June 15, 1992, 3:00 PM, Hospital Wing
“Mr. Clarke.” Madam Pomfrey’s sharp tone brought me back to the real world. “Pay attention; this is important.”
“Sorry.” I said. “I’m just a little restless.”
The woman shook her head and sighed. “I suppose it’s to be expected; you’ve been cooped up in here for quite some time, after all.”
“Yes.” I nodded. “I heard what you said, though; I promise.”
I saw her dubious look and started pointing at the array of Potions she’d set before me.
“You’ve arranged them in order from left to right, sectioned off for me to take in the morning, midday and evening.” I said, pointing at the middlemost set of Potions. “These, I’m supposed to take just before eating.
“And this tin.” I pointed out the container beside it. “Is for my burns, I’ll apply it every night until I run out, and that I should bandage my arms for a while just to be safe, even if it isn’t really necessary any more. Did I miss anything?”
That seemed to stump her.
“…You have not.” Madam Pomfrey said, huffing. “So you were listening?”
I scoffed and smiled.
“Contrary to what it may look like, my health is very important to me, Madam Pomfrey.” I said, wincing as I felt a short stabbing pain in my side. “Besides, if I follow your directions, then it’ll be easier for me to completely heal up, no? There’s absolutely no incentive for me to go against anything you say.”
“Indeed, there isn’t, Mr. Clarke.” She said, closing the small box and holding it over to me. “That’s a very mature outlook.”
“I get that a lot.” I took the offered Potions with a nod of gratitude, holding them with a little effort. “A little heavier than I expected.”
“Oh, dear.” She said, frowning. “Perhaps another day of rest is in ord—”
“No.” I said, placing the box on the table and drawing my wand. “I’ll just have it follow me.”
The woman’s face twitched into a mix of a grimace and a smirk. “In a hurry to leave this place, are we?”
“Can you blame me?”
“I suppose I cannot.” She said, shaking her head again. “Do try to take it easy, won’t you?”
I laughed, even as I tapped my wand against the box, watching as it began to float and follow me. “I promise not to harm myself any more than I already have. Not sure I’m able to take things easy, though.”
I took another step, feeling a prickling pain coming from my foot and wincing. “I earned that one, I suppose.”
I heard the woman’s humph as I left the premises of the Hospital Wing for the first time in days. I stepped past the open doors and stood there, taking it all in.
“Freedom.” I said, unwilling to shout the word out. “I missed you.”
“I heard that, Mr. Clarke!” The woman’s voice came from inside.
“…Oops.” I said, smiling back towards her through the door. “Thank you again, Madam Pomfrey. I mean it.”
“Off with you, child.” She said, finally having had enough of me.
Don’t need to tell me, twice.
And with that thought, I was off; my destination? Ravenclaw Tower.
It hurt to move, but the more steps I took, the less the pain affected me. It was still there, of course, but I managed to cope.
I wanted to go to Absol right away, but I held myself back from such rash action. Whatever was going on with her, it didn’t seem to be an issue, just yet.
Or, at least, I didn’t think it was.
To my senses, it appeared that my companion was simply slumbering this whole time. Of course, a coma wasn’t exactly something to sneeze at, but I could at least tell through our link that her life wasn’t in real danger— I didn’t understand it, exactly; it was just a feeling..
Alef Ard had also confirmed as much, though the sense of unhurried, mild worry did tell me that I probably should do something about it soon.
Knowing that, I kept my pace slow and steady. It wouldn’t do to worsen my injuries by forcing myself to hurry up when the situation didn’t call for it.
It was then that I felt something very familiar coming from a fair distance away.
This feeling… “Helena?”
Had I created a link with her, as well?
I moved off to the side, entering an empty classroom. No portraits, no one will bother us here.
I closed the door, locking it with a dismissive wave of my wand, all the while trying to keep Quirrell’s advice about secrecy out of my mind. I felt a shiver go through me, as if he were still here, watching.
No, I killed him. The thought came as I expected, trying to accuse me of something, but I shook off any residual guilt.
He already harmed a lot of people, and he was going to kill many more. I thought back every time. He couldn’t be saved.
…Or, could he have been? There hadn’t been mention of any unicorn hunting, this time around. Maybe, I could have done something.
I didn’t have to ponder the issue much further; sure enough, Helena Ravenclaw popped out from the stone floor, floating up to me with a brilliant smile. “Zero. Welcome back.”
I smiled back, forcing the thoughts away. “Hey, Helena. I felt you coming.”
“You did?” She said, her smile turning even more warm and soft as she approached me. “I felt you, too. As soon as I exited the Abyss, I did.”
I frowned, realizing that she’d probably been waiting to see me for days. “Oh… I’m sorry that you couldn’t visit me in the Hospital Wing, then. Waiting must not have been pleasant for you.”
“Oh, but I did visit.” Helena said. “I came when it wouldn’t warrant any notice, but you were asleep, sadly.”
“Yeah… I was very exhausted after everything.” I said, looking down a little. “Sorry.”
Her hand brushed against my face, lively, solid and warm as it tilted my head up by the chin. “Don’t be. I was happy to watch over you, my friend.”
I smiled back, feeling a blush spread over my face as I saw her form come alive with the vibrant colors of life. “You were?”
“Of course.” She said, nodding twice.
“I…” I said, feeling very confused and happy for some reason. “Um… Thank you, Helena. It really was kind of you.”
“What do you plan on doing now?” Helena said, pulling her hand away and turning gray again.
I felt a little regret both at the missing touch as well as her leaching of colors, but didn’t comment on it.
“I’m headed to Ravenclaw Tower to put my medicine away in the dorms, and then I’m going to see what’s wrong with Absol. Actually, do you know anything about it, Helena?”
Helena’s face shifted in one of mild concern. “I’m not quite certain, but she seems to be in a deep sleep from which she won’t wake.”
Now that sounded a little more concerning. “It’s been days, though?”
Helena nodded. “And yet she slumbers, still.”
“Damn.” I swore. “Maybe I should hurry up, then; she’ll starve at this rate.”
“Thestrals are able to last quite a while without needing food, you know.”
“I know that.” I said. “But I’m sure it can’t be pleasant, not eating…”
Helena’s face grew a little strained. “You have no idea.”
“Sorry.” I grimaced.
“No. It’s alright, my friend.” Helena said and began to float away. “I’ll wait for you there?”
I stared at her for a moment before smiling. “Count on it. Might take me a little while to get there, though.”
Helena shook her head and raised her hand to hide the smile on her face. “I’ll be there.”
Then, she flew through the window, out towards the general direction of the Thestral herd, and I could only stare at her retreating form. “She’s something else, all right.”
Alef Ard buzzed a few times in a rendition of a chuckle.
Alef. How are you? I thought, resuming my trip to Ravenclaw House. I exited the empty classroom, making sure that my Potions weren’t jostled as I did so. You seem a little distracted, as of late.
Alef buzzed once, confirming as much.
Oh? I thought with a smile. Did you find a new friend or something?
Alef buzzed once again, and I paused my walking for a moment. Did you, really? I was joking. You actually found someone?
Along came a series of excited buzzes that I could not decipher even after a hundred years of analysis. Instead of doing that, I smiled. I have no idea what you just said, but I’m guessing that you like this new person?
A single buzz.
That’s good. I thought. Just be safe, okay? You definitely don’t want anyone asking questions about you. Who knows what people will do.
I felt a wave of indignation coming from the entity and sent back fondness and affection in reply. Just looking out for you.
Mollified, Alef made a few happy buzzes before going quiet again.
I wondered who it was the school’s entity was making friends with before shaking my head. I needed to focus on getting to Absol as quickly as I could— without worsening my healing injuries, of course.
Ravenclaw Tower, Adam’s Dorm Room
That should do it. I thought, staring down at the box’s contents. The next potion will have to be taken a few hours from now, which opens me up to going to check on Absol before I go for dinner.
If I took things easy, I would be able to make good time without even hurting myself in the process.
I changed from my temporary robes to a t-shirt and a pair of shorts I still kept from the orphanage.
In my condition, I wasn’t going to waste my time getting dressed in school robes. I would likely get some looks from the other students, but I couldn’t find it in myself to care.
I went through too much crap to let a bunch of children— I stopped the thought and got a hold of my anger. Let them say whatever they like.
I packed my bag with the necessary Potions I required and set out of my room. I passed down the stairs and through the common room. The whispers instantly came.
“Is that Clarke?”
“Look at his eye.”
“What do you think happened to him?”
“And get a load of his arm, it’s all wrapped up…”
“Like a mummy.”
I shook their words off, ignored the glances I felt burning down my back and made a beeline for the exit.
“Adam!” I stopped walking when I heard a familiar voice call out for me. “You’re okay.”
I turned, seeing Mira Goshawk approach me. Another girl followed in her wake, and I briefly remembered her face from a few of the meetings I had with Quirrell.
That’s right. I thought. She, too, was one of the Imperiused kids, just like Mira. What was her name? Ophelia, if I remember right.
Ophelia looked as terrible as I felt— no, even more so; she looked like she hadn’t slept in days, with bags under bloodshot eyes.
It seemed that what happened was weighing on her.
Neither of them, I noticed, would look me in the eye. I guessed that they were disgusted by my appearance.
“Mira.” I said, giving her a quick wave before half-turning to leave. “I’m glad you see you’re all right, but there’s something I need to do. So, if you’ll excuse me…”
“Adam, wait!” She said, and so I complied.
I stared at the two, waiting.
“I wanted to thank you.” Mira said, nudging her friend as she spoke. “We both did.”
Ophelia nodded, though her heart wasn’t in it.
I stopped and turned back to them, lips a little pursed as I shifted my attention on the miserable looking girl. “Ophelia, wasn’t it?”
I stepped towards the girl and extended my hand. “Adam Clarke.”
“Ah…” She said, taking my hand in her own and giving it a weak shake. She was trembling, I realized. “Ophelia Scarlet.”
“Have you gone to see Madam Pomfrey?” I said, letting go and noting the look of relief on her face.
“We all have.” Ophelia said. “But we were released fairly quickly. I didn’t really get hurt.”
I searched her face, and the girl looked away, uncomfortable now.
“Adam?” Mira asked, wondering just what I was doing.
“Go back.” I told her. “You’re not fine.”
That made the girl glare at me. She didn’t need to say anything for me to know that she wanted me to shut my trap. I wasn’t having any of it, though.
“Well, you aren’t.” I said, shrugging. “Sorry if this is blunt, but you look like you could use some sleep, and maybe a hug or two. I haven’t seen anyone so miserable in a long time.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mira palm her face.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything.” I said, shaking my head. “I may have been a little too blunt.”
“Blunt.” Ophelia repeated, her glare deepening as she came alive with annoyance. “That’s one way to put it. Do you have any idea what I’ve been through?”
I stared at her for a moment. “No, I don’t.”
I raised my bandaged right arm and removed part of it to show the terrible burn scars beneath before hiding them again. “But you’re not the only one who’s had to deal with Quirrell’s crap.”
I covered the wound back up, seeing that the other Ravenclaw students were beginning to eavesdrop on the conversation.
“We were all affected by this, so it’s natural to need to detoxify and heal afterward— much like how a cut needs to be cleaned and treated.” I said. “Clamming up like this does nothing but let the wound on your mind fester. You’ll just hurt yourself and the people around you.”
I was wasting time, now.
“Speaking of the people around me, I have somewhere I need to be. I really am glad to see that you’re better and safe, Mira.” I said and nodded at both of the girls. “Ladies.”
I turned and left, the few crowding students scattering from my path with looks of apprehension. Just what did everyone think happened?
I’ll need to check to see what’s coming out of the Hogwarts rumor mill. I thought. For all I know, they could be telling some kind of messed up love triangle story between me and a seventh year, or something.
My image wasn’t something super important to me, but at the same time, it would be smart to get a handle on things here before they went out of control. An incident involving no less than twelve students— as far as I knew, Quirrell could have sent other students to wreak havoc elsewhere— many of which were sent to the Hospital Wing was something that would certainly merit an eventual inquiry by the Ministry.
And with inquiries, reporters would soon follow. I needed to be ready for that.
I smiled a little as I navigated through the Hogwarts hallways with ease. I would be ready, of that there was no doubt.
I’ve faced Quirrell, traversed the Abyss, flown through the storm of auroras, and fought against Voldemort in my own mind. I thought. Reporters aren’t going to scare me. Always forward.
Forward, I went. The time passed in a blur as I made my way out of the castle proper and into the Hogwarts grounds. I passed by Hagrid’s house, noting that it was currently unoccupied.
Perhaps he was doing something in the castle?
I gave myself a mental shrug and continued to traverse the grassy fields, starting to get a little tired. So much for taking it easy.
I didn’t care, though. I wasn’t going to be held back from Absol for any second longer.
I passed by a massive overgrowth and a few thick bushes before I saw the big bushy bearded man standing near the herd of Thestrals, looking on with some concern.
Hagrid heard my footsteps as I approached, prompting him to speak and turn with a dangerous look. “Who’s there?”
I didn’t say anything, even as the man turned his head down to me with a look of shock. “Adam? Yeh scared me there. Aren’t yeh supposed to be in…”
He stopped as his eyes met my own. “Yer eye, Adam… Are yeh…?”
The man approached me, his face an expression of concern so deep it warmed my heart.
“I’m fine, Hagrid. Madam Pomfrey let me out today.” I said, sending the man a small smile.
“And yeh came all the way here?” Hagrid said, eyes widening slightly. “When perfessor Dumbledore said that yeh’d been hurt bad, I thought the worst.”
He gestured at my eye, his face expressing grief for my sake. “Yer eye…”
“I can still see just fine, don’t worry.” I made sure to say, raising my hands in a reassuring gesture. “Not sure why my eye changed the way it did, though.”
I had quite a fair number of ideas, of course. My time spent in the Abyss, my bond with both Absol and Helena, my connection with the Void— these were all possible reasons for my transformation. If only I had the time to process everything and research what I wanted to.
Sadly, there were other things to deal with.
“I see.” Hagrid said. “Yeh sure ye’re all right?”
My smile widened. “Aside from being pretty tired from walking all the way here, I’m good. I just really needed to see Absol, though; I’ve been feeling like something’s not quite right with her. I can’t really explain it—”
“That’s righ’!” Hagrid cut me off with an excited, booming voice. “A familiar bond, that’s just what could be needed.”
“Needed?” I repeated, even as the Thestral herd stirred, turning their attention towards me.
Their eyes… I thought, staring at eyes so very similar to my own.
My gaze shifted, taking the creatures in. And yet, unlike me, they are bound by the threads. Just what does this mean?
I swallowed, unsure of what was going on. Hagrid opened his mouth to say something further when the largest of the herd stepped forward towards me.
He towered over me, staring down with eyes as milky and as intense as my right. I stared right back, wondering just what it was this one was doing. The great beast shifted, clacking his beak with ominous purpose.
“Adam…” Hagrid said, keeping his voice level. “Maybe yeh ought’a back away. Nice and slow, now.”
I didn’t listen to the man, instead taking a step forward, daring the leader of the herd to challenge me.
“Adam—” But then Hagrid stopped, watching as the Thestral snorted, turned, and trotted back to stand over another Thestral, who was laying down at the center of the group, clearly asleep.
Absol! I realized.
I sent Hagrid a single glance before moving forward. “I think I know what I need to do.”
My steps were sure, without any hint of unease and trepidation. The herd, for once, did not shy away from my approach, though they did open up their ranks so I could pass through.
I stared at their strange behavior with curiosity, but it only lasted until I laid eyes on Absol again. I had a job to do.
Reaching the poor girl, I knelt down by her side and gently pressed my hand over the top of her head. “Absol…”
Another Thestral lowered its head to be level with my own, and I realized that this was the same massive one which had challenged me. He nudged my head, before pointing to hers with his beak.
“I have to use the mind-link. Don’t I?” I said, seeing the big guy nod. “Right. Right.”
I closed my eyes and lowered my head to press against hers. “Absol…”
There was no answer.
I frowned and concentrated further. You’ve lost your way, my friend. You need to come back— it’s not too late.
I waited for a few seconds, feeling my eyes tightening. Where are you? Absol!
Just then, I felt it.
It was only for the shortest of moments, but her presence strengthened.
That small spark was all I needed; I took it to kindling, turning the tiny spark into a roaring flame— a fire so bright it sent a beacon of light into the dark depths of our shared mind.
Come back to the light! I called out once more.
Absol stirred awake within seconds.
~I…~ I heard her airy voice as she nuzzled me cheek-to-cheek. ~Zero?~
I smiled and gave her a gentle pat. “Yes, it’s me, girl. You’ve worried everyone sick.”
Absol swept her gaze over the herd, seeing them arranged so close around her, and gave a weak chirp. The others replied with a low, humming noise that seemed to soothe the air around us.
“Well, I’ll be damned…” I heard Hagrid say. He sounded awed and humbled— as if he’d witnessed something incredibly rare.
After a few seconds, the herd stopped. A few of the Thestrals bopped Absol a few times before they all settled down on the floor with us.
~Zero… Sleepy.~ Absol said.
“It’s all right.” I smiled again, caressing her neck just the way she liked it. “You’ve been on a long ride, get some proper rest, okay? I’ll be right here.”
She responded with a sleepy chirp. ~Love you.~
My throat blocked up from those two words, and I sniffed, hugging my friend’s neck. Something warm began to trickle down my cheeks; I realized that I was crying.
“I love you too, Absol. I love you, too.” I said, my voice half-choked with happiness. “Everything will be okay.”
And strangely enough, I actually believed those words.