July 5, 1992, 12:50 PM, Twelve Grimmauld Place, London
Name the constellation in the top-right most sector of this chart. Harry frowned at the question on the sheet, racking his mind for the answer.
The answer hadn’t come two minutes ago, and Harry was fairly certain that it wasn’t coming now, either. He sighed and pushed himself away from the desk. The chair made a particularly unpleasant grinding noise, making the boy wince as he got up and began to pace.
He was full of energy; for today, his friend Adam would finally be coming over to live with them.
Harry walked quite a few laps around the room, barely able to keep a lid on his sheer excitement.
Adam will be here soon! Harry thought, not for the first time since Sirius first made the declaration that he was off.
He stopped pacing in an attempt to compose himself. It didn’t do much good. Instead, Harry began to wonder exactly what would happen.
The last time he’d seen the boy was a few weeks ago outside of King’s Cross station, where he and Sirius had left him with the orphanage workers. Harry had already forgotten the man’s name— did he even introduce himself? I can’t remember— but he remembered Adam calling the woman Jenny.
She’d seemed a little fearsome to him. Harry wondered what living with her was like. It couldn’t have been easy, and Harry could rightly claim that he knew a thing or two about uneasy relationships with those who were supposed to care for you.
His first ten years of life were quite honestly miserable, and he wished that sort of ‘experience’ on absolutely no one.
Harry shook his head. It wouldn’t do for him to fall into the trap of examining his old memories.
There was nothing good to be found there.
Instead, Harry drew his gaze back to the Astronomy homework sitting at the desk in the study. I really should keep working at this.
Harry knew that this was the smart thing to do. He knew that, if he put his nose to the grindstone, Adam would show up without Harry even noticing, so focused he was on finishing his work.
But Harry also knew that he couldn’t muster up the will to do that right now. No matter how hard he tried, it just didn’t work— he was too excited to focus. And so, he left the study, passing by the darkly muttering Kreacher with a frown.
Harry grimaced, not at the sorry creature before him, but at a recent memory. It really drove into him just how bad the House of Black had been like in the old days.
“A filthy half-blood!” Harry remembered Walburga Black’s horrified screech, that day. “You let a half-blood child of filth into my family’s home! Blood traitorous scum—”
They’d been preparing the room next to Harry’s, converting it into a decent living space for the past week or so. There wasn’t really much to do, as it was already a bedroom— used to be owned by Sirius’ brother, in fact.
Regulus Black. Harry hadn’t known that Sirius had a brother, but from the look that came on the man’s face when Harry asked about it, the young boy knew not to pry.
He could tell that there were heavy, volatile memories attached, and Harry didn’t think it right to stir the man up just to satisfy his own burning curiosity.
I know I wouldn’t want to be bothered with questions about the Dursleys, that’s for sure. Harry thought to himself as he watched Kreacher go with a hint of annoyance.
They’d quickly figured out that it was Kreacher who had reported the information to Sirius’ mother, but honestly, who else could it have possibly been?
Kreacher was the only one who ever willingly talked to the damn thing. The things that awful woman said that day… Harry didn’t think he could stomach the thought of even listening to those vile things she dared to say about himself.
He sent a glare towards the general direction of the portrait. Harry wished they could figure out how to remove it, once and for all. Sadly, it just wasn’t that simple.
Apparently the portrait had been stuck there with a Permanent Sticking Charm. Harry had heard of Sticking Charms— Merlin, he’d even seen Adam use one to mess with Tony and Ron a few months back— but never of one with permanent effects.
Still, maybe Adam would know something about reversing this? Harry thought, though he didn’t hold out much hope. If neither Remus nor Sirius could figure it out, Harry didn’t think that Adam could, either.
Prodigy or not. Harry thought, shaking his head and making his way down the stairs. There are limits to what someone can do; even with magic.
Halfway down, Harry thought about turning back and just working on his homework like he’d initially planned, only for the thoughts to be whirled away by the incoming smell of food being prepared.
Harry detected the scent of caramelized onion and sizzling beef in the air and felt his mouth water with anticipation. What’s Remus making today?
He made his way into the kitchen, seeing the man in question bustling at the stove.
Remus turned to the boy just as he walked in and gave him a small smile. “Harry.”
How does he do that? Harry thought in confusion, and a little bit of annoyance. I didn’t even make a sound this time, and yet he still managed to know I was there. Is it a spell?
The boy didn’t get it, but shrugged. Maybe it was just one of those things. Some people were just far more in tune with their senses than others. Still, Harry couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something more to this than meets the eye.
“Finished your homework, then?” Remus said as he turned back to the sizzling before him. He adjusted the temperature and stirred the beef and onions in his pan.
“Not even close.” Harry said, shaking his head though he knew Remus couldn’t see— then again, maybe he had eyes in the back of his head, and he could. He certainly had the awareness for it. “Couldn’t focus.”
“I suppose that’s to be expected.” Remus said. “Knowing that Mr. Clarke is arriving here soon.”
“Any word on that?” Harry asked, eager to know more.
Remus gave a small laugh.
“I assume that Sirius is either looking for, or has already found the orphanage.” He said, snatching a small container from the side and upending it over the food. The sound of sizzling intensified, releasing vapor into the air and accentuating the smell of meat and onion with a fair bit of pepper and a few other spices he couldn’t identify. “It’s only been half an hour since he’s gone, after all.”
“All right.” Harry said, though the man’s words still left him feeling restless. He gestured at the food being cooked over the stove. “Anything I can do?”
“Oh, no.” Remus said, shaking his head with a smile before turning to the food. “I’ve got everything well in hand, Harry. Not to worry.”
“No, it’s not that.” Harry said and took a deep breath to stave away his agitation. “I just need to do something, that’s all. I can’t just sit down and do nothing. I’ll go crazy!”
Remus froze for a moment and moved the pan away from the heat before turning to give Harry a look he was growing very familiar with.
Over the past few weeks, Harry would sometimes do or say something that ended up catching the two men off guard. It wasn’t anything intentional, this much he knew, but from the almost nostalgic look on their faces followed by the slight deterioration of their moods, he could guess what it was about, easily enough.
“You know.” Remus said and exhaled through his nose, before giving the boy a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Your father used to say the same thing.”
Knew it. Harry thought and took a step forward. The thrill of knowing more about his parents and realizing that he was more like them than he’d first thought… it never got old.
“Really?” Harry said with no small amount of interest. “What do you mean?”
“He could never sit still when something important was happening, either.” Remus said, shaking his head. “Not that Sirius and I were particularly calm during those events, mind you, but your father— heh, he just wouldn’t stop. Just went on and on and on…”
Harry smiled, because that sounded a lot like him too. He used to hide it back when he still lived with the Dursleys, but ever since he’d stepped foot in Hogwarts, he had allowed himself to have his natural reactions again. I really am similar to my dad, aren’t I?
“‘Course.” Remus added in, breaking through Harry’s thoughts. “It was Lily who tried to actually keep busy whenever she was excited or stressed about something. She’d berate James whenever he got into one of those moods— even laugh at him.”
Harry snorted. He couldn’t imagine his mother making fun of anyone.
Remus gave a contented sigh and gestured at the cutting board on another table. “If you feel up to it, you can chop up a few carrots for me.”
Harry nodded. “How big d’you want them?”
“Small cubes, if you can manage it.” Remus said as Harry moved to the table. “Not too small, mind.”
Harry began to peel the carrot and chopped it up a bit before showing one of the cubes to Remus. “Is this good?”
Remus nodded and smiled as he continued to stir the contents of his pan. “Perfect. Add them into the mix, and…”
The carrots went in, intensifying the sound of sizzling again.
“Now, four or five cloves of garlic— let’s go with five.” Remus said, gesturing at a cupboard to the lower right. “Finely chopped. Mind the blade, now.”
Harry nodded and did as he was asked. Time still continued to pass at an agonizingly slow rate, but at least Harry was enjoying himself now.
“What’re we making, anyway, Remus?” He asked.
“Cottage pie, special family recipe.” Remus said as he put the garlic in and slightly lowered the heat on the stove. “My father was actually the one who taught me this one— fast, and simple. Quite delicious.”
Harry nodded. “It certainly smells that way.”
Remus opened his mouth to reply but stopped as the sound of a loud crack came from somewhere above them.
“What was…” Harry said, looking up at the ceiling as if it was going to break apart and fall on them. “You heard that?”
“Oh, I most certainly did.” Remus said with a smile before shaking his head. “Sirius has returned, I think.”
Harry was about to say something in response when he heard the muffled sounds coming from upstairs— the voices of Sirius and someone very familiar talking.
Clarke! Harry thought and was about to rush upstairs before he stopped and looked at Remus. He only gave the boy a nod upstairs.
That was all that needed to be said. Harry grinned, put the utensils away and hurried up the stairs, all too excited to meet his friend again.
“—well that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Harry heard halfway there.
“Yes. Yes, it was.” Adam’s deadpan voice replied.
Harry reached the top of the stairs, seeing Sirius and Adam standing together in the parlor.
“Good thing I didn’t have much to eat today.” Adam said, his back to Harry when he came into the room.
Sirius nodded towards him with a smile. “Harry.”
Adam turned and waved. “Yo.”
‘Yo,’ he says! Harry thought, feeling his smile turn into a grin as he came closer. “Adam!”
The two shook hands and embraced in a very short, manly hug before pulling away. Adam was the first to speak. “Good summer so far?”
“Oh, yeah!” Harry said, smiling. “It’s been great.”
Adam looked around the room before focusing on Harry with a nod. “You look pretty happy, yeah.”
“What about you?” Harry asked. “Must have been quite boring for you at the orphanage.”
Adam got a very strange look on his face when faced with that comment, but it disappeared so fast that Harry wasn’t sure he’d even seen it. “Oh, you know. Wake up, eat, do a few chores, maybe read something and then sleep. Could’ve been worse.”
“Yeah.” Harry said noncommittally, not really knowing what to say to that.
Adam was right, of course. That sort of experience wasn’t particularly exciting considering that there was absolutely no magic involved, but it was certainly far better than a few others he could think of.
“I can smell something real nice.” Adam broke the silence before it had the chance to settle in and make everyone uncomfortable. “What’re you making?”
“Oh.” Harry smiled and nodded towards the stairs leading down. “Remus is making cottage pie. Downstairs.”
“Oh, I knew that smelled familiar.” Sirius said, speaking up for the first time since the beginning of the conversation. He took a few steps forward, patting Harry on the shoulder. “Mind showing Adam to his room? I need to speak to Remus about something.”
Harry nodded and smiled. “All right.”
He turned to Adam, all but dragging him out of the parlor towards the stairs.
It was a grave error.
As soon as they reached the hallway, the curtains around the dreaded portrait flew open, displaying the perpetually angry woman that was Walburga Black’s portrait.
Harry cringed, realizing that they’d not been silent at all on the way. He should have kept a lid on his excitement, and now he was about to reap what he had sown.
“C’mon, let’s go before—”
“And who might you be?” Walburga Black said, ignoring Harry’s existence entirely and setting her gaze upon Adam’s face, specifically his eyes.
“Is it not polite to introduce yourself first, as you are a resident of this house?” Adam said, keeping his tone light and non-aggressive.
In a move that surprised Harry, the portrait of Walburga blinked, as if not having expected such a response. “Oh, of course. I am Walburga of the House of Black.”
Adam gave the woman a nod. “It’s nice to meet you, Walburga Black. My name is Adam. I hope you’ll forgive me, but it’s been a long journey and I must rest.”
“O—Oh.” Walburga said, nodding. “Of course. Call for Kreacher, he will see to your needs, Mr… Oh, I’m afraid I don’t know your surname.”
Adam nodded. “I suppose it’s Black now. Adam Black. If you’ll excuse me, however… Come on, Harry.”
And then he walked away from the stupefied portrait, going up the stairs without another word. Harry hurried after him before the eventual explosion that would ensue from such a revelation.
“That was brilliant.” Was the only thing Harry could say. “You hypnotized her?”
“Huh?” Adam said. “Is she not this way to everyone?”
Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes and smiled. Adam really is the strangest person I know.
July 5, 1992, 6:00 PM, A Few Miles South From Phoenix’ Roost
Gravel crunched beneath his boots, grinding into the earth and leaving the indent of his footprint behind with every glorious step he took. He inhaled the air, rich with the aroma of thriving plant and animal life and feasted his eyes on his lush surroundings.
In his younger years, he had detested such things, but because of his trials and tribulations over the past decade, he had learned to gain a new appreciation for the simpler things in life.
Losing the ability to experience such sensations and then regaining it is certainly quite an experience. Lord Voldemort thought as he continued to make his way down the path. Though it has given me a few ideas on future… Interrogation techniques.
Voldemort smiled; there was a silver lining in every dark cloud, after all.
“Master.” Kersil, one of his many snake servants, said as she poked her head from his robe’s sleeve. “We are being approached— I can smell them. Two of them.”
Voldemort nodded and hissed back. “I have been aware of their approach for some time. They will not be here for a few minutes, yet.”
“My apologies, Master.”
Voldemort waved her simpering away. “To labor for my well being is nothing to apologize over, Kersil. You have served me well, thus far.”
“Master!” Kersil hissed. “Thank you!”
He resisted the urge to scoff. Voldemort always had an affinity for the snakes, but their sheer devotion was something that always annoyed him.
Oh, he didn’t hesitate to use that to its fullest extent, of course, but it still irked him how they were simply convinced to do whatever he wanted with just a few words. There had to be something inherently magical with the language, but his research in his younger years had borne little to no fruit.
Parseltongue was just that; a language. It was a hereditary one, of course, but there seemed to be no magical aspects to it besides that.
Which meant that the snakes did it out of a sense of loyalty to him as a speaker and, disgusted as he was to admit it, love.
Well, perhaps not love; he did understand snakes well enough to know that they bonded just like any other animal does. Perhaps the language tricked their simple minds into making him endearing to them?
It wasn’t something he was particularly interested in learning about, but perhaps it would be a project to explore once he had done what he set out to do here.
“Halt!” The voice of a wizard broke through Voldemort’s thoughts as he saw two people approach from a distance. “State your business.”
Voldemort didn’t say anything for a moment before raising his hand to wave at them in a perfect impression of his vessel. “I’m back from a mission.”
“Marco?” One of them said in surprise. “You’re here early.”
“You know this one?” The other wizard said, looking at his fellow.
“Oh, yeah.” The fellow, a wizard by the name of Jeffrey if Marco’s pathetic memory served right, said. “We shared a cell together for a time; glad to see you got back here safe.”
“Wasn’t easy, Jeff.” Voldemort said, faking a smile and shaking the hand of his ‘friend’ before giving him a grave look. “Almost thought I wouldn’t make it.”
“Where’s your partner— Andre, wasn’t it?”
Voldemort shook his head. “He’s gone. We were attacked— a pack of werewolves. I managed to Apparate out in time. Andre… Well…”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” The other wizard said, and Voldemort gave him a nod. “Come. We’ll take you to a higher officer so you can give your full report.”
“And you can tell me all about it later, yeah?” Jeffrey added as they led the way.
“Of course.” Voldemort nodded and began to follow them into Grindelwald’s stronghold.