July 4, 1992, 5:35 PM, Rainforest, Phoenix’ Roost
It had been almost an hour after Guffries and I had started moving towards the glowing purple star above the trees, and yet we had still not arrived at our destination.
“Just how much farther is it?” I said, huffing a little in annoyance as I stared at the faux celestial body for a second before lowering my gaze to the thick shrubbery before me. “And couldn’t we have picked a better path?”
“What’s the matter, Clarke?” Guffries said with a smirk as he waved his wand, cleaving through the branches and leaves. “Never blazed a trail before?”
“I’m twelve years old.” I said as if it explained everything. “In case you haven’t noticed.”
And, to be fair, it did explain everything. I’d gone hiking a few times in my previous life, but I had always made sure to stick to existing footpaths.
On the traaail we blaze~
I hurriedly put a lid on that before the lyrics could get stuck in my head. Now was not the time for old songs from my past life. I smiled a little.
“I suppose that would be a bit too ridiculous to expect, even from a wizard of your… prodigiousness.” Guffries said that last part with a bit of scorn. “You are a child, after all.”
My smile turned into a frown, and I stopped walking. “I see you’re still holding a grudge.”
“Good.” He laughed before stopping as well, turning his gaze to my own. “You have eyes.”
“Don’t need my eyes to listen to the way you talk to me.” I said, trying to keep myself from getting angry; a monumental effort, considering this guy’s venomous demeanor. “I’ve done nothing to you, man. What’s your bloody problem?”
“We don’t have the time for this.” Guffries said, ignoring my words as he gestured towards the floating purple star just above the treeline in the distance. “Can it wait? We’re almost there.”
“Yeah, it can damn well wait.” I said, waving it off as I took an aggressive step forward. “Considering there haven’t been any indications as to any fighting, we probably still have time. I’ll ask you again: what is your problem with me?”
Guffries stared at me for a moment before nodding. “Fine. You want to do this now? Let’s do it now.”
He paced around in a circle, working himself up before pointing at me.
“My problem with you— you could say everything. People like you; you don’t care about the others you trample beneath your feet. And then you’re propped up by those same people as paragons; the so-called geniuses of the world, the bringers of change. What a joke! Pretending to be heroes and getting attention in the newspapers. Glory hounds.”
…Really? That’s it? That’s what he thinks— why he put me under the damn fucking Cruciatus?
“…What the Hell are you on about?” I said, taking a step forward and raising my right arm. “Glory hound? You think I got these burns for fun, to milk people’s pity and adoration in the papers? Are you insane?”
“Oh, the Prophet wrote a great story about how you gallantly stood your ground against a foe who, by all accounts, outclassed you in every way, shape and form.” Guffries said, his voice dripping with disgust, almost as if he wasn’t even listening to me. “But it doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines, kid. That entire story was off; felt more like a great, big cover-up for something bad to me. What really happened that day?”
I opened my mouth to reply before he cut me off again.
“Don’t even try to pretend like the printed account was the true sequence of events, Clarke.” He said, taking an aggressive step forward. “Come on; how thick do you think people are? Sure, you’re pretty talented, what with those chains, but having people believe that you single handedly fought a Hogwarts teacher to a standstill long enough for the other Professors to arrive— and the Defense Against the Dark Arts one, no less…”
“He was—” I stopped myself from saying more before looking down. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You have absolutely no clue what happened down there. How bad it got, what he tried to put me through. What was at stake.”
“Give him back!” “Ignis Imperia!” “Any last words?” “The end… is only the beginning!” I closed my eyes as echoes of the events I had gone through played out in my mind, still as vivid and intense as the day they happened.
Guffries seemed to take that last statement the wrong way, though. “So I was right?”
“What?” I said, head snapping up at him in confusion and bewilderment. “Right about what?”
“You didn’t actually do anything.” Guffries accused. “You took the credit for things you never did, didn’t you? Pretending to be this great wizard.”
Fury rose within me at the man’s careless statement.
“How the fu—” I snarled, drawing my wand before stopping to get myself under control. I didn’t want to curse him right now, even if he was being a monumental douchebag. “Only you could take a statement like that and jump to yet another wild and absolutely wrong conclusion. I did a lot more than what the article said. You fucking cunt.”
“Such language.” Guffries only seemed amused by my words, though. “All right. I believe you.”
“And another thing—” I said, taking a step forward before stopping in surprise at his final words. “Wait, what?”
“Are you deaf, boy?” Guffries said, smirking again. “I said I believe you. I’ve heard all I need to.”
I’m going to crush this guy’s arms and legs again, at this rate. I thought and forced myself to take a breath, trying to keep myself under control. “Were you just jerking me around the entire time?”
“I might have been.”
“Why?” I said, getting angry again. “What’s the point? You just like messing with my head?”
Guffries laughed without much humor and shook his head.
“I just wanted to make sure that you were who the papers said you were.” Guffries said, shrugging and not looking guilty or apologetic in the least. “And while the official story is missing a few details here and there, it doesn’t seem to be so nonsensical that the only conclusion was that you faked it.”
I latched onto those final two words. “So that’s what this was all about. You thought I faked my involvement to score points with the public. Like Lock—”
“Yes.” Guffries said, cutting me off as his face turned sour. “Like that waste of air. He’ll be getting his just desserts soon. You will see.”
I didn’t say anything in response. There was nothing I really could say to that.
“How do you know about him, though? Clarke.” Guffries said after a few seconds had passed. “About him being a—”
“A lying sack of shit?” I said, nodding and calming a little more down. “Well, as a Ravenclaw, my second home is the Library.”
“You haven’t answered my question.”
“Yes, I did.” I smirked for a few seconds, letting his annoyance at me build and luxuriating in the sensation of holding one over him.
Revenge, however little, is absolutely sweet.
“I read one of his supposed adventures; Wanderings with Werewolves.”
A grimace came over Guffries’ face as I continued to speak. “A book full of narrative inconsistencies, nonsense, embellishment and plagued with over exaggerations.”
I should know all about critical reading— I was a writer a long time ago. Maybe I should pick that up again? It’d be a decent source of income, if nothing else.
I shook my head and turned my focus back to the subject at hand. “Honestly don’t know how I managed to get through the whole thing, and his entire damned series are bestsellers that every witch seems to adore. They’re obsessed with him. I don’t get it at all.”
And adored the books, they did. Back in April, I had spied one of said books in the Library out of pure chance and decided to see if the guy really was as self-absorbed as Rowling had made him out to be.
The verdict? Our boy Gilderoy was worse.
However, even though his books were complete trash, I remembered getting the stink eye from a few female students when they realized that I had the only copy of Wanderings with Werewolves, and that they had to wait until I was done.
I shook my head. Never underestimate the power of rampant insanity borne of hero worship. Maybe I should pick up writing again, though? It’d be a decent source of income, if nothing else. If witches like to read this sort of nonsense, I’m sure I could put together a decent romance and snag a pretty sizable crowd. Something to consider.
“The story was so obviously fake that I figured that Pince— the Librarian— had just misplaced the book.” I finished. “Probably should’ve been in the fiction section. I mean… Curing a werewolf’s lycanthropy with the Homorphus Charm? Really?”
“Madam Pince doesn’t misplace anything.” Guffries said, shaking his head with a smile. “Damn vulture.”
I snorted at that. That woman seemed to be the bane of everyone who ever attended Hogwarts and dared to venture into her Library. Would she ever catch a break?
The moment of levity lasted for a few moments before Guffries began to speak again, looking a little subdued. “Lockhart killed my father.”
Of all the things I thought he was going to say, this was not what I was expecting. “…What?”
Guffries looked at me for a moment before sitting down and gesturing for me to do the same. I sat down with my back to a tree, pushing a few rocks to the side so they wouldn’t dig into my flesh.
“It happened in the summer of ‘85.” Guffries said. “I was about your age at the time. My father had saved a small group of wizards and witches from a couple of Trolls that wandered away from their usual hunting ground. If it weren’t for my dad, they would’ve died. Everyone called him a hero.”
I nodded, having an idea of where this was going.
“And then he came. Lockhart.” Guffries spat the man’s name out in disgust and hatred.
“He said he wanted to hear about our story firsthand, that he was writing a book on the ‘notable wizards of the day and age’.” Guffries said as he did air quotes, growing more and more agitated as he continued to tell his story. “Anyway, you know what Memory Charms are, Clarke?”
“I read a little about them, yeah.” I said, nodding. “They let you remove people’s memories of certain events, making it a total blank. Or, you can throw in whatever it is you’d like them to remember. Scary stuff, being able to mess with people’s heads like that. Altering the way their true experiences played out…”
The sort of havoc one could do with such charms… Who needed the Imperius Curse when you could rewrite someone’s memory pathways to show them that you’ve been their ally— their closest of friends— from the very beginning of their lives?
They would happily volunteer themselves to you and to your cause, even if it ended up killing them. I was suddenly glad that Lockhart was only using his skills to make himself out to be an accomplished wizard, rather than erode the fabric of society as we saw it.
If that were the case, he would indeed be a far worse threat than he currently was.
Thank God for Rowling and her whimsical writing, or I’d be in for a far darker path.
Guffries snorted without mirth, muttering something about ‘Ravenclaws’ before speaking again. “Yes. ‘Scary’ would be one way to describe that branch of magic.”
“So, what happened?” I asked. “Lockhart, he… used a Memory Charm on your father, I’m guessing?”
“Oh, yes.” Guffries said, schooling his expression into one of neutrality. It seemed brittle, though; like he would snap at any moment. “You guessed right; he took the memory away from everyone involved or in the know about what happened, including me. Well, he tried to. It worked on me for a bit, but then it broke.”
Guffries stopped to stare at his own hands before speaking again. “Never could figure out why. Maybe he cast it so much that day that he messed it up on me? Maybe he didn’t care? One thing’s for sure.”
He went silent for a few moments as I absorbed his words. “It worked flawlessly on everyone else. Oh yes; they all forgot that it was my father who was the hero. When I tried to correct them, I was told— by my own father, no less— that I was misbehaving and that I shouldn’t besmirch Lockhart’s good name. I mean, it was obvious to all that it was really Lockhart who had gallantly saved the day.”
He paused again before resuming. “And so, Tangling with Trolls became yet another bestseller on the shelves of all bookstores. Another notch on the belt of the great Gilderoy Lockhart.”
“And you’re the only one who knew the truth of it all.” I said, frowning. “But how’d Lockhart kill your father, then?”
“I was getting to that, Clarke.” Guffries said and shook his head before letting out an agitated sigh. “You’ve certainly read about the spells, but the books don’t really cover what possible after-effects come from Memory Charms, do they?”
There, I frowned. “They don’t, and it wasn’t the sort of magic I was interested in learning for myself. I was more interested in other things.”
“Yes, your fascination with those chains of yours.” Guffries said, nodding as he focused back on the subject at hand. “Anyway, here’s what the books don’t tell you. While Memory Charms are known to be able to alter memories, or remove them altogether, it’s never been truly explored as to what happens to the individual who was Charmed. Long-term, I mean.”
A sinking feeling began to settle in my stomach as Guffries continued his tale. “No one really talks about how, sometimes, messing with someone’s head can scramble their brain, throw them out of their mental balance and send them into a deep depression. My father— he was never the same after that. He struggled to find a reason to live for years until, well…”
He had to stop to hold himself together. “It happened while I was still at school. February of ‘87. He even left a note for me. I’m sure you’ve never read that about Memory Charms.”
“I haven’t.” I said quietly.
Guffries went quiet after that. I felt something seize me by the gut; my insides churned with pity. Despite the man’s unsavory actions, as well as the grudge he seemed to carry against me, I couldn’t help but feel some empathy for him.
Not being able to help your parent while they suffer through a disease or illness that ends up leading to their death— it was the sort of thing that perfectly tugged at my heart strings.
I closed my eyes, the sheer weight of the man’s story bringing my shoulders down. I slumped forward. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Nothing for you to be bloody sorry over.” Guffries said, getting angry at my reaction. “I don’t want your pity, Clarke. I just want you to understand.”
And that’s when I realized it. It all made sense now. I knew why Guffries was the way he was.
He’s still grieving. I thought as I stared at him, seeing a mirror image of myself when I was around his age. No, it’s worse than that. He’s stuck, suppressing his emotions, wanting to stay strong, but he isn’t stable, not at all. That hair-trigger anger— he’s just lashing out at convenient targets.
“I tried joining the Aurors after graduating from Hogwarts.” Guffries said, his face curling into an expression of disgust. “I scored well enough on all their tests except one. I didn’t have the ‘mindset to be an enforcer of the law’, they said. As if they would know what justice or the law was if it bit them in the face.”
I had never honestly given much thought as to what the aftermath of Lockhart’s escapades were. How many lives had the man destroyed in his endless search for glory he was unworthy of?
The purple star pulsed a few times, gaining our attention.
“…I think they want us to hurry up?” I said after a moment.
“I suppose we’ve wasted enough time here.” Guffries said, getting to his feet and dusting himself off. He extended his hand to help me up. “Don’t think this changes anything between us, Clarke.”
I stared at the hand before ignoring it and getting up on my own. “While I understand why you did it… None of what you said justifies using the Cruciatus on me.”
“Never said it did.” He said. “And honestly, I don’t care what you think is justified.”
“You’re a cunt, Guffries.”
“Hearing a child say that will never stop being weird.”
It took another twenty minutes, but Guffries and I finally reached our destination. It was a fairly wide clearing, with grass reaching up towards my knees.
“A strange location— and one made in a hurry.” Guffries said, gesturing at a number of depressions in the earth where it seemed like a few trees were uprooted.
“I guess they want us to end things here.” I said in return, gesturing at the darkening sky. “What time is it, anyway? Six? We’ve been at it for hours.”
“Something like that.” Guffries nodded towards the other side of the clearing. “Look. There.”
I followed his gaze and tensed as I saw a group of three emerge from the treeline. They talked to each other for a few seconds before turning their attention to us.
“So you made it.” Diallo’s voice came from the far left, and I turned my gaze to see the man walking towards us, with Wagner in tow.
“Adam.” Wagner said in greeting.
“Rebecca.” I nodded. “Diallo.”
Diallo shook his head as he finally noticed who it was I was with. “Guffries? You teamed up with Guffries?”
“That’s one way of putting it.” I said and laughed. “It’s a long story.”
“Not much of a story, was it?” Guffries cut in. “I wasn’t going to let a bunch of fools claim an unearned victory over you. I’m the one who’s going to beat you into the ground.”
I rolled my eyes at that, which made Diallo laugh.
“I definitely am looking forward to hearing it, then.” Diallo said, smiling for a moment before it fell away at the sight of a few more groups entering the premises. “I see others are entering the clearing too.”
People continued milling into the clearing, each picking a spot of their own and staring at their competition with both confusion and wariness.
“Strange that no one has attacked us yet.” Wagner said. “After the sheer chaos of this… event, I would have expected no less.”
“No.” I said, getting her attention. “We’ve been at it for hours. I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone was either wounded or just plain tired.”
“And that makes them more cautious.” Guffries added. “Less likely to charge in. Even the most foolhardy Gryffindor wouldn’t do something so brazen.”
“I’m not very familiar with your school houses, but I see what you’re trying to say.” Wagner said, nodding in understanding. “I would say I was tired, but…”
“We took it easy.” Diallo said, sharing a look with the woman. “Kept our involvement in the fighting to a minimum.”
“Smart.” Guffries said. “Not what I would have expected of you.”
“Yeah, you’d never pass up the chance for a good fight.” I added in, sending him an inquisitive look.
“Well, what can I say?” Diallo smirked at that. “There are many sides to this man before you.”
“Many sides.” Wagner had to stop herself from laughing. “Or maybe you bit off more than you could chew and I saved the ‘many sides’ of your arse.”
“That sounds a lot more like you.” I said. Guffries nodded in agreement.
Diallo slumped at that. “So much for solidarity.”
I was about to say something else to tease the guy when the star above us pulsed again, getting everyone’s attention. It hovered in the air for a few moments before expanding in a series of swirls and twists, forming words in the air above us:
LAST ONE STANDING
The words morphed again, displaying a one-minute timer.
“So I guess we know what we’re going to do, huh?” Guffries said. “The time for our fight is soon approaching, Clarke.”
“Now hold on, Guffries.” Diallo said. “For all you know, I’m the one who’ll put you down before you even get the chance to have a piece of him.”
I looked towards Wagner for some help, but the woman only smiled with anticipation at the thought of fighting me as well.
I’m surrounded by battle-crazed wolves.
“So much for solidarity, indeed…”