.”
“Mr. Clarke.” He said, stopping me before I had the chance to move an inch. “Twelve inches on the Wiggenweld Potion for next week.”
I opened my mouth and closed it. “Yes, Professor.”
That’ll be the easiest homework of my life. I thought. Maybe I’ll actually get things done today.
Professor Snape stared at me for a moment longer before turning his attention to the entire class. “This applies to you all, as well.”
The look of dismay on everyone’s face was both amusing and galling, I noted to myself as I came back to my workstation to close up shop.
Making sure to pour myself a few vials for personal use, I then began the short process of cleanup before putting all of my things back where they needed to be.
With one, final nod towards the Professor, I exited the classroom, my mind whirling with annoyance at my classmates’ behavior.
The Wiggenweld Potion was a powerful tool for any budding wizard; I knew of its benefits firsthand.
I stopped moving and grasped my shoulder, remembering that night at Diagon Alley. I closed my eyes, the phantom pain echoing through my body and mind.
The blood loss had been significant; the injury, bordering on severe. Had I been taken to a normal hospital, they would have had to stitch me up, and recovery would have taken a few weeks to a month, at least.
Wiggenweld Potion had me back at a hundred percent in a matter of days— back on my feet in one.
It’ll never cease to amaze me just how casually people treat this wonder of magic. I thought. It is wasted on them.
I shook my head and continued my walk. It wouldn’t do to start thinking like Voldemort or Grindelwald. Wasted or not, it wasn’t any of my business, nor did I wish to make it so.
These people were a product of their upbringing. It was an issue endemic to humanity as a whole: complacency.
Wizards of old have braved the then-new frontiers of magic. They’ve toiled, sweated and shed blood over many generations— and this… this is what it always leads to. I thought. Invariably.
Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.* I remembered the old quote. I must have been twenty five years old when I first read it. Close to twenty years later, and things are still the same.
Hell, I wasn’t even sure that there was a solution to this problem.
At best, what one could do was direct society in a way that benefited it in the long run.
It was what Dumbledore was trying to accomplish. He had rejected the position of Minister in order to keep his ears to the ground.
Where people associated the Ministry with shady politics, endless bureaucracy and corruption so widespread it could reel minds a hundred times over in a second, they looked at Hogwarts and its Headmaster with a certain fondness borne from their formative years.
It was ingenious in a way. But, was Albus really affecting anything in the long run?
The student body had turned on him with ease during the fifth book. To be sure, it had required a smear campaign, and the hate towards him hadn’t lasted very long, but it still ended up happening.
No. I thought with a scoff, startling a Hufflepuff passerby who’d been staring. Directing society is not something that interests me. I’ll leave that job to Dumbledore.
I didn’t have the patience for it, anyway.
“Ah, there you are, Adam.” Someone called from behind me.
So much for getting things done today.
“Mira.” I greeted, recognizing the voice in an instant. “Hello.”
Mira’s lips twitched at that, and she opened her mouth, before pausing for a bit and closing it.
“I was going to wait for you outside of your Potions class, but you weren’t there.” She said finally.
“Oh?” I said, intrigued. “And Professor Snape didn’t catch you loitering outside of the door?”
“I was quick about it.” Mira winked. “I’m very good at hiding.”
I hadn’t pegged this one to be a stealth enthusiast.
“Oh.” I nodded. “Well, that makes sense.”
“So you finished early, then?” Mira smiled with a hint of smugness. “Seems that my notes are helping you quite a bit, Adam.”
Curb your self-satisfaction there, little duckling. I thought, amused. Not that she’s wrong to feel this way. Those notes are pretty good.
“Yes.” I smiled back. “They’ve certainly been useful. I’ll be caught up to the rest of the Second Years in a month, perhaps.”
“Already?” Mira said, her lips parting in surprise at the admission.
More like, I’ll have finished Second Year completely in terms of spells and potions by the end of this month. I thought, hiding a smirk. “Oh, yes. Now that I’m starting to get a handle on things, it’ll be a breeze.”
I doubted it would be worth it to try and get my Third Year tests done this year. It wouldn’t really be feasible in this time frame, but more than that; I didn’t want to do it.
I knew that I could get access to a Time-Turner if the Professors deemed it fit— Hell, McGonagall had gotten one for Hermione just so she could attend extra classes.
But, again, that’s not something that interested me. One of the biggest mistakes of my past life had been a focus on grinding things, whether it was video games, studies or whatever held my fancy.
It had led to a life of little enjoyment. True, I’d been able to figure things out a while before I’d died, but that had been at least two decades wasted by that point.
No. Putting myself through extra stress wasn’t worth it— especially not when I was progressing in my studies at a rate that boggled these people’s minds.
It didn’t mean that I would stop studying when I finished my Second Year curriculum. Far from it: I planned to learn as much as I could, but at my own pace.
Mira hadn’t said anything for a few moments, leaving us both in a bit of a silence.
“You okay, Mira?”
“Yes, yes.” She said, waving off my concerns with quick hands. “I just get lost in my head sometimes.”
I smiled; a kindred spirit. “I understand. Happens a lot to me, too.”
She nodded, relaxing a little at this. “Right.”
“If that’s all…?” I said. “I’m getting pretty hungry.”
“I’m heading to the Great Hall, as well.” Mira said, turning and gesturing for me to come with her. “There’s still something I wanted to speak with you about.”
I stifled a frown. I’d wanted to go to the kitchens for a quick bite before heading to the Room of Requirement.
“All right.” I said as we fell in step together. “What is it?”
Mira glanced at me, but didn’t say anything for a while, the air filling with the sound of our shoes clacking against the stone floor.
“I heard a few things.” She said, broaching her topic.
I nodded for her to keep going.
She did. “One is that you weren’t very well received among our Second Years.”
I blinked. “I wasn’t?”
“That’s what I heard.” She made sure to add quickly. “I don’t actually know if that’s the case, so I thought to ask you first.”
I nodded again. Reasonable and sensible. This duckling’s trying really hard to act like an adult. Reminds me of myself.
“If you want to ask if anyone is bullying me, then the answer is no.” I said. “Hobson’s been a pretty good partner when we’re paired together. Chang is pleasant. Edgecombe… not so much. The others I haven’t really talked to.”
“Oh?” Mira’s eyes glinted, as if she found confirmation for something. “Tell me more about Marietta.”
I guess she heard more than she’s letting on. I thought. Is Edgecombe causing trouble?
I shrugged. “Not much to say, really. Marietta would get antsy every time I tried to talk with Cho— I think she’s overprotective of the girl and probably feels threatened by me, so it doesn’t bother me really.”
“Is that so…”
“Yeah.” I nodded. “Did she do something?”
“No, but I like to take care of problems like these before they arise.” Mira said with a shake of her head. “I will be having a little chat with her, as well.”
I nodded. That was a good way to run things.
This is someone with a bright future ahead of her. I thought. “And the second thing?”
“What?” Mira paused mid-step, confusion flitting over her face for a moment before resolving into one of understanding. “Caught that, did you? You have good ears, Adam.”
“Erm… Thanks, I think.”
I was fairly sure that my ears were way too big for my head. The sad truth of being a child— nothing was ever quite right.
She rolled her eyes and we resumed the trip. “I heard that you can cast the Shield Charm.”
I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise, though I did my best not to give any visible reaction.
How did she know about this? The only people to witness it in public were Draco and his cohorts.
“And where did you hear that?” I kept my tone light.
“So you can do it?” Mira looked impressed.
“Didn’t say I could or couldn’t.” I said, shrugging. “But, if I could, why do you ask? Are you having trouble with yours?”
She didn’t answer, a look of both irritation and shame flashing over her face for a moment. Her cheeks gained a hint of red.
So that’s it, huh? I thought in realization. She can’t cast the spell.
“I was going to ask for your notes on it.” Mira admitted. “I figured since I’ve helped you, you can help me.”
“I see.” I said, stopping.
I had destroyed my notes on the Shield Charm, just in case anyone decided to investigate me and stumbled across it.
Because if a school kid like her can just ‘hear about’ my use of a high-level casting of the Shield Charm, what will hardened investigators uncover?
I took a breath. “I’m still curious about where you heard all of this.”
“Persistent one, aren’t you?” Mira smiled. I just kept staring at her until she folded.
“We Prefects tend to talk amongst each other.” Mira said, shrugging my gaze off. “And I’m friends with Elisa, one of the Slytherin Prefects. Well, friends is a strong word; more like acquaintances, really.”
She rambles when she’s nervous or flustered. I thought, amused. “And this acquaintance of yours heard it from someone in her House?”
“Yes.” Mira said, her eyes narrowing slightly. “Though she didn’t mention who said it, and what kind of situation warranted you using such a spell.”
“You know, Mira, you shouldn’t really trust news from ‘friends of friends’.” I said, making air quotes, unable to help myself.
“You sound just like my parents.” Mira rolled her eyes before pointing at me. “And don’t think I can’t tell that you’re avoiding the topic. mister!”
I didn’t answer instantly, not at all intimidated, and not wanting to implicate anyone. Draco seemed to be turning around, and if I could get him as an ally, or at the very least, a neutral party, I would consider that a win.
Involving Mira in this would be a mistake.
“I wasn’t avoiding anything.” I chose my words with some care, waving my hand in clear dismissal. “The situation has been taken care of.”
Mira frowned at that, looking like she wanted to take me by the shoulders and chastise me for not seeking help. “Is it?”
“Oh, yes. I haven’t been bothered, since.” I said. “I’ll show you why when we meet up to practice.”
She perked up at the sound of practice. “All right, when?”
“Tomorrow evening?” I suggested, seeing her bite her lower lip in thought.
“No.” Mira shook her head. “I’ve a study session. How about the next day, in the morning?”
I did a mental check of my schedule before nodding. “Sure. That sounds good.”
“Great.” Mira said, smiling as we reached the doors to the Great Hall. “Let’s have some lunch together, now. I haven’t had anything since yesterday.”
She’s really laying it on thick, isn’t she?
I let out a scoff. “You’re something else.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Whatever you say, kid.
Some Time Later, Headmaster’s Office…
He unwrapped the candy and popped it into his mouth, his eyes glinting with satisfaction as his taste buds sang to him.
Tapping his desk a few times with his long, bony fingers, Albus Dumbledore moved about his office, before standing in front of the window and gazing upon the Hogwarts Grounds ahead of him.
The browns and greens of the earth were already peeking through the thinning, cold patches of snow and ice littering the landscape.
Soon, they would gradually become more thin and shrink, allowing the green shoots and fields to return to their former glory.
Albus pressed his hand against the mirror, feeling a temporary bite of cold which was washed away by the heat of the glorious Sun.
He felt a smile grow over his aged face.
Springtime was close, and with it, the explosion of color that followed.
He could already see it in his mind’s eye; the plants and flowers growing once again, bathing in the warmth of the loving Sun. He could almost see the rainfall bringing the land the moisture it so desperately needed and he could even hear the peals of laughter of the children under his care.
Every single one of his students was precious to him. There were those who looked at Albus and thought him a charlatan, one who merely pretended to behave as if he was interested in the good of those around him.
Albus only had sympathy for these poor souls. They were not able to understand his sheer appreciation of life, nor could they wrap their minds around the concept of being good because it was the right thing to do.
They saw him and assumed he had ulterior motives. He did not.
Albus was a teacher. That was what he loved and that was what he was born to do.
If he had an ulterior motive, it would have been to ensure that everyone was able to become the best versions of themselves and live out good, fulfilling lives in harmony.
It’s a shame I haven’t taught in a while. Albus thought with no small amount of dismay, taking his hand off of the window. He felt another smile cross his face. Perhaps I should… Commandeer one of Minerva’s classes?
That sounded like a fun idea, but he shook his head, wincing in slight horror. She would not be pleased, no doubt.
Albus had seen many things in his long years, but the sight of an angry Minerva McGonagall was one he would rather avoid, if he could help it.
She was already working very hard as Professor of Transfiguration, Head of House Gryffindor and as his deputy.
It would be wrong to cause her any further, undue stress.
The burdens of responsibility. He thought, heading over to Fawkes. The poor thing had been through a rough burning a while ago, and was having trouble coping.
Albus stroked its feathers. “It’s all right, my friend.”
He got a thankful croon for his efforts, and so he kept going. It was the least he could do for his ever present friend. Fawkes had been with him through thick and thin, and Albus was thankful for every moment of it.
He continued, even as someone knocked at his office’s door. “Come in, Severus.”
Albus turned as the man entered, his black robes billowing in his wake.
He stifled the childish urge to ask just how he does that and instead greeted his colleague. “Severus. I trust your day has been going well?”
“Yes.” Was the sour man’s succinct reply.
Albus led Severus to his desk, where they sat opposite of each other. “Lemon drop?”
“No, thank you, Headmaster.” Professor Snape said with a wave of his hand and went straight to the point. “I still haven’t found the one who broke into my stores recently.”
Albus’ eyebrows raised in interest. “Still? You’ve had quite some time to study the scene.”
Severus looked away at that, and the Headmaster immediately felt bad, realizing he’s misstepped.
“Perhaps that was too insensitive of me, my friend.” Albus tried to soften the blow. “I apologize.”
“No need.” Professor Snape got himself under control within moments. “Besides, you’re right. Whoever did this— they left almost no trace.”
Dumbledore began to stroke his beard in thought. “Interesting. Do you have any possible leads?”
Severus considered the question. “I do have a few, but there are many things that still don’t add up.”
“Indeed?” Albus said. “Such as?”
“Nothing was taken, for one.” Snape said, shaking his head.
Albus nodded. “I suppose that the student in question could not find what they were looking for?”
“I’m not so certain it was a student.”
Albus gazed at his Potions Professor’s face, trying to get a read on the man, but Severus gave no indication of anything.
As closed off as ever. Albus thought, resisting the urge to shake his head in both amusement and dismay. “You think it’s… him?”
“It is possible.” Professor Snape said, nodding and leaning forward on the table.
“Yes.” His black eyes darkened further as the shadows grew over his face. “Perhaps this was a test of my defenses— practice for the true tests which lay ahead for him.”
That was not a good thought.
Dumbledore took a deep breath and let it out with a slow exhale. “We will have to keep a closer eye on the man, but we mustn’t let him suspect a thing.”
Snape nodded, having come to the same conclusion. “That he was able to bypass my defenses so well that I didn’t even notice… It’s a chilling thought. I had not thought him to be so… competent.”
The Headmaster nodded, a grave look upon his face. “Whatever Quirinus found in his travels has changed him, indeed.”
The two sat in the ensuing silence, mulling things over.
“Are there any others which you may suspect?” Albus said, reaching for another candy and popping it into his mouth.
Snape nodded in response, but did not name anyone. The man seemed to be in his own world.
“… Severus?” Albus said, snapping the man out of it. “Are you all right?”
Albus almost choked on his candy, not having expected that. He said nothing, opting to clear his mouth of food, first.
Once done, his eyes narrowed. “The boy is talented, true— but to bypass your defenses? He has merely been studying for half of a year.”
“And yet, he has received stupendous marks in all of his studies, thereby allowing him to start his Second Year early.” Severus countered. “They were not record breaking, to be sure, but they are impressive nonetheless, considering the time investment and the sheer breadth of magical skill witnessed by the examiners.”
“I myself have seen him manipulate the Locomotor Charm in an extremely complex way. He is a spell crafter in the making.” Albus agreed, smiling for a moment before returning to the topic at hand. “Why do you suspect him?”
Severus looked at him for a moment. “It is not that I suspect him, Headmaster, it’s that I believe he could be capable of this.”
“Of theft?” Albus said, eyes widening with slight alarm. “Surely not. He has been a model student.”
Severus did not say anything, but then, he didn’t really need to. Dumbledore was already connecting the dots in his head.
A talented student who, by all accounts, was liked by those around him… Does that sound familiar?
The Headmaster shook his head. It was not fair to compare every orphan boy he came across to the one he failed, all those years ago.
“But, then again, perhaps he would not do something like this.” Severus mused, airing out his thought process. “By Hagrid’s account, the boy works hard for the wage he is provided, and is very happy to do so.”
“The boy could have simply viewed my defensive enchantment and taken it as a challenge to overcome.” Snape suggested, tilting his head and moving his hand a little to the left. “Or a research opportunity— Mr. Clarke is known to theorize and experiment with spells, after all.”
Albus leaned back in his chair, taking a deep breath as he considered the possibility.
It was a stretch, and Adam had never displayed any rule breaking tendencies before, but Albus could see something like this happening.
In his youth, Dumbledore had also done a few questionable things which he’d seen in a more innocent light, back then.
Though, this didn’t seem enough to warrant suspicion.
“Aside from this, is there anything else which makes you suspect the lad?” Albus asked. “We have many inquisitive students here, my friend. The two Weasley twin boys come to mind.”
Snape curled his lip. “Oh, they’ve tried to get to my stores before. They did not get far.”
Severus dipped his head for a moment and answered the initial question. “As for why I may consider Mr. Clarke a possibility… It’s not very reasonable.”
Dumbledore’s blue eyes took on a slight hint of confusion. “Not reasonable, you say? That does not seem like you, Severus.”
“It is difficult to explain.” Severus said and took his time to choose his words. “I have been observing the boy at various intervals, and he behaves much as a student would, most times— an introverted student, but a student nonetheless.”
Dumbledore nodded and let the man continue.
“But there are things about him which strike me as odd.” Severus said. “He is able to see Thestrals, for one.”
“Indeed?” Dumbledore said, glancing at the Elder Wand laying on the table for a moment before looking at his friend. “He has seen death, then; perhaps at the place where he was raised?”
Snape nodded. “The Orphanage of Pity in Warminster. A drab building in need of extensive repairs and funding.”
Dumbledore frowned; a terrible name for a place to grow up in. “Have any of his fellows suffered from accidents, or perhaps the caretakers?”
“None, whatsoever. That was the first thing I checked.” Snape said, having expected this question. “It is possible that…”
He did not finish.
Severus glanced at the man before getting up and walking around at a slow pace. “The matron in charge; when she first told me of the boy, she said that his survival was a fluke. The miracle child, they seemed to call him.”
Dumbledore nodded, wondering where this was going.
“She did not know the full details of the boy’s story, only that his mother and father had been shot to death while he was still in the womb. I believe the Muggle healers were forced to cut the boy out of his mother’s womb.” Severus explained with a faint grimace of distaste and pity. “And that his father survived just long enough to give Mr. Clarke a name before dying as well. As for Adam, he had been born too early and was expected to die shortly after. He did not, and so they called him a miracle child.”
Dumbledore bowed his head for a moment, showing respect for the two souls who had suffered such senseless deaths as well as the boy who had needed to struggle to merely be part of this world.
Injustice and evil never sleep, do they?
Another thought occurred.
“You believe the boy… saw his mother’s body?” Albus said, sending the man a dubious look. “He was only just born.”
“…It is possible.” Severus said. “It would also explain his erratic behavior; sometimes, it seems as if he is conversing with nothing at all. The way his eyes move, the expressions on his face…”
Snape went back to his seat, taking a breath before continuing. “If Clarke could remember the full breadth of his life, then not only would he recall his birth, but also his formative years. I don’t need to tell you how traumatic such an experience would be.”
Dumbledore nodded in realization. Remembering years of being helpless and entirely dependent upon another person with full clarity would snap the best of minds.
Albus did not even know if he could have coped with something like that.
“Of course, this is all conjecture. I could be wrong about everything.” Severus said. “As far as I can tell, the boy has shown no signs of any untoward behavior or even animosity towards anyone, even when some students make their… not-so-pleasant feelings clear to him.”
“I appreciate your input, nonetheless.” Albus smiled to keep the man at ease. “Your thoroughness and insight are as impeccable as ever, my friend.”
Snape only scoffed in reply and was about to answer, when the fireplace roared to life, signaling a Floo Call.
“Albus!” He heard the panicked, but familiar voice of an old friend. “Albus.”
Dumbledore stood up at once, moving with swift steps to the fire. “Ursula? Is that you? What’s wrong?”
“Yes. You don’t know how good it is to see you, right now.” The woman, Ursula, continued to speak, a heavy, Austrian accent coloring her brittle voice.
“What is going on?” The Headmaster kept his voice level and calm. “Are you all right? You sound…”
“Am I…” Ursula said but quickly shook her head. “I’m fine, but there’s something very bad happening, Albus. Something terrible.”
Severus got back up and sent him a look, but Dumbledore ignored it and soldiered past the unease he was feeling. “Tell me, Ursula.”
“Castle Nurmengard is no more.” She said, her breath hitching. “Grindelwald… He is free.”
Albus’ eyes went wide and he reeled back, as if slapped. “Truly?”
“Yes.” Ursula said. “Our Ministry is keeping it quiet, but I saw it for myself, Albus. There is nothing left of the castle; nothing but a great crater full of shards of glass. Grindelwald killed everyone but one guard— his accomplice, who helped him escape.”
Dumbledore closed his eyes, feeling tired beyond comprehension. Never would he have thought this would happen. It had been nearly fifty years since he had seen his best friend and worst enemy.
“Albus?” Ursula said, getting nervous at his lack of answer. “What do we do?”
Dumbledore took a deep breath and gathered his wits about him before opening his eyes again.
Ursula’s face recoiled back into the flames when she saw the steel behind them.
Dumbledore began to speak. “Contact the old guard around the mainland, see what they know of this. An event of this magnitude cannot be contained by the Austrian Ministry for very long. Eventually, someone will speak. We need to know what Grindelwald is doing, what his plans are.”
That seemed to inject some spine into the old woman. “Right. Yes, of course. What will you do?”
What will I do, indeed… Dumbledore thought. “I will have to make a few calls, as well. Newt and Porpentina should know about this.”
He hadn’t spoken to Newt in many years. This was not how he wanted their next meeting to go.
“Right. Right.” Ursula said, her face pained. “I am sorry. I wish I hadn’t been the bearer of such bad news.”
“It’s all right.” Dumbledore said, reassuring the woman with a smile. “Be safe, my friend.”
He got a nod from the woman before she ended the call.
Albus wasted no time, snatching some powder from his left and tossing it into the flames. “The Moody Den.”
The fireplace roared once again and Albus moved his head into the flames, speaking through it into the dingy room before him. “Alastor.”
He glimpsed a face in the corner of the living room, almost bare were it not for a few chairs and tables lined with various gadgets— Foe Glasses, Sneakoscopes, and various other Dark Detectors.
He waited until the man answered. “Albus. To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“I apologize, but I come with nothing but bad tidings this time, my friend.”
Moody’s scraggly, scarred visage scrunched, making it look even more warped and grotesque. “…Voldemort? He’s back.”
Albus exhaled, letting out a little smile. “A close guess, but not the right Dark Lord.”
Moody absorbed the comment for a moment. “Grindelwald, then. Thought he was locked up in his own impenetrable prison.”
“Not quite so impenetrable anymore, I gather.” Albus said with a somber tone. “One of my contacts in the Austrian Ministry reached out to me. Nurmengard Castle is gone.”
“Gone?” Moody fixed his good eye on Albus’ own, while the other continued to spin in several directions with wild abandon. “You trust this one’s account?”
“She has never lied to me before.”
“First time for everything.”
“I suppose so.” Albus said, acknowledging the possibility. “We shall know the truth of it, soon enough. If he has truly escaped, however, then we must be ready.”
Moody stopped, nodding to himself. “I’ll speak to the others, gather the old crowd together.”
Albus gave his first, genuine smile since he’d gotten the news. “Thank you, my friend.”
Dumbledore exited the flames, watching as they winked out of existence, leaving nothing but ash in the fireplace.
“You heard everything, then?” Albus said before turning to Snape.
Severus nodded. “This changes everything.”
“Yes.” Albus gave a nod, making his way to his chair and sagging into it with the weight of the world on his shoulders, once again. “Yes, it does.”
He didn’t feel up for telling Newt, just yet. He wanted confirmation, first.
Albus directed his gaze to the window, once again. Why, after all this time? Gellert…
* :Those Who Remain, by G. Michael Hopf