June 26, 1992, 8:00 AM, Training Ground, Phoenix’ Roost, England
“Look at them go!”
I ignored what was going on in front of me in favor of pondering what I had just seen.
What were the Malfoys doing here? Whatever Lucius Malfoy set his eyes upon, I just knew it couldn’t be anything good for anyone.
The guy’s your typical rich snob who thinks everyone else should bow and scrape at his feet. I thought.
Things were moving far faster than I had initially considered.
I knew that Grindelwald’s success in France was nothing to scoff at— the man had essentially created a massive criminal crisis in the country, while also rescuing many public figures who had been politically suppressed in the five decades past since he had been imprisoned.
Still, I had imagined that British Wizards would not dare approach Grindelwald, at least not until he’d spread a bit of propaganda around for a month or two. That would be how he’d gain the sympathy of the common wizard and witch, after all.
Actually… I thought, resisting the urge to palm my face. Never fucking mind; yeah, it makes perfect sense that Malfoy Sr. is already here, now that I’ve had a little time to absorb it.
Lucius was the sort of man who pushed for change in how the wizarding society in Britain functioned, both in the public eye and the background, and he didn’t shy away from using his wealth to further his own ends— oftentimes ending up increasing said wealth in the process.
I began to calm down, and my thoughts turned even more rational as I began to reason the whole thing out in my mind.
Yes, I suppose it was inevitable that Lucius would show up here. I’m not sure what sort of game he’s playing here exactly, but it’s almost certain what it is he’s aiming for.
“Knock her down, Diallo!” One of the recruits shouted from beside me, startling me out of my thoughts. I turned my gaze to the duel before me, in question.
Wagner sent a series of curses in a wide arc, hoping to catch Diallo from all possible directions, but the man gave a smirk and, springing his wand into the air as if he were directing a concert, summoned various things from the clearing to crash into her spells, blasting dirt and plant matter every which way, obscuring him from view.
He’ll create a smokescreen from which to enact his own plan. I thought, unsure if my thought was about Lucius or Diallo before me. And erode his opponent’s foundation before they even have time to notice.
As expected, Wagner banished the dust and debris away, just in time for her to be struck by a Disarming Charm, knocking her backwards into a pile of ropes which had appeared an instant before she fell.
The ropes came to life, binding her limbs together behind her back and leaving her lying on her side. Wagner grunted and whined with annoyance while the other recruits laughed at her predicament, but I didn’t feel the same way.
My thoughts were altogether focused on Lucius now.
It didn’t matter what his specific plans were, I realized as I watched Diallo walk towards Wagner with a smirk. Malfoy wasn’t necessarily throwing his lot in with Grindelwald— that would be too ridiculous an assumption.
No, most likely, he was testing the waters, and allowing Grindelwald’s followers to gain a foothold on the British Isles. It wouldn’t necessarily serve him in the short term, considering his allegiance to Voldemort, but who knew what it would do in the long run?
Likely that this is one of the many pies Lucius has his fingers in. I thought, watching as Diallo released his fellow recruit and extended a hand to her. This is but one of many seeds of chaos he’s trying to sow.
That was what he’d done in the original story with Tom’s Horcrux Diary, after all. He’d planted it in the possession of his political enemy’s daughter in the hopes that she’d end up getting someone— or many people— killed and making the news.
The scandal and backlash would have had Arthur’s proposed law of protecting Muggles laughed out of the Wizengamot before he would have even opened his mouth. Hell, he would have probably been forced to resign in disgrace.
It was a risky plan, but also one that couldn’t be traced back to Malfoy Sr. and almost guaranteed to have some kind of positive result; well, positive for the man, anyway.
What he must be doing here is much the same. I thought and shook the thoughts away. I’ll ask Draco when I see him next; not here though. Away from prying eyes.
I needed to be on top of whatever this was when the time came—
“Clarke!” Mr. Rafiq’s harsh bark tore through my reverie with the subtlety of a train. “Wake up! Time to practice.”
I blinked and, with some embarrassment, got to my feet.
I ignored the snickers of the rest of the group as I made my way front and center, before being directed to one side of the match area.
“Getting sleepy, were we?” Rafiq commented, sending me a look of displeasure, and the recruits laughed again.
“No, Mr. Rafiq.” I said, shaking my head and ignoring the annoyance that bubbled up inside me at the mockery. “My mind was just occupied, that’s all.”
“I see…” Rafiq said, nodding a few times before sending me a glare. “Well, no more of that! You think of nothing but your training while you are in my presence. Is that clear?”
I met his gaze with my own. “Crystal.”
“Good.” He said before throwing a glare at the amused recruits. “And what are you laughing at?”
Their smiles dropped and they tensed.
“I thought so.” Rafiq said, snorting before pointing at one of the recruits who’d laughed the loudest— a tall, pale boy with hazel eyes and brown, long hair tied up in a ponytail that reached past his shoulder. “Nick! Let’s see what fruits your training has borne fruit, if any.”
Nick smiled and got up, exiting the ranks of the group to join me on the training field. “I’m ready, sir. Let’s see if this kid is as good as the rumors say he is.”
Guy looks like your typical meathead. I thought, wondering just what kind of spellcaster he was.
“We shall see the truth of the matter before too long.” Mr. Rafiq said, cutting through the group’s excited whispers before it could devolve any further. “Watch carefully, all of you. Your job is to analyze how different wizards fight; for one day, you may be called to fight for your ideals, your very dreams. Do you wish to find yourself inadequate when that time comes?”
“No sir!” They all shouted, getting to their feet.
“Then watch.” Rafiq said, backing away from the both of us. “Yalla! Begin!”
I had half-expected the meathead to start with some generic trash-talking monologue, but he surprised me by launching a familiar, sickly-yellow curse right from the get-go.
Lethal moves from the start. I narrowed my eyes and stepped to the side, letting the Bone-Breaking Curse fly past me, crashing into the tree in the background with a loud crack, snapping its entire bark and effectively sending the tree into the slow road of its eventual death.
I didn’t have time to think as he cast an Exploding Charm at my feet, sending shards of earth and stone in every direction.
Reacting quickly, I stepped back and took a page out of Vanessa’s book, banishing the shards of stone and dirt as soon as they flew up at me, and sending them flying towards the man before he could launch his next offensive.
To his credit, Nick managed to stop his next spell and erected a Shield Charm, instead; though, the sight of him stumbling back and the sound of his pained grunts told me that he had been an instant too slow.
“First blood has been drawn.” Mr. Rafiq said. “Do you wish to continue, Mr. Nick?”
“Yes, Mr. Rafiq.” Nick said, his face red with anger and shame at having been caught first. He turned his gaze towards me, and I saw the cut beneath his eye. “I will repay you in kind, Clarke.”
“You can try.” I said, finding the exchange somewhat amusing. After having fought against the likes of Quirrell and Vanessa, this guy seemed more like a joke than anything.
Still, better men had failed because of complacency, so I kept my eyes open for any tricks the guy had up his sleeve.
Nick shifted his posture and resumed his assault, sending spell after spell my way. He’s given up on manipulating the environment completely!
I shook my head in disappointment, batting a few of his spells away with a small, localized Shield Charm kept at the tip of my wand, and sending them flying up into the air. I don’t even need to use my chains on him…
I let him continue casting spell after spell, watching as he exhausted himself with unnecessary wand motions and movements, improper breathing and frequent missteps which did more to damage his own body than I had in the entire match.
Throughout all of this, I was able to gauge his pattern, much like I had with Vanessa, before— only this time, I knew that there was no trap waiting for me when I made my move.
Still, it wouldn’t hurt to prepare for that eventuality, anyway. I thought, stepping to the right, avoiding a red curse before jabbing my wand forward, reflecting a blue spell right back at Nick.
My opponent swore and dove to the right, beginning a new spell chain as soon as he got up. A Stunning Charm, a Piercing Curse, another Stunning Charm. Next one will be a Disarming Charm.
As predicted, I saw his wand move in the requisite motion for a Disarming Charm; that’s when I made my move. I pointed my wand at the spot behind him. Bombarda!
The ground exploded, pelting the man’s back and making him stumble forward until he fell to his face. I didn’t waste any time, casting my next spell before he could recover. Expelliarmus!
The jet of red light flew from my wand, crashing into a scrambling Nick and sending him tumbling into the dirt again, with his wand flying into my free hand.
“I’d say the winner is pretty clear, here.” Mr. Rafiq said as he moved towards Nick to check him over. “Seems you need a lot more training, Mr. Nick.”
Nick grunted and stared at me with near apoplectic rage at having been humiliated by a child, but I only gazed back with boredom. I moved to him and held his wand out, watching it be snatched with a muttered thanks.
“One more try.” Nick snarled, getting to his feet before bowing to Rafiq. “If you’ll indulge me, Mr. Rafiq.”
“A very bold request, one which I am inclined to decline.” Rafiq said, though he smiled at the man’s expression. “And yet, I am moved by such eyes, absent fear and overflowing with determination.”
Rafiq turned to the group. “What do you think?”
“One more try!” “Go, Nick!” “Beat the kid’s face in!”
Nick stared at their encouragement with wide eyes before his expression hardened into one of deep determination.
Rafiq laughed at their bloodthirst before nodding in approval. “My, my, my… It seems the people have spoken. Very well; I’ll allow it, but just this once.”
“Thank you, Mr. Rafiq.” Nick bowed his head and turned to me, resolve clear in his eyes. “Are you ready, Young Clarke?”
I searched his eyes for a few moments before nodding and falling into my stance. “Yes.”
He fell into one of his own and, for the first time in that fight, I felt a little intimidated.
I started with a Disarming Charm, blasting it at him wordlessly in the hopes of ending the fight quickly, but Nick took a step to the left, the red spell flying past him before crashing into the treeline, upsetting a few birds in the distance.
Petrificus Totalus! The white spell flew towards him, but Nick swung his wand forward, bashing it right back at me, much the same as I had with his spells previous. I ducked, the Full-Body Bind Curse sailing past me; I paid it no mind, instead defending against the next few curses.
His speed’s increased! I realized as I was forced to defend against his onslaught with all I had. I sidestepped a Bone-Breaking Curse, deflecting a few low-powered spells before I was forced to dive to the left, dodging a rain of bark from the tree whose bark Nick had initially stripped.
I moved my wand to blast him again, but I felt the remaining bark pelt me from behind, sending me falling flat on my face and dazing me. I pushed through the haze on my senses with willpower alone, getting to my feet and leveling the man with a glare.
“Finally got a reaction out of you.” Nick said, his eyes full of satisfaction.
“Is that what you wanted?”
“Yes.” Nick said. “Hogwarts’ famed wizard prodigy— better than his peers. Isn’t that how it goes?”
I frowned as I set myself into a stance again. “I don’t care what the people say.”
“I’m sure you don’t.” Nick said and launched his offensive again. “That’s what they all say! You’re just like that gloryhound, Lockhart!”
I opened my mouth to reply, only to be forced to defend against another barrage of spells. This is getting annoying. And what the Hell is he talking about?
I defended against another set of curses before I felt a sting on my cheek— the same spot I had struck Nick with at the beginning of the fight. A second later, I felt my feet get swept from under me, sending me down into the dirt.
“What’s the matter, Clarke?” Nick snarled, and the group was now quieting now. “Not winning as easily as you thought?”
“Never said it would be easy.” I said, frowning.
“You won’t be winning at all!” Nick snarled and sent another barrage of curses, trying to keep me down.
Protego! I reached deep down into myself and summoned my desire and intent to protect, using it to erect an unstoppable, translucent white wall, absorbing the man’s spell chain with nothing but a small crack to show for it.
“Perfect…” Nick snarled, his eyes wide with anticipation. “Crucio!”
I had just enough time to gape as my shield shattered into a million pieces. The spell struck me dead-center, flinging me backwards as my world filled with white hot pain. I struggled to breathe, to move, even as I felt sharp knives stabbing me every which way.
It was only an instant later that I realized I was screaming. And yet… It was strange. Even through the pain, through the agony, I could still see the man’s spell in my mind’s eye, like barbed wire emanating from his wand and enveloping every fiber of my being.
If I can see it, I can fight it.
I tried to get up, but my limbs weren’t listening to me, too inflamed with pain they were to heed any of my mind’s directions. I writhed in place for a few moments longer before I collapsed again.
I could see the spell, but I couldn’t move to stop it. I felt so weak and so powerless at that moment, but I gritted my teeth, refusing to let him win. No; no amount of torture would do me in.
You can’t break me. I thought to myself, over and over. I have seen the void. I have traveled the abyss and returned to my own soul. I have battled Voldemort’s soul and won. A Torture Curse can’t break me.
Eventually, the curse was lifted, and I was left panting for breath, staring up at the blue sky with an expression of anguish.
That was, until Nick began to laugh. “What’s the matter? Couldn’t take a little pain curse? So much for the Rising Star!”
I listened to him gloat for a second longer before a deep rage seized my soul. Filled with furious energy, I rose to my feet and brought my wand to bear.
“Looking for seconds, are we—”
I’m going to break you, asshole. “Odgovor!”
A single chain burst forth from my wand’s tip, heading towards the soon-to-be dead man with a single purpose. To kill!
He erected a shield to try and stop it, but I only grinned in response, watching as the end of the chain morphed into a sharp, spinning spear tip, drilling through his defense like it was paper before going straight through his forearm.
Blood spurted from his limb, and Nick screamed in pain, even as I drew my wand in a spiral, wrapping the remainder of his limbs with my chain and crushing my free hand into a fist. Chain coffin!
The sound of cracks and squishes filled the air alongside Nick’s howls, and he dropped to the floor as his arms and legs were crushed, soaking the ground beneath his feet with blood.
I walked towards the downed man, stumbling with every step before I held my wand over his body, untangling him from my chains before pressing the spear-tip against his forehead. He looked up at me with fearful, pained eyes and opened his mouth to speak.
“I forfeit!” He cried, tears streaming down his once cocky, sadistic face. “I forfeit!”
“I don’t care.” I said, eyes flashing with hate. “Od—”
I stopped, feeling the tip of a wand poking the back of my head.
“That will be quite enough, Mr. Clarke.” Rafiq’s voice came from behind me. I turned my furious gaze to see his calm look.
“You know what he did.”
“And you won’t let me get revenge?”
“I think.” Rafiq said with a grin as he gestured at what remained of Nick’s arms and legs. “You’ve extracted more than your pound of flesh for this fool’s transgression.”
I looked down at the whimpering mess for a few seconds before closing my eyes and getting myself under control. A moment later, my chain disappeared, and I took a few steps back to breathe. “Yes. I suppose I have.”
Mr. Rafiq stared at me for a moment longer before holstering his wand again.
He looked towards the recruits before barking orders at the two closest ones. “You. You. Take him to the infirmary; and make sure his wand is nowhere near him. I will be having words with this fool, soon.”
“Clarke.” He added, getting my attention as Nick— the fool, I corrected myself— was dragged away moaning. “You will follow them to the infirmary, as well.”
I nodded, frowning as my entire body struggled to keep the shakes under control.
“Very good.” Mr. Rafiq said. “Now, go.”
I nodded again, turned and started to leave.
“He’s as incredible as they say.” “Nick shouldn’t have done that.” “Who cares? The kid took it and made him regret ever casting it!”
Keeping my breathing calm and steady, I ignored the other recruits’ uncaring words, realizing that they would have been just as easily congratulating Nick, had he been the one gloating over my dead body.
This place… I thought, a small shudder escaping my control and spreading through my entire body for a few moments before I suppressed the feeling again. It’s inhuman.
I stared down at the trail of blood being left by the fool in the wake of his fellow recruits’ uncaring carry.
A den of monsters. The thought came unbidden. I held no love for Nick— quite the opposite after the shit he just tried to pull— but to have his supposed allies treat him like this…
I suppressed the urge to sigh and gave the two recruits ahead of me plenty of time to get out of my sight before I entered the building and nodded towards the guards, grunting the word “infirmary” at them.
“Left.” He said. “End of the hall.”
I gave a nod of thanks before I walked past them into the empty hall. I stopped for a moment, leaning heavily against the wall as my breath came out shuddering.
“Fuck this place.” I swore and, after allowing myself half a minute’s worth of recuperation, steeled myself again, resuming the previous course.
I couldn’t wait to get out of this hellhole— whatever tripe Grindelwald was peddling was not worth this shit.