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Stay the Course

April 1, 1992, 3:15 PM, Library

Hermione Granger

Nestled within one of the nooks of the school library, Hermione frowned.

“He’s late.” She found herself saying. She bit her lip, feeling a tinge of worry coloring the ample frustration she had felt.

“So?” Ron’s voice came from her right, and Hermione did what she could to not slap the daylights out of him.

That boy— one of these days, I swear… Hermione thought to herself. But, not now.

“He’s never late.” Hermione replied. “He’s always early, if anything.”

“True.” Tony said, sitting opposite of her. “But sometimes he can get carried away and forget himself. He’s done it enough that I don’t even blink when it happens. Just normal, you know?”

Alongside the Ravenclaw boy, Su nodded. “Yes. He has a tendency to daydream.”

Harry said nothing, content to pretend to be reading the same page over and over.

“See?” Ron said, closing the book in front of him with a loud slap, making the other members jump. “Can’t always keep to a schedule, y’know.”

However much he irritated her, Hermione knew that Ron had a point there, at least. You couldn’t expect people to be on time, all the time. It wasn’t fair.

“I guess so…” She said, turning her attention back to the book before her. Hermione did her best to continue where she’d left off, but she found herself unable to concentrate. The letters kept flying off of the page and swirling around her head in random patterns which were impossible to understand.

She huffed and gave her book a harder stare.

She understood that she was being unfair— truly, she did. Still, that didn’t stop her worry from lessening, and it did nothing to ease her annoyance at both Ron and Adam for bringing this difficulty to her life.

But is Adam really that difficult to deal with? She thought. Ronald, sure. He’s blunt to the point of being a nuisance, though he does make some good points sometimes. Adam, on the other hand…

Hermione just couldn’t pin him down. The boy fascinated her in ways she couldn’t yet begin to fathom.

And she had tried to see things from his point of view; with everything she had, Hermione had made attempts to put herself in his shoes, but she just couldn’t do it.

The boy had an almost supreme confidence in his knowledge and practical skills when it came to magic.

When it came to things of a more personal nature, however, he would retreat into himself, as if he was afflicted with a severe case of shyness. But even here, Adam managed to confuse her by being assertive at times and indecisive at others.

He could be somber and single-minded, with little patience for distractions or idle gossip. At the same time, he seemed to possess a sharp, irreverent and sarcastic sense of humor.

He was both a bold dreamer and a bitter pessimist, believing that people were capable of achieving anything they desired, but that such a thing was an impossibility because these same people were lax and lazy, or simply doomed to a fate she considered to be worse than death: mediocrity.

Hermione bit her lip. How can someone like this exist? He is a walking mass of contradictions and he makes absolutely no sense!

The boy is an unholy mixture of harmony and discord, order and chaos, and—

She felt a tap on the top of her head and wheeled around, sending a searing glare to whoever dared to interrupt her thinking.

“You looked like you were going to burn a hole through the book you were reading— and the table it’s sitting on.” Adam Clarke said by way of greeting.

Of course.

Hermione glared at him some more as the rest of the group gave him waves.

“What?” Adam said, checking his school uniform over. “Is there something on my clothes?”

She stared at him for a second longer before speaking. “You’re late.”

“No, I’m not.” He said with a serious face. “I’m Adam.”

“Yes, you are!” She said, pointing at the library clock. “You’re—”

His words caught up to her, and she sent him another look— this time, one of exasperation. “That’s not funny Adam. It wasn’t funny when you first made the joke, and it’s certainly not funny now.”

“I will respectfully disagree, buddy.” He said and took his seat beside her.

Hermione saw the glint of mischief in the boy’s black eyes, but refused to humor him, instead looking away.

“It is a little funny.” Su piped up from in front of her, hiding her mouth under her hand.

Hermione closed her eyes and began to count to three in her mind. She knew that the girl was finally starting to come out of her shell; it would be pointless, even cruel, to shoot her down here.

“Thank you, Su.” Adam said. “I’m glad someone appreciates me.”

Hermione turned back to the boy, ready to lay into him, but the little, impish smile on his face just took the wind out of her sails.

You insufferable little— she stopped herself again.

The boy’s expression finally broke into one of mild apology. “All right, all right. I’ll stop messing with you. I got held up by Draco.”

Hermione opened her mouth and closed it again, her mind zeroing in on how he was referring to Malfoy by his first name.

Adam always chooses his words with care. She thought.

“Malfoy?” Ron took his eyes away from his as of yet untouched Transfiguration homework, his eyes lighting up at the prospect of a fight. “Did he try something?”

Both Harry and Tony also sat up a little straighter.

Hermione rolled her eyes and muttered. “Boys.”

Su smiled her way, and she heard Adam let out a little chuckle.

“No.” Adam said with a shake of his head. “He just wanted to have a wee chat with me.”

“A wee chat?” Ron said, his face gaining an expression of incredulity. “Didn’t think he could do something other than order his two pet trolls around. They didn’t gang up on you, did they?”

Adam’s lips quirked at that. “Actually, no one’s tried anything against me for a while now.”

“They could just be lulling you into a false sense of security.” Harry spoke his first words since Adam had joined them.

Adam seemed to consider the possibility as he pulled a few curious things out of his pack— a pencil and a sketchbook.

She also saw the look of understanding that was shared between the two boys, not knowing what to make of it.

“It’s possible— one of the oldest tricks in the book, after all.” Clarke allowed, setting his implements down and shaking his head. “But I don’t think he’d try something like that. Draco isn’t stupid.”

“Yeah, right.” Ron said, scoffing in derision. “And I’m Merlin.”

Hermione closed her eyes in preparation for— “Hi Merlin. I’m Adam Clarke.” — that.

“You just can’t help yourself, can you?” Tony said, chortling as he watched Ron palm his face. “You’re worse than my dad.”

“I can find no higher praise.” Adam smiled. “Thank you.”

“So what did you two talk about, anyway?” Tony asked, pulling everyone’s attention back to the subject at hand.

Adam did not answer straight away, telling Hermione that it must have been a serious discussion, much like the one she’d witnessed them have a few months prior.

The quick look that he sent her confirmed as much, and she frowned. This was yet another part of Adam that she didn’t understand.

She had already read up on the people who followed the older ways. They called people like her Mudblood and other such derisive names. They would not dare to be so bold in public settings, of course, but she knew that they whispered it to each other when they thought others in positions of authority couldn’t hear. That’s what she had been able to glimpse so far, and that’s what the older Gryffindor students warned her of.

And Malfoy is the epitome of all this. Hermione thought. He is the mascot of the purebloods. The poster boy for their ideals.

Did he have it in him to change? Could the boy shed the preconceived notions that were jammed into his brain by a society which propped him up as one of its elite, the chosen few who would blaze a path in the stars above?

Adam seemed to think so. Hermione did not agree at all with this assessment.

“Draco wanted to bury the hatchet.” Adam said.

And yet, he seems to attempt the impossible, regardless. She thought. Bury the hatchet with Draco Malfoy?

She had heard nothing so ridiculous.

“Bury the what?” Ron said, face twisting in confusion.

“The hatchet.” Adam repeated.

“I heard what you—” and then Ron stopped talking, his eyes catching something in the distance.

Hermione turned her gaze and felt a shiver running down her spine when she saw the glare of Madam Pince sweeping over them as she passed through.

The school’s librarian stopped at a bookshelf near them and returned a few books to their rightful places before sending their group another look, as if hoping for her or one of her friends to step out of line.

Hermione wasn’t one to insult her teachers, but she could see how some would jokingly refer to the woman as a vulture.

The group made themselves appear to be doing busy work until a while after she left.

“I think she’s gone.” Tony said, and all breathed a sigh of relief.

“Yes.” Adam said, before turning his gaze to Ron. “‘Burying the hatchet’ means to settle old differences and make peace, Ron.”

“Oh.” Ron said, confused. “Well, why didn’t you just say so?”

“It’s symbolic, Ron.” Hermione said, sending Adam a curious look. “When two tribes have been at war and want peace, they’ll meet together and bury their hatchets deep into the ground.”

Ron nodded, still not looking like he grasped the concept.

“They do it to show that they’re no longer going to raise arms against each other.” Adam picked up where she left off. “It was considered an ancient and even sacred tradition for the Muggle natives over in the Americas. To break such an oath would have incurred the wrath of the gods.”

Their section of the library fell into silence as the group absorbed the information that was given.

“I like it.” Ron said, nodding. “Bury the hatchet— my father will love hearing that one.”

“Glad I could help, then. Heh.” Adam sent the redhead an amused, but fond smile before leaning forward to stare down at his sketchbook.

And then, he began to work— his usual way of ending the conversation.

And it works, every time. Hermione thought. The others mimicked him, inspired and spurred on by his intense focus. Not that it’s a bad thing.

Hermione relaxed into the new atmosphere of study, and found that the words which had previously eluded her had now ceased their stubbornness, staying on the page like good letters should.

It was time to resume her search.

Though… She paused her studying for a moment to glance over her first friend’s shoulder with curiosity, which quickly turned to confusion. Why is he drawing chains?

Adam was a strange one, all right.

oooo

That evening, Hogwarts Grounds…

Adam Clarke

Maybe my image training was a bad idea. I thought, rubbing the tiredness from my eyes as I trudged my way towards Hagrid’s home.

Hours of staring at chains and then a few more just drawing them were threatening to give me a pretty bad headache, as things stood. I considered the possibility of stopping before shaking my head.

A headache was nothing in the face of progress. I took a breath and steeled my nerves, once again. I would master this spell if it was the last thing I did.

Besides… I thought, cresting a small hill and watching Hagrid’s house come into view. A little headache can be cured or mitigated. Progress is eternal.

I knocked on the door. “Hagrid, I’m—”

I heard the quick thumping movements and jumped back just in time for Hagrid to burst out of the door, closing it behind him with a loud smack.

“— here.”

“Oh, Adam.” Hagrid said. “It’s just you.”

“Yes.” I found my footing and deadpanned. “You ready, boss?”

“Blimey, is it really the time for work?” Hagrid’s eyes widened with shock as he produced a watch from one of his many pockets. Moments later, he shook his head. “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.”

I blinked at the expression but nodded. “So, what’re we doing today, boss?”

Hagrid opened his mouth and closed it, throwing nervous glances back at his door. “I… erm…”

Ah. I realized. It makes sense now.

He was trying to hatch the dragon egg— or maybe he’d already managed to hatch it?

“There’s no real need ter do anything today, Adam.” Hagrid found the words to say. “It’s, erm— it’s all right. You go on. I’ll just…”

I looked around for a moment before speaking.

“Go back inside to try and hatch that dragon of yours?” I said in a low tone, smirking.

“How did you…” Hagrid said, shocked at being found out. He took another moment to gather his wits. “What do yeh mean, Adam?”

“Oh please, Hagrid.” I said, rolling my eyes. “People saw you in the Dragon section of the Library, you know. I can connect the dots from there.”

Hagrid’s face went white at the realization, but he shook his head. “That doesn’t mean a thing, you know! I could simply be interested in the subject.”

“Yeah, that’s a good answer.” I said, placing my right hand under my chin, propping my elbow up with my left hand. “Say that you plan on visiting one of the Dragon reserves, eventually. You don’t have to say when.”

A glint entered the man’s eyes. “Aye, that’d work, and it sounds like a fine idea. A fine idea, indeed.”

I nodded, not saying anything and letting the silence drag on.

“Yeh aren’t leavin’, are you.” The man’s voice dropped in disappointment.

It wasn’t a question, but I decided to answer it anyway.

“No.” I said, feeling like I was bursting with excitement. “I want to see it.”

The sight of my enthusiasm seemed to perk the man right up. He turned, opened the door and gave me an expectant look. “What’re yeh waitin’ for?”

I nodded and entered his home with a smile, which fell off the moment that the wave of heat enveloped me with its smothering embrace.

Without hesitation, I took off my cloak and the upper layer of my school uniform. “How can you bear the heat?”

“It’s not easy, I’ll tell yeh.” Hagrid said, moving to stoke the large fire he had going. “Worse is, I can’t exactly open the windows, either. Best I can do is kip off fer a bit before goin’ back inside. Helps cool me up.”

I moved in closer, hoping to get a glimpse of the egg. I spied its dark brown, splotched coloring and felt a thrill of excitement go through me.

“Nice.” I said. “How’d you get it?”

I knew, of course, the method with which Hagrid had received it, but it didn’t hurt to make sure, anyway.

“I won it, actually.” Hagrid checked the flame a few times before backing away to sit down in his massive chair. “Off a game o’ cards with a stranger I met down at the pub. Seemed to be quite glad to be rid of it, as a matter of fact.”

I chuckled. “No doubt. It’s a dragon’s egg, after all. I read that it’s highly illegal to even own an egg, let alone do what you’re doing.”

“You have, have yeh?” Hagrid said, wiping the sweat off his brow and sending me a guarded look.

“I’m not telling anyone.” I said to reassure the big man. “But sooner or later, someone’s going to figure it out. I’m sure the Headmaster already suspects.”

Hagrid looked like he wanted to argue, but ended up deflating. “Yeh’re right, of course.”

Things fell into silence for a while as I went up to stare down at the dragon’s egg. It looked harmless, only a little bigger than an ostrich’s egg.

“Hard to see this little thing as the towering behemoth of pure destruction that these creatures really are.” I said, feeling my face dry up from being so close to the roaring fire.

“I’ve always wanted a dragon, yeh see.” Hagrid said, catching my attention. “Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted one.”

“Who wouldn’t?” I said, smiling. “They are awesome and powerful creatures. Having one as a companion? Sign me up.”

“Yes.” Hagrid nodded with fervor. “That, they are. And it’s possible to tame them. Don’t care what the Ministry says.”

“Yeah, from what I can tell.” I said. “The Ministry sounds like they’re just as bad as the Muggle government— uptight busybodies who waste everyone’s time and get their work done at the fraction of the pace you’d expect.”

At Hagrid’s look of curiosity, I elaborated. “The old manager of the orphanage never had anything good to say about government types.”

“I suppose some things are the same everywhere, eh?” Hagrid said, shaking his head.

“Yeah.” I chuckled and went back to the far edge of the house, where it was coldest. “Wizards or Muggles, mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy will always be the undefeatable enemy. But, at least, we can use magic to make sure everything is in order. Imagine what it’s like to be a Muggle file clerk, painstakingly going through an endless list of documents and figuring out what goes where.”

Hagrid shuddered at the very thought. “I’d rather not think about tha’.”

“You know what; you’re right.” I nodded. “All that time, lost— I don’t ever want to waste my life like that.”

Hagrid gave me a queer look. “And what do you want to do with your time, Adam?”

“Huh?” I turned to the man, not having expected that question.

“What do yeh want to do?” He repeated.

My mind and heart put forth a massive jumble of goals which contradicted each other. I wanted to master magic and see if I could find any way to my home dimension. I wanted to stay in this dimension and build a life here. I wanted to be free in everything in life, but I also wanted to put some roots down, somewhere.

Which is it? The sly part of me said. My, you really are a confused fool, aren’t you?

Shut up.

“You don’t have ter answer tha’, Adam.” Hagrid said, shaking his head as he noticed my sudden agitation. “It’s a big question— really big. Some take years jus’ ter even ask themselves this, let alone answer it!”

“Yeah.” I ended up saying, turning away from the man with a frown. “It’s not small. Before I came here to Hogwarts, I thought I’d go to whatever high school the orphanage would send me to and just study as hard as I could to be successful.”

And I had some plans, all right. With my foreknowledge of how the tech industry was going to go, as well as having already completed a basic education in my previous life, I would have likely been fast tracked to the top of society.

I could have become one of the biggest tech names, even— maybe it was cheating, using my knowledge like this, but why, then, would I have been put in the past?

Of course, the answer had been because this was a Harry Potter universe, which threw all of my plans into whack. True, I could have rejected the letter and moved forward with my plan, but I found that I could not resist the sheer allure of wielding magic.

With magic, I could live the exact same lifestyle I would have envisioned as a wealthy Muggle, but without any of the effort taken to secure the funds to do so.

That alone had been convincing enough.

But magic symbolized something else, for me; absolute freedom.

Hagrid hadn’t said a word this whole time, letting me formulate my thoughts into something which made sense.

“I think…” I said. “I just want to be free; free to do whatever I want— whatever it may be.”

Whether society approves of it or not. I don’t care if it’s a mistake, as long as I’m free to make it.

“I see.” Hagrid said, getting a strange look over his eyes. “You remind me of someone a little, yeh know.”

I swallowed, wondering if he was going to compare me to Voldemort.

“Who?”

“Just someone I knew a long time ago. Or thought I knew.” Hagrid stared at me for a second. “His name was Sirius.”

Sirius Black. My mind completed the name. How the Hell am I anything like him?

“Sirius, huh?” I said. “Like the star?”

“Like the star.” Hagrid nodded in confirmation before looking into the fire once again. “He wanted ter be free, too. It’s a right shame how he turned out.”

“Turned out?” I asked unnecessarily.

Hagrid eyed me, a strange expression forming on his face. “Aye, he went bad— as bad as you can go. Maybe if I’d seen the signs sooner, I would have been able to do somethin’.”

I nodded, recalling the two had at least been halfway friendly with each other before everything had gone to Hell.

“But when he was as old as you, there was nothing o’ the bad in him.” Hagrid said. “He was jus’ a boy who wanted to be free to do what he wanted. Like you.”

I looked down a bit, feeling a spike of guilt lance my heart. Sirius Black was innocent, and I’d been ignoring his fate this whole time. But, what could I do, anyway?

It wasn’t like I could go forth to Azkaban and engineer some kind of escape effort.

I’m nowhere near that powerful yet. I thought. But maybe I could expose Pettigrew, somehow? I’d need to think about it.

You don’t have to do it, you know. The sly voice said. It doesn’t really matter whether he’s free or not. Freeing him gives us no advantage.

It’s the right thing to do. I argued. Plus, if it eases your sociopathic sensibilities, he could help us in return. And to sound less like a stupid fanfiction trope, it would be a waste to let him rot in there. Guy’s loaded and could secure us a place to live away from the orphanage.

Using your head, for once? The voice answered. Maybe you’re not as stupid as I thought you were.

Wasn’t he the one who saw no initial benefit to this venture?

You know. I thought. We’re going to need to sit down and figure out what the Hell you really are.

Everything has its time and place, Zero. The voice said in an ominous tone, sending a shiver down my spine. But not now.

It was a testament to how messed up I was that I accepted these words at face value.

“‘Course, you’re a lot different.” Hagrid pulled me back to reality, likely misjudging my reaction and feeling bad that he’d compared me to a treacherous murdering scumbag. “You have the world at yer fingertips, Adam. You just gotta—”

“—Stay the bloody course.” I said, my annoyance at the big man’s words taking my attention away from the voice in my head— at least, for now. “Yes, you’ve told me that so many times it’s popping up in my dreams now, Hagrid.”

Hagrid bellowed out a laugh in reply. “Means it’s workin’!”

“Can’t argue with that, I suppose.”

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