May 20, 1992, 6:15 PM, Hallways of Hogwarts
“That will be all for today, children.” Professor Binns’ droning voice brought Harry out of his zoned out fugue of note-taking. “Off you go.”
Harry stared down at his piece of paper and grimaced at all of the dates, names and events he would have to memorize by the looming end of the year. He had been distracted, as of late.
Considering what happened recently, however, could anyone blame him for being a little distracted? Harry had thought that, when Hagrid had come to deliver his Hogwarts acceptance letter, there would be no further insane and radical, life-flipping events.
This entire year, however, had been revelation after revelation. He remembered Mister Ollivander’s words about his wand.
“Terrible, yes… But great.”
He started to gather his things, nudging Ron out of his own haze as he did so.
“Class is over, Ron.” Harry said, nodding towards everyone packing up their things before resuming his gathering as well.
“Oh.” The red-haired boy said, his voice still dull. “All right.”
Harry suppressed a frown at his best friend, feeling sadness, pity and even some anger welling up inside of him. This was another one of the unexpected, heavy events which had come to their lives.
Neither he nor Ron had been prepared for the revelations which had been thrust upon them. Harry still couldn’t quite believe it, if he were to be honest with himself.
It hasn’t even been two weeks since then. Harry thought, stowing his quill and ink last before hefting his schoolbag and pushing off of his chair.
“I’m starving.” Hermione said from his left, and Harry turned to give his other friend a small smile.
“Me, too.” Harry said, seeing what she was trying to do in an instant. “It’s been a really long day; what about you, Ron? Craving anything today?”
But Ron shook his head and continued to put his things in his bag at a slow, sedate pace. Hermione met Harry’s gaze for a moment, letting him know without words how concerned she was.
Harry could only shrug in reply. The two had told her what had happened immediately after the meeting, and Ron seemed to be fine for a while after that.
He shouldn’t have been surprised, really. He did this sort of thing himself, but he did not expect it from Ron of all people. Ron always had a certain, rigid view of the world that he seldom, if ever, challenged. He had a great family life, he loved Quidditch, he was good at Wizard’s Chess, and so on.
But this revelation hurt him. Harry mused with a bit of sadness as Ron finished what he was doing and they exited the class, heading towards the Great Hall.
Harry and Hermione shared a look, deciding to keep their pace slow. They did not wish to put any more weight on their friend than he already had on his shoulders. The three friends continued to walk in solitude, no one willing to speak.
This is awful. Harry thought, frowning with a bit of anger. Why can’t things go back to the way they were?
In his heart of hearts, Harry knew that he wouldn’t change this series of events for the world; finding out that his Godfather, a man who’d been incarcerated for Harry’s entire life due to events out of his control, wanted Harry to live with him had been created of the most amazing feelings he had experienced in his short, mostly miserable, life.
He was wanted, and more than that; he was wanted by someone that his parents had trusted with their lives. They’d even trusted Sirius with Harry’s life by naming him the boy’s Godfather.
Harry did not care if he was called selfish for it, but if this was the price for his happiness, then he’d gladly pay it. It wasn’t as if Ron had lost any family, and Harry was certain that the boy would snap out of it, eventually.
He just needed time.
Now, if only time would speed up. Harry thought before shaking his head.
There was no point hurrying any of it. All he could do was provide his friend all the support he needed to get through this.
Harry stopped the boy with a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, Ron?”
Ron turned dull brown eyes to meet Harry’s green. “Yeah, mate?”
“Erm…” Harry hesitated, not sure what exactly it was he could say to cheer the boy up. “You want to go out flying tomorrow? I’ll get my Nimbus out, we’ll make a day of the whole thing!”
Ron stared at his friend, and Harry knew that he got the boy’s attention with that one, judging from the tiny, almost infinitesimal spark in his eyes. “Yeah…?”
Harry nodded, smiling. “We’ll go and just relax for the day. No studying, no exams. Just us and the skies above. How about it?”
Ron continued to stare at him. He had seemed interested, at first, but it was already waning as the seeds of listlessness continued to germinate through him.
No! Harry thought with a mix of annoyance and desperation. I almost got through to him!
He opened his mouth to say something else, but Hermione beat him to it.
“I’ll go, too.”
Both boys forgot what they were thinking about and snapped their heads to Hermione’s in absolute shock. Hermione Granger, begging off studying?
Was Hell freezing over?
“You’ll what?” Ron said, his voice rising in pitch with his surprise.
That was a better reaction than any of us managed to get out of him for days. Harry thought.
“I said I’ll come with you, too.” Hermione said, frowning at the boy. “I don’t just study all the time, you know.”
“You do, too.”
“I do not!” Hermione glared, getting fired up. “Just because you don’t see me relaxing doesn’t mean that I don’t do it, Ronald.”
Harry began to laugh, drawing the heated gaze of the two.
“What’s so funny?” Hermione demanded, annoyed.
But Harry’s laughter turned infectious, and soon the three had descended into hysterics, filling the hall with their impromptu cheer and holding onto each other so they didn’t fall to the stone floor.
“You…” Ron said, stopping to snicker and wipe a tear from his eye. “You lot are insane.”
He turned his gaze to the floor, and Harry feared that the boy had drawn back into himself once again. “Ron…”
“No, Harry.” Ron shook his head. “You’re right. I’ve been moping around for long enough.”
He raised his head towards the two with a solemn look. “Thank you. For… You know.”
Harry smiled and gave his friend a manly pat on the back as Hermione wiped tears away from her eyes. “Don’t mention it, mate.”
Ron swallowed before taking a deep breath and speaking again. “Come on. All this talking about our feelings has worked up my appetite. What’re you having?”
Harry’s smile widened as they resumed their trek to the Great Hall. “I don’t know; maybe the chicken again?”
As the three began to chat once again, Harry felt his worries fade away to nothing— at least the ones concerning Ron’s issues.
His gaze swept over the Great Hall, stopping for the barest of moments over Professor Snape before he continued on his way to the Gryffindor table.
Harry didn’t know what to do about the man and his quest for the Philosopher’s Stone, but that didn’t mean the three weren’t preparing for it.
Still, they were finally having a good time, again; there was no sense in ruining the mood with talk of Snape and his nefarious purposes, just yet. He knew that Hermione would bring it up after they were done eating.
That, and probably Hagrid’s dragon. Harry thought, a little amused.
The man thought he’d been able to keep it a secret from them, but they had managed to figure out that the dragon had hatched some time ago, and that Hagrid had enlisted Adam’s help to build a small dwelling in the Forbidden Forest to hide it.
Harry shook his head and took a seat beside Ron, while Hermione sat opposite of them, greeting Lavender and a few other students. Harry watched Ron pile a mountain of chicken on his plate before holding the serving platter up.
He should’ve just taken the entire serving platter for himself with how much chicken he pulled off. Harry thought in amusement before taking it with a nod of gratitude and serving himself some chicken and gravy. At least he’s feeling a little better now.
Harry’s thoughts turned to Adam again as he started his meal.
Only Adam would willingly go into the Forbidden Forest to build a house. Harry thought, taking a moment to savor the gravy; he knew that the Forest was home to many peaceful creatures like the unicorns and centaurs, but there were also rumors of giant spiders, as well as werewolves dwelling in that territory, as well.
So, to Harry, there were two conclusions: either Adam didn’t know about the dangers of the Forest— Extremely unlikely. He thought— or, Adam just did not care about his own safety.
That was something very interesting about his fellow student, Harry noted with a small sniff.
Adam could be rather inconsistent in how he behaved. It was something that never failed to throw the bespectacled boy off.
Adam Clarke believed in the concept of moving in a careful, methodical approach when it concerned everything that he did, but he was also somehow open to spontaneous, reckless and dangerous activities; like, say, building a house in the middle of a dangerous forest filled with magical creatures of all kinds?
This was just one of Clarke’s many baffling and contradictory personality traits. If Harry had to go through them all, it would most probably take him the rest of the evening, he reckoned.
“Pass me the gravy, Harry?” Ron said, pointing at the nearby gravy boat pitcher with a greasy finger.
With a wordless nod, Harry took the pitcher and moved it next to Ron’s plate, watching him slather his food with the stuff.
Harry smiled and got back to his meal, glad that Ron was in such relatively high spirits. Not ten minutes prior, his friend had been lethargic. Incredible what a few words and acts of kindness can do to change someone’s day for the better, huh?
“Don’t know why—” Harry heard tidbits of a conversation a little ahead of the table where the Head Boy was speaking with one the Prefects. “France of all places, why would he go there?”
Harry tilted his head in their direction and began to listen in.
“No one knows for sure.” The girl beside him said, shrugging. “Maybe he’s got something stashed there? The Prophet doesn’t have much in details.”
“Can’t blame them, I suppose.” He said. “Considering the French Ministry only reported a sighting of the man, not much else.”
“You would think it’d be easy for them to find him.” The Prefect said for a moment before shrugging. “But then again, underestimating Grindelwald is what got them into this mess, in the first place. Really, they should just…”
The voices weakened and Harry could no longer make them out over the background noise of everyone else speaking.
Grindelwald, huh? Harry thought before shrugging to himself and taking another bite of chicken. He didn’t have much of an opinion concerning the man. How could he, when he barely knew anything about him? In fact, all of his knowledge on the matter could be found on his Chocolate Frog Card of Dumbledore.
An infamous Dark Wizard from the Second World War era. Harry thought. How would he compare to Voldemort?
Harry frowned at the thought of the monster who had murdered his parents and consigned him to ten years of living with the Dursleys. He realized that, actions aside, he didn’t know much about Voldemort, either.
Was that his real name, for example? Voldemort didn’t sound like a real name— more like a fake name like the supervillains he’d read in a few comics Dudley had discarded like so much trash.
Harry suppressed the urge to sigh. He supposed that it didn’t matter. Voldemort, Grindelwald, neither were his problem to handle.
“Great things…” Ollivander’s words came to him once again, forcing Harry to glare at his food.
“All right, Harry?” Seamus said from beside him. “You look pretty miffed there.”
Harry shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Just thought of something that annoyed me, is all.”
“Well.” A familiar voice came from behind him, making Harry jump in place. “I’ve got something that’ll cheer you right up, Harry.”
“Woah!” Harry said, turning to the boy behind him in alarm. “Adam! Don’t do that!”
“Do what?” Adam Clarke smiled, his eyes glinting with mischievous intent. “I was only saying hello.”
“…You know what. Don’t play coy.” Harry glared, setting his fork down and turning to the boy proper while Hermione and Ron waved to him in greeting. “It’s not funny.”
“You just don’t appreciate the fine art of jump-scares, that’s all.” Adam shook his head, affecting a look of disappointment so false that Harry ended up rolling his eyes. “It takes a great dedication to stealth and teaches you the appropriate timing one needs to learn to be able to make a dramatic entrance.”
“I can do without the drama, thanks.” Harry said, his voice dry. “But I may take you up on the stealth stuff.”
“Sounds good.” Clarke smiled. “I’ll teach you to be a real ninja.”
“What’s a ninja?” Ron said, joining the conversation.
Harry opened his mouth to answer, but Adam beat him to it. “It’s a Japanese word for people who are very stealthy.”
“That’s not what…” Hermione said and stopped, biting her lip in thought for a moment. “I mean, it’s close enough, I suppose.”
“You know me, Hermione.” Adam said. “I keep things simple. Hello to you, too, by the way. Hi Ron.”
“How did your interview go, Adam?” Hermione blurted, unable to hold herself back any longer as Ron gave a lazy wave. “Did you get Skeeter?”
Adam smiled and shook his head. “No, it was Amy again, thank God. I’m glad Professor Flitwick requested her specifically.”
“What about Skeeter?” Harry asked, not really seeing the big deal. “What’s so bad about her?”
“She tends to, ah…” Adam said, pausing for a moment to choose his words. “Misconstrue and misrepresent anything you say to make it look really bad.”
“Oh.” Harry nodded, understanding. “Like tabloids?”
“Exactly.” Adam said, giving Harry a strange look. “I didn’t know you read tabloids, Harry.”
Harry shrugged, not wanting to talk about how it was one of the few things available to read at all times when he lived with the Dursleys. Aunt Petunia loves her gossip.
He cleared his throat to change the subject. “So, you said you had something for me?”
Adam nodded and reached for his pack before shaking his head. “Actually, probably best we do this where there aren’t so many people; it’s a bit of a heavy subject.”
Harry gave a quick glance at his mostly eaten plate before turning back to Adam. “Mind if I finish my food?”
“Oh, sure.” He said, before gesturing at the table. “Hell, give me some of those grapes over there.”
Harry snorted. “Sit down, then. No need to eat while standing.”
Adam acquiesced and joined them in the eating. Minutes passed as the friends continued to chat, choosing safe topics like the upcoming exams, and who would win the House Cup.
“All right.” Harry said and set his fork down before turning to his Ravenclaw friend. “Ready, Clarke?”
“Should we come, too?” Hermione asked, only to be met with Adam’s shaking head.
“This one’s a bit personal.” Adam said. “But if you really want to come, sure.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a surprise.” Adam raised a finger as he backed away. “Spoiling it early is bad form, you know.”
Harry rolled his eyes again. “I’ll be back in a bit, you two. Save me some treacle tart?”
“All right, mate.” Ron said as Hermione nodded.
He followed Adam out of the Great Hall and the two went down the stairs to the very bottom, away from any prying eyes and ears.
“So, what did you want to show me?”
Adam dug into his pack and held two photographs up. They were facing Clarke, so Harry could not see what was in them. “I had a talk with the owner of the Three Broomsticks right before the interview.”
“Yeah?” Harry said, tilting his head in interest.
“Yes.” Adam said. “Her name’s Rosmerta and… Well, it would probably be easier to just show you.”
Adam handed him the photographs. Harry’s heart stopped as he saw who was in them. “Is that…”
“Yeah.” Adam said.
Harry’s grip loosened at the revelation and he held the images as if they would be destroyed at any moment.
“She worked there?” Harry said, swallowing as he saw his mother’s somewhat disheveled, but radiant appearance as she moved about the restaurant with a serving platter and an easy smile. He looked at the other photo of her working in the kitchens. She stopped to wipe the sweat off of her forehead before waving at the camera.
“Yeah.” Adam said again. “I figured you’d like them, so I asked Rosmerta if she could part with them as a gift to you. She said yes… and here we are.”
Harry swallowed down the lump in his throat and nodded. Today was turning out to be even more of an emotional rollercoaster than he’d expected it to be.
“I figured it’d be best to show you this when you’re away from everyone else. You know; in case you start crying like a baby.” Adam said, and Harry raised his head to glare at the boy, only to see him with his hands raised. “Just kidding.”
Harry scoffed before his gaze went down to the two photos.
So this is my mother. Harry thought as she came to the forefront of the image and gave him a smile so wide it both warmed and broke his heart. Lily Potter. I really do have her eyes, don’t I? The Mirror didn’t just show me what I wanted to see; there was a little truth to it, after all.
He didn’t know how long he stared at the picture, but he did know that, when he came back to himself, he had taken a seat at the base of the stairs. Adam had joined him, saying nothing.
“Adam.” Harry choked.
“Sure.” Adam said, patting his fellow orphan on the back.
Voldemort, Grindelwald… Harry thought as his friend comforted him. Who cares about them, as long as I have real friends and even maybe… Family?
And yet, even as he thought this, he could not stop the chill that ran down his spine— an omen of great and terrible things to come.