June 13, 1992, 12:01 AM, North Sea
He had failed.
He’d been so patient, so careful. He had his host build up a small group of mindless followers, and had him set off a distraction at the best possible moment.
That this opportunity had presented itself to the man at the height of the final exams, where the Professors and staff members were at their busiest, was nothing short of divine providence, if one were to believe in that sort of thing.
He, of course, didn’t.
Lord Voldemort had long since let go of concepts such as deities, good and evil, among other things.
Gods, he thought, were likely only wizards and witches who had displayed their skill to the Muggles and been worshipped, as a result.
Purveyors of parlor tricks to the filthy masses. That is all they likely were. He thought, even as he soared over the North Sea in his spirit form.
He stopped his flight, deciding that he had made enough distance between himself and Dumbledore, for now.
Not that he expected the old fool or any of his followers to give chase.
Burdened by his feeble morals, Dumbledore was most likely tending to the wounds of all of the wizards and witches under his care.
The plan should have succeeded. He thought again, watching the fish swimming beneath the water’s surface. How had it all gone so wrong?
Voldemort knew, of course. The answer lay in the following name: Adam Clarke.
That boy had ruined everything.
He shouldn’t have allowed Quirrell to play his little games with him.
They should have killed the child while they still had the chance.
I should have had Quirrell get rid of him before he became a threat. He thought. It wouldn’t have even been difficult, really.
He could have slipped away and taken the boy’s life in the dead of night.
Snape certainly didn’t have eyes on him at all times, and there was no way he could be tracked by Dumbledore if he left the castle and then reentered it under an invisibility spell.
Severus… Voldemort thought. I will kill him, too. He will pay for this betrayal. When I come back, every one of my disloyal followers will pay.
He knew this as a certainty.
Still, with all that had happened, he needed to lay low, to reflect over the events and devise a new course of action.
There is no sense in falling prey to my anger. He thought, controlling his emotions. This is a terrible setback, but it is far from unsalvageable. Far from it.
He floated along the edge of the water, his immaterial form completely ignoring its rise and fall.
He stared with formless eyes at his own reflection in the water’s surface. Potter’s defense was intriguing… Yes, yes, I can see it now. The foolish Mudblood’s insistence in leaving her son alone wasn’t simply a show of her ineffectual power, no. It was the invocation of a spell of a powerful nature— and a Dark one at that.
He should have realized it, back then. Still, he hadn’t expected anyone from Dumbledore’s side to grow a spine.
It was an incredible defense— enough to reflect his Killing Curse— but he knew that no defense was absolute. He would find a way.
And as for Clarke… Lord Voldemort thought as he saw a shark circling the fish in the water.
The boy was powerful, to be sure, but he was still only one person. Whatever that girl he had summoned in his mind was, he couldn’t bring her forth into the real world.
And the strange power within him— I feel as if I have not truly gotten its measure. He thought. If he is allowed to reach his full potential, it will spell trouble.
He watched as the shark rushed into the school of fish, sinking its teeth into its first victim and clouding the water red with blood.
I will deal with the boy before he can spread his wings.
June 13, 1992, 12:30 AM, Hospital Wing
Consciousness had been coming and going for the past hour. Glimpses, smells, sounds, sensations and all manner of perceptions of the world around me continued to filter in at an irregular, slow pace.
In that depthless sea of abstract confusion, I let myself be carried away, content to keep my thoughts superfluous, vacuous and lacking any substance.
As with all things, however, it was not to last. My focus asserted itself, and my senses started to sharpen with every passing moment. It wouldn’t be long now.
I became acutely aware of my own breath, feeling it crash against my chin— or, whatever it is that was tightly clamped on it. I moved to adjust my position, only to realize that I couldn’t.
My eyes flitted open, and I tried to tilt my head forward in an attempt to see what was going on, but it did not budge a single inch.
More than that; I could only see out of my left eye.
I was confused. What was going on? Why couldn’t I see properly? Why couldn’t I move? Where was I? Why hadn’t I woken up in the Ravenclaw Dorms—
That’s when the memories came rushing back; the final exams, the explosion during the small break, the rush towards the Third Floor. It was all coming back to me now.
I stayed that way for a long moment before taking in a deep breath. “I won.”
No answer came. I frowned and tried to move my arms or legs, hoping my restrictions would loosen. No such luck.
I tried again, twisting my right leg from left to right and back again in order to loosen the bonds in some way, but all I achieved was making my ankles itch, thus worsening the experience ten times over.
Few things are worse than this. I fidgeted, trying to move my leg to get the itch to go away, but it got worse.
“No…” I whined, but my voice came out scratchy. I realized that I was quite thirsty— yet another inconvenience to add to the pile.
It was pointless; I couldn’t leave my bindings, and I would likely have to suffer through this itch for hours now.
Frowning again, I pursed my lips, feeling the strap tighten against my chin further. “They could’ve… at least loosened the straps.”
“Welcome back.” A familiar voice came from my left. “Mr. Clarke.”
My left eye widening, I turned it in that direction and saw a hint of movement, but I couldn’t turn my head to see its source. I felt nervous, despite everything.
In such an uncompromising hold, I knew that I was powerless to resist whatever came to me.
I just hope I won’t get punched in the stomach or something.
“Who—” I said as the owner of the voice stepped into my effective field of vision. “Headmaster.”
Professor Dumbledore stared down at me with somber, blue eyes. “Mr. Clarke. That is you, is it not?”
Huh? I thought in confusion for a few seconds before I understood. Oh. That.
“I should hope so.” I said, clearing my throat. “Would you be so kind as to give me some water?”
The old man scrutinized me further before he acquiesced with a nod.
“Very well.” He walked to the side of the bed, reaching for something outside of my field of vision. In an instant, I felt the bed tilt upwards, putting me in a sitting position, though I still couldn’t move.
Dumbledore held the glass of water close to my lips and I gulped it down as hard as I could, not even stopping to take a breath.
Eventually, the glass was pulled away, and I gave a satisfied sigh. I cleared my throat a few times, relishing in the smooth feeling. “That’s the stuff.”
“Are you aware of where you are, Mr. Clarke?”
I stared at him for a moment before turning my attention to everything in my limited field of vision.
The place did not look at all familiar, but considering the not-quite rigid structure of the walls and ceiling, this place was some kind of temporary setup.
“I haven’t the foggiest, but if I had to guess, I would say that I’m probably somewhere in the Hospital Wing. That’s usually where someone goes after they almost die.” I said.
“Quite so.” Albus said, smiling without mirth. “And are you aware of the reason why you have been immobilized?”
I cleared my throat again before speaking.
“In case Voldemort tore my mind to shreds and took over my body?” I said, my gaze moving back to the man.
“…Indeed.” Albus said. “And yet, you seem to have prevailed against him.”
My eyes narrowed at the keyword in his sentence. “Seem to; but you’re not sure it’s really me.”
Dumbledore did not answer, but the lack of expression on his face told me everything I needed to know.
“How’d you know I woke up, anyway?” I asked as the silence stretched on. “Some kind of tracking charm?”
“Ever the curious one.” Dumbledore commented. “Perhaps you truly have won.”
“Or maybe Voldemort is playing a trick on you.” I said, smiling as I found no real way of arguing for the validity of my identity. “He’d show behaviors that only Clarke would display to the ‘old fool’. No? He’d certainly have access to my memories after winning.”
“That would indeed nullify any method of ascertaining your true identity.” Dumbledore said. “And so we are at an impasse.”
“Yes.” I said. “Well, if I’m going to be tied up forever, could you at least scratch my ankle? I’ve got an itch there that’s really messing with me. I don’t want to stay like this for hours, Professor. I’ll lose my mind.”
That seemed to stump the man.
“I suppose…” Albus said for a few moments before nodding. “Would you consent to… perhaps a quick test?”
I mulled over his words as I searched the old man’s face. “You want to use Legilimency?”
Albus’ blue eyes widened in surprise. “You are aware of it, then. Most intriguing.”
I scoffed. “I take my research and privacy very seriously, Professor. Having people go through my mind is not something I wish to experience.”
“A most martial view on life.” Albus said, sounding disappointed.
“It’s a dog eat dog world.” I replied, trying to shrug and realizing again that I couldn’t even do that due to the bindings. “Before I met Mr. Black, I fully expected to be thrown out onto the streets after my time in the orphanage was over. In fact, I still expect the man to get rid of me, the first chance he gets.”
“Truly?” Dumbledore said, thrown off by this topic change. “You believe Sirius Black will rid himself of you?”
“Well, most likely not.” I said, frowning. “But I have always lived by a creed: hope for the best, plan for the worst. To do otherwise is foolish for someone in my position.”
“But that is no way to live.”
“There are many paths a man can take, Professor.” I said. “You need only the courage to tread your own; no one else’s.”
For a moment, I wondered what Hagrid would have to say to that before I shook the thought away.
I respected the man, but I didn’t have to agree with him on this issue.
“It is good that you are so confident and sure of what you need to do in life.” Dumbledore said, raising a finger. “And yet, you should not be so sure of yourself that you disregard the paths better suited to your feet, Mr. Clarke.”
My eyes widened slightly as I absorbed the words, trying to find fault in them.
I couldn’t, and so I nodded, only to realize yet again that I couldn’t move my head.
I ended up settling with a half-smile, instead. “Good point; I suppose I could stand to be less… like myself, I guess.”
God knows I’ve not done myself any favors.
Dumbledore stared at me for a second longer before reaching into his robes. “I believe I have heard all that I need to.”
He produced the Elder Wand out of his pocket and tapped it against the foot of the bed. The pressure holding my body disappeared as my bindings vanished from existence, leaving me free to move.
I went into motion in an instant, reaching down to scratch my ankle.
A second later, I regretted it, cringing as I twisted from the sheer pain assaulting my body.
I scrunched my eye shut and went completely still, not daring to invite any more pain over.
“Mr Clarke!” The old man called out, looking a little concerned. “Are you all right?”
“I—” I said, swallowing as I realized that the pain was going down to manageable levels. “I… I think so.”
I took a deep breath and slowly moved back to my earlier position, turning the sharp-ish pain into a steady, but dull throb. Opening my eyes, I let out a long sigh. “I suppose that’s a good reason to be tied down.”
“Indeed.” Professor Dumbledore said after a moment. “Do try not to make any unnecessary movements, Mr. Clarke. I did not release you so that you would harm yourself in my care. I daresay Madam Pomfrey would be quite cross with me, if this were to happen.”
I laughed and winced again. “Yes. I suppose you’re right.”
The man gave a hum.
“Why did you release me?” I asked. “You couldn’t be certain that it was really me.”
“I was there to witness your ‘house cleaning’, as you put it, my boy.” Albus said, shaking his head. “So I know that Voldemort no longer taints your body. This was simply a precautionary measure.”
“A precautionary measure.” I repeated. I searched his face for a few moments and realized something else. “And a test to see how much I really know.”
“I would see that as an additional benefit.”
“Icing on the cake, is it, Professor?” I said, resisting the urge to roll my eyes as he waved his wand, Summoning a large and fluffy bed sheet towards me. Another tap on my bed and the warmth faded away into nothing.
“I suppose it could be called that.” Dumbledore said. “Forgive an old man for his curiosity.”
I scoffed, but nodded anyway.
Grabbing hold of the new sheet, I pulled it up to my chest and did my best to assume a comfortable position. “Professor. Where’s… My wand?”
Dumbledore nodded. “It is just outside this sealed off section. Speaking of which…”
He lifted his hand above his head and traced a circle in the air with his wand. At once, the walls around us began to furl themselves closed, converging into a large pile of fabric in front of the Headmaster.
I smiled at the sheer skill being displayed so casually before me and wondered whether the man was casting this way on purpose, or maybe he’d become so good that such high level usage of spells had become second nature.
Either way, it was yet another silent reminder of just how dangerous a man like Albus Dumbledore could have become, had he stuck to the path he’d laid out for himself, back when he was still allied with Grindelwald.
I looked around the now-open Hospital Wing, seeing a few occupied beds. I squinted at them to try and get a better look, but they were either covered up or too far to make out.
“You’ll find that your friends have left you many gifts while you were being kept away.” Dumbledore waved his wand, and two small tables floated over to my bedside. One held my wand and a raggedy set of clothes that looked like it was barely hanging by a thread.
The other held a collection of boxes of candy and small toys.
“That’s…” I gulped, not having expected that. “That’s kind of them. I don’t want to assume, but did everyone make it out all right?”
“Indeed they have, Mr. Clarke.” Dumbledore said, giving me a look I couldn’t quite place. “As you were able to see, only a few remain, and they are those who require a little more treatment. It’s nothing to concern yourself over, injuries that will soon fade.”
I raised my left hand to my covered eye and realized that there was a bandage there, pulled tight above the skin and feeling somewhat moist.
I shifted again and felt that the skin on my right arm was hard and tight in places and tender in others.
Strange. My gaze moved downwards and I saw the various bandages with my one uncovered eye.
I swallowed. “And mine, Professor?”
Dumbledore was silent for a few moments, as if he was trying to choose his words with the utmost of care.
“Don’t try to sugarcoat it, please.” I said as he deliberated. “How bad is it? Am I crippled and blind in one eye, now?”
“Far from it, dear child.” Dumbledore shook his head, sounding somewhat offended. “Madam Pomfrey’s skill with her chosen field of healing magic is exemplary. You would do well not to question them in her presence.”
I nodded and waited for him to continue, not acknowledging his attempt at injecting a little levity into the air.
“The majority of your sustained injuries have already been dealt with and healed.” Albus said. “As such, your recovery shall only take another day or so.”
I nodded again, still not changing my expression. “The majority being the keyword here. What about the rest?”
Dumbledore pocketed his wand and approached my right side. With a gentle hand, he unraveled only part of my bandages, revealing the horrible looking burn scars below.
“I…” I stared for a few seconds before my eyes went down the length of my arm. “I see. I guess I must have forced the Professors to take extreme measures. “
I covered it back up and raised my arm, testing out my range of motion for a few seconds before setting it back down with a tired sigh.
“And my eye?” I said.
“I do not know.” The old man said, shaking his head. “There was a previous attempt made to heal it before Madam Pomfrey examined it— there may be unforeseen effects.”
I blinked, sagging further into my pillow as I tried to fight off the fresh wave of tiredness. “Un… unforeseen effects. Like— like what?”
I half-muttered a curse under my breath, even as my vision and ability to focus continued to waver.
“Perhaps I should allow you the time to rest and recuperate.” Professor Dumbledore said, noticing my shift in energy. “I promise that I will answer all of your questions to the best of my ability, once you wake.”
I focused for a few moments before answering.
“I’ll hold you… to that. Headmaster.” I said, but realized he was already gone.
Had he left during my lapse of concentration? Maybe he thought that I had fallen unconscious?
Unconsciousness does sound like a great idea, though. I’ll just let future me deal with this crap.
And so I finally let go, accepting oblivion with open arms.