June 26, 1992, 2:30 PM, Phoenix’ Roost, England
I stared, still not really registering the fact that Amy was here, as well. Draco and his parents being here was something that was within the realms of what was acceptable to me, and so I took that revelation in with a fair degree of ease.
After all, the Malfoy family was one that operated closely within the darker sectors of Wizarding Britain.
I had no doubt that Lucius rubbed shoulders with some of most of the well-known, unscrupulous and vile people of the Wizarding World, and that was why I figured he would eventually approach, or be approached by, Grindelwald and his allies.
Like attracts like. I thought, but frowned immediately after. However, if that’s the case, what’s she doing here, then?
Amy Broduk was the exact opposite of these people. From my past dealings with her, she was exceedingly nice and patient; that was why I had requested her return for my subsequent interviews with the Daily Prophet.
True, she displayed signs of shrewdness and an inquisitive mind, yearning to learn the truth of things, but she did not press me for answers like I would have expected from a bloodhound like Skeeter.
She had asked for demonstrations, granted, but I could have refused her requests just as well, allowing the teachers’ testimony to hype me up for the paper with no issue.
And Amy would have accepted it all without any hard feelings— a fact which brought me back to the same question as before.
So why is she here? I thought, anxiety leaking through my forced calm. She’s a good person, she shouldn’t be here.
“I see that you two are acquainted with each other?” Gellert said with an innocent tone of surprise.
His thread, however, wriggled in a way that made me feel that he wasn’t being truthful with me.
He knows of our connection. I thought, and decided to play along with his game for now. It wasn’t like I could do anything else. Grindelwald did not care that I could tell he was lying to me.
“Miss Broduk has interviewed me for the Daily Prophet several times.” I said, watching her face scrunch in an expression of distaste at my final words. “After, erm… My tests.”
“Ah.” Rafiq nodded, a spark of recognition in his eyes. “I have read the article. It was the first thing I saw that mentioned you, Mr. Clarke. No embellishments, no grand claims— if anything, it quite understated your true potential.”
He turned to the woman in question, who was giving everyone a nervous smile. “So it was you who wrote it?”
Amy nodded, looking uncomfortable at the man’s words. “Yes, I did…”
Rafiq clapped, making her jump in place, before getting off of his couch and gesturing at it with a smile. “Please, sit! Honest journalists are incredibly difficult to come by.”
Amy’s lips parted in surprise before she quickly gathered her wits and moved towards the offered chair. “Thank you, Mr…?”
“Rafiq.” Rafiq said with a small grin. “Rafiq Rahman.”
“The Butcher of…” Amy said, eyes widening as she quickly stopped herself from speaking.
She’s afraid. I realized, my hand twitching towards my wand, but stopped as I felt an echo of Grindelwald’s energy flare.
I turned to look at the man, who only shook his head in response, the calm look on his face promising that nothing would happen here.
“I’m sorry.” The reporter continued, shaking her head. “Forget it.”
Rafiq shook his head. “Oh, no. Do not censor yourself for me, Miss… Broduk, was it?”
“Yes.” She said, but shook her head. “I don’t wish to say anything to anger you, Mr. Rafiq.”
“I assure you.” The man gave her another smile hoping to set the woman at ease. “You are in no danger here. In fact, you are among friends.”
“Hear, hear!” Matthias said, raising his goblet into the air, before glancing between it and the woman. “Would you like something to drink, Miss Broduk? Mr. Grindelwald has an excellent selection of spirits.”
Looking a little more at ease, Amy nodded, though she kept glancing towards Rafiq in nervousness. “Yes, please.”
“Splendid.” Matthias said and went to the display cabinet. “Anything you prefer?”
“Red wine is fine, thank you.”
“Very well.” Matthias said and began to pour her a goblet as Rafiq drew his wand, conjuring himself a chair to sit upon, deciding to put himself to my left, putting her next to me.
Probably to make her feel safer. I thought as Rafiq resumed the conversation. “I assure you, I am not offended by what you might have said.”
“Oh.” Amy said as Matthias approached her seat, handing her a goblet. “If you’re sure…”
“Of course.” Rafiq said, turning his head towards me in amusement. “Besides, you’ve got Mr. Clarke a little curious here.”
The woman focused on me again, her warm eyes meeting my own. “Your right eye, Adam. It’s just like I heard, then?”
“I’m not sure what all you’ve heard.” I said, frowning. “The other students must have told their parents all sorts of stories from Hogwarts when they came back, so you might need to be more specific.”
I snorted. “Some of the rumors— they had me wrestling a dragon down with my bare hands. Ridiculous.”
“Ridiculous, indeed…” Grindelwald finally said, cutting through the conversation and giving me a smile. “Though I have no doubt that, with your skill level, you could conceivably render a dragon harmless to you, Mr. Clarke.”
“Thank you.” I said. “I think.”
Grindelwald graced me with a nod before turning to Amy. “Miss Broduk, when I received word from my associates of a British reporter coming to see us, I assumed that you were here to, shall we say, expose us.”
“No. That’s not what…” Amy said, distress entering her voice, but was stopped by Grindelwald’s upraised hand, forestalling her from saying anything further.
“Peace.” Grindelwald said, reaching forward and taking his goblet from the table. “If I believed that you were an enemy, you never would have been welcomed in these halls.”
“How can you know, for sure, though?” Amy said, a little incredulous at the man’s attitude.
“Well, one can never truly know, of course.” Grindelwald said, leaning back in his couch with a thoughtful expression. “However, appropriate measures are always taken when one approaches our little gathering of wizards and witches.”
“You had me investigated, then?” Amy said, eyes widening as she took her first sip of the wine. “This is very good wine.”
“Thank you.” Grindelwald said and weighed his next words for a moment. “I did my due diligence— I’m sure you can understand that, Miss Broduk.”
“Of course.” She said, a dark look crossing her face as she took another sip. “Blindly trusting people to do what’s right is how one gets one’s self cast out.”
I frowned at the specific choice of words before it hit me. “So that’s what happened…?”
Amy turned to me with a look of confusion. “Adam?”
“I—” I said, pausing for a moment. “It was just something that Skeeter said when she came to Hogwarts… She made it sound like you quit your job at the Prophet.”
Amy bristled at that, a fire lighting in her eyes, she leaned forward with such quickness that the wine almost sloshed out of her goblet. “Quit, did I?!”
I stared at her for a few seconds, surprised by the sheer vehemence and vitriol shining in her eyes. I hadn’t expected that.
Seeing my look, the woman sighed and shook her head, leaning back in her couch and taking another sip.
She stayed quiet for a few seconds before sighing again. “I’m sorry for my outburst. I didn’t mean to frighten you, Adam.”
“I—It’s fine.” I said, frowning. “The way Skeeter talked; I could tell that there was something else going on. She looked too satisfied for her own good.”
“She’s a lying, scheming…!” Amy said, her voice rising again before she stopped. “I did quit my job at the Daily Prophet, but it was not by choice.”
“You were forced to leave.” I said, frowning. “But you’re a good reporter!”
Amy shrugged. “Good journalism isn’t something that sells papers anymore. Besides, what Rita says, goes; and she wanted me gone from the company. She’s done it to many other of the Prophet’s employees who tried to reach for things they shouldn’t have, but I thought that, if I could show my worth…”
She stopped talking again, sighing and taking another sip of the wine.
“Then you would have carved yourself a good niche within the paper, one that Skeeter would not be interested in.” Grindelwald said, seeing the woman’s eyes widen in surprise. “Yes. I have read a few of the articles you worked on. Fairly low-level, below the woman’s notice. She would not have objected to your assignments— or might have even foisted them off onto you.”
Amy nodded in confirmation.
“So, what happened?” I said, confused. “If you were doing all the stuff she didn’t want to do…”
“You happened, Adam.” Amy said, though she shook her head. “At first, she’d dumped the assignment on me because she didn’t think you were the real deal. ‘Just another so-called prodigy whose star will fade in a few months’, were the words she used, I believe. She was more interested in Lockhart’s adventures, as they were far more interesting.”
Lockhart again? I thought, frowning. But more importantly…
“…This whole thing is my fault?” I said.
“No.” Amy said, shaking her head with a furious intensity. “Don’t say that, Adam. You were just learning and becoming the best wizard you can be. Whatever happened at the Prophet is not your fault.”
“But now you’re…”
“Yes. I was forced out of the Prophet, but…” She turned her eyes to Grindelwald. “Perhaps it’s for the best. It opens me up to search for more fulfilling work.”
“Is that so?” Grindelwald gave her an indulgent smile. “Well, there just so happens to be a position available in our… organization.”
Amy’s eyes widened in surprise— I imagined she had expected to fight tooth and nail just for the mention of such a position— before she smiled. “I— Then…”
“Consider the offer carefully, first.” Grindelwald said, raising his hands to halt her excitement. “While you are certainly going through some hard times at the moment, Miss Broduk, it can get much worse for you if you begin to associate with us. Our standing in the eyes of the various governments is not exactly one that you would find… Amenable to you. At least, for now.”
“I’m already associating with you.” Amy fired back, though a hint of unease did enter her eyes for a single moment. “I won’t be asked to do anything… bad, will I?”
“Oh, of course not.” Gellert said, shaking his head. “You would not be part of our dueling division, should you choose to join us. You would work as a reporter.”
Amy frowned. “A reporter… So I would be selling your organization’s virtues to the Wizarding communities?”
At that, Grindelwald chuckled. “Oh, no. In fact, the less you mention us, the better. The mission statement for our reporting organization, The Daily Herald, is to showcase the hypocrisy and double standards of the governments and organizations controlling us.”
Thus making joining Grindelwald’s group that much more of an enticing prospect. I thought, realizing that Amy was thinking the same thing, but she nodded anyway, satisfied with the man’s words.
“I can see the ulterior motive behind this, you know.” Amy said, smiling a little before her thoughts turned dark again. “But considering what’s been done to me… Who knows how many other wizards and witches have been wronged like me and cast aside, left to rot without anyone to champion them?”
“Many of those we’ve freed from Remords De L’Âme have been political prisoners, as well as their loyal followers and sympathizers.” Rafiq cut in, getting our attention. “I, myself, have suffered through confinement at Ayn Sehr. My escape… That is why they call me the Butcher of Ayn Sehr, though I only did what I had to do— for my rightful freedom.”
Amy’s eyes widened at that. “I… I didn’t know. They said you’d killed people’s children.”
“Children!” Rafiq’s voice raised as his eyes widened to such a degree that I reflexively gripped the armrests of my couch, feeling the tension in the air seize me.
Noticing my unease, he forced himself to calm down, and I let go with a sigh. “Yes, that is the story they peddled to the masses— what are a few families from the slums worth in comparison to them appearing as the good servants of the country?”
“Wait they… They killed their own people? Innocents, just to smear your name?” Amy said, horrified. “That’s awful.”
“Oh, they did much more than that, Miss Broduk.” Rafiq said, his face darkening. “Much, much more.”
I remembered the marks of torture Rafiq had shown me earlier and frowned.
He sighed after a second of silence passed. “Do not mistake me, Miss Broduk. I love my home land, more than anything in the world. I would die for it.”
Rafiq leaned forward as he brought his hands together. “I won’t say I was going to usher in a new era of peace and revolution, but I had a dream— to improve the living conditions of every wizard under our governance. If the improvement was even just a little, I would have considered my dream to have come true.”
“Dreams.” Amy said, her shaky voice stabilizing. and lowered her head as she took another sip of her wine. “How dangerous they are. To dream is to hope, you know…”
“And to hope is to risk being brought down into the dark pit of despair.” Gellert finished. “And yet…”
Amy raised her head at his words; her eyes were searching the man’s face for something. “And yet…?”
“Hope springs eternal.” Gellert said, giving her a small smile. “Does it not?”
“Na’am.” Rafiq answered in Arabic before switching to English. “Yes, it does. One must protect one’s dreams at all costs.”
Matthias raised his goblet to that, and the rest followed. They all looked at me, and I frowned for a moment before raising my goblet as well. We all took a sip before the conversation resumed.
“What about you, Adam?” Amy said before shaking her head. “Your dreams.”
“This, I would also like to know.” Rafiq said from beside me, giving me a pat on the shoulder. “I have seen the way you fight; you are but a boy, but you are driven by something— something great. What do you hope to accomplish?”
“My dream?” I said, shaking my head, not wishing to share such a thing with people who I wasn’t sure were my enemies or not, no matter how nice they sounded. The shakes of my body offset such sentiment.
“You have my word that what you say will not leave this room.” Gellert said.
Empty promise. I thought, but the man’s thread stayed still, almost like a polygraph line revealing that he was telling the truth.
And so, I decided to answer, despite my reservations.
“I want to…” I said and stopped, feeling like I was at a loss for words. “I…”
Now that I was confronted with the question, I wasn’t sure what the answer was. Was I simply concealing my intent, even from myself, to keep the information away from Grindelwald?
No. I thought, unease settling under my skin. During the battle with Quirrell and Voldemort, I found myself again. I did!
I had scoured my Lighthouse clean of the filth and the demons of my previous left. I made peace with the sly voice— Alzalam. I rode through the Abyss, dodging the corrupted aurora of strands until I found my way back to my body. I battled Voldemort within the confines of my very soul, casting him out with every fiber of my being.
No more running. These words echoed through my mind, but I knew that they did not signify a dream, but simply a reflection of my new resolve.
What good was my resolve if it wasn’t directed somewhere? What did I want? Was it to go home, to live, to do nothing, or was it something else entirely?
Answers which had seemed so obvious not so long ago didn’t feel that way anymore. Hagrid had told me that this was something I would have to decide for myself, but where did I even begin with something like this?
“It’s fine if you can’t answer such a weighty question.” Grindelwald said, bringing my attention away from my thoughts and back to him. “It is not one so easy to reply to, especially after having fought for your very life only recently.”
“Agreed.” Matthias said, nodding as a strange look came into his eyes. “Even at peace, men and women of all walks of life struggle to answer this question. Some never reach it. Some have to be shown the way.”
“I guess…” I said, trying to find the words. “I just want to be free.”
“A laudable dream.” Grindelwald said, raising his goblet again. “Then, as a result, I have declared myself as your enemy, have I not?”
I declined to answer his question, but the look of amusement on his face told me that he knew what I was tempted to say. Amy’s gaze flitted between us in confusion and a little concern.
“But I suppose we ought to have such a discussion in private, should we not?” Grindelwald smiled before turning to Amy. “As for you… You are in luck, Miss Broduk.”
“Indeed.” Grindelwald nodded. “In a few days, we will be securing a place of work in Diagon Alley to set up our paper. The permits required would have taken us months, but a new… associate of ours has managed to grease the wheels, so to speak.”
I frowned. Lucius.
“You will have to start with a relatively low position at the Daily Herald, but do not worry.” Grindelwald said, standing up and placing his goblet down before extending his hand. “I believe that, with your talent and work ethic, you will surely rise through the ranks. You will find that we reward people by their merits, not who they know or what their family name is.”
Amy stood up as well, shaking it. “That’s good to hear… Boss.”
Grindelwald smiled at the sound of that.
“Rafiq will show you to the third floor, where the Herald is currently located.” Grindelwald nodded to the man, who stood up as well.
“Of course.” Rafiq said and gestured towards the door. “I will show you the way.”
Amy gave me a look, as if she was still unsure of what to say to me. “It was good to see you again, Adam.”
“The feeling is mutual.” I said, and I meant it. Please be careful.
Whether she gleaned the intent from my eyes or not, I didn’t know, because she turned and followed Rafiq out of the room.
Matthias stayed in his seat, enjoying the wine for a bit longer before also taking to his feet. He finished his goblet before placing it on the table and nodding towards his leader. “I will go and complete that task now.”
Gellert walked towards his window to stare outside for a few seconds and smiled. “I suppose it’s about that time. Get the job done, but stay alive, Matthias.”
“Your will.” Matthias said in response, bowing his head in respect. “My hand.”
And then he left as well. Gellert moved to sit before me.
“I must apologize again.” Grindelwald said, taking a seat. I placed my half-consumed wine onto the tabletop before moving to stand before him. “You were harmed under my care today.”
“You put me against Vanessa, before.” I said, my tone incredulous. “You didn’t apologize, then. She’s far more dangerous than Guffries.”
“That had been a test.” Grindelwald said, disagreeing with me. “And, make no mistake; if you were in any true danger, I would have ended the match, myself. Luckily, Vanessa knew to limit herself.”
That was her limiting herself!? I thought with a hint of alarm. How much of her power was she hiding from me?
It was a sobering thought.
“I recognize that look upon your face.” Gellert said, smiling a little as he adjusted a few papers on his desk before looking at me again. “You’ll find, despite your obvious talent in magic, that you have only just scratched the very surface of what is possible.”
I swallowed and nodded. “A long road ahead, still. That is… A relief.”
“Is that so? A relief… Such a curious reaction.” Gellert said in a noncommittal tone before changing the subject. “You said your dream is to be free.”
“…I did.” I said, looking away. “And yet reality disagrees.”
“So, it does.” Grindelwald said, his tone somber. “Then, perhaps this will provide you with a measure of comfort: I did not have you brought to me to satisfy a mere whim of mine.”
“…What do you mean?”
“I have done you a disservice, Adam Clarke.” Grindelwald said, not answering my question immediately. “I have long since sensed the coming of great change to our world of magic, and I have been preparing for it.”
I absorbed his words. “This… Great change. What is it?”
Grindelwald looked at me, and I felt as if he were trying to understand the very fiber of my being. “I do not know, and yet here you are— someone who is unbound by the threads of fate. What could that mean, but a bringer of change?”
“Unbound— you mean my own thread.” I swallowed. “That doesn’t mean anything.”
“It doesn’t.” I insisted, leaning forward. “If it did, then you’re admitting that every choice you’ve made, every step you’ve taken, everything you’ve ever thought, said or done have been pre-determined from the start of the universe. Everything you ever will do.”
Grindelwald blinked at me before nodding. “I suppose I would be acknowledging that, wouldn’t I?”
“The threads…” I said. “They don’t represent fate— at least not as we understand it. There is no trio of Greek divine beings deciding our lifespans and paths for us.”
“And you know this to be true?” Grindelwald said, giving me an inquisitive look. “Mr. Clarke.”
“Maybe your memory of the Abyss has waned.” I said, my white eye shining bright without my awareness, making Gellert sit up with interest. “Mine is still quite fresh. Our threads are not something that defines our fate— we define our own fates, and the threads shift in kind. As long as our lighthouses continue to shine their light against the corrupted threads sailing the tides of the Abyss, we determine our own future.”
“I see.” Gellert said, scratching his chin before standing up. “You do not speak false, Adam Clarke. I will consider these words of yours.”
I stood up as well, realizing I was being dismissed. “Do as you please.”
“Do you wish to discontinue the training exercises Mr. Rafiq was keen on subjecting you to?” Gellert said as he led me to the door. “Just say the word.”
I shook my head. “No. I’ll be fine. I could use the exercise, anyway— better than being cooped up all day.”
“Hm.” Grindelwald said before drawing his wand and resting it atop my head. I felt his energy penetrate my body and shivered for a few seconds before the feeling washed away. “That should make things a little easier for you, then.”
“What…” I said, staring at my hands for a second before realizing that the shaking had damn near stopped. “What did you do?”
“A little trick I learned to ease my own suffering during a few unpleasant years spent in a most… peculiar facility in America.” Grindelwald said, giving me a smile before he opened the door, where a couple of guards were waiting. “Can you make your way towards the Infirmary, or do you require the assistance of one of the guards?”
“I can manage.” I said with a nod. “…Thank you.”
“Of course.” Grindelwald said, returning it. “We will speak more in the future, Mr. Clarke. Be off now.”
Gellert went back inside, the guard closing the door behind him. I stared at them for a second before shaking my head, turning and leaving.
There was a lot to think about.