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Threads of the Living

March 27, 1992, 10:30 AM, Mira’s Study Room

Adam Clarke

I stared at the pile of wooden cubes held in the palm of my hands for a moment before looking down at the desk I’d cut them out from.

They’ll do. I thought, catching Mira’s eye as I glanced in her direction.

She had stopped her practice of the Shield Charm in favor of watching me work 

“What are you doing?” She asked, stowing her wand in her robe pocket before moving over to me.

“What does it look like?” I smirked and focused back on what I was doing.

“It looks like you’re vandalizing school property, Mr. Clarke.” Mira affected a scandalized look upon her face. “Oh, whatever will you do if I go and report this to Professor Flitwick?”

Probably take the lecture and shrug it off? I thought, rolling my eyes at her attitude and at my own compulsive need to answer questions, even if they were meant to be teasing.

“Shouldn’t you be working on your Shield Charm?” I gave her a false-disdainful once over, almost looking like I was dealing with the common riff-raff. “Standing over here, lazing around— you must have mastered it, eh?”

Mira blinked, but I continued before she could get a word in edgewise. “Let’s see it, then.”

“Maybe in a bit.” She countered, pointing at the pile of cubes in my hands. “I want to know what you’re doing with this.”

I stared at her for a moment and shrugged. “They’re for target practice.”

“Target practice?” The girl repeated, confused.

“Yes.” My voice was as dry as the great desert lands of the world. “That’s when you, ah… practice to hit the target.”

Mira rolled her eyes, though there was the barest hint of a smile playing at her lips. “You’re not funny, Adam.”

“Monkey can’t aim.” I gave a few light pounds to my chest. “Monkey practice. Monkey become good at aim. Monkey strong again.”

Mira burst into giggles, filling the room with her pleasant timbre.

I smiled, happy to have helped her out. “Glad to see you feeling a little better.”

After a few more seconds of laughter, she began to wind down, sending me a grateful nod. “Thank you. Things have been a little difficult for me this week.”

“Your OWL preparations?” I guessed. “Examinations are looming, and all.”

“No.” Mira said, frustration entering her voice as she began to pace around. “I mean yes. Ugh! Yes, there’s a lot to do, but I’m working hard on it, like with the Shield Charm.”

I nodded, gesturing for her to keep going.

“It’s just…” She stopped her agitated pacing and sent a look out of the window. “My friend hasn’t been talking to me.”

I blinked. That hadn’t been what I expected.

Then again, what should I have expected? I thought. It’s not like everyone aside from myself and maybe Potter is dealing with back-to-back life and death situations. They all have their own lives, however dull they may seem.

“That seems… Bad.” I said in a noncommittal tone, throwing her a curious look. “Any idea why?”

“I haven’t the foggiest.” Mira sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes.

“Maybe something happened?” I suggested with a small shrug.

“That’s the thing.” Mira opened her eyes, looking lost. “I cannot, for the life of me, figure it out. We haven’t fought, neither of us caused anything to happen. It’s just…”

She huffed and tried to get herself under control. Mira raised her left hand. “One day, we were discussing our upcoming Hogsmeade trip— she wants some chocolate; the next, she stands me up! Said she needed to study.”

My kind of person. I thought with amusement, taking great care to suppress the smile that threatened to appear on my face. 

If Mira saw that one, just then, she would have blown her top, I reckoned.

“Maybe she doesn’t feel ready for the exams?” I gave her a suggestion.

“She’s a Sixth Year.” Mira said, waving it off. “She has a lot of school work, true, but she always made the time to talk to me— even when doing her own OWLs. We’ve been neighbors since we were children, but now it just feels like I don’t even know her anymore.”

I absorbed her comments, reminded of those who I had considered friends in my old life.

“I can’t say I really understand what you’re going through. People have always just come and gone for me.” I said. “Have you tried to confront her?”

Mira shook her head. “No. Any time I try to start a conversation, she cuts me off, saying that she’s busy with something or the other. Mostly studying. Actually, the only excuse she’s been giving is studying, now!”

I frowned and nodded. “Yeah, I can see why you’d be under that impression. Maybe she just doesn’t want to be friends anymore.”

I winced as I saw my words cause the girl to deflate. I was quick to speak. “Or maybe she really is studying? You never know.”

“Maybe…” Mira allowed. “Let’s do something other than talking about Ophelia.”

I froze in place. It was all I could do not to react to that name.

Ophelia. I repeated the game in my mind as it triggered a memory. She was one of the Sixth Year Ravenclaw students.

I had never had a direct one on one with her, but she always seemed to be up for conversation, from what I could tell.

Her behaving strangely can’t be a coincidence. I thought, remembering the night in which she’d come to visit Quirrell.

It was a question that kept needling at me for weeks, and it seemed like I had finally found the answer I’d been seeking.

Ophelia is under the Dark Lord’s thrall, now. I thought.

All of the puzzle pieces were coming together; her sudden drive to study, her alien way of ignoring those who had previously been very close to her— it all made sense when you judged it through the lens of the Imperius Curse.

“Adam, are you all right?” Mira said, her previous crestfallen expression shifting to one of concern. “You haven’t said a word.”

“Ah.” I said, thinking fast. “I just didn’t really know what to say to something like this. I’m sorry.”

That seemed to do the trick, I realized as Mira sighed. 

“It’s fine.” She said. “I shouldn’t have burdened you with all of this, anyway. Let’s get back to practice. I’ll figure out what to do with my friend later.”

I nodded, accepting the girl’s proposition and turning my attention to the pile of wooden cubes to my left. “All right. Monkey needs good aim.”

“Oh, shut up!” She said, but her laughter filled the room anyway. “You’re not even funny.”

“And yet, you laughed.”

“At you!”

“I doubt that.”

oooo

12:00 PM, Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom

Professor Quirinus Quirrell

Snape was beginning to become a nuisance, Quirrell thought as he dismissed the class for lunch.

He barely even needed to exert his will over himself to pretend to be afraid at their exuberance over the meal— it was almost amusing to him how well his performance was getting.

When the last student left, he locked the door and went back to his work.

He had been amassing a fair few number of… followers, of late. The idea had been hatched on a whim of his, but now he was throwing everything he had into it.

For now, he had only half a dozen of these followers. He’d instructed them to lay low and work on their studies until the time came for his plan to go in motion.

He hoped that, by that time, he would have at least triple the number of students; but, it was all right.

If he didn’t, then he would make do with what he had.

“Quality over quantity.” He said, examining the small piece of parchment in his hands. It held a list of simple spells that one could use in dueling— it was to be all of his followers’ new homework.

He drew his wand and tapped it over the pieces of paper, creating five duplicates and placing them within one of his pockets for safe keeping.

Knowing that Severus was watching, Quirinus knew that he could not make any overt moves. Still, nothing stopped him from delivering these notes while in class.

Quirrell smiled for a moment, amused at how smooth his operation was going.

True, his movement about the castle was going to be limited for the next few months, but it wasn’t a problem.

His new followers would do his bidding, when required. He wondered if this was what it felt like to be the Dark Lord.

“Setting your sights on my position, Quirrell?” Voldemort almost sounded amused, though Quirinus could tell that was simply an illusion to hide the man’s annoyance.

“Of course not, my Lord.” Quirrell said. “It was a mere flight of fancy.”

… Very well.” The spirit said, writhing under his turban. “You are driven and ambitious, Quirinus, with a thirst to prove yourself. That is what brought you to me, and that is what will propel you to the ranks of my most prominent of supporters, should your venture succeed.”

“Thank you, my Lord.” Quirrell said. “I—”

That was all he was able to say before a long and massive spike of pain lanced through Quirinus’ abdomen. Within seconds, it spread like a voracious flame, turning his world into fiery agony.

Quirrell realized that he had fallen off of his chair and struck the ground, but he could not, for the life of him, figure out when it had happened.

He was too busy wishing for the pain to stop.

And so it did, just as quickly as it had come. Quirinus blinked his eyes open, seeing the world blur back together to show the bottom side of his desk.

So I had fallen. He thought, trying and failing to shake off the pain. “What was that?”

Your body—” The Dark Lord said. “It is rejecting my extended presence.”

Quirinus did not dare to move, instead focusing on his breathing. He was glad to have locked the door with his magic earlier.

If anyone were to find him in this state, it would not be pretty, he gathered.

I thought that this vessel would hold out for longer.” Voldemort said without a care for the man he’d called a vessel. “It seems that we must take steps to remedy this, before it gets worse.”

Quirrell did his best to keep his thoughts hidden as he gathered himself and spoke. “What must I do?”

Voldemort told him the answer.

“Unicorn blood!?” Quirrell’s eyes. “To drink the blood of such a creature…”

It is… the only way for us to stay alive.” Voldemort forced the words out. It was taking everything he had to just speak.

Quirrell shook his head with disbelief. “Unicorn blood. How much time do we have left?”

“A few…” Voldemort paused to gather his strength. “A month, perhaps two.”

“Then I had better get to work, yes?” Quirrell said, receiving no answer.

The Dark Lord had gone silent.

Most likely, he is sleeping again to save his strength. Quirrell thought, safe for now.

He regretted ever going to Albania.

“I’ll find another way.” Quirinus said to himself, pushing off of the ground with some difficulty. “I have to.”

oooo

5:00 PM, Near Hagrid’s Home

Absol The Thestral

Absol trotted along the ground, avoiding the thickets and roots with an agile elegance unique to her race.

Her herd mates were far behind her, taking their time as they made their way to the Big Man’s territory.

The Big Man was nice to them— had been nice to them for decades, according to her mother.

Kindness was not something Absol expected to see out of the normal humans. The few who had been able to see her would recoil with fear and disgust.

Some of them even went so far as to regard her kind of with open hostility and to inflict violence upon them.

The humans did not understand. They could not see the threads which bound them to the Cycle.

It was a shame. Though many of the humans were short-lived, short-sighted and aggressive, she knew that the majority of them led peaceful and productive lives.

She wondered just what would happen if they were able to see their own threads.

Her ears perked up, and she tilted her head to the right, tracing the big man’s sounds.

He hadn’t said anything yet, but she could already tell that he was carrying something heavy by the sound of his footsteps.

Absol liked the Big Man. He didn’t make fun of them, or hurt them or anything, and he’d been giving them food and protection from the spider swarms for the better part of fifty years.

The herd knew him well.

Her mother had told her of the Big Man when he was but a child. Still a massive boy by human standards, he was trained up by his predecessor, the Old Man, to care for them, as well as the many creatures which inhabit the grounds of this ancient forest.

We remember. She recalled her mother’s words as she exited the treeline. The Old Man’s thread was fraying, and he needed a successor.

Absol found the Big Man standing in a small field of grass by his lonesome. He waved her over.

She trotted towards him, wondering where her familiar was. She could feel that he was somewhere nearby, but their bond still had a ways to go before she could locate him with any accuracy.

Absol looked around for any sign of him.

“Heh.” Hagrid said, petting her head in an attempt to set her at ease. “It’s all right, little one. Adam’s comin’. He’s jus’ finishing up some work, and he’ll get here.”

The information got her to relax a little— for about ten seconds. Absol couldn’t help herself; she was excited to see her friend.

She began trotting along the edges of the field they stood in, watching as her herd mates caught up with her.

“There you all are.” Hagrid lifted the sack and produced a few dead rabbits, beckoning the herd over. “Come on then.”

Absol watched as her mother and the rest of her family rushed over to get their meals.

Alpha, as usual, ended up challenging the Big Man, but their caretaker was as stalwart and unyielding as he was kind.

“Not this again.” The Big Man said. “One of these days, yeh’re going to jus’ accept that you can’t beat me.”

Alpha snorted and gave him a venomous glare.

“Ah, do your worst.” The Big Man smiled. “Yeh might need ter be a little bit bigger, mind.”

Alpha stared at him for a second longer before giving up. And, as usual, the Big Man rewarded him with another rabbit.

It boggled Absol’s mind every time it happened. The Big Man was the best of their kind, she thought.

One of the best. She thought as she turned her head in the direction of where she thought her familiar’s presence strengthened.

Absol felt her mother’s disapproving look on her back as she made her way to her bonded human.

You must keep away from that one. Her mother had said once in an attempt to dissuade her.

However, Absol did not heed her mother’s warnings. This boy; he was so very interesting.

His Thread was free. He was not bound to the Cycle, or at least she thought that was what it meant.

Her herd had never seen a human like this before, and so they kept their distance.

They were cautious and wary.

Absol had only found herself curious. Just what could it mean? Why was the boy’s thread free of its binding to the Cycle which governed every living creature on Earth?

Why was he oozing with the same power that coursed through her own body?

She wished she could speak to her familiar and ask all of these questions, but it would take time to deepen their bond.

Absol was willing to wait. She trotted up to the little boy and rubbed up against him.

He smiled at her, and she felt his rough hand patting and caressing her neck. She shivered in pleasure, leaning into her familiar’s touch.

She really liked him.

“You like that, huh?” Adam laughed, a teasing look playing in his dark eyes. “Maybe I should stop— you need to eat, after all.”

Absol sent him a sightless glare. Maybe she should revise her opinion of liking the boy, after all.

If he’s going to be a meanie… that’s as far as her thought went when Adam started petting her once more, filling her world with pleasure once again.

“Yeh shouldn’t play with her feelings like that, Adam.” The Big Man said, handing her familiar the sack of food. “Here. This is the rest— I’m goin’ home to, erm, check on something of mine. Don’t let the big’un get any more food, all right? He’s had about enough.”

Absol moved her attention to the boy.

“All right.” Adam said, gesturing at the herd giving them a wide berth. “Not that it’ll probably be a problem, I gather.”

Absol felt a little sad at that. He did not understand why the herd was wary of him, but it made him a little sad regardless.

She nudged her head against his in a show of affection. Adam smiled in response.

“Thanks, girl.” He said upended the sack for her, dropping some delicious morsels onto the ground.

Absol wasted no time, snatching the first rabbit up and tearing it to shreds.

She luxuriated in the taste of the meat and the blood, devouring the remainder of the meal in a wild frenzy which would rip the courage away from the most stalwart of men.

Her familiar, however, seemed to find it amusing. “Slow down, Absol. The food isn’t going anywhere.”

You don’t know that. She thought. Ants carry things off all the time, and this is the best time for them all to wake from their slumber.

The season of Spring, the humans called it. Her kind always referred to it as the season of thread creation. Absol found herself looking forward to seeing all of the new threads appearing everywhere around her.

She wondered if her familiar could ever acquire this skill. Since he was so steeped in the power he seemed to refer to as the void, she didn’t think it would be an issue for him.

However, the boy was altogether cautious. He was well aware of the power’s existence, this much she knew, but he did not dare harness it for his own ends.

She supposed that it was understandable. Only a fool would channel mighty forces he understood nothing about.

Adam Clarke was no fool. In fact, the boy almost seemed too wary of the power sleeping under his skin, at times.

Absol devoured the last of her meal before curling around the boy and keeping him company.

This was the best time of day for her, she thought as she felt the boy lean his back into her, his tired sigh reverberating into her own body.

“It’s been a long day.” Adam said, continuing to caress her neck while she basked in the glow of having had a good, filling meal. “But I think I’m finally making progress.”

Absol just listened to the boy speak to her as if he considered her to be as smart as he was.

It heartened her every time he did it. It felt good to be treated with respect.

No matter what her mother said, she knew that this human boy was her best of friends.

She nudged him on the shoulder to get him to keep going.

“I’ve noticed something strange about the Shield Charm.” Adam said. “Its defensive properties are top notch. I thought that this meant that it could be harnessed as a weapon, as well. Considering that it can block almost all curses with it, then it sounds like the best offensive charm in existence.”

She leaned her head on his shoulder, feeling his hand caressing her cheek and the top of her head.

“But then I tried using it offensively and… Well, I’m not going to say it fails. The spell just seems to be fighting me, though .” He said. “I thought it was the fault of the Summoning and Banishing Charms which were woven into it. But I tried it with the Oppugno spell today, and got much the same result.”

The boy closed his eyes and shifted to his right. 

He took a breath. “Magic is about intent and desire. The Shield Charm works off of the desire to protect, but I’ve been using it, either in conjunction with attack spells or using it just to attack.”

Absol did not understand the dilemma that the boy was facing. Everyone in the herd understood that a good offense could function as a great defense.

This was part of how they were able to stay safe from the spiders and their dumb leader, Aragog.

“My best conclusion is that I should rework the spell.” Adam said, rubbing the tiredness out of his eyes. “Play with the definition of protection and not obsess over making a shield, specifically. Yeah, that would make sense! Thanks, Absol.”

Absol replied by snuggling against him a little harder.

The minutes passed in silence, with the two unlikely friends exulting in each other’s presence.

“Things are starting to heat up.” Adam broke the silence. “I’ve been doing everything I can to figure the details out while still working on school stuff.”

He took a breath. “The pieces on the board are making their moves, but I feel like I’m just standing in place letting it all happen. Hagrid’s over at his house trying to hatch a Dragon of all things. I might have to deal with that soon.”

Adam shifted again, trying to sleep against her.

She nudged him once to let him know that she’d keep him safe.

“Thanks, Absol.” He said. “You have no idea how much you’re helping me.”

I think I do.

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