May 20, 1992, 3:40 PM, Hogsmeade Village
I unbuttoned the top of my robe, feeling the trapped heat escape its confines with a relieved sigh. “I think I overdressed.”
“Better over than under.” Professor Flitwick said with amusement as we made our way through the wizarding village of Hogsmeade. Gone were the holly wreaths and the picturesque, Christmas-themed decor.
Instead, they were replaced by flowers; endless pots of thistle, bluebells, heathers, scottish primroses as well as many I didn’t recognize or remember the name of.
I smiled. Spring was in full-bloom, and it was glorious.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Professor Flitwick said, pointing out a few things as we took our time through the village. “The flowers are kept fresh and well preserved all season thanks to spells which control temperature and moisture to give the plants the optimal environment for them to thrive.”
“Interesting.” I said, looking at the beautiful flora with a more critical eye. “I’ve learned a Heating Charm of my own, but not one which can hold the temperature at a certain point.”
“Indeed, you would not find this spell in the shelves of our Library.”
I stopped my flower-gazing to look at the diminutive man. “What do you mean?”
“Not all knowledge can be found— or even originates from Hogwarts, Mr. Clarke.” Flitwick said. “You’ll find that the world outside of school is one full of mysteries to solve and even more knowledge to attain.”
I nodded, understanding what he was getting at. “And these spells…?”
“They are taught to the residents of the village by the older generation.” Professor Flitwick said, nodding. “And then, in turn, the new residents will spread their roots here and find themselves teaching this knowledge to the next generation, when the time comes. It is one of Hogsmeade’s many long-standing traditions.”
“I see.” I said and looked at the village again. “Traditions and a community.”
“Just so.” Professor Flitwick said.
I smiled a little, feeling somewhat wistful. “Just like one big family, all helping and taking care of each other no matter what they may think or believe.”
This place really is idyllic. I thought. A small, insular little community not worried about the troubles of the world around it. Their only concern is to preserve what they have until perpetuity.
“Yes.” Filius was starting to give me a strange look. “This village has been a haven for many a wizard or witch ever since it was founded in the eleventh century.”
I nodded at the information, saying nothing.
“Mr. Clarke, are you…” Flitwick hesitated as he approached me. “Are you all right?”
My head swiveled in his direction. “What do you mean?”
“You spoke of community and family.” Filius said, choosing his words with the utmost of care, as if he was afraid he’d set me off in some way. “I cannot help but think of what happened a few short days ago, with Mr. Black.”
I frowned, wondering what he was getting at. “Sir? I’m not sure I understand.”
Filius stared at me for a long moment before shaking his head. “Perhaps I am mistaken; never you mind, Mr. Clarke.”
“No, please.” I said, insisting out of a sense of curiosity. “Your opinion is always welcome, Professor.”
Filius smiled at that for a moment before he sobered up. “Are you perhaps regretting your choice of asking Mr. Black to adopt you?”
I blinked, not having expected that one.
“I’ll rephrase, because that did not come out the way I wished.” Professor Flitwick shook his head again. He paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. “Your request for Mr. Black has been a topic of great interest.”
“It is?” I said, my face scrunching up in confusion. “How do you mean, Professor?”
“Come. I’ll explain as we walk.” Flitwick nodded and resumed walking. I matched his pace, staying beside him.
“There’s no hurry to get to the Three Broomsticks Inn, just yet.” Flitwick said. “And I do enjoy a good walk, so this all works out for the best.”
“As you say.” I gave a noncommittal answer before addressing the issue he brought up. “What did you mean by my request being… What was it? A topic of great interest?”
“Yes.” Professor Flitwick said, nodding for a few seconds as we passed by a small group of witches who looked at the two of us with curiosity. “Your name is now known by many in the Wizarding World— at the very least, on the British Isles.”
“All right…” I said, not sure where he was going with this.
“In particular, some families have begun petitioning to request your…” Filius stopped speaking for a moment as he tried to find the right words to say. “An adoption.”
“An adoption?” I repeated, eyes widening in some bewilderment. “People want to adopt me?”
“Yes.” Flitwick said, before taking me to the side of Gladrags, away from any prying eyes and ears. “But also, no.”
“What do you—”
“I’ll explain, Mr. Clarke.” Flitwick shook his head at my impatience, as if he were surprised by it. “I have received a number of letters from various families; the Greengrasses, the Goshawks, the Patils, as well as a few more…”
“Mira and Padma’s families?” I asked, voice rising in surprise.
“Among others, yes.” Professor Flitwick nodded. “In their correspondence, these families have expressed their intention and desire to meet with you and establish a dialogue.”
“A dialogue.” I repeated, my mind whirling with the information.
“A dialogue for what?” I said before shaking my head as the realization came. “My name’s known everywhere on the British Isles for one reason, probably; becoming ahead of the other children in school?”
“That is the case, yes.” Professor Flitwick said with a nod. “I do not say this lightly or to inflate your ego, but the talent, skill, knowledge and drive to learn that you have shown is quite considerable. Your progress with the Hogwarts subjects speaks for itself.”
“But I’m not even at the Third Year level yet.” I said as an automatic response. “Surely someone passing a grade up is not unheard of.”
“It is not, but you would be surprised at how different their circumstances are to yours, Mr. Clarke.” Flitwick said. “While I am, in my humble opinion, quite proficient in Charms, I cannot claim to have a great degree of competence in, say… Herbology, or Potions. I have learned enough to pass my OWL examinations, but no further.”
“I see.” I said with a nod. “You’re saying that, since I’ve gotten good grades all around, that makes it… An appealing prospect for some people?”
“Perhaps not the words I would use, but that is more or less the case, Mr. Clarke.” Filius said, before taking a breath. “I was planning on telling you this after your end of term examinations, but since you’ve already made the request to Mr. Black, I feel it is appropriate to share it now.”
Wish you would’ve told me about this sooner. I thought, before blinking. Then again, what do any of those families offer me that the Black family can’t?
I knew nothing of the Patils, save that they had two daughters— Parvati and Padma. The name Greengrass was familiar to me. How could one forget the fanfic favorite, Daphne?
The blank slate character everyone loves to use. I thought. Including myself, at some point.
Aside from that, I didn’t know much about the girl or what her family did. In the books, her family had allied itself with the Malfoys after the war, so maybe they were pretty bad? It would depend on whether the arrangement was made by Draco, or by his parents.
Draco had defected out of a sense of guilt for his actions, while his parents had only done so to save their own skins, as well as Draco’s.
It was therefore the riskiest bet out of these three.
Better to stay away from all that. I thought.
“The Goshawk family?” I said again. “Maybe Mira talked to them about it?”
Was that why she wanted to talk to me at the staircase? I thought. Did I misread that whole situation?
“It is possible.” Filius said. “But unlikely. The Goshawks are a family which values knowledge; they’re concerned with the sharing, propagation and development of new magical spells, potions and frameworks by which to practice witchcraft.”
“Like the Standard Book of Spells.” I said, nodding. “They would want me to contribute to it?”
“I cannot say for certain.” Professor Flitwick said. “But I would imagine they would, at some point in the future.”
I frowned. These so-called adoptions were sounding a lot more like indentured servitude contracts. “I see.”
“Do not judge so harshly, Mr. Clarke.” Professor Flitwick said, reading my expression well. “They are good, respectable families with as much to offer you as you would to them.”
Be that as it may. I thought, a hint of anger and rebelliousness bleeding into my being. I will never willingly be under someone else’s yoke, no matter how reasonable and advantageous it may be.
My thoughts flitted to Quirrell for a moment before I suppressed them with vicious intent. Now was not the time. I had an interview coming up.
“I will give them letters of rejection.” I decided, after a moment. “I’m not interested in increasing any family’s standing using my name. They may have hidden knowledge or interesting resources, but that’s not what I want.”
Flitwick blinked before narrowing his eyes in interest. “And, what is it that you want, Mr. Clarke?”
I swallowed and resisted the urge to bite my lip in thought. “I want… A good environment for me to just be, I think. I don’t want to be paraded around like a trophy son— I saw many couples like that coming to the orphanage. They’re awful, and these families offering up negotiations or whatever it is they want to call it— it’s just more of the same. No. I refuse.”
“I see.” Flitwick said, looking sad at my little revelation. “And you feel that you would find this kind of environment from Sirius Black?”
“You haven’t even known the man for more than a few hours.” Professor Flitwick said, not understanding why I was so adamant on choosing Sirius. “How can you be so sure of this?”
I looked down for a moment, wondering how I would explain it to him without compromising the secret of my hidden knowledge, before nodding to myself. “He showed me gratitude, and he also showed that he has the nurturing spirit of a parent— otherwise he wouldn’t have come to see Harry like he did. That’s the first thing he did, you know.”
Flitwick tilted his head. “And you are sure that he’ll know how to take care of you?”
“I reckon he’ll give it his best shot.” I said, wondering just what he was getting at. “No one’s perfect. I don’t expect him to know everything, and I’ve mostly been taking care of myself, anyway. It’ll all work out.”
Filius stared at me for a few seconds, as if weighing my words carefully in his mind, before nodding.
“Very well, Mr. Clarke.” He smiled. “You’ve made excellent points, indeed.”
“Sir?” I said, feeling confused again.
“Though I believe that you may have made your choice— frankly speaking— on a whim…” Filius said, his eyes holding no hint of judgment or condemnation. “You seem to have made the right one. I am simply ensuring that you have all of the facts, so that you know what it is exactly you are getting into.”
I nodded. “I think I understand, sir.”
“Perhaps you do, on some level. You are a smart boy.” Filius said in acknowledgment. “Just know that— however unlikely it is— if you end up finding yourself in an unsafe environment, I want you to feel free to let me know. All right?”
“Of course.” I said, smiling at my Head of House’s words of warmth. “Thank you, Professor.”
A moment passed before Professor Flitwick gestured towards the cobbled street. “Now, I believe there is still some time before our interviewer arrives. How about a quick bite?”
“That sounds lovely, sir.”
“Come along then, Mr. Clarke!”
We moved back on the cobblestone path and made the remainder of our trip to the Three Broomsticks Inn in relative silence. At least, until I saw the establishment.
It stood out from the other cottages; from top to bottom, the place was almost completely covered in white lilies. I frowned at the sight. “That’s a strange decor.”
Flitwick stared at the flowers with a pained expression. “Strange, but one with meaning.”
I gave the older man a glance, my frown deepening, but the good Professor was already moving forward.
“Come!” He said with a forced sense of cheer as the front door opened for him by its own accord. “You really must try the food here, Mr. Clarke.”
“That good, is it?” I said, playing along with the man. I wasn’t sure why the lilies had caused such a reaction, but it was not my place to force him to reveal his woes to me.
“I only visited here for a short while before.” I said, passing by the Inn’s threshold and inhaling the scent of cooked meats and baked bread.
I felt my mouth water and swallowed as I listened to the soft, low chatter of the people around us. I swept my gaze around the room as Professor Flitwick spoke to one of the waitresses, who led us to a cozy little table by the window.
The inside decorations weren’t as excessive and over-the-top as what I’d seen outside, but there were still many small pots of lilies placed in various parts of the establishment.
Inside, too, eh? I thought. I guess they go really hard with decorations for Spring. Flowers are quite pretty, I suppose.
I shuddered to think of what Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop would do for its decorations. All that pink… Get me as far away from that place as possible.
The waitress who’d led us to the table came back with the menu, handing it to Professor Flitwick and myself with a smile.
“Thank you.” I said, but she had already gone to answer another group’s call. “It’s pretty busy today.”
“As it should be.” Professor Flitwick said, smiling. “With spring in full bloom and summertime just on the horizon, it’s the perfect moment for everyone to come together.”
I nodded in agreement before I directed my attention to the menu. Beef pasties, smoked turkey legs, spareribs, rotisserie smoked chicken… All of these sound great.
“Any recommendations, sir?” I said, lowering the menu to glance at the man. He hadn’t even bothered looking at his own.
Filius thought for a moment before speaking. “Have you ever tried spareribs before, lad?”
In my old life. I thought, shaking my head. “I have not, sir.”
“Never a bad place to start, then.” Flitwick smiled as the waitress came back.
“Sorry for the quick leave, there.” She apologized, smiling.
“It’s all right.” I said, throwing her a bone. “It’s pretty packed in here.”
The girl blinked before smiling a little wider. “What can I get you two?”
“I’ll get the usual, Miss Alexis.” Filius said, before gesturing to me. “And my young friend here will have your delightful spareribs!”
“Of course.” She— Alexis— jotted a few things down before addressing me. “Anything to drink?”
“Do you have some orange juice?”
“Then I’ll have that. Thanks!”
“My pleasure, Mr. Clarke.” Alexis smiled again before giving the Professor a nod. “Professor.”
I blinked and watched the waitress walk away before turning to my Head of House. “You weren’t wrong. She knows me by name.”
Flitwick hummed in the affirmative. “Yes. Recent events have further added to your recognizability, lad. To say that many on the Isles will know your name and face is not an exaggeration.”
I nodded. All the more reason my move to go with Sirius was the right one. With my name known, I can be easily sought out by any group or family looking to put me in my place.
I hadn’t realized just how far reaching my actions were. It put everything into perspective for me. So concerned I was with not wasting my time in school, I hadn’t truly taken into account just how far some people would go to either add me to their family or excise me out of the living world.
Could that be what the Greengrass invitation is about? I thought to myself. A roundabout, long-term way of suppressing and then killing me?
It was a ridiculous thought to have, but one that my mind could not let go of. However unlikely it was, I could not dismiss the inherent risk and dangers of associating myself with such a family.
No. Sirius Black was the right choice here, hands down. With that man, as long as I was well behaved, I could move in any way I wished. Black was a man who had gone through a bad family life.
He knows what it means to be stifled. He lived it in his childhood. He lived it in Azkaban. I thought. He won’t inflict it on me or Harry.
I turned my eyes to look outside of the window, appreciating the village’s scenery as we waited. It didn’t take long for Alexis to come back with a pair of platters; my spareribs and the Professor’s choice of meal— smoked chicken, I believe. Could be turkey.
“Here you are.” Alexis said as she placed our food and drink on the table. I stared at the large mug of butterbeer the Professor had beside his food with a curious look before turning to our server.
“Thank you.” I said, fishing into my pocket. “How much will this be?”
“We won’t take your money here today, Mr. Clarke.” Alexis took a step back, raising her hands and shaking her head.
What? I thought, sending a look of confusion to Professor Flitwick, who seemed to have a look of sad understanding.
“Come speak to Madam Rosmerta after you’re done eating.” She said. “That will count as payment enough, this time.”
I blinked and then gave a mental shrug. Probably another one of her ‘try it for free the first time’ gimmicks? Whatever. More money for me.
But then, why had Flitwick looked sad at that?
“All right.” I said, nodding. “Thank you again, Alexis.”
“It was a pleasure, Mr. Clarke.” Alexis said before giving us another nod and leaving.
I stared at her for a second longer before turning to my food.
“They look really good.” I said, swallowing again.
“Try them.” Professor Flitwick said before looking at me. “I hope you won’t mind if I do not speak for a while, Mr. Clarke.”
“By all means, sir.” I said. “‘If you talk and eat at the same time, you’ll end up not doing much of either’; that’s something one of the workers told us.”
“Words to live by.” He said, picking up his utensils. “Shall we?”
I gave a nod, and that was that. The next few minutes turned into a blur of great food and drink superimposed over the general air of coziness and comfort of the Inn.
I leaned back in my seat, setting the half-empty cup of orange juice on the table before giving out a satisfied sigh. “That was really good.”
Flitwick, still very busy with his own meal, only nodded in response. I wiped my hands clean with the handkerchief before taking another sip of the orange juice. I mulled over Madam Rosmerta’s request for me to speak with her for a few more minutes before finally making the decision.
I wiped my mouth and hands again for good measure before addressing my Head of House. “I’m going to see what it is Madam Rosmerta wants to talk about, sir.”
The man stopped his meal to wipe his mouth before giving me a nod of acquiescence. “Very well, lad. Go on.”
I nodded back before turning away and heading towards the central bar. Madam Rosmerta saw me coming halfway and kept her eyes trained on me for the remainder of the time.
“Mr. Adam Clarke.” Madam Rosmerta greeted me with a wide smile. “The man of the hour.”
I hesitated for a moment before extending my hand to shake hers. “How do you do?”
She stared at it for a moment before leaning forward and taking it into her own. “Quite the polite boy, you are. ‘Strong and dependable’, I believe I called you, last we met…”
I frowned at her, not understanding what she was getting at and keeping my eyes firmly away from the cleavage she not-so-accidentally ended up showing.
“I’m glad to see that I was right about you.” Rosmerta said, letting go and leaning back to normal. She seemed amused at my reaction.
Wizarding society is absolutely insane. I thought. Between Helena trying to match me with Mira, and random things like this, I’m not sure what to think.
I shook the thoughts away. I didn’t really have the time to consider the societal differences between my life as a Muggle from another universe and the life I led in this one.
“Alexis— one of your servers— said that you wished to speak to me?” I said, trying to get the conversation flowing again.
“Indeed.” Rosmerta said, her mischievous look turning solemn over the course of a few seconds.
“What did you want to talk about?”
The woman glanced to the left for a moment before looking back at me with an inscrutable expression. “Tell me, what do you see?”
“Erm…” I said, looking around and wondering if this was some kind of trick question. “Your restaurant. People talking, eating and drinking.”
“What else?” She pushed, dissatisfied with my answer. “What stands out?”
“The flowers, I suppose?” I said, frowning. “Lilies.”
“So you did notice.” Rosmerta said before turning around and facing the large wall, on which many small, moving picture frames were set. Rosmerta focused on one in particular at the center for a few seconds before taking it off of the wall and placing it on the bar’s countertop. “Do you know who this is?”
I stared at the picture for a moment before reaching out to take it.
I stopped to look at the woman. “May I?”
“Go ahead.” She said, waving my concerns away.
I took the picture frame in hand and got a good look at its contents. It was an older picture of the Three Broomsticks, that much I could tell. I watched as a young, redheaded girl in an apron walked about the establishment, serving the various customers before coming closer to the center of the frame.
I swallowed as I realized just who it was that I was looking at. She was younger, and there was a brown splotch of chocolate on the side of her face, but the eyes and the hair told me who this was.
“This is Lily Potter.” I said, the pieces coming together. “The lilies, they’re for her?”
Now it all makes sense.
“You really are a sharp one.” Rosmerta said as I processed the new information. “They are indeed for her.”
I set the frame down and watched the young woman give the camera a wide, beautiful smile. It made my heart clench. This was Harry’s mother. This is what he sees in the Mirror.
I felt a hand come over my own and raised my head to see Madam Rosmerta’s eyes shining with sadness and gratitude. “I knew Sirius Black. He had a way with the ladies, but Lily always swore that he was never a bad person. After what happened…”
She paused for a moment and shook her head. “Dear me. I shouldn’t be boring you with this old tale.”
“It’s all right.” I said, trying to be as understanding as possible. “You aren’t boring me.”
“You are a sweet boy.” Madam Rosmerta said, before scoffing to herself and giving me a serious look. “What you’ve done for Sirius Black— we all believed that he was guilty, that he betrayed Lily, James, and their poor boy. We can’t thank you enough.”
“Is that why the meal was on the house?” I asked and got a nod of confirmation.
“A little token of our esteem for your deeds.” Rosmerta said before giving me an impish smile. “Don’t think that you’ll get free meals every time you come here, though.”
“Perish the thought.” I raised my hands in surrender, before gesturing at the image. “But I’ll take that, instead.”
Rosmerta blinked at the request in confusion. “You want Lily’s photo? Why?”
“Yes.” I nodded. “I think Harry would like it.”
“Harry— Lily’s boy.” Rosmerta said, eyes widening with surprise.
“Yeah.” I confirmed. “He doesn’t have any photos of his parents. I think he’ll appreciate this one.”
Here, the woman’s expression turned sad. “Of course. I have a few spares and a few others from my personal collection. I’ll get them right away.”
“Oh, there’s no hurry, Rosmerta. We’ll be here for some time, yet.” A woman’s voice came from my left as she took a seat at the counter. “Adam. You’ve been busy since the last time we’ve seen each other.”
I turned to the voice, feeling relieved. “Miss Broduk.”
Amy Broduk smiled, though the disapproving look in her eyes told me that she didn’t like being referred to that way. “Shall we?”