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Interlude – A Friend’s Worries

June 16, 1992, 11:10 AM, Hall Outside of the Interrogation Room

Anthony Goldstein

Tony fidgeted on his spot on the stone floor. He didn’t know what to do. He’d had plans to take it easy with Adam and Su today, but then Professor Flitwick had to come and ruin it all for them.

The boy shook his head, doing his best not to frown.

It wasn’t Flitwick’s fault, of course.

It wasn’t any of the Professors’ faults; they had done their best to manage the crisis as well as its aftermath, and they had done so fairly well, all things considered.

It was the Ministry that annoyed him, moreso after Adam’s revelation.

He should have seen it coming, of course. He knew all about the nonsense that government organizations continually tried to pull— his father worked in the British government for a time, after all.

Tony didn’t know exactly what the man’s job description was, but what he did know was that his dad would sometimes complain about the nonsense restrictions, as well as the endless red tape he had to maneuver himself around just to get his own job done.

It wasn’t an occupation Tony wished to have in the future. And yet, he had somehow envisioned that the Ministry of Magic would be different from the Muggle government.

The Ministry was governed by wizards and witches. Things like endless paperwork, Tony assumed, would be unimportant to them; easy to manage.

Sadly, however, this didn’t seem to be the case.

“What do you think they’re asking him?” Su said, bringing Tony’s attention back to the world around him. He realized that the floor was hurting again.

Tony stood up, dusting his behind and taking a few steps as he replied to the girl’s question. “Same questions as we were asked, I reckon. ‘What happened, where did you go, what did you do, why did you do it’…”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Su said. “I hope they don’t stress him more than he’s already been. He still hasn’t recovered.”

Tony heard Hermione’s scoff and felt his annoyance get the better of him. “Something to say?”

Hermione frowned at being called out, but didn’t even look in his direction.

Tony grit his teeth and took a step forward, only to feel something grasp his pant leg. He turned his gaze down to see Su’s hand firmly clasped onto the cloth. When she made eye contact with him, she shook her head.

Why is she being such a jerk?

The boy opened his mouth and then closed it, his expression turning into one of resigned frustration. He just didn’t understand the source of the girl’s attitude.

Well, if he were to be honest with himself, he did.

I get it. He thought to himself as he huffed and stepped in another direction, walking amongst the gathered students and teachers as he tried to clear his thoughts. He lied to us.

Tony would be a liar, himself, if he said that Adam’s actions hadn’t hurt. They had.

He never imagined that his trust in the boy could be damaged in this way, but Tony knew Adam. He’d had a good long time to be able to get a better read on the boy.

Adam’s behavior reminded Tony of his own dad’s, sometimes. His friend was cagey and liked to keep everything close to the vest, even if the information was fairly mundane.

Just the other week, it had taken Tony an hour of needling to get the boy to simply admit that he was trying to learn a new food recipe from the elves. It hadn’t even been remotely relevant in terms of the Stone, and yet the boy had kept it secret all the same.

Tony’s father, Bartholomew, did similar things. The man once kept the fact that he was learning how to dance secret from Tony’s mother, Amanda, for months. She’d been so fraught with worry that Tony was sure their marriage would have ended, if the behavior had continued for too long.

Still, this sort of thing had at least prepared Tony for Adam’s behavior. The boy was talented, eccentric and often found himself deep in thought. Tony supposed that the time spent at the orphanage had made his friend secretive.

I’ve never been bullied before. Tony thought. But dad told me a lot about what it’s like. You can’t give anyone an excuse to single you out, so you keep things to yourself. That’s exactly what Adam does, almost like an instinct at this point.

And, though the boy no longer had a reason to be so sparing with his information and heart, Tony knew that this sort of behavior wasn’t something anyone could just turn off. His father was easily in his mid-thirties and still routinely did it, sometimes without even noticing.

As he was passing by, Tony heard Mira muttering to an older girl; Ophelia, he believed her name was? He didn’t know what was being said exactly, but Ophelia’s shaking had lessened somewhat since he’d last seen her.

Tony felt a pang of sympathy for the distraught girl. He didn’t have a clue what happened to get her to be this way, but it must have been very bad.

Yet another terrible thing that Adam managed to stop. Tony thought. He did a lot of good that day, and the cost to him…

He remembered the first time he got a good look at the boy’s burns. It had almost made him lose his lunch. The wounds had extended from the boy’s wrist, all the way up to his elbow; just looking at them had made Tony feel lightheaded and queasy.

Adam? Tony thought with a scoff as he continued to walk in a circuitous pattern. He took one look at them, and just started poking at them like they were the most fascinating thing he’d ever seen. Bloody insane.

It was ridiculous. His bloody friend had only been worried until he learned that the wound wouldn’t impede his movements in any way.

And his right eye… Tony thought with a mild shiver. Sometimes, he noticed Adam staring not-quite-at him, as if he was watching something swirling around his own body.

It was a very unsettling feeling, Tony thought, stopping as his eyes began roving over his own form.

He saw nothing, but the feeling of something hidden being there remained. Tony doubted he was imagining it; Adam seemed to do this with everyone else around him, as well.

Tony didn’t know what happened in that final room, or what happened to his friend’s eye, but Adam had definitely changed. Aside from the strange stares, Tony had also noticed that the boy’s behavior had shifted, as well.

It hadn’t been anything major, but Tony could tell that Adam was beginning to be a little more active in the way he interacted with everything around him. Tony shrugged and rejoined Su.

Only time would tell, but Tony did know one thing: he liked seeing this change in Adam. He made eye contact with the girl for a few moments, giving her a nod as he sat down beside her and resumed the painful waiting.

A few more minutes passed before the doors to the interrogation chamber opened, revealing Adam and Flitwick as they exited. The assembled students began to clamor; it was over.

Some stood to leave, among them being Tony, only to be stopped by a series of sparks exiting from the guard’s wand. “Your attention please, students. We are not yet finished. Please wait a little longer.”

“What’s the hold up?” A student asked. “There’s no one else to interview, is there?”

“No.” The Auror said, his face marred with a displeased frown at the child’s attitude. “But my colleagues must confer together before they give out a judgment.”

The door then opened, revealing Rita Skeeter, whose gaze was shifting between Harry and Adam, who were approaching him.

“Adam.” Tony said, moving over to his friend. The shuffling behind Tony told him that Su had gotten up, as well. “How’d it go?”

“Hey.” Adam said, extending his fist to bump it with Tony’s. “Well enough. They asked about what happened.”

“What did you tell them?” Su said, joining the two and patting herself down.

“They asked about what happened.” Adam said again, shrugging. “So I answered. It didn’t take very long.”

“Adam, you were there for longer than any of us.” Tony said.

“I guess there were a few distractions. They kept asking the same questions and doubting me so it didn’t really feel like it took very long.” The boy shrugged again. “I just ran them through the events.”

He resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Only Adam could treat an Auror interrogation like a boring field trip.

“Then they asked about my chains.” Adam said, as though he wasn’t sure what to make of it. “Asked how I did it.”

Tony swallowed. That was a question he had yet to ask of his friend. “And…”

“One of those distractions I told you about happened. I got lucky and didn’t have to answer.” Adam said.

“Oh…” Tony said, feeling a little disappointed. He really wanted to know what those chains were all about. How did he even perceive the idea? Just what was that spell? Why had he kept it a secret from everyone?

Granted, there are probably dozens of side projects Adam’s been working on, so it would make sense that he wouldn’t share one of them. Tony thought, the idea growing on him as he gave himself a mental nod. Besides, he’s been drawing chains right in front of us for ages, so it’s not like he was hiding it from us. Just didn’t think it was worth mentioning.

He hadn’t been the only one wondering just what the deal was with those drawings. When he wasn’t studying with them or helping them with homework, Adam was drawing chains. He was looking at older sketches.

The boy would close his eyes sometimes, and Tony imagined he was likely imagining those very same chains swirling and undulating in the air, just like Tony had seen them used a few days ago.

That spell had been more than a Charm meant for fighting.

It was an art form.

“Don’t worry, Tony.” Adam’s lips quirked at the boy’s expression. “I’ll show you later.”

He turned to Su and gave her a nod as well. “Both of you.”

“Promise?” Tony said.

“Yes.” He said, blinking as he saw something ahead of him. “I promise.”

Tony turned to see Rita Skeeter engaging Harry in conversation.

“Oh…” Su said, looking in that direction as well. “What do you think she wants?”

“Whatever it is.” Tony said, seeing Harry’s face scrunch up in irritation and nervousness. “It must not be particularly pleasant.”

“She probably wants an interview.” Adam said, and he was probably right.

Tony watched as Professor McGonagall entered the conversation, more or less shooing the reporter away. The Ravenclaw boy gulped when he saw the square jawed woman turn her sights to them, instead.

“She’s coming.” Su said.

Adam turned his gaze down for a moment and sighed. Tony wasn’t sure, but the boy seemed to be speaking in another language. Was it a spell?

“Mr. Clarke.” Rita Skeeter said from behind the boy. “I do believe we’ve met.”

Adam took a breath and gave Tony a look of weariness before steeling himself and turning to the woman. “Miss Skeeter.”

He shook the woman’s hand, though Tony noticed that Adam drew it away as soon as he possibly could without looking impolite. By the slightly souring look on her face, it seemed that Rita noticed it, too.

“I must admit, Mr. Clarke.” Rita said, mastering herself quickly as she sent a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “That was quite the meeting…”

“It was pretty interesting.” Adam said, and Tony had to resist the urge to smirk. His friend had a knack of replying to almost everything he wasn’t sure how to reply to with noncommittal answers.

It could get fairly amusing, at times; here, however, judging by the tightness of his stance, Adam was a little on edge. Tony couldn’t blame him. Skeeter was a menace.

The woman’s smile widened. “The two most famous boys in Hogwarts, mired in a deep mystery involving a Professor, the Headmaster, and several of the older students, yes…”

Adam didn’t grace her with a reply right away. “It is what it is.”

“But what it looks like is fairly important, as well, wouldn’t you agree?” Rita said, and Tony saw Adam’s face tighten.

Just what is she trying to imply, here? Tony thought, feeling a little worried for his friend.

“Might be important to some.” Adam said, shrugging. “I sense you have something you want to say.”

“Well, an interview would help ‘clear the air’, so to speak.” Rita said, taking a step closer to the boy, looking down at him with hunger in her eyes. “Wouldn’t you say, Adam? I can call you Adam, right?”

Adam stared up at her for a moment. Tony saw her hesitate as her green eyes met his mismatched eyes of black and white.

“You can call me whatever you like.” Adam said, smiling. “And you’re right, an interview would probably clear the air quite well.”

Rita smiled and opened her mouth to say something further when Adam continued.

“I’ll have to ask Professor Flitwick to write to the Prophet so that we can schedule a meeting with Miss Broduk.” Adam said, nodding as he turned slightly away, hand on his chin. “I wonder if she’d be available…”

“Ah.” The smile on Rita’s face grew strained for a moment before she shook it off. “You will not be able to reach her at the Prophet now, I’m afraid.”

“Oh.” Adam said, his face turning a little confused. “I suppose she’s started her summer break early. I’m sure she’ll make some time for me, eventually. She’s nice.”

“No, no.” Rita said, smiling again. “What I meant to say was that Miss Broduk— Amy— is no longer working at the Prophet, you see.”

Adam went quiet and looked down. Tony saw him suppress the urge to tense up at that news.

And who wouldn’t tense up? Tony thought with a shiver. She obviously wants to force him to have a one-on-one interview with her.

“…Oh.” He said after a moment’s contemplation before his eyes moved up to hers. “That’s a shame.”

“Indeed.” Rita said, and her tone was so false it made Tony sick. “She was a valued member of the team, and I’m sure she’ll be finding new work, soon enough.”

“Aye.” Adam said, nodding.

“The Daily Prophet, of course, will be willing to send another reporter in her stead.” Rita said, looking like the cat that was about to get the canary.

Adam nodded again. “Yes. They likely would.”

A moment passed before he spoke again. “I’ll have to speak with Professor Flitwick and my new adoptive father, Mr. Black, you understand.”

“Of course, Mr. Clarke.” Rita said, nodding as she began to move away. “I’ll be sure to contact you soon!”

“Yes.” Adam said, smiling at her until she turned away to harass the Aurors.

He turned back to Tony and Su, a grimace overtaking its place. “How’d I do?”

“I have no idea what just happened.” Su said.

“I’m not sure, either.” Tony said, agreeing with her. “But I think Skeeter was trying to get an interview?”

“Well, yes.” Su huffed. “I know that. It’s just all the other stuff…”

Adam glanced behind him to check if the woman was still busy with the Aurors before looking back at the two. “She knows I don’t want to have an interview with her.”

“What makes you say that?”

“I— um…” The boy stumbled over his words, and Tony smiled. It was always nice to see that his friend was comfortable enough around him to hesitate like that. “A few of the things she said are a little too suspicious.”

“You mean that nonsense about how things will look?” Tony said. “Clearing up the air?”

Before Adam could answer, Su took a step forward. “You’re right! She’s trying to make you do an interview with her.”

“Yeah.” Adam said, agreeing. “That’s why I tried to shift the topic to scheduling an interview with Miss Amy— I didn’t expect to hear she got sacked, though. Wonder what she’s doing…”

Tony shrugged. “Maybe she quit?”

“Maybe.” Adam said, though he didn’t look convinced. “Maybe…”

Tony sighed; the year wasn’t even over yet and there was already another mystery.

“One thing’s for sure.” Adam said, getting his attention as the Aurors exited the conference room to address everyone.

“No chance in Hell will I deal with that woman.” He said.

“You’re all free to go about your day.” Auror Hope said, nodding at everyone. “Thank you for your cooperation.”

And then, the Aurors just left.

Everyone stared at them, muttering about how their perfectly good day was wasted on this nonsense, but Tony only smiled, his expression clashing with the sea of disgruntled ones around him.

“Want to go and play some chess?”

Adam nodded. “Sure.”

“And I’ll beat the winner.” Su declared.

“You can try, Su!”

He was happy that it was finally over. Maybe now they could relax.

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