June 25, 1992, 3:00 PM, Unknown Location, England
It’s official. I thought as I paced circles around the room. This place is even worse than the orphanage.
I huffed as anger and impotent frustration rose from within me. Turning my gaze to the window, I moved to stand before it, staring out into the large expanse of green fields and forest.
To think that I actually considered escape. I thought with no small amount of self-reproach. The woods in the distance had looked so alluring, then. All I had to do was run, hide and figure out a way to escape.
However, the sheer number of wizards and witches occupying this building left no doubt in my mind that I would have been found and brought back in short order.
Every simulation I’d run in my mind, every avenue explored, all pointed to the same conclusion: I was fucked.
I need my wand. I thought. If I’m to stand even the smallest sliver of a chance.
I shook such thoughts away. Even if I did have my wand, Grindelwald’s minions would swarm me en masse. My Disillusionment Charm was its own artform at this point, but I still had yet to figure out how to counter the charm used to reveal my location.
Homenum Revelio. I thought in anger; a spell that barely needed any skill to cast, and yet, it would reveal my presence despite having spent ages working on my spell.
I still wasn’t sure if I was willing to try another experiment in incorporating the void to my spells, but at this rate, I think I would have to.
I reckoned that I also needed to learn how to Apparate— but I doubted I would have the chance to, here. I had only been in this building for a few hours, and there had been no sign that anyone was using Apparition. If anything, people were leaving on foot.
This told me that an Anti-Apparition Charm had been cast on these grounds, and so, I could not attempt to learn the skill on my lonesome. No; this would have to be something I learned when I eventually left this place.
And so far, it would seem that I had to do it on foot, with nothing but my wand and my wits— and I was missing one of those things.
A long moment passed before the frustration came back in full force. I gave a mild sigh to vent off at least some of it and considered the only other alternative available to me.
I could just stay here until the day comes for me to return to the orphanage to be picked up by Sirius. I thought; Grindelwald had said I would be returned, soon enough, as my replacement could not be maintained anywhere other than the orphanage.
I wondered as to the logic behind this, not really understanding Grindelwald’s plans. Why was he being so secretive? Why even kidnap me, only to return me afterwards?
I understood why someone Polyjuiced as me wouldn’t last very long pretending to be me. Even Crouch Jr. in both the movie and books had moments in which his mask had slipped; but then, everyone expected Alastor Moody to be insane beyond measure. That was how he had avoided notice.
That, and the fact that he didn’t have to interact with any of the children or staff on a personal level. I thought. I highly doubted Snape, Sprout or any of the other teachers would have willingly tried to speak to the man.
My current replacement would have to first live in Sirius’ house for months, dealing with three different people, and then do the same with the entire Hogwarts student body. This wasn’t to say that it was impossible to pull off; but it was, without a doubt, a ridiculous, convoluted plan.
Grindelwald, from what I’d seen on the Daily Prophet, had moved with straightforward purpose. His aims were clear; destabilize the current order of the Wizarding World in order to create the socio-political climate in which he and his increasing band of followers could flourish.
You would think that such a man would be distrusted by anyone who heard his name, but the amount of his followers this early after he made his move is alarming. I thought as I paced around the room again, locking eyes with the guard at the door for a moment before breaking it.
I supposed that, with memories of past events fading in people’s hearts, somewhat, it was easy for him to construct a narrative in which he claimed he was atoning for his mistakes while making the world a better place.
The sad part was, there was no government in existence which could quell such an uprising. At this point, humanity had basically accepted that governments were corrupt, no matter who was running the show.
I had seen example after example in my previous life showing said corruption: officials taking bribes to ‘grease the wheels’, organizers spending tens of thousands of dollars on simple meals so that they would not have their funding cut, high level politicians engaging in stock purchasing before laws were enacted to bolster industries which would increase the value of the stocks they acquired, and so on.
It was no different in this world.
Even as I paced around this room, I knew that Lucius Malfoy was likely whispering his thoughts into Cornelius Fudge’s receptive ear while the Minister’s hand was heavy with a sack of Galleons.
I didn’t blame the downtrodden and the disenchanted for flocking towards someone who would bring ‘real change’ and a ‘revolution’ to their lives. How could I?
It wasn’t their fault that they were ground up by this world, used by those around them before being discarded like trash.
Taking a deep breath, I shifted my mind back to the topic at hand. Just why had Grindelwald kidnapped me? Didn’t he realize that doing this would make for a dismal first impression?
He had to have, but he tried to get at me, anyway. Just what were his aims?
No answers came, so I continued to pace, trying to work off all of my nervous energy.
“Do you not get tired?” The cloaked guard’s voice broke through my furious thinking.
I stopped and stared at her before pacing again. “No.”
The woman rolled her eyes before smirking at me and speaking in a Russian accent. “There’s no reason to be such a baby about it.”
My eyes flared with anger, which I directed at the woman. The smirk fell off her face at the sight; I imagined having such an unnatural eye looking at you like that would make any person feel intimidated.
She even reached for her wand, but I didn’t care, continuing to speak. “A baby? How would you feel if someone took you from your home and had you confined somewhere remote in a territory where everyone probably wants to kill you?”
The woman’s eyes flashed in anger at that. “Don’t speak to me about kidnapping, boy. I have been subjected to indignities far worse than you could hope to comprehend.”
I opened my mouth and closed it, giving the woman a closer look. I couldn’t place her familiar appearance, but I felt as if I’d seen her before, somewhere…
And that’s when it hit me.
“Oh!” I said, eyes wide with realization. “I’ve seen your face— on the Prophet.”
The woman’s anger dissipated at my words, and her face shifted into one of cold amusement.
“What was it…” I said, trying to remember the headline. “The Russian Rogue.”
She took a step forward, closer to the light coming from the window and pulled her hood off. My eyes widened at the sight; With long, silky, light-blonde hair and eyes as bright as blue stars, the woman struck me dumb.
Watching her tuck a lock behind her ear, my eyes were drawn to her high cheekbones, and just how pale her skin was.
A scoff from the woman brought me back to reality. “A rogue— as if these fools understand the meaning of such terms. But, I am she.”
I frowned at that.
This woman; she’d been first identified during whatever events took place at the French Prison that Grindelwald had… liberated. She was essentially part of his first supporters in this era.
“Why are you…” I said, not finishing the question at her miffed look.
“Why am I assigned the lowly task of babysitting a whelp?” She said, turning her delicate nose up at me. “Is that what you wished to say?”
I stared at her for a second before shrugging. “Basically, yes. Aren’t you part of Grindelwald’s inner circle?”
“Mr. Grindelwald.” She corrected me, and my gaze was drawn to the way in which her arm moved up to raise her index. She took a few steps forward, staring down at me with a stern expression, but I was too taken with just how graceful her movements were.
I had never seen someone move with such efficiency, smoothness and purpose. What the hell kinda training has this one undergone to reach this kind of resting state fluidity of movement?
“Yeah, him.” I continued, pushing past my shock. “I’m not trying to insult you, or anything, but… wouldn’t this job be more suited to someone… lower on the food chain?”
From the careful, but curious tilt of her head, I realized with relief that she wasn’t offended by the question. “I volunteered.”
“You did?” I said, eyes widening in surprise.
“Yes.” She said. “I wanted to get a personal look at the boy prodigy who defeated one of our new recruits— get your measure.”
I narrowed my eyes as she got even closer, resting a soft hand on my cheek. I ignored her closeness with all of the self-control I could muster. “And?”
She looked into my eyes and grinned, her previous, almost regal countenance marred by the viciousness displayed on her face. “I think I would like to kill you.”
I took a step back, tensing up for a fight, but the woman only laughed, stepping back with open arms. “Easy, child. As you are, you would not be a challenge. Perhaps when you’re a little older, we can… play. I hope you can last a good long while before I kill you…!”
I ignored the shiver racing up my spine and squared up to her instead with a dangerous look. “I’d enjoy tearing your pride apart, that much is for sure.”
I had thought it would anger the woman, but her smile widened, and she pressed herself against me. I felt her breasts smush against my form and realized with a blush that her nipples had hardened.
“Promises, promises…” She whispered in my ear, sending shivers of fear racing down my spine. Her mouth opened to say something else when a knock came to the door.
She stopped and pulled away, giving me a wink before she moved towards the door, opening it. I let out a shuddering breath the moment she turned her back to me.
Who the fuck is this woman?
“Miss Vanessa.” A man on the other side of the door said, his eyes on me for a moment before they were caught in the woman’s striking gaze. “I, erm…”
“Yes?” The witch, Vanessa, said with a light smile. “What is it?”
The man cleared his throat. “I— that is to say, you are being summoned. By Mr. Grindelwald.”
“I see.” Vanessa said, putting a hand on her chin. “So it is time, then?”
“Yes.” The man said, glad to no longer be flat footed in the conversation. “The boy is to be brought to the courtyard.”
“For what?” I said, but the two ignored me.
“Very well.” Vanessa said and dismissed the man with a look before turning to me. “Come.”
Without waiting for me to reply, she departed the room. I stared at the empty doorway for a second before following her.
This is crazy! I thought, staring at the witch from behind with a wary eye, as if she would turn around and get into my space at any moment. As if reading my mind, the woman stopped and turned to me.
“Walk with me.” She said, frowning. “I don’t like it when someone is behind me, even a child.”
I blinked at her statement before moving to her right side. We both fell in step as she led me down the stairs, passing by the various floors filled with men and women, who were hard at work.
“You must be wondering why you are being tested.” She said, noticing my restless gaze.
I looked at her and huffed. “One of many questions I have, sure.”
“I won’t pretend to know what your other questions are.” Vanessa said, raising a delicate hand as she spoke. “But this one is quite simple to answer; I’m sure you’ve already reached it, yourself.”
I pursed my lips and exhaled. “Grindelwald wants to gauge my current skill level and potential.”
I rolled my eyes at that. “I don’t care.”
“Were you one of mine…” She stopped and pushed me hard against the wall, and I felt a spike of pain go through my back. “I would have taught you respect.”
I stared at her face, realizing that this woman was likely talking about a completely different kind of respect than the one I imagined Grindelwald wanted. I could see it in her eyes. There was a… hunger in them.
I raised my eyes to the thread twisting above her head, and I saw it shift between white and red, moving in a way that reminded me of a heart pumping blood.
Blood. I realized and looked down, seeing her calmed expression. “Are you a vampire?”
Vanessa blinked, and her eyes moved as if recalling a previous memory. She let go of me and took a step back. “What did you say?”
I stared at her for a moment before shaking my head, realizing how stupid the statement was and gesturing at the light coming out of the window. “Nevermind. Vampires can’t survive being touched by the Sun’s light. Shall we continue?”
She stared at me for a moment longer before shaking her head and resuming our course, staying quiet for the remainder of the trip.
Was it something I said? I thought, puzzled by the sudden silence from the previously fiery woman. Was what I said true?
If that was the case, and Vanessa was a vampire, how was the sunlight not affecting her? My curiosity was piqued; Grindelwald may have been a megalomaniac, but he was an interesting one, that was for sure.
We finally passed through a set of double doors into a massive, but empty courtyard.
I frowned as I took my first steps onto the immaculate, intricately paved floor of the site, wondering where everyone was. It was a moment later that I heard the excited whispers from above and saw Grindelwald, as well as a number of people watching me from above.
“Mr. Clarke.” Grindelwald said, his mismatched eyes affixed onto my form as his cohort and viewers’ whispers ceased. “I trust you know why it is that you are here?”
I looked up at the man with a neutral expression. “You want to see what I’m capable of.”
“Indeed.” Grindelwald said. “We have all heard of the rumors surrounding your skill. News has traveled fast, and the Prophet sings your praises, it seems.”
I frowned at what he was saying. The Prophet would do anything to sell copies; I imagined the story of the new school prodigy and the Boy Who Lived saving the day would make for hefty sales figures.
Not having read the articles with a scrutinizing eye, I hadn’t thought much of it. Was that why they were trying to recruit me? My marketable name?
Grindelwald continued, heedless of whatever I was thinking. “But, are you as good as they claim you to be?”
I pursed my lips, not deigning to give him an answer.
“I see the look of a determined man in your eyes, Mr. Clarke.” Grindelwald said and raised his hand. A moment later, one of his followers approached Grindelwald, holding up a small, but long, rectangular box.
Grindelwald opened it and withdrew its contents, displaying it to all.
My eyes widened a little at the sight of my wand as Grindelwald held it, closing his eyes for a moment and murmuring to himself. It was almost as if he was communing with it.
He smiled and opened his eyes again. “Ebony, with the heartstring of a dragon. Power, balance, and protection— a fine wand, indeed, Mr. Clarke. Ollivander’s make?”
I swallowed and nodded, wondering what he was getting at.
“Here.” He opened his hand and sent the wand floating towards me. “Take it. I would have you fight at your best.”
I snatched the wand out of the air as soon as it got close within grabbing range, feeling the incredible rush of warmth coursing through my hand. I sighed as I felt a great weight break away from my body, luxuriating in the light fluffiness of the world.
The feeling faded after a few moments, and I opened my eyes, ready for whatever the old man was sure to send after me.
“Your test.” Grindelwald extended his hand, gesturing at something behind me.
I took a breath and turned to see Vanessa, whose blue eyes gazed upon me with predatory intent.
“My, my…” Vanessa said, throwing off her cloak, revealing the form-fitting suit underneath as she made her way to the opposite side of the impromptu arena. She unsheathed the wand from her side and brandished it at me, filling the air with the excited whispers of the crowd. “I suppose I do get to see if you’re really as good as the stories would say…”
I narrowed my eyes at her before getting into a stance of my own.
She only grinned in response.
“Begin.” Grindelwald said, and the whispers ceased, raising the tension in the air threefold.
I tightened my grip on my wand and allowed myself a single moment to vent as much fear and wariness I felt before churning it deep within me, transforming it into anger.
With a snap of my wand, I took the anger and channeled it into an explosive burst of will. Bombarda!
The spell struck the floor beneath Vanessa’s feet, blasting it apart and sending shards of chipped, sharp stone into the air, pelting the woman— or they would have, if she hadn’t already sent the stones flying straight towards me.
Protego! A half dome of silver energy materialized into existence, blocking and deflecting all of the shards. With wide eyes, I turned to see that the woman had already begun to flank me from the right, sending a long and thin spike of ice straight at me.
I moved the shield and tried to deflect the projectile, but the ice tore through the barrier with a loud crack. I swerved to the left to avoid the strike, feeling a burning pain on my cheekbone and realizing that she’d scored it with that move.
The crowd above cheered at first blood being drawn, and I had half an instant to wonder how insane each and every one of these people were to cheer at a child being attacked by a grown woman before I had to take a few steps to avoid said woman, sending the shards at my feet towards her to buy me a single second of time.
“Pathetic!” She said with a laugh, leaping above the projectiles as well as myself. I watched her from above as she twisted in mid-air, pointing her wand straight down at me.
I did not hesitate this time. I should have started with this from the very beginning.
No more running. I thought and thrust my wand up, even as another spike of ice came down to skewer my brain. Odgovor!
My wand pulsed with power, blasting a thick, dense, spear-tipped chain upwards into the spike and tearing straight through it before it reached the woman in question. She twisted in mid-air once again, the spear-tip grazing her shoulder before she dropped to the floor behind me, staring at me with surprised eyes.
I didn’t let up, dropping my wand down and bringing the chain down with it to crash into the space she occupied before she could gather her bearings. The woman, however, displayed her grace by effortlessly sidestepping the chain, leaping back as it crashed into the stone floor, tearing it asunder with a deep, loud crack.
“My turn.” She said, but I wasn’t having any of it. With another effort of will, I sent the massive chain towards her, splitting it into four and moving them straight into the path of no less than seven spikes of ice, which got caught in my chainlinks for a moment before the twisting chains snapped them like twigs.
“Impressive. I’ve never seen such—” I could hear Grindelwald speaking from above, but I was too busy directing and conducting my chains in a monumental effort to withstand the woman’s assault.
The temperature in the air began to drop as my chains continued to crash against her ice constructs, but I pushed past it.
My chains writhed with even more power as I brought them forward, trying to strike the woman while also defending from her own attacks.
And, eventually, I began to see a pattern. Three attacks from the right, defend.
Two of my chains flew into place, deflecting the spikes before I moved them into the next position. And then one from the right, before finally…
My vision tunneled as I focused on the very last spell in the woman’s pattern— one sent straight towards my solar plexus.
There. I thought, directing one of my chains to the left before twisting it in a corkscrew, snatching the spike before cracking it in two and flinging it right back at Vanessa. The misshapen ice rock smashed into her leg and made her cry out in pain and surprise. With eerie abruptness, she stopped her onslaught entirely and went completely still.
I didn’t question my good fortune, however, pressing my advantage and wrapping all of my chains around the woman’s form.
“Do you yield?” I said, doing my best to ignore the thrill of victory that ran through my body at besting this new opponent.
Vanessa, however, didn’t answer. I tightened my chains around her to get a response, but she did not make a single noise. What’s going on..?
By the time I began to realize that there was something wrong, it happened.
Vanessa’s form raised its head towards me and sent me a wintry smile before it shimmered white and exploded with a massive blast of cold which seeped straight into my bones and made them flare with deep pain.
I shivered as the sudden flash of white cleared and almost gaped at my surroundings. A thick blanket of white covered everything in sight, as if a snowstorm had just raged through the place in a matter of moments.
Vanessa was nowhere to be seen.
“Looking for me?” I heard the woman’s voice from behind me and felt the fear racing up my spine. I tugged my chains with an effort of will and moved to direct them to the source in the hopes of putting up one last bit of fight before I heard the sound of loud, metallic cracking.
I turned my gaze to my floating chains and watched the cracks spread through them with dawning horror. A moment later, they were shattered, sending particles of light every which way.
“It seems that you are indeed an impressive young man.” Vanessa’s rich, Russian voice came from closer behind. I grit my teeth and turned to renew the fight, only to feel a short, but sharp blade of ice held against my throat.
“Well?” She stared down at me with hungry eyes, pressing the blade against it and drawing a little blood as she smirked. “Would you like to keep fighting, Clarke?”
I wanted to say yes, to wipe that smirk off of her face before beating her into the ground, but I realized that it would just get me killed.
I took a deep breath, exhaled and finally gave her my answer.
I had been defeated.
“Good boy.” She took the knife off and I turned to face her, my hand covering my neck as I watched her lick the small trickle of blood off of the blade.
“Scrumptious.” She winked, turned and left without another word, leaving me alone in the courtyard watching her leave while the other wizards and witches above spoke to each other.
What the fuck.
This summer wasn’t going to be a boring one, that’s for sure.
Vaaaannessaaa is freaking disturbing. Every scene of her just cements it. Ye gods, to act that way, to do that to what appears to be an eleven-year-old boy… Yeah, also that crowd is also insane for cheering on like that. I feel like Grindelwald indirectly hyped up Adam a lot for them to take it that way… or they’re all just actually insane. Which, well, caught in the fervor of revolution with no clear objective other than their radical belief in this charming but dangeros man, they might as well be.