June 16, 1992, 10:55 AM, Hall Outside of the Interrogation Room
I shifted in my spot, feeling the stone floor starting to hurt my rear. It had been at least an hour since we’d all been gathered up and told to come here by our respective Heads of House, and I was starting to get bored.
Scratch that. I thought, giving out a loud yawn that seemed to go through the assembled group. I got bored five minutes in.
Watching student after student go in, I had attempted to busy myself by making small talk on what my friend’s summer plans were, but the group was stressed out to give any meaningful answer.
Hermione just shrugged when I’d tried with her. I supposed I deserved that, considering what I’d said to her prior. This was one of my major personality flaws: I was abrupt to the point of alienating those around me.
Well. I thought, smiling a little. Those who don’t have the patience, or inclination to try to understand me, anyway.
Hermione seemed to slowly be turning in that direction, I reckoned. The girl’s trust was a fragile thing, and it would probably take her a good while to feel like she could give me that trust, once again.
Not that it mattered, of course. Whether she trusted me or not, I would do what I must.
I had great plans for the future. There was so much left to study— so much more magic to experience and learn about. The battle against Voldemort had opened my eyes to the higher world of magic, and it had helped develop a relatively new feeling of mine.
That feeling was the exhilaration which came from having a good fight with a powerful opponent. Clashing against Voldemort had felt like an insane, difficult dance of spells and beasts.
Even now, I could almost see the volcanic field set beneath a foreign, starry sky in my mind’s eye. My thoughts drifted to the creature I’d summoned while in that realm.
That place is real. That world. I thought as another student was called into the interrogation room. Of course it is. This world is real, too. Why shouldn’t others be? But, what could that possibly mean for me?
I had set my mind on going back to my home world, but knowing that there are others out there… To be fair, the possibility was always there, but I never gave it much thought. But now, with the proof staring me in the face, I wasn’t sure what to do.
How would I even make it home? If the number of universes was beyond counting, finding the single, correct one would be impossible.
No. I thought, a small amount of aggression bleeding into my thoughts. Nigh impossible, but there is hope. Alef Ard recognized me as a World Drifter. Titles like that don’t just exist, so there must be someone who’s drifted to another world before. Don’t have the first idea on how to find one, but I can hazard a guess that drifting through the realms was possible in some way. Hence the title.
I would need to write all of this down, of course; just not yet. That would have to be one of my longer term projects, I gathered. My eyes moved over the group, taking everything in.
I saw the threads dancing around each person’s body, undulating in a way that seemed to reflect their overall mood. It had been something I’d begun to intuit after a little practice. So far, I could only gauge a person’s mood in a very general way.
The movements of the threads were subtle, but coupled with a person’s body language, I started to assign certain moods with the patterns the strands tended to move.
Of course, I didn’t need this sense to tell that everyone was growing more and more agitated as the waiting continued. The students who had already completed their ‘interview’ with the Aurors were not allowed to leave.
The children were told it’s just to keep things running smoothly, but I imagined that this was done for another reason. It would be silly to let an interviewee just leave, in case they were lying.
It was probably rule number one of the guidebook: don’t let any potential suspects out of your sight until the testimonies are corroborated by their peers. That way, you could ensure that you would be able to catch the one who did the crime.
I understood their reasoning, but Hell if it didn’t make the atmosphere grow more and more anxious as a result. Or maybe that’s exactly what they want. Scared students are more likely to tell the truth or ferociously lie. The worse the fear, the easier it is for them to detect lies.
Or, maybe they were just that incompetent and I was reading too much into it. I scoffed again.
“What’s the matter, Adam?” Tony said, stopping his thumb twiddling to look at me. “Thinking about something?”
“Yeah.” I replied. “Just when we’ll be allowed to leave.”
“It’s been hours, already.” Tony said, huffing in agreement. “I—”
The door opened, and Ophelia exited the room, looking very much upset. Beside her, Professor Flitwick walked, muttering encouraging things to the distraught girl.
“Su Li.” The Auror standing guard read off of the scroll of parchment before he raised his head. “Please come forward, Miss Li.”
Su’s breath hitched as he picked herself up.
“Good luck, Su.” I said.
“Yeah.” Tony said with a nod of encouragement. “We’ll be here when you get back.”
Su gave us a nervous smile before turning and walking towards the Auror. “I’m Su.”
Professor Flitwick hurried from Ophelia towards the First Year girl. “Come along, Miss Li. This shall not take long.”
The door closed behind the two, plunging us back into silence.
“She’ll be all right.” Tony said, though I suspected that he directed that mostly to himself.
“Agreed.” I said. “She’s with Professor Flitwick, after all. He won’t let them harass her.”
And so, the time continued its forward trek. I watched as Tony, and then Harry was called in, as well as the rest of the First Years, excluding myself. I realized I was being saved for last.
I suppose, since I’m one of the people who knows a great deal of what happened down there. I thought. But then, why not just do it properly? Why Su and Tony before Harry? Wouldn’t it make sense to get the timeline right? They already have the Professors’ testimonies on the matter. Are they really that bad?
Trying to understand the mind of bureaucracy was an exercise in futility. That environment bred the sort of incompetence, fecklessness and corruption that people always hated to see.
And these were Aurors; these men and women were supposed to be the ‘boots on the ground’, so to speak. They were meant to be the shield against the Dark forces plaguing Wizarding Society.
It was a wonder, then, that wizards and witches had even survived for this long. If they didn’t have magic, they would have likely been annihilated a thousand times over in the past few centuries alone. It was a testament to how amazing magic itself was that these people didn’t meet their end.
They look down upon Muggles as lesser creatures, but look at them. I thought, the feeling of resentment coursing through me. Worse cognitive abilities all around, with their lives made easy by magic. The very thing that made them special in the first place has caused them to grow lax and undisciplined. It’s not a surprise that Voldemort swept through these incompetents like fire through drywood.
The door opened, and I watched as Hermione exited the room, accompanied by Professor McGonagall.
“Adam Clarke.” The Auror behind them read out, closing the scroll and looking straight at me. “Mr. Adam Clarke. Come forward.”
I nodded and did as the Auror bid. Professor Flitwick fell in step with me, giving me a simple nod. The Auror stepped aside for us, and we went into the large chamber.
All of the school desks had been removed, and in their place, a large, oval table stood at the center of the room. On one side, five Aurors and one wizard in gray robes sat, staring at us with expectant looks. In front of them lay their wands.
“Welcome, Mr. Clarke.” The Auror who McGonagall had addressed as ‘Hope’ began. “I am Auror Hope.”
“Adam Clarke.” I said, my eyes flitting towards Skeeter, who was off sitting to the side and staring at me with a hungry look. I noted the furious way her quill was scrawling along the notepad beside her.
Her smile widened when she met my gaze. I gave her an incline of my head before turning to Auror Hope again.
“Please, sit.” She said, gesturing towards the two, empty chairs before us.
I shared a look with Professor Flitwick before taking my seat, placing my own wand on the table, just like they had.
“Would you like some water, Mr. Clarke?” The woman offered, her hand still up and sounding as if she hadn’t just stopped the men from attacking me.
“No, thank you.” I said, lying through my teeth. I was honestly quite parched, but I did not wish to give these people any ground whatsoever.
“Why did you place your wand on the table, boy?” A man from the corner of the room behind me said.
“They had it there, first. I assumed I…”
I trailed off at the end, shocked into the silence by the sight before me. It took everything I had to not freak the Hell out. What is he doing here, of all places?
“It seemed like the right thing to do.” I got myself under control, gesturing at the other wizards’ wands as I turned to look at who’d spoken to me. “An agreement of nonviolence or something.”
“Aye.” Alastor Moody grunted, his horrifying face scrunching into one of approval. “It is; an old tradition that the new blood doesn’t seem to understand anymore. Just blindly do as they’re told.”
The other Aurors looked at each other sheepishly before their leader cleared her throat. “Thank you for the lesson, Mr. Moody, but I’m afraid we must begin the interview.”
More like interrogation. I thought and turned my eyes away from the legendary man, settling them back on Auror Hope. “All right. What would you like to know, Auror Hope?”
“What happened on the day of June the Tenth, Mr. Clarke?” Auror Hope said. “You can begin from the moment the chaos began in the Great Hall.”
“Sure thing.” I did and closed my eyes for a moment. “In the Great Hall, someone set off some kind of blast. A really strong one— strong enough to temporarily blind and deafen everyone inside, anyway. Took me a few seconds to recover.”
Hope nodded. The lack of change in her expression told me that she’d expected this.
“I figured I knew what the perpetrator was hoping to achieve.” I said. “With the Headmaster gone, it would be a golden opportunity. The confusion from the attack in the Great Hall would force the Professors to scramble to protect the children first and foremost. This would open the way for him to fetch his prize.”
“And this… prize.” Auror Hope said. “That would be…?”
“Secret, I’m afraid.” Professor Flitwick said, cutting into the conversation. “You’ve tried this with the other First Years, already, miss Hope.”
“Indeed I have. It is relevant to the case, Professor Flitwick.” The woman said, not looking perturbed at the least. “We cannot simply ignore the nature of what was hidden at Hogwarts, considering that it put the children in unnecessary danger.”
“Be that as it may.” Flitwick continued. “You will have to take it up with Professor Dumbledore.”
Auror Hope stared at the diminutive man for a moment before speaking again. “… Make no mistake, I will. Now…”
She turned her attention back to me. “Please proceed, Mr. Clarke.”
“The ‘children’, as you put it, were in danger whether there was something hidden here or not.” I said, building up on the previous point that she thought she’d ended. “Professor Quirrell was the real danger to everyone here.”
“Is that so?”
“Considering what he’s done, yes.” I continued.
“And what has he done, Mr. Clarke?” Auror Hope said, steering me back to the previous topic. “Tell me what happened after the attack on the children in the Great Hall.”
“I decided to go to the Third Floor. My friends followed me, and—”
I stopped at one of the Aurors’ raised hand. He’d stopped writing through a small notebook. “You decided to go to the Third Floor corridor, which was expressly forbidden to students.”
“Why is that, Mr. Clarke?” Auror Hope said.
I felt the stare of everyone on me and resisted the urge to gulp in nervousness. These people, especially Skeeter, were like sharks in the water. They would be able to smell any fear miles away.
“Because Quirrell made me.” I said.
“He made you?” Auror Hope said. The two Aurors to her right did not look remotely convinced. “And how did he manage that, Mr. Clarke?”
And there it is. I thought and took a breath.
“He threatened to have me expelled and sent back to the orphanage.” I said. “Unless I did what he said.”
“Have you not been adopted by Sirius Black, Mr. Clarke?” Skeeter said her first words since the meeting began. “Surely, you would not have gone anywhere else.”
“Maybe so. But I imagine that, if I were to be expelled from the school, then Mr. Black would also denounce me as well.” I said, shrugging. “It’s only natural, of course. Why invite a delinquent criminal into your home?”
“And what makes you think you could get expelled from Hogwarts so easily?” The rightmost Auror said, squinting at me. “The school reserves the option of expulsion for the gravest of misdeeds, Mr. Clarke. Anything to share?”
I knew what he was implying, but I shrugged his suspicions off and deliberately looked at him as if he were the stupidest person in the room.
“The man was using Unforgivables on the students.” I said. “You think a plot to have me expelled would be beyond him? It would be my word against his. Tell me, Mister…?”
I nodded. “Mister Clarence. What’s the word of an eleven year old, orphan Mudblood worth against a respected Professor of the most prestigious school in the world?”
“Mr. Clarke!” Professor Flitwick said, scandalized. “Do not ever use that word again.”
I shrugged. I’ll do as I please.
“Apologies.” I said, without meaning it. “But my point still stands. In my less than favorable position, I would likely have been expelled, and the adoption would have been annulled. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. Your government has already sent Mr. Black away to prison for a decade without a trial, and he’s from a highly respected family.”
I knew I likely shouldn’t have said that, but I couldn’t help it— I noticed that Rita actually abandoned the Quick Quotes Quill and was just writing in the notepad, herself. I could only imagine the headline, tomorrow.
Adam Clarke: Cocky, or Cuckoo? I thought, shaking my head.
I hadn’t lied, of course: Quirrell could have done whatever he liked, if he wanted to neutralize me. That was a big part of why I had pretended to submit to his will for so long.
It kept the man placated, and therefore much less likely to retaliate against me.
“We’ve deviated a bit from the discussion at hand.” Auror Hope said, bringing the focus back on the investigation. “Please, continue with your testimony, Mr. Clarke.”
“You were going to the Third Floor to aid Professor Quirrell.” Auror Hope said.
I shook my head. “I went there on the pretense of aiding him, but my true plan was to stop him.”
“And how did you plan to do that?” Auror Clarence said. He looked miffed from the way I spoke to him. “As you said, you are an eleven year old student; while you have demonstrated a noticeable talent in magic, how did you plan on stopping an adult wizard, full grown and quite adept at magic?”
“In whatever way I could.” I said, gesturing at my white eye and pulling the sleeve on my arm to show the horrible burn scars beneath. “As you may or may not be able to tell, Auror Clarence, it wasn’t enough.”
A few of the Aurors winced at the sight.
“Those burns…” Moody said, getting my attention. “Caused by Dark magic, aren’t they?”
“Yes.” I nodded. “I’m told the scars will never fade, and that it’s possible I will feel pain from them from time to time.”
“Aye…” Moody said, his magical eye spinning with no rhyme or reason as it roved over my body. “You might feel a thing or two, lad.”
“Hopefully not.” I said, trailing off for a second before turning back to Auror Hope. “At any rate, I bit off more than I could chew, and here we are. I’m still not fully recovered.”
“Yes.” Auror Hope said. “But please, run us through what happened exactly. It may be useful in finding out more information on this case.”
You mean, appear as if you’re doing something so Rita can tell the world how amazing the British Ministry is. I thought and shrugged. “All right. My friends followed me to the Third Floor, and we found Harry, Hermione, Ron and Professor McGonagall looking like they were about to be beaten by a group of older students.”
“And, what did you do, then?”
“We engaged the older students and subdued them.” I said.
“You dueled against seven older students— all of which are well on their way to being capable wizards and witches— and won?” Auror Clarence said.
“Yes, I did, with the help of my friends.” I said. “It also helped that some had been taken out, and the rest had already been worn out by their previous duels, too. If they were fighting at full strength, I likely would have lost.”
Auror Hope nodded for me to continue.
“After ensuring that the others would take Professor McGonagall to the Hospital Wing, I decided to go forward and help Professor Snape stop Quirrell.” I said and continued to relay the official story given to me and Harry by Dumbledore. “I was able to get past the Professors’ defenses through various ways.”
“And those would be…?” An Auror on the left, questioned.
“The defenses, or the ways?”
“The ways, Mr. Clarke.” He answered. “We are already aware of the defenses.”
“All right.” I said, nodding. “A few of them had already been beaten, like the massive dog and the chess set. The Devil’s Snare was a little scary, but they’re scared of heat and light, so I managed to get past those easily. Getting past the locked door was tricky, but I was able to devise a solution for that.”
“And that solution is?”
“I made my own key.” I said, shrugging. “I’ve read a lot about locks, and how they work. I fashioned myself a key and opened the door with it.”
“Impressive.” One of them said. “And how did you get past the Security Trolls, Mr. Clarke?”
“Well.” I said. “One was dead already. I thought I could sneak past it, because I read that trolls weren’t very… Um…”
I struggled to find the correct word. “Aware of their surroundings, I suppose?”
Auror Hope nodded, neither acknowledging, nor rebuking my haphazard reply.
“Anyway, it didn’t do any good.” I said. “It immediately noticed me and started to attack. I tried to blind it with a strong Wand-Lighting Charm, but it covered its eyes. My other spells could barely scratch the thing’s hide. I actually thought I was going to die, right there.”
Hope nodded again. “But you beat it.”
“Yes, I did. It snatched me and tried to crush me with its big hands.” I said, noticing a few of the Aurors were turning green at the thought. “But I had an idea. It was a last ditch effort, but I threw a spell into its nose.”
“Its nose?” Auror Hope said.
“You thought it’d be weaker on the inside than the outside?” Moody said, and I turned to face him again.
“That’s pretty much it.” I said. “Like how insects are weak under their exoskeletons.”
“You’ve a good instinct, then, lad.” Moody said. “Either that or incredible luck.”
I shook my head. “Probably the latter, but my luck didn’t seem to stick for long.”
I turned back to the assembled Aurors and continued the tale. “After that, I had to stop for some time to recover. My shoulder was dislocated and I honestly could barely focus. Eventually, though, I got back up and moved forward, reaching the final room.”
I stopped, trying to think of what to say. I jumped as I felt Professor Flitwick’s hand touch my shoulder.
He gave me a nod of support, as well as a smile. “It’s all right, Mr. Clarke.”
I nodded back, before clearing my throat. “I got to the final room, and that’s where I saw Professor Quirrell standing over Professor Snape. I thought he was dead, at first, but then I saw Quirrell raise his wand. He was going to finish him off.”
“And what did you do, then, Mr. Clarke?” Auror Hope asked, her voice turning a little more gentle.
“I just attacked Quirrell. I didn’t even think.” I said, looking down so they didn’t see my face. “As for the duel afterwards… I… Well, I was beaten pretty badly. I didn’t…”
“We can stop if you like, Mr. Clarke.” Flitwick gave me another pat.
“No, no.” I said, gathering myself. “I was able to stop him from killing Professor Snape, but I was nowhere near ready for that kind of fighting.”
I gestured at my injuries again. “He probably could have killed me at any moment, but I guess he wanted to show me that he could. I suppose it did manage to keep him occupied for long enough so that Harry could bring Professor Flitwick to the scene. But, that’s all I remember before I blacked out.”
“And from there.” Professor Flitwick continued with another pat to my shoulder. “You know what happened, from my own testimony.”
“Very good.” Auror Hope said, looking through a few pieces of paper and pulling one out. “Very good.”
She read through it for a bit before raising her head towards me, after a few moments. “That spell you used, Mr. Clarke. Glowing chains, yes?”
“Yes.” I said, nodding.
“I can’t say I’ve ever read about a spell like that.” She said.
“I’d be surprised if you have.” I said, blinking. “I created it.”
“Indeed?” She said, her eyebrows raising towards her hairline. “That is very impressive, Mr. Clarke.”
I shrugged at that. “Thank you. Um… Will that be all?”
Auror Hope looked between her compatriots, as well as the Ministry official recording the conversation before nodding. “Yes. I believe we are done here, Mr. Clarke, Professor.”
She stood up, and everyone else followed. “Please, join the others outside and tell them that they must wait a little so that we may finish conferring?”
“Of course.” Professor Flitwick said, hopping off of his chair and moving towards the exit. “Come, Mr. Clarke.”
I nodded, snatched my wand from the table, and left the room without another word, doing my best to ignore the feeling that more than one person in that room was staring at my back.