May 20, 1992, 9:00 AM, Forbidden Forest
He grunted and swung, filling the air around him with the sound of his axe cutting into wood, sending shards flying everywhere. A few splinters managed to hit his face and beard but Hagrid gave it no mind.
His skin was strong and thick that he was able to weather damage far beyond something as weak as that.
And so, he continued to hack at the tree, again and again and again, until it began to tip over. With a push, he sent it crashing down into the earth with a loud thud.
Hagrid took a breath before approaching the tree. With his axe, he chopped all of the branches off before tying one end of the log with some strong, thick rope. Holding the other end in his hand, Hagrid dragged the large log behind him as he trekked further through the ancient forest.
Hagrid ignored the coils of foreboding mist with an ease borne of familiarity.
The Forbidden Forest was not much of a mystery to him— he damn near lived there, after all. Hagrid knew the lay of the land like he did the back of his hand.
A few miles south was where he could find the Unicorns. To the north, there were the Thestrals.
Off to the east, if he trekked far enough, he would find the edge of the Acromantula territory.
Hagrid smiled to himself; he wondered how his old friend, Aragog was doing.
Need ter visit him, at some point. Hagrid thought to himself before continuing his trip. He avoided the massive roots of the ancient trees around him, keeping his eyes peeled for any threat.
He knew that there wasn’t anything particularly frightening to deal with in the morning, but you never could be too careful when it came to this Forest.
Creatures of all manner made their homes in this place, not the least of which were the Centaurs.
Hagrid grunted as he stepped over a particularly large rock, dragging the log over it with some effort.
The Centaurs were a proud people, but Hagrid would be damned if he were ever forced to have an extended conversation with one.
Mars this, Jupiter tha’. Hagrid huffed and shook his head. Ruddy stargazers, every last one of them.
Still. He thought as his work-site came into view in the distance. They’ve got some powerful Healing magic.
When he had been young and foolish, Hagrid had gotten the idea to explore the Forbidden Forest.
Through a series of unfortunate events, he’d gotten hurt— a severe wound, all things considered. He had been too far from the Castle and had collapsed in the middle of the Forest.
Not a place to be in when wounded. Hagrid thought, getting closer to his destination. I though’ I was a goner fer sure.
He had been fighting a pack of Gytrashes off when he’d received the injury.
With one leg done for, and predators all around him, ready to turn him into their next meal, Hagrid had almost given up hope.
But then they came. He thought. The Centaurs.
They’d driven the hounds away, and then treated his wounds like he was one of their own before sending him back to the Castle.
Obsessed with Astronomy, they may have been, but they’d saved his life, and so Hagrid made sure to aid their tribe over the years. He reckoned they may have even grown fond of him, now.
Well, all except Bane. That one will never warm up to any human. Hagrid thought with a grimace before depositing the log on top of the pile he’d already created.
“Nice.” Adam Clarke’s voice came to him from the side. “That should be enough, I think.”
“More than enough, I imagine.” Hagrid dusted his hands off before turning to the boy.
He was drawing crude designs on a piece of paper, his eyes flitting about as he took in his surroundings and devised his plans.
Hagrid felt happy. Adam had helped him around so much that Hagrid now often found himself with free time, and able to re-engage in some of his old pursuits.
“I’m still not really sure about this.” Adam said as he approached the man, drawing his wand. “Want me to use the Scouring Charm on you?”
“I’d rather yeh didn’t.” Hagrid’s answer was as fast as lightning. He hated the Scouring Charm. “I’ll clean up later.”
“Right.” Adam stowed his wand and raised his hands to appease the large man. “I’ll just work on building this house, then. Foundation’s done?”
“Yes. It’s as good as it’ll get.” Hagrid said. “I’ve been workin’ on that for the past few weeks. Whenever I can find the time, anyway.”
Adam nodded. “I took a look at it earlier, and it seemed pretty good. I just wanted to make sure to ask you and get the green light to go ahead with the building phase.”
Hagrid blinked in confusion and was about to ask what he meant, but Adam beat him to it.
“Muggles regulate their car flow by using special street lights.” Adam said, moving his hand from left to right while his other hand was still. “Imagine this is a car heading down a lane towards one of these lights.”
He slowed the movement of the ‘car’. “When the light’s yellow, the driver slows down.”
Then, he stopped it. “When it becomes red, the driver stops and waits.”
“And then when it turns green.” He said, moving his hand again. “The driver can move again.”
Hagrid nodded in understanding. It seemed to be an easy enough concept. “And Muggles do this everywhere?”
“On most roads.” Adam said, shaking his head. “Most important roads, anyway. The rest, the suburbs… their roads usually have stop or yield signs— the rules are a bit different for these depending on where you live, but they’re all still pretty intuitive. I’ll tell you all about it, if you like.”
Hagrid smiled and nodded. “All right. It’ll give us som’thin’ to talk abou’ while working on this project.”
Adam hesitated for a moment at that.
“I’m still not sure that this is a good idea, Hagrid.” Adam said. “I mean, it’s a Dragon, and we’re building a wooden house.”
“He won’t breathe fire until he’s much older.” Hagrid argued back, waving the boy’s concerns away. “At least six months. Little Norbert’s only a day old. Plenty o’ time.”
Adam frowned, and Hagrid knew exactly why. The boy was annoyed he’d missed the hatching. After helping Hagrid and watching it grow within the confines of the egg, Hagrid couldn’t blame the boy for feeling this way.
The birth of any creature was a wonderful thing to witness. Witnessing the hatching of a Dragon— so rare that it’s considered almost impossible.
It had been one of the most incredible things Hagrid had seen in his life. He didn’t care that the little one had woken him late at night for the event. He wouldn’t have missed a second of it.
Adam, however, had.
“I’m sorry you couldn’t make it.” Hagrid said, stopping what he was doing to pat the boy on the shoulder.
“It’s all right.” Adam said, doing his best to brush his annoyance away. “When will I get to see him?”
“After we finish up here?” Hagrid said before palming his forehead as a thought occurred. “Wait, no. Yeh can’t, ‘cause of the interview.”
If anything, Adam’s face soured further. “I’m not looking forward to that.”
“But yeh’ve already done one!”
“Yeah.” He said, scoffing. “One was enough, and now people want to know more about me?”
He huffed and sagged. “I suppose I brought this one upon myself.”
Hagrid laughed at that. “Only yeh can look at rightin’ an injustice and think of the stress it’ll give yeh.”
Adam chortled and tripped backwards with a yelp, falling onto his backside with a loud rustle of leaves. Hagrid took a step forward to check the boy over, but his chortle turned into full blown laughter.
“I’m an accident magnet!”
What in Merlin’s name is a magnet? Hagrid was confused, but forced himself not to ask the question and instead checked on his friend.
“Er…” Hagrid said over the laughter. “Adam? Did yeh hurt yourself?”
“No.” The boy let out a giggle as he got back up and dusted his legs and behind. “I just thought it was all very funny, for some reason.”
Hagrid eyed Adam for a few moments before shrugging. Not everyone behaved as they were expected to by society. He knew many men and women with some strange quirks or behaviors. Hagrid supposed that there was no real harm in a sudden urge to laugh.
If anything, it sounded like a good thing. He knew he could have used that sort of spontaneous burst of cheer in the old days.
“All right, Hagrid.” Adam said, breaking through his reverie.
Hagrid turned to see the boy already levitating one of the logs.
“You just sit back.” He said. “You’ve already done a lot of work, already. Let me be the one to build Norbert’s house!”
Hagrid shook his head. “No. I want ter work, too. Yeh can’t expect me to sit here for hours, do yeh?”
Adam frowned at him, before shaking his head. “Fine. You can help.”
It’s like he wants the task all for himself. Hagrid shook his head.
Adam truly was a strange boy.
3:00 PM, Hogwarts Entrance Hall
I sat at the base of the steps of the Entrance Hall, watching the people pass me by and staring at the large doors ahead, which led to the school grounds.
He’s late. I thought with a little bit of annoyance. He said to meet him here at three.
I huffed and pushed the irritation away. He’s probably busy with something, and besides, it’s my fault for showing up way too early for this sort of thing. That’s my bad habit to cure, not his.
I swallowed and shrugged. My mind was a strange place at the best of times, and this was yet another quirk of mine that I was at war with. Punctuality was a good thing— no mistake about that— but I often took it too far by being too early to events.
Part of me felt as if I was letting people down if I was late to something— like I was not showing them the respect I thought they deserved. People had called it heartwarming and nice, but I always found it to be annoying, considering no one else had done the same for me.
I couldn’t blame them, of course.
My neuroses were legendary in their specificity.
Most people were more like Ron Weasley; laid back and carefree about their lives. They had a great confidence that things would just ‘work out’, eventually.
My confidence wasn’t as unshakeable. Time and again, life has taught me hard lessons on my place in society.
Your life here is different, you know. The sly voice spoke. Do not let the problems of your previous self infect your new one.
You keep saying things like that. I thought. But I don’t think that’s how it works. I don’t really feel any different than my old self.
Don’t you? It said with a chortle of amusement. Would your old self study with such zeal? Would your old self bond with a powerful creature like Absol? Would your old self be so bold and adventurous?
I frowned, not at all agreeing with what he was saying.
Bold and adventurous? I shook my head in disbelief. Me? You sure you’re in the right person, buddy?
What else would you call going forth to Diagon Alley, risking everything just to get a vial of Dragon’s Blood? The sly voice continued, undeterred by my attempt at humor.
That had been necessary. I countered. The pressure I was being put under was immense.
Was it really? Are you sure you could not have achieved your objectives some other way? The sly voice said, a note of doubt entering its tone. I inhabit this body, just as you do, Zero.
I frowned and said nothing.
You felt it— the exhilaration, the sheer joy of fighting.
I did feel it. I admitted, exhaling through my nose in some vain attempt to calm my nerves. What of it? It got someone killed.
The two Aurors were fools for standing in your way. The voice said without regard or concern.
I disagreed. Easy to label the people on the other side as fools or what-have-you. They were people, and I ended one’s life. Over fifty Galleons.
It wasn’t your finest plan, to be sure. The voice said in amused reproach. But it worked, did it not? You solved the problem, and gained the allegiance of a powerful entity.
Alef Ard buzzed in the back of my mind at the mention.
Hello to you, too. The sly voice greeted it. Can you tell this buffoon of a co-tenant of mine that he’s adventurous?
Alef Ard buzzed with anger, and the sly voice went quiet for the longest of moments.
There’s no need to be rude.
Alef buzzed again, and if I were a betting man, he was probably blowing raspberries at the voice.
I suppose I win this round, don’t I? I thought with amusement. Thanks Alef.
The voice was about to answer when a voice came from behind me. “Adam?”
I turned and saw Mira, who was standing a few steps above me. “Oh, Mira. Hello.”
“What’re you doing down there?” Mira said, looking a little concerned.
“Oh, I’m just waiting for Professor Flitwick.” I said, smiling a little at her worried expression. “He’s running a little late though.”
“Oh.” She said and took a few steps down. “Mind if I join you in the wait, then?”
“Go right ahead.” I gestured to the spot next to me. “It’s a free staircase.”
With a silent chuckle, she sat beside me. “Indeed it is.”
We sat together for a few moments before she caved. “So…”
I took one look at her overly curious expression and knew what it was she wanted. “You want to know about what happened.”
She smiled at being so easily found out. “That obvious, huh?”
“Yeah.” I said and went quiet.
Another ten seconds passed before she started speaking again.
“So…” She said. “Can you tell me what happened?”
“I can.” I said and shut my mouth once again— this time, I was doing my best to hide a smile.
“Ugh.” Mira glared at me, the look of curiosity turning to one of annoyance. “Fine, don’t tell me.”
“Woah, there.” I raised my hands in surrender and gave her a little grin. “Sorry— I just couldn’t resist.”
“Not funny.” She said, though I could tell there was a little smile playing on her lips, threatening to overtake her entire face with great strides of cheer.
“It is a little funny.”
Mira couldn’t help herself anymore; she laughed and gave a loud snort before her face turned to mortification and embarrassment.
“Nooo…” She mock-wailed before pointing her finger at me with menace in her eyes. “You didn’t hear me do that.”
“Oh.” I said and pretended to be confused. “Hear you do what? I seem to have lost the last few minutes of my memory.”
Mira eyed me for a few more seconds before nodding. “Good.”
I chuckled and decided to throw her a bone. “What do you want to know?”
“How’d you figure it out?” Mira blurted. “Everyone’s been talking about it. I’ve tried to speak to Percy, but he refuses to even talk to anyone when they bring it up.”
“I can’t blame him.” I said. “Imagine having a grown man sleeping in your bed for years and you never knew— maybe even cuddled with him.”
Mira turned green at once. “Ew. No. Forget I said anything, Adam.”
“Already done.” I said, nodding. “If you’re still curious, you can read the story of how I figured it all out in the Daily Prophet. I’ll be telling them how it all went down right now.”
“Oh?” Mira said. “Is that why you’re waiting for Professor Flitwick?”
“That is correct, Miss Goshawk.” Our Head of House’s squeaky voice came from the top of the stairs.
“Professor!” Mira got up and gave the man a smile.
“Miss Goshawk.” He gave her a nod as he approached before turning his gaze to me. “Mr. Clarke.”
“I do apologize for being late, Mr. Clarke.” He said. “But there were certain matters that needed attending to.”
“Nothing to forgive.” I said, waving his apology away. “As long as we’re ready now?”
“Of course.” He said and took a few steps down, below me. “Follow me, Mr. Clarke.”
I got up, giving Mira a sidelong glance and a nod. “See you later, Mira.”
“Bye!” I heard her say as I went down to join my Head of House.
“Ready?” Flitwick said and moved towards Hogwarts Castle’s exit.
I followed. “I thought we’d do this in the Headmaster’s office?”
“I had thought the same.” Professor Flitwick said, sending me an apologetic look. “That’s part of why I was late. The meeting is to occur at the Three Broomsticks. Do you remember it?”
“Oh.” I said in surprise. “Yes. That’s where I went when I needed the Floo to get to Diagon Alley, isn’t it?”
“Indeed it is, Mr. Clarke.”
“It’s a bit far away, though.”
“We will have plenty of time to get there, don’t worry.” Filius said as we passed the exit’s threshold and moved through the Castle Grounds, towards where the carriages were stationed. We boarded one and, with a wave of Professor Flitwick’s wand, we were on our way.
Half of the trip went in silence until Filius spoke again. “I am not sure who the Prophet is sending to meet with us today.”
I gave him a strange look. “Not Amy?”
“We requested her, of course.” Filius said. “But their missive did not state who was chosen, only the time and location.”
“I see.” I frowned. “So they could be sending Rita Skeeter for all we know.”
“It’s a distinct possibility. She was the one who wrote the first article, after all.” Filius said. “Still, there’s plenty of time until then. They’ve stated that the reporter would be a little late.”
More waiting. I thought in annoyance, but mastered myself quickly. “If it is Miss Skeeter, is there anything I have to do? Anything I need to know?”
“It is an interview, Mr. Clarke.” Filius looked at me askance as the carriage reached the outskirts of Hogsmeade. “Not an interrogation.”
“I know.” I said. “I can’t help but worry, though.”
“There is nothing to be worried about, lad.” Filius said, raising a hand in a gesture of aid. “If Miss Skeeter is indeed our assigned reporter, and she makes any inappropriate comments, I will declare the interview to be over.”
I hid the automatic wince at the man’s answer. Denying a self-important reporter’s access was a recipe for disaster.
Just asking for trouble. I thought, stepping off of the carriage and waiting for Professor Flitwick to join me. Three Broomsticks, here we go.