June 12, 1992, 3:00 PM, Headmaster’s Office
Time waits for no man.
It was something that he had heard his father say once, back when life was simple and his family was still whole.
He had not heeded the words, of course, for magic was able to bestow control upon time itself. His arrogance, back then, had known no bounds.
Albus Dumbledore shifted the stack of papers before him with a sigh. Magic and power were almost like snakes, at times.
They made many honeyed promises, but their tongues were forked and venomous— and so they frequently misled those who were foolish enough to become enchanted by their allure.
That wasn’t to say that he was above such temptations. Albus knew just how susceptible he could be, as well.
Almost every moment of his life had been spent resisting the urge to go out into the world and right the wrongs that had been done unto him when he was young.
He certainly had the power to do it, and his influence was as far-reaching as it was potent.
The name ‘Dumbledore’ was respected in many circles, holding a significant amount of weight, and he was acutely aware of this fact.
Albus shook his head. It wouldn’t do to lose himself in memories, tangents and temptations, right now.
There was far too much work to be done.
The past few days had been nothing short of a nightmare for the man. With all but one of his Heads of House recovering from the recent nightmare they’d been subjected to, Albus had been saddled with all of their duties.
It’s very fortunate, then. He thought as he began to go through more of the tedious paperwork. That Professors Sinistra, Vector and Babbling were willing to lend their aid to the Houses.
He felt his heart lighten with the thought. It wasn’t just those three professors; everyone on the faculty had banded together and were presenting a united front for the students while the crises both at France and in Hogwarts had taken place.
Albus could not be more proud of his colleagues— no, his friends— for the great things they had done in his absence.
People always talked about the ‘great Albus Dumbledore’, about how he was larger than life, how he was the glue that held the fabric of Wizarding society together.
But they’re wrong. Albus thought. Oh, so very wrong.
That was only their false impressions; he was only seen as the lynchpin of their society, but he knew the real truth.
The true lynchpin of society was the individual. The power lay within the will of the individuals comprising the whole that was the people.
This has always been the way from the dawn of humanity, tens of thousands of years ago; so it will continue to be, in the following thousands of years. Albus thought, setting a few documents aside for further perusal before going back to the main stack.
It was wizards and witches like Aurora who were the real heroes, keeping everything together.
He had not even needed to ask; she had been the one to volunteer her services before he’d even considered delegating a single task.
And, much like the first stone in an avalanche, the other Professors offered themselves up in the wake of Professor Sinistra’s glorious act of altruism.
Albus smiled. Even in the darkest of moments, people still managed to surprise him in ways that soothed his soul and restored his faith.
With renewed vigor, he attacked the stack of paperwork with all of the enthusiasm he could muster, going through the whole thing and making some pretty decent time.
Albus let out a breath and leaned back in his chair. Reaching into his pocket, he checked his watch, eyebrow raising as he saw the time.
Time for a short break, I think. He thought and got up from his chair, moving to stand in front of the window.
With a quick wave of his wand, the window slid open, letting in the warm breeze. Albus let his eyes wander across the school grounds, smiling at the deep, blue sky, which stretched as far as his eyes could see, reaching far into the horizon.
A clear day— what a rare treat. A rare treat, indeed! A chance for the students to stretch their legs after they’ve finished their exams. Albus thought.
He stared down for a few more seconds, watching as the students walked across the grounds, joking with their friends and filling the atmosphere with their cheer, before he heard the sound of roaring flames coming from his fireplace.
An incoming Floo call. Albus thought. He had a pretty good idea who it was, as well.
Albus took a breath, closed the window and turned, speaking as he did so. “Alastor.”
“Albus.” Alastor’s good eye peeked at him from the coals, with the other locked behind the man. “I’ve some news, though it’s not particularly good.”
Albus resisted the urge to sigh, trying to keep his spirits high. He did not want to hear more bad news, but the world did not seem to care about his desires all that much.
“I’ve gone through the memory of our encounter with Grindelwald and his followers.” Moody said. “I had to check in with a few of my contacts overseas, but I managed to identify everyone who was with him on that day.”
Albus nodded, steeling his will and focusing on the matter at hand. “I believe one of the witches looked familiar to me. Of Russian origin, is she not?”
“Aye.” Alastor replied, the fire shifting to form into the face of the woman in question, russian features. “Name of Vanessa Zhenya. You’d recognize that last name, I imagine.”
“Yes. Of course.” Albus’ eyes widened slightly. “One of the last surviving members of Clan Zhenya.”
“And wanted on counts of grand theft, murder, conspiracy to incite a rebellion…” Moody said, the fire version of the woman sending Albus a wink. “The list goes on.”
“And the fellow from Egypt; Rafiq, I believe you called him?” Albus said. “You seem to know that one personally.”
Sparks flew out of the fireplace as the image shifted to one of a thin man of Middle-Eastern origin wearing a fez. “Rafiq Rahman. I’ve had a few encounters with this one when I served as part of the British Reinforcement to Egypt.”
Albus shook his head. “Ah. That. It has been quite some time since that nonsense.”
“Aye.” Moody said, voicing his agreement with the disdain in Albus’ tone. “Rafiq is wanted for several murders, an attempted coup, and various acts including but not limited to: sedition, sowing discord…”
Albus absorbed the list of information. Moody’s report was starting to paint a not-so-pretty picture, here.
“You suspect political suppression?”
“Unclear, but that’s what my gut tells me.” Moody said. “You can never tell with situations like these. More than that, it isn’t as if any of us could go to Egypt to solve the mystery. Even while we were stationed there, they didn’t let us in on anything that could be substantiated in any official capacity.”
“And unofficially?” Albus said, half-smiling because he knew what the man’s answer would be.
The flames sparked once again, showing Moody’s bored face. “Do you even need to ask?”
At that, Albus chuckled, feeling some of the weight slide off of his shoulders. I needed that.
“And the others?”
“Essentially the same story, repeated ad infinitum. Leaders or former leaders of movements which gave direct challenges to their respective government’s ruling bodies or tried to change the status quo.” Alastor said, shaking his head at the ridiculousness of it all. “The next time we meet, I will give you everything I’ve gathered on the matter.”
“It would be much appreciated, Alastor.” Albus said, nodding in gratitude. “Very much so.”
Moody froze for a moment and moved away from his fire. A short silence permeated the air for a few seconds before Alastor returned.
“Thought I heard something.” Alastor said. “Can never be sure, these days.”
“You do need to rest from time to time, my friend.”
“You’re one to talk.” Alastor said, scoffing at the sheer audacity. “Have you even slept? You look worse than you did before.”
Albus resisted the urge to glare. Normally, he appreciated Alastor’s candid and blunt nature, but considering the stresses that he had been dealing with recently, he did not feel particularly patient. Still, he took a deep breath.
It won’t do to drive away what few allies I still possess.
“That bad, huh?” Moody said, realizing he’d probably overstepped.
But Albus raised his hand, waving it off. “The Professors have waded through the worst of it, to be fair. Still, the aftermath of two crises is never something one relishes to live through.”
“Any information on that front?” Moody asked. “Having two powerful dark wizards to deal with at the same time is not something I relish.”
“On that, I agree.” Dumbledore said, inclining his head. “I do have some limited information, but I would rather wait for my Professors to relay their experiences so I can get a better grasp on the situation. They will be joining me shortly, as a matter of fact. Poppy has ruled that they are ready to be released, though she has kept them in bed regardless.”
“Can’t imagine McGonagall enjoyed that one bit.”
Albus felt a smile go over his face again. “Poppy is one of the few people that Minerva does not dare challenge— but she almost did.”
Moody nodded. “That’s good to hear; if she’s got some fight in her, that means she’s going to be fine.”
“One can only hope, my friend. One can only hope.” Albus said, nodding towards the fire. “Thank you for the help. Truly.”
“Aye.” Moody said, brushing the gratitude off. “Until we meet again.”
The fire winked out of existence, leaving Albus alone with his thoughts once again. He turned back to the window, seeing the children running around.
He had lost to Grindelwald. He had failed the school when Voldemort made his move.
Fawkes cooed to him from his perch, trying to soothe the man’s perturbed soul. Albus only shook his head in reply.
“There is no use mincing words, my friend.” Albus said, turning his gaze to the phoenix in question. “I have failed.”
Fawkes looked back at him with great reproach, making the man smile a little.
“If it weren’t for the children’s efforts, I believe that Voldemort would have indeed won the day.” Albus said. “I just wish it didn’t have to be necessary.”
Fawkes trilled in agreement, as if to tell the man to pull himself together.
Before Albus even had the chance to reply, a knock came at the door.
“Headmaster.” Pomona Sprout’s voice came from the other side. “May we come in?”
Albus stifled the urge to sigh as he moved to the center of his office. Never any time to rest and think.
“Of course.” Albus called out. “Please.”
The door swung open, revealing his Hufflepuff Head of House, Professor Sprout. She ambled into the room, followed by his three remaining Heads of House, Minerva, Filius and Severus.
The three were bandaged up and looking far better than they had a few days ago, but Albus could still see how pale Minerva looked. He saw how Severus was favoring his right side, and he noticed Filius’ immobile arm.
He felt the regret weigh heavy on his heart.
“Albus.” Severus greeted with a nod, the other professors following his lead.
“Severus.” Albus graced everyone with a smile as he gestured for them to take a seat while he went behind his desk. “I am glad to see you three out of the Hospital Wing.”
Severus shook his head in annoyance, limping towards his seat and trying not to show the relief on his face as the pressure was taken off of his legs. Albus saw the same thing in his other two Professors’ expressions, as well.
“Only temporarily.” Minerva replied with a voice so clipped that Dumbledore had to suppress a wince of sympathy.
Minerva never could tolerate being confined against her own will.
“Minerva and I are to return to the Hospital Wing as soon as possible.” Severus said, his voice a far cry from his usual silky drawl. “I believe Madam Pomfrey has made that abundantly clear.”
“Of course.” Dumbledore said.
“Without us— the students, Albus—” Minerva said, but stopped herself.
“They will be fine, my friend.” Albus raised his hands to reassure the woman. “Professors Vector, Babbling and Sinistra have all offered their services, to carry all of your burdens for the time being. They are being assisted by the remainder of the staff, as well.”
“You— I—” Minerva said before she deflated into her chair, looking tired beyond her years. “Very well, Headmaster. Thank you.”
“There is no need to worry.” Albus said again, giving her a nod. “It is only until you are all feeling better, and are capable of resuming your posts. Just focus on recovering well, for now.”
“Of course.” Pomona joined the conversation, nodding in agreement. “The students are in good hands, Minerva, Severus.”
“If you say so.” Severus said, and his uncaring tone of voice made Albus almost feel this was just another routine conference between the Heads of House.
“Calm again, Severus? I suppose that’s a good sign, if nothing else.” Pomona said, smiling as she turned her eyes to Professor Flitwick. “And you, Filius? Your name was not mentioned in Poppy’s orders.”
“As it happens.” Professor Flitwick said, his eyes brimming with mirth for a few moments before he winced, adjusting his stance. “I have been released from Madam Pomfrey’s tender mercies just today. Quite reluctantly so, but she has not found any injury worth pulling me from my duties. I would still much appreciate the aid in carrying them out.”
“Of course.” Albus said. “Professor Vector would be delighted to continue to help you, Filius.”
Flitwick nodded, before his expression turned a little more serious. “You have kept Mr. Clarke away from the other students.”
Albus nodded. “I have.”
There was a moment of tense silence before Flitwick closed his eyes with a sigh. “Mr. Goldstein and Miss Li were most displeased when they were denied access today. However… You are right. We cannot risk it. He has not yet been roused from his slumber, and so we do not know if he’s still compromised.”
“Compromised? Risk what, Albus?” Minerva said, looking between the two professors as her voice took on a note of alarm and fear. “What has happened to Mr. Clarke?”
Albus nodded. “Even I’m not fully aware of the events that have transpired. That is why I have asked you three to come here. To piece the puzzle together, if you’ll indulge me.”
She pursed her lips at him and then nodded.
“Of course, Albus.” Minerva said and began to recount her tale.
She spoke of her and Severus’ duel with the Imperiused schoolchildren, of her injury, of Severus going ahead while Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley aided her. She spoke of Adam Clarke’s arrival with his two friends, Su Li and Anthony Goldstein.
“I don’t know what spell it was that Mr. Clarke employed, Albus.” Minerva said, shaking her head as she tried to make sense of it all. “But it was unlike anything I have ever witnessed. His conjured chains were able to subdue all of the students against him with little effort.”
Her face grew more and more strained the closer she got to the end. Albus could tell that this was tiring the woman out. Still, he let her finish.
“And then Mr. Clarke went ahead, alone, after telling the other students to go and take me to the Hospital Wing. They attempted to argue, but…” Minerva said, shaking her head. “You should have seen him, Albus. Mr. Clarke was… He was like a completely different person. I had never heard him raise his voice to anyone, before that day.”
Albus nodded. “Thank you, Minerva. Would you like some tea to calm the nerves? Lavender, perhaps?”
“That would be much appreciated, Albus.” Minerva said, sagging into her seat. Telling that story had taken its toll on the woman. “Yes.”
It’s a good thing I had some prepared in advance. Albus thought as he tapped his table with his wand. In an instant, a pot of tea appeared, steaming and fragrant. Albus served all four of his guests before he finally poured himself a cup, taking a slow sip and leaning back in his chair.
“Severus?” Albus took another sip.
“Yes.” The man in question answered, taking a sip of his own before placing his cup on the large desk. “I proceeded further through the obstacles, but Quirrell had made it so that it was as difficult as possible for any of his pursuers. I suffered some injuries in my battles against the Cerberus, the chess room, as well as the Trolls, though I was able to save my strength by avoiding one of them.”
Albus raised an eyebrow. Then… Clarke took down one of the trolls before he went to fight against Professor Quirrell?
“Quirrell and I dueled.” Severus said, not even bothering to mention his own defense. “It was as we feared, he had become a servant of the Dark Lord, aiming to steal the Stone.”
To his right, Minerva could only shake her head in despair, saying nothing. The cup quivered in her trembling hands. Albus knew why, of course; she had had a soft spot for Quirinus. The man had found solace in her office in his time as a student, and so a bond had been forged.
For her to realize that he was the one responsible for all of the horror that has taken place here… Albus thought. I do not wish that fate on anyone.
“Albus.” Minerva said after she took a moment to center herself. “Mr. Clarke. He knew.”
Albus frowned. “What do you mean?”
“The boy.” She said again. “He knew that… Professor Quirrell was the one behind this attack. He knew. The other students believed that it was— Professor Snape.”
Severus rolled his eyes at that. “Of course they would. Mr. Clarke is the only one in their group with a modicum of intelligence.”
He ignored the frown marring Minerva’s face before turning his gaze back to Albus, but there was something in that look that the Headmaster couldn’t quite place. “On that topic, Headmaster; I believe the boy was being manipulated by Quirinus. I do not know the exact details of the matter, but I know that it was enough to keep the boy quiet for an extended period of time.”
“I see.” Albus said, taking another sip of his tea as Severus continued his tale. Filius eventually joined in, corroborating Severus’ testimony while also sharing his perspective on anything that Severus may have missed.
By the end of it, an air of disgust and apprehension had settled into the room.
“To think that Quirrell had allowed You-Know-Who to possess him, and we were not able to see it, this whole time…” Pomona said, looking perturbed at the revelation. “And that Quirinus had fallen so far, as well. What happened to him?”
There was no immediate answer.
“I’m afraid that we may never know.” Albus said, shaking his head. “But we shall mourn the man he once was, before all of this.”
“And Mr. Clarke, Albus?” Filius said, a look of challenge flaring in his eyes. “What of him? How do we help the lad? He has been through so much, and now that he has been possessed, as well…”
Albus smiled a little, missing Snape’s strange expression as he turned his gaze to the diminutive Professor. “On that, I believe there is no need to worry. The danger has passed— Mr. Clarke was able to drive away Voldemort’s possession. I witnessed it myself.”
He got a look of unbridled shock from his professors.
“Truly?” Professor Flitwick said. “He is no longer in danger?”
“Indeed.” Albus mused as he placed his tea-cup back down on the desk.
“Then…” Filius said, sounding confused. “Why not allow anyone to visit the boy?”
“Ah.” Albus nodded to the perfectly reasonable question. ”While I believe that the danger has passed, it would be remiss of me not to take the appropriate security measures in case of a possession. It is merely a formality, however. I expect the boy to be free of Voldemort’s taint when he wakes, and he will be released in short order.”
Flitwick nodded. “I see your point; better to be safe than sorry, after all. Very well, Headmaster.”
“The boy even spoke to me when he was fighting off the possession.” Dumbledore added in, shaking his head. “I believe he said he was doing a bit of… ‘house cleaning’?”
Behind him, to the right, came a sound so strange that it made Dumbledore swivel in surprise. “Fawkes?”
His Phoenix, Fawkes, was barely able to hold onto its perch as it shook in place, letting out a continuous mix between a squawk and a cackle. “Are you all right, my friend?”
Even stranger was the wave of sheer amusement that his familiar sent through their link.
Had he found Mr. Clarke’s statement… Funny?
“How curious.” Albus muttered. “Curious, indeed…”
“Albus?” Professor Flitwick said, getting his attention. “Was that normal?”
“No.” Albus said, smiling as he kept his eyes on his still shaking friend, though his cackles had gone down to a fit of strange giggles. “Fawkes just seems unusually amused.”
He turned to his colleagues and saw that they were also smiling along with him. Even Severus had cracked.
Such is the power of laughter. Albus thought as he took a breath. That it can breathe life back into a wounded soul. Still…
Albus nodded and continued to question his Professors on the finer details, though the thoughts continued to swirl in his mind.
Whatever has happened to Mr. Clarke; Fawkes understands it on some level. Albus thought. Well enough to find it amusing.
He knew he’d have to be even more careful, from here on out. Adam Clarke had shown himself to be a capable duelist, leader and fighter. Whatever path he ended up treading, Albus only hoped that it would bring positive change to their world.
He did not wish to consider the alternative.