June 26, 1992, 2:00 PM, Study, Twelve Grimmauld Place, London
Ingredients for the Boil Cure Potion… Harry thought, leaning forward in his chair and laying his arms on the study table before him as he pondered the question on the Potions summer homework. If I remember right, it’s dried nettles, six snake fangs, two porcupine quills, and… Something.
He sighed, trying to wrack his brain for the final ingredient, but couldn’t figure it out. He fished in his book bag, glad to have brought it down with him; he didn’t fancy having to go back up to the third floor just to fetch his books again.
A few moments later, he pulled out his Potions text before setting it on the table and checking through it. “Index… Boil-Cure Potion. Let’s see.”
He went through the list of ingredients, nodding to himself as he realized he got most of them correct. “Just missing… This: four horned slugs. That’s right.”
Harry grimaced at the thought of handling those. He wasn’t a squeamish sort, by any means, but he definitely had a dislike for slimy creatures of all kinds. Harry jotted the final ingredient down before moving onto the next question, glad to be done with this one.
“List three uses for a snake’s fang.” Harry read, frowning before looking at the question above. “Well, one use is obviously the Boil-Cure Potion… And the other two?”
Harry continued in this manner for a while, often going through his book in search of the relevant information needed to answer the various questions given as homework over the summer.
He figured he’d get through his least favorite topic first— Potions— and then move his way to the other subjects afterwards.
That way, he’d get to enjoy a guilt-free summer.
“Where can one find a bezoar, and what is it used for?” Harry repeated the question, grimacing at the bad memory welling up within his mind. It had been his first Potions class, and Snape had singled him out for no reason— well, there had been a reason, but Harry hadn’t known, back then.
The irony of it all was, Harry thought with a shake of his head, that he had been actively trying to do well in the man’s class, but Snape could see nothing but James Potter when he looked upon him.
A bezoar can be found in the stomach of a goat. Harry wrote, banishing such memories out of his mind, a deep frown creasing his brow. He didn’t want to deal with this right now. Bezoars are considered to be an antidote to most poisons, if ingested whole.
Harry checked his answer for a moment before sighing and leaning back in his chair. His eyes turned to look out of the window, seeing the cars passing by.
He smiled, the sight of the urban sprawl so strange and different from the suburbs of Little Whinging, Surrey.
It hadn’t even been a week, but Harry could say with absolute certainty that these few days spent living with Sirius and Remus were better than all of his life wasted on the Dursley family— far better.
Harry stretched in his chair for a few moments and yawned before turning his gaze towards the hallway, where he spotted Remus Lupin passing through.
His smile fell at the sight of the disheveled, sweating man. He seemed to be in increasingly poor health for the last two days, and Harry had no idea how to help him or even what was wrong.
It looks pretty serious, though. I hope he’s okay. He thought to himself, wondering with no small amount of worry just what was going on with the man.
“Lunch is ready, Harry!” He heard Sirius’ voice coming from the dining room.
Harry smiled, wondering what meal Sirius had prepared this time. “Coming!”
He gave his homework a quick look before pushing his inkwell forward, since it seemed to be a little too close to the edge of the table. It would be unpleasant if Harry had to clean that up.
Not that Sirius would make him, he thought. The older man didn’t seem to be big on punishments, or even chores for that matter— Harry only had to do a few things around the house so far, none of which took any considerable length of time.
Harry shook his head and gave the table one last look before getting up and walking towards the dining room.
Thank Merlin that I don’t have to pass through the entrance hall. Harry thought, exiting the study and moving a few steps forward to the dining room. He paused and looked to the left, towards the end of the hallway, where a curtain covered a certain portrait he most certainly did not want to awaken again.
Beside it stood one of the most worn-out looking house elves Harry had seen yet. Kreacher.
But Harry didn’t focus on him, no. He focused on the damnable portrait.
Sirius’ mother, Walburga Black, was a horrible woman. And I thought Malfoy was unpleasant enough… Sirius’ mother is a thousand times worse. I can’t even imagine just how much worse she would have been in person. To have someone like that raising you…
It was a miracle that Sirius ended up the way he did. Most would have simply turned out like, well… Like Malfoy.
“How can you learn what’s never been shown?” Adam’s words, once again, came to Harry. The green-eyed boy shook his head, however; Sirius was one of the good guys, and he was born from a family exactly like Malfoy’s.
There was no reason for Draco to act the way he was.
“Harry!” Sirius called from inside the dining room, sitting near the head of the table. “What’re you doing out there, just standing around?”
“Nothing.” Harry said quickly, shaking thoughts of everything away and entering the dining room proper. “Sorry, I got a little distracted.”
“So you have.” Sirius said, smiling to himself. “Mind filled with homework, is it?”
Harry rolled his eyes and took a seat beside the man. “I don’t even know why they assign it to us; I’m just finding the answers from the book and writing them down. I doubt I’ll remember any of this in a week.”
“A mystery I never unraveled, myself, Harry.” Sirius said, snorting and sending the boy a fond smile. “But the sooner you get it done—”
“—The sooner I can enjoy the summer.” Harry finished. “Yes. You and Remus have said that many times already.”
“The cheek on you.” Sirius grinned and ruffled the boy’s hair. “We’ll make a rebel out of you yet, kid.”
“Quit it!” Harry said, pushing the man’s hand away, but he was smiling as well, feeling annoyed, but strangely happy.
Sirius rolled his eyes and gestured towards the food. “I made something simple this time. This recipe, your mum taught me.”
At the mention of his mother, Harry turned to see two pots; one with spaghetti noodles, and the other with a simple red sauce.
When he said something simple, he really meant it. Harry thought. “The presentation looks very familiar. Aunt Petunia taught me to make this.”
“Is that so?” Sirius had a strange look on his face at that. “You, erm… You know how to cook?”
“Just breakfast and a few other things.” Harry said, feeling a small tension seize his shoulders.
Sirius frowned for a moment before shaking his head. “Anyway, nevermind that. Let’s just enjoy the meal, shall we?”
“Yes.” Harry said, smiling with relief at the subject being changed. “Let’s.”
As Sirius filled up a plate for him, Harry looked towards the hallway, wondering where Remus was. “Won’t Remus be joining us for lunch?”
At that, Sirius shook his head, placing the plate in front of Harry before beginning to serve himself. “I’m afraid he’s a bit under the weather.”
“A bit?” Harry said with an incredulous facial expression, which then morphed into one of concern. “I saw him pass by earlier, Sirius. He’s looking really bad. I’m not sure he’s going to be okay.”
Sirius pursed his lips, saying nothing as he closed the lid on both pots and stared down at his plate. “He… He’ll be fine, Harry.”
Harry stared at his Godfather for a few seconds. How could the man be so sure?
Does he know something I don’t?
“Are you sure?” Harry insisted, not feeling reassured in the least. “Maybe we need to take him to the hospital or something…”
But Sirius only shook his head in reply. “No, there really is no need. Remus… Erm…”
Sirius stopped and considered his words carefully. “He’s had this problem since he was a young boy, and it happens once a month. You really shouldn’t worry about it.”
“Oh.” Harry said, surprised and a little sad for the man. “Since he was my age?”
“Even younger, I think.” Sirius said, shaking his head. “It’s not really something he likes to talk about.”
“That’s awful.” Harry said. “Having to deal with a sickness every month like that. Are there any Potions that can help? I thought magic could cure anything.”
But Sirius shook his head. “Some things just can’t be fixed, Harry.”
Harry nodded, Adam’s burns coming to mind. He really needed to figure out how to make it up to his Ravenclaw friend for that.
“At any rate. Don’t you worry about that.” Sirius said, smiling as he gestured to the food. “Let’s dig in— before it gets cold!”
Harry nodded and looked down at the massive portion piled on to his plate. “You don’t actually think I can eat all of that, do you?”
Sirius stared at Harry’s plate and laughed. “Probably not… Eat as much as you can, then!”
Harry snorted and began to eat. Sirius was so obviously not a parent that it was hilarious, at times.
I can’t wait until Adam sees how ridiculous he can get. Harry thought, smiling to himself as he enjoyed the meal. He must be getting pretty bored at the orphanage, I reckon.
Hallways of Phoenix’ Roost
I frowned. You know, I think I’d rather be sitting in the orphanage right now, bored out of my mind.
It wasn’t a statement I would have even considered a few weeks ago, but ever since I found myself in this building, I’d been confined, forced to fight for my life, among other things.
For example, I was hit with the Cruciatus Curse only a few hours ago! I hadn’t even been here for half a week; what more bullshit were they going to bring my way?
I exhaled through my nose, doing my best to ignore the mild shiver going through my body. While the Potions had done their work in mitigating the damage, I realized that Madam Durand was right.
This was probably going to take the rest of the day to heal. Once again, I wondered just how much more powerful Voldemort’s Cruciatus was, if it had lain Harry low for days. The boy’s magical strength was even higher than mine.
I would have been destroyed by such a curse, as I am now. I thought as I followed the two men ahead of me up the stairs, keeping my pace slow to not stress my body further than it needed to be.
It wasn’t a speed that Rafiq agreed with, that much I could tell from the annoyed mutters coming from the man. I didn’t care; it was his carelessness and dumb honor that got me in this state to begin with.
He could suck a dick, for all I cared. I was going to take my sweet time getting up these stairs, and there was nothing he could do about it.
“So, what’s this meeting about?” I said halfway through the stairs.
“Mr. Grindelwald has not said.” Matthias replied before Rafiq could. “I do not presume to know what the man’s intentions are, Mr. Clarke. You will just have to wait until we get to his office.”
“Yes.” Was all Rafiq had to say in the wake of his ally’s words.
I hummed in acknowledgment before going quiet again. It can’t be that important if he’s calling me over, but why would he also call for Rafiq and Matthias?
It wasn’t worrying about, of course. I’m going to know in the next few minutes, anyway. Best to just prepare for the worst.
With my track record here, I imagined I would be made to duel against a dragon with my bare hands, next. This place was one of harshness and cruelty.
Or maybe they’re as cruel as they need to be. I thought, unable to stop myself from playing Devil’s advocate. Wizards who are disenfranchised and disillusioned, thrown away by their respective governments and societies for whatever reason.
In a world like that, I knew that you needed to be without mercy to survive. Was I being too hard on them?
I didn’t have any more time to ponder this line of thought as I found myself standing in front of the door to Grindelwald’s office.
“Here we are.” Matthias said, smiling as he opened the door and walked on through.
Rafiq held the door open and looked at me, nodding for me to go inside with a grunt.
“Thanks.” I said automatically, walking past the man into the office and looking around.
It was a very spacious room, looking far more homely than I had anticipated. To my left, there was a large fireplace with four small couches before facing each other in a square, with cushioning so big and round that I could almost feel the sheer comfort oozing off of them.
To my right, there was a small library of books— Grindelwald’s personal collection. I realized, taking a step in that direction before I was stopped by Rafiq’s hand.
“Those books are not for you, boy.” Rafiq said, rolling his eyes.
“No, no.” Grindelwald’s voice came from the back of the room, and I turned to see the man sitting at his desk, going through a few bits of paper. “There are still some things I must finish up here; you are a bit early in your arrival. Feel free to look at the books, but do not touch them if you value your fingers.”
I swallowed and approached the library carefully, my eyes roving over the tomes and understanding nothing at all from the writing on their spines. The script did look familiar enough for me to identify, though. “These are all written in Ancient Runes, aren’t they?”
For all I knew, these books could have either been the secrets of Alchemy, or cooking recipes. Without understanding Runes, I would not be able to tell the difference.
“Very good.” Gellert said in approval. “A language well-worth the time spent to learn, I can assure you.”
“I can imagine.” I said, losing interest in the library and moving towards the couches, instead.
Rafiq walked with me while Matthias went over to aid Grindelwald with the papers, exchanging words in too low a volume for me to hear. Rafiq and I took our seats, and I breathed a great sigh of relief; I had been standing and walking for far too long in my condition.
I continued to take deep breaths, surprised at just how worn out I truly was.
“Perhaps it would have been better to carry you here, boy.” Rafiq said, sounding amused.
“Definitely not.” I said, shaking my head, though the idea of it truly did tempt me. “I can walk just fine.”
“Stubbornness and pride.” Rafiq said, shaking his head. “Don’t let those get in your way, Mr. Clarke.”
“They aren’t.” I said, frowning. “But you’ll excuse me if I don’t want to show weakness to any of your dogs after I’ve just been bitten by one.”
Rafiq bristled, opening his mouth to answer before calming himself. “Yes. Yes, I suppose I can see why you would think this.”
“I’ve been informed of the events which took place this morning.” Grindelwald said, finally getting up from his desk and coming towards us. Rafiq and I stood up to meet him, but Grindelwald raised his hand, forestalling us. “Don’t get up.”
He stopped at a display cabinet by the fireplace, pulling out a bottle of alcohol and pouring himself some. “Rafiq, Matthias?”
“No, thank you.” Rafiq said. “No alcohol before seven.”
“So you like to remind me.” Gellert said, giving the man a little smirk. “Matthias?”
“Yes, please.” Matthias nodded and took the goblet gratefully, taking small sips. “Thank you.”
“Of course.” Grindelwald said, and the two men took their seats opposite of us. “Nothing like a drink after a long day’s work.”
“The day is not yet done, Mr. Grindelwald.” Rafiq said, smiling a little. “There is much to be done, still.”
“Indeed.” Gellert said, swishing the liquid in his goblet before taking a sip, leaning back into his couch with a satisfied expression. “Still, if we work ourselves into the ground with unceasing fervor, we will lose sight of ourselves and what is important. Do you not agree?”
“I suppose so.” Rafiq said, though it didn’t appear that he agreed at all.
“All work and no play.” I said.
“Mr. Clarke speaks crudely, but it is nonetheless true.” Matthias said, raising his goblet to me. “Would you care for some wine?”
I raised my eyebrows in surprise. “I had some alcohol earlier— from Madame Durand— but I think that was just medicine. Is it safe to take any more?”
“In your condition? It can do nothing but help ease your symptoms.” Matthias said, scoffing. “Besides, I had my first proper drink when I was eight.”
I frowned, remembering when I first had alcohol in my previous life, as well. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.”
Gellert smiled and, within seconds, summoned a goblet for me, filling it up to a quarter. I took the goblet in hand and stared at its contents before taking a whiff. That’s wine, all right.
I had almost forgotten what it smelled like. I swished the liquid in the goblet and let it air out for a few seconds before bringing the liquid to my lips. I took a very small sip, ignoring just how the liquid burned its way down my throat and relishing the taste.
“He’s a natural.” Matthias said, smiling towards his leader.
“Indeed.” Gellert said, looking back to his second-in-command like he found something amusing before looking at me.
I cleared my throat, already feeling my cheeks flushing from the sudden influx of heat in my system. “Yes, the medicine the Healer gave me made me choke… seemed smart to not drink it in one go.”
“She is a professional.” Rafiq said, nodding. “Knows her craft inside and out, in fact.”
“Indeed.” Gellert said, taking another sip of his wine and regarding me with a serious look. “And yet, she is not allowed to work at any magical hospital within French borders— and all those of its allied nations, of course.”
A tension seized the room at the man’s words, and I remembered her appearance. “Because she is a Veela?”
Gellert opened his mouth and closed it, smiling for a moment. “So, you’ve gleaned that much from a single encounter. Very good, Mr. Clarke. Your sight is improving.”
I took another sip of the wine, even as he continued to speak. “You are correct, of course. Veela blood runs through the woman’s veins, and so she is deemed to be unfit to care for patients.”
I remembered how she had used her magic to put me to sleep and frowned. True, it was a frightening ability, to be able to wandlessly do that to someone. It would, theoretically, allow the person to have their way with someone else with them being none the wiser.
With that said. I thought. How is that any different from using a sleeping potion, or just stunning someone? It’s not like she used that power to take advantage of me; if anything, she used it to help me heal…
“I see that you are connecting the dots, Mr. Clarke.” Gellert said, placing his goblet on the table at the center. “Indeed, Madam Durand is not allowed to work at hospitals or any such establishment because they fear what she can do with her powers. Veela allure is something that is not well understood, even after all this time.”
And you always will fear what you don’t understand. I finished the thought. “Is that why she joined?”
“Indeed.” Rafiq said in a somber tone, looking at me. “Yet another witch trodden upon by those in charge.”
“Yes.” Matthias said, a dark look in his eyes. “Cast away for being different— exiled for having opposing views.”
“You will find that all who come here have a story similar to this, Mr. Clarke.” Gellert said, and I couldn’t help but think of Vanessa’s tragic story; forced to fight her entire life because the government wanted to kill her family for no other reason than a political struggle. “I would ask that you not take the incident from today as confirmation that we are all evil, here.”
“Mr. Guffries is another case of someone who was wronged by notable wizards, but his behavior will be…” Rafiq said with a dark look in his eyes. “Corrected.”
“Good.” Gellert said, steepling his fingers. “Attacking your own allies with such spells outside of them simply being taught as a warning of what may come to you should you be captured… I cannot abide by it.”
“That’s good to hear.” I said, feeling somewhat mollified by the man’s words. “Thank you.”
“Of course.” Gellert said. “Though I ask that you not judge the man too harshly. The fate that befell his family is not one that can be taken lightly.”
“He said something about Lockhart.” I said. “Gilderoy Lockhart?”
At that, Matthias’ face soured. “Yes. I heard Mr. Guffries’ story myself; an awful tale, indeed. What happened to his family…”
He didn’t finish his statement, and I figured the tale was that bad. I remembered Lockhart’s Obliviate near the end of the second book had wiped his mind clean. Perhaps he did something similar here?
“Tales full of grief and pain— something we all seem to have in common, here.” Gellert said as I heard a knock on the door. “Speaking of which… Come in.”
The door to the office opened, and I turned around to see a woman with a very familiar face coming in. What the Hell?
“Our newest joiner.” Gellert said, raising his goblet at the woman. “Welcome to Phoenix’ Roost, Miss Broduk.”
“It is good to be here.” Amy Broduk said nervously, though her expression changed to surprise when she laid her eyes on me. “Adam?”
Well… I thought, feeling all eyes on me. That took a turn.