June 16, 1992, 8:30 AM, Great Hall
Entering the Great Hall for the first time since recent events was a strange experience, I had to say. Stepping past the threshold, the first few watchful students got a single look at me and began to whisper to their friends.
The conversation spread through the student body like a tidal wave, erratic in its speed but all-consuming and inevitable in its approach. By the time I reached my spot at the Ravenclaw table, Tony and Su were sending me sympathetic looks.
“This is ridiculous.” Tony said, shifting beside me in discomfort.
“What is?” I said, though I knew exactly what he was referring to.
“The way they are all looking.” Tony said. “Can’t you see it?”
Su nodded, looking a little anxious herself.
I shrugged. “Sure, I can. But, what good does it do to acknowledge it?”
“I…” Tony said, closing his mouth. “I guess it wouldn’t really do anything.”
A moment passed before Su added her thoughts in.
“It’ll make you feel worse.” Su said, nodding. When we looked at her, she gave a small, embarrassed smile. “My mum works as a model and she talks about it sometimes when she thinks I’m not listening.”
I nodded, while Tony did a double take. “Your mum’s a model!? That’s wicked.”
“Yes, that’s pretty cool.” I said in agreement. “And your mom’s right. Focusing on it will only make you more and more miserable as time goes on. Best to just ignore it altogether.”
“Easier said than done.”
“Agreed.” I said. “Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and the art of not giving a crap is one such thing.”
Su spluttered at my words. “You sound just like her.”
“You think so?” I said, smiling as my tone turned a little teasing. “Think maybe I can be a model, too?”
Tony grimaced, looking like he’d eaten something foul. I laughed, and the two followed in my wake— that was, until I winced a few moments later, killing the laughter within an instant.
“Adam.” Su said, now concerned. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Yes.” I said, waving it off. “I’ll be fine; I probably won’t be at a hundred percent for a few days, still.”
That trip to wake Absol up certainly didn’t do me any favors, either. I thought, feeling the pain in my legs and lower back intensify. I won’t do anything crazy or strenuous anymore; not for a while, anyway.
Alef Ard buzzed twice, knowing that I would do whatever I required, despite what my body’s condition was.
You know me too well, Alef. I thought, feeling the entity send me a wave of affection towards me.
“Speaking of which…” Tony said, bringing me back to the real world. I noticed that the food had already appeared on the table while I was thinking. “Time to eat!”
“Yes.” I said, reaching down into my pack. “But first…”
I fished out a vial full of black, tar-like liquid and uncorked it.
“Bottoms up!” I gave something between a smile and grimace before I downed the vile concoction in one go, doing my best to ignore the quick-sandy texture and the smell of rotten eggs.
I opened and closed my mouth a few times, realizing I probably looked ridiculous. “Good God, that tastes awful.”
“But it’s good for you.” Tony said, pushing a cup of water closer to me.
I gave the boy a nod of gratitude and took the cup in hand. “Thanks, Tony.”
“Anytime.” He said as I took a few long gulps of the liquid, feeling it at least wash away the taste of rotten egg. “Want me to fill your plate?”
I set the cup down and cleared my throat. “You are being very kind. Any chance I can have you serve me like this at all times? Even when I’m not feeling bad.”
Tony pouted and set the plate back down.
“Just for that, you can fill your own plate.”
“No, I didn’t mean it!” I said, grinning like a loon. “I was just kidding, I swear.”
“I’ll fill your plate, Adam.” Su said, sending the boy a teasing look.
“Gee, thanks, Su!” I said. “Glad I can count on you when my closest friend— my bestest of amigos— betrays me!”
Tony only rolled his eyes in response, covering the smile that crossed his face as soon as he could.
“I saw that.” I said as Su filled my plate with eggs and sausages.
“Shut up, Adam.”
“All right, all right.” I said, smiling as well for a few moments before I gave Su a nod of gratitude. I stared at the assortment of food, feeling my mouth water. “Thank you, Su.”
I raised the food to my lips and took my first bite of eggs, damn near moaning in the process. It tastes far better than it has any right to! A side-effect of this Potion, maybe?
“Enjoying ourselves, are we?”
I stopped mid-bite, turning my head to see Tony’s smirk. I gave a slow nod, the toast held by my teeth slowly tearing as the movements eroded its hardness, turning the bread a little mushy once again.
I took hold of the food, knowing it would fall soon enough, and completed my bite before speaking with my mouth full. “Yep.”
“You’re matching Ron in table manners, you know.” Su said.
I took a moment to swallow before taking my glass of water. “Sorry.”
“No, no.” She said. “It’s kind of funny.”
“Well, I’m glad I’m working as free entertainment, then.” I said. “Maybe next time I’ll charge a Galleon for the performance.”
“No offense, mate.” Tony said. “But that performance wouldn’t even be worth three Knuts.”
“That implies it might be worth two!”
Su choked on her juice.
I reached behind her back and gave it a few pats. “Sorry, buddy.”
Breakfast continued to go in that fashion, and I felt the weight on my soul lighten with every laugh that came out of them, every smile which crossed their childlike faces.
It was good to see them heal, if only a little. Time would heal all wounds, of course, but laughter was the catalyst which sped the process up considerably.
“Oh!” Tony said, turning his head to the windows before gesturing at the incoming owls. “Looks like the mail’s coming.”
I watched absently as the birds flew around the Great Hall, dropping their cargo in front of each of their respective recipients. A copy of the Daily Prophet plopped in front of Tony, and I started in surprise as I saw a black owl drop in front of me, staring at me with yellow eyes.
“You’ve got mail?” Tony said, confused. “You’ve never received any letters before… I wonder who it’s from?”
I shrugged and placed my fork down. Licking my lips, I reached for the letter tied to its foot, snatching my hand away quickly when the big bird tried to give it a not-so-gentle nibble.
The hint of familiarity from that one moment made me realize who this message was likely from.
How the fuck did he find the same owl? I thought, feeling a strange sense of incredulousness even as I opened the letter up.
Hello, Adam. I’m not really sure what to say in this letter, but I suppose I’ll start with an apology: I’m sorry for not really writing you any letters. I made sure to tell Harry to say hello to you, and to let you know what’s going on, but I never considered writing a letter to you, myself.
For that, I apologize.
To be truthful with you, I never expected you’d make such an insane request of me, just after we’d met. I had half-thought it was a prank on your part, or perhaps a joke; but no, you were completely serious.
I heard about what happened to you and Harry from Dumbledore. I can’t believe the old man had Voldemort hiding right under his nose and never even saw it.
Anyway, forget about that. I heard from Hagrid that you’ve made a familiar bond with a Thestral? I don’t know how you can even see those beasts, but I’m sure you’ll tell me, eventually. If you wish, I can buy it from the school, for you, though the house isn’t quite ready to house your friend.
It actually won’t be ready for quite some time. My family, as you may or may not know, were fond of some very strange things. We’ll likely be busy clearing the place out for the entire summer, I wager.
And on that note, I was also informed by the workers of your Orphanage that the paperwork is going to take a while. Well, Remus did; he went there in my stead while I visited the Healers. When he asked them how long it would take, they said anywhere between the middle-to-end of July. You can imagine just how annoyed the both of us were.
I wish I could tell you that I would be taking you to your new home on your return trip in the train, but I can’t. You might have to stay at the Orphanage for a few more weeks, still, but the moment the paperwork goes through, I’ll come and take you.
I’m sure Harry will be happy to see you, when that day comes. We’ll even celebrate your birthday. You should have told me it was the tenth of June, by the way. I would have sent you something, kid.
Anyway, I think I’ve talked for long enough here. My arm’s hurting and I’m sure you’ve got things to do.
Wishing you a safe recovery,
P.S: The bird bites.
Well… I thought, my eyes going over the letter a few more times.
“So?” Tony said, trying to look over my shoulder. “Who’s it from?”
I tilted the letter towards him so he could get a better look. “It’s from Sirius, my new— erm… Dad, I guess?”
I just realized how weird that sounded. “I wonder if I actually have to call him my dad.”
“You never thought about it until now?” Su said, sounding incredulous.
I laughed and handed Tony the letter so he’d get out of my space. “I guess I didn’t.”
“I don’t know.” I said, shrugging and looking around with a bit of discomfort. “The thought never really occurred to me, you know? I was busy studying and learning new things. I…”
And then I stopped talking to really consider what exactly it was that I was saying. True, I’d made the choice on a whim, and I figured that Black had accepted on a whim, as well. He could have just as easily refused.
I had even expected him to do just that. Still, Sirius had accepted.
Where did that leave us, though?
I will be living at Grimmauld Place, judging by the letter. I thought. And he will essentially be my father figure, from now on, instead of having to deal with the Orphanage Matron.
Well, there were still a few weeks of the Orphanage left, judging by the letter’s words again. Paperwork, ever the indomitable bane of humanity’s existence, had reared its ugly head and ruined everything for everyone once more.
Always has. I thought and shook my head. Always will.
“What is it, Adam?” Su said, a curious look in her eyes.
“It just really feels weird that I’ll have to call him Dad now.” I said.
“I don’t think he’ll make you…” Su said. “Harry said that he’s very nice.”
“He seems like it.” I said in agreement. “I really didn’t think about it. Honestly, I didn’t.”
“You tend to do that.” Tony said, face hidden behind this letter. He lowered the parchment for a moment, his eyes taking on a hint of annoyance. “You’ll have to go back to the orphanage? That’s stupid, Adam.”
“Don’t blame me, mate.” I said. “Blame the paperwork.”
Tony’s eyes flashed in horror at some memory of his. “Yeah. My dad always has mountains of paper on his desk. The pile just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
“He works from home?” I said, interested.
“Brings it home with him.” Tony said, handing me the letter back. “Doesn’t really have much time outside of it.”
Sounding a little bitter, are we? I thought, giving the boy a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. “Maybe you should ask him to spend time with you or something.”
But Tony shook his head, grabbing his copy of the Daily Prophet. “It’s not that bad. He makes time for me and mum when he can. I know he’s working really hard for us.”
I smiled and nodded. “True.”
I was about to say something else when my eyes caught part of the headline on the front page of the paper in Tony’s hand. “What’s… That?”
Tony looked down at it, and then back at it. “You don’t know?”
“Know what?” I said. “I know something happened while we were dealing with… Quirrell. Something else. But no one’s told me a thing.”
Tony’s eyes widened and he opened his mouth to speak. “Well, you see. Erm… Something big happened in France— Grindelwald, erm… I’ll just give you the paper. Here.”
A NEW CRISIS IN THE MAKING
BY JOHN HINZMER
The bells continue to toll at Place Cachée.
It has only been five days since the tragic events which took place at Remords De l’Ame, a prison for Dark Wizards located in France. The death toll now stands at seventy seven, but it is still rising as the French Ministry continues to do its best to defend its population from the violent escapees.
This prison-break, we now know, was orchestrated by none other than Gellert Grindelwald, the Dark Wizard who had recently escaped from a prison of his own— Nurmengard Castle. I say ‘Castle’, but nothing of it remains but a mysterious, large crater full with shards of sharp glass.
As we unravel the threads of the mystery, however, we have learned that it is frightening to the core, instead; thanks to the testimony of many who witnessed the prison break take place, we now at least know just how the man had made his initial escape.
‘It was an explosion— but bigger than anything I’ve ever seen!’ Jules Taine, one of the stationed guards who fought hard against the assailants that day, was kind enough to share with me when I made the trip to the prison to find out just what had happened. ‘It reached high up into the sky, and when the smoke cleared… There was nothing left. Nothing but glass shards.’
Indeed, it seems that the Dark Wizard Grindelwald has found some kind of weapon that outstrips anything we wizards have been known to be capable of, and he is not afraid to use it.
His entourage adds another layer to this painting of a story as well— Dark Wizards and Witches who are wanted by their various nations of origin as well as the International Confederation of Wizards for a list of crimes that would fill this entire paper from start to finish. For more information, check page eight.
Hope, however, continues to shine in the form of Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts. Known as the man who defeated Grindelwald in the forties, Professor Dumbledore took it upon himself to confront Grindelwald in single combat, hoping to end the man’s plans before they had even begun.
‘Incredible skill. Magnificent.’ Jules said when questioned on the fight. ‘If Mister Dumbledore and his comrades had not come, I fear that it would have been a total loss. As it was, his actions have prevented much harm.’
And so, we thank Albus Dumbledore for his service once again, and his unwavering loyalty in the principles that bind our world together. We…
The story continued to go on in that vein, going into the specifics of the event, as well as displaying an image of a Grindelwald sighting in France. “This is… This is what kept Dumbledore away from the school?”
“Yeah.” Tony said, nodding as he dug into his own food. “It’s wild, isn’t it?”
“Massive explosions…” I said, my eyes flickering from left to right as I continued to read the various testimonies presented. Glass shards. This is confirmation, all right. Nuclear explosions caused by magic?
“It’s crazy.” Su said, her voice gone quiet.
I opened my mouth, but didn’t know what to say, and so I closed it back up. Instead, I nodded.
The two wizards had actually fought. This went so far beyond my expectations that I ended up finding myself speechless. I had honestly expected Grindelwald to lay low for a few years, build up his power-base by recruiting wizards and witches to his cause, whatever it was.
“Just what do you think he’s after?” Tony asked. “Grindelwald, I mean.”
I looked through the article again before pausing on the man’s face— his much younger face. It was a shot that was caught of him a day prior at Place Cachée, if the article were to be believed.
I squinted at it, wondering if the camera used to take this image had misrepresented his likeness, or if it was even the same person. “I don’t know, but… Is it just me, or does he look a lot younger in this picture?”
Su and Tony leaned closer to see.
“You’re right…” Su said, biting her lip. “That’s a lot different from before.”
“Maybe the camera was faulty?” Tony said, leaning back and putting his face in his chin. “Or maybe the picture was taken in a hurry?”
I nodded. “Yeah, maybe that’s it. Still…”
I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was likely more to it than that. Just what are you doing, Gellert Grindelwald?
Even though I’d essentially destabilized the canon through my existence, I could still rely on my existing knowledge of the big players on the board. Though the people themselves were more complex than my understanding of them— a fact of life, really— I still knew I could generally rely on this knowledge of mine.
Case in point: the way I gained Severus Snape’s temporary allegiance. That man’s key, defining trait was his unmitigated love for Lily Potter. Or, is it better called an obsession? Then again, love and obsession are not mutually exclusive…
No matter the designation of the man’s feelings, Snape had them, and that allowed me to predict his behavior with at least some measure of confidence. It had been a major risk dangling the opportunity in front of him, of that there was no doubt, but it had been a calculated risk based on my informed opinion.
Quirrell had been much the same; he was after the Philosopher’s Stone, but he wasn’t so far gone that he would torture and mutilate the students to do it.
Maybe he could have been saved. The thought reared its ugly head for a moment before I smashed it into a pulp. There would be time for that sort of thinking later. For now, I had bigger problems.
Grindelwald was not someone whose behavior I could predict with any reliable accuracy. The most I knew of him was the scenes shown of him both in-book and the movie, as well as the first two spin-off movies, Fantastic Beasts.
I had heard there would be another few coming out, but I had died before I got to that point. And so, all I knew of Grindelwald was that he was a master at disguising himself and infiltrating the ranks of government. He was charming, charismatic, and incredibly talented at magic.
This, coupled with his sheer breadth of knowledge, made him an enemy to certainly be wary of. Like myself, he was quite good at using existing spells and giving them new properties.
It was because of Grindelwald that I’d thought to tinker with the Shield Charm, in the first place. He was a titan, easily on the same level as both Dumbledore and Voldemort.
More than that, he was an unknown, with a group of unknowns following his orders. The men and women seen in his presence— I didn’t know them, either.
Things are certainly becoming a lot more interesting, are they?
Alef Ard gave a buzz of agreement.
“Are you going to eat that?” Tony said, bringing me back to reality.
My eyes followed his pointing finger to see a small stack of bread. I gave a somewhat strained smile and shook my head. “Help yourself.”
As the boy wolfed down the bread, my smile fell.
Suddenly, Professor Dumbledore’s words and viewpoint about keeping this from me made a lot more sense. I was altogether too tired to even ponder yet another disaster, so soon after dealing with one of my own.
I need to focus on recovering. I thought. And then…
Then, I would deal with whatever would come.