July 6, 1992, 2:00 PM, Adam’s Room, Grimmauld Place
It had been a day since I’d moved into Sirius’ place, and I still couldn’t believe that I was finally here.
It’s only been a few weeks since school let out, but it honestly feels longer than that. I thought, looking at myself in the mirror. Far longer.
It struck me as a little strange, not wearing the robes provided to me by one of Grindelwald’s many aides, but I supposed it was for the best.
Living with Grindelwald and his allies had, in all actuality, not been as bad as I had thought it was while I was going through it.
Though there had been some pretty bad and gruesome moments, it was a place where I felt I could let loose more than I usually did.
In fact, I even felt like I almost belonged.
Then again, is that the Stockholm Syndrome talking? I thought, rejecting the idea of belonging to that group. His plan to put me through hardship alongside others in the name of ‘training’. That’s how bonds are built— allows humans to cope with the harsh trauma of the situation by associating positive emotions to it.
It was a clear attempt to induct me into his forces, and one I’d seen happen many times in my previous life, whether on the news or even in person.
A few details of their true barbarity omitted here, a fake sob story or three there, and an ever-present, all encompassing sense of camaraderie binding you to the people you broke bread and made merry with— that was how people got drafted.
Almost always, these same people, these righteous souls fighting the good fight, ended up laying their lives down for a cause they believed to be greater than themselves.
It was insidious and sickening, in a way. Now that I was away from it all, I could view it with a little bit more clarity.
That wasn’t to say that their attempt to do so was malicious. No, there was definitely something of the truth lying within their words. That was what was so dangerous about their cause.
I couldn’t fault them for what they were doing; otherwise, I would be dismissing the experiences of those who were part of the rank and file.
The people there definitely didn’t deserve to be treated that way by society. Sob stories they may be, but I know that at least three are actually real.
I thought about Amy Broduk, Healer Durand, and even that asshole Guffries before shaking my head. But their fight is not my own, surely? However much I sympathize with their cause, there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for me to join my power with theirs.
That wasn’t to say that I was going to be openly hostile to them, either.
Ever the neutral party, huh? I thought to myself in a mixture of exasperation and amusement. What was it the Night’s Watch likes to say? ‘We take no part’.
The amusement lasted for a short while until another thought occurred. How long could I possibly keep that neutrality up, though? Was I not already taking part?
My thoughts turned to my battle against Quirrell, and then against Voldemort in my own soul. If my actions hadn’t made a lifelong enemy out of Voldemort, then I would eat my old socks.
“No.” I murmured and turned away from the mirror, heading towards the window and staring out into the street, watching random passersby walking around and enjoying the summer weather. “That ship has sailed, I think. Can’t exactly pretend to be Switzerland with any of them— Hell, I don’t even know if I ever could have. I’m no Goddamn politician.”
Sticking to the shadows and manipulating people wasn’t appealing to me, though I would do it if no one wished to take up such a dangerous mantle.
To me, the risks seemed to far outweigh the potential rewards to be had. Plus, playing that sort of game left a bad taste in my mouth.
Still, that didn’t mean that I had to throw in my lot with anyone. I was free to make my own decisions, after all. Nothing stopped me from packing up my things and living in the middle of nowhere, away from any and all civilization.
No matter who won the eventual war that was going to break out, I doubted their reach would go as far as to somewhere like a backwater, middle of nowhere forest, or a remote shack in a sequestered, mountainous region.
Going that far for one man who was not even bothering you seemed like a waste of resources to me.
It was still possible, of course; Voldemort’s obsessions tended to run deep, and his sheer hatred was so choking that he could likely put out the Sun with it— if he figured out how to weaponize it, anyway.
So long as I live, I represent a threat to Voldemort’s power and sovereignty. I thought. Even if I make clear my attempt to declare neutrality, he might think it’s a ruse— a ploy to get him to lower his guard while I build up my forces. That’s exactly what he would do if he were in my place, after all.
I sighed. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like all of this conflict was almost fated to happen.
“The threads of fate.” I murmured, staring at the strings floating around the many Muggles outside.
Grindelwald had told me to re-examine my memories concerning my experience in the Abyss, the last time I’d spoken to him. Was he right about everyone’s fate being predetermined?
Was it possible that I hadn’t noticed what he was talking about, or could he have simply been lying about it to misdirect me?
“Trying to trip me up?” I muttered. “Gaslight me?”
I shook my head; while the man did try to enlist me to his cause via the usual methods, I didn’t think he would go so far as to mess with my own sense impressions or try to convince me to remember things that never happened.
It didn’t seem like his style. In fact, Grindelwald had told me to check and verify what he was saying for myself.
Not exactly the actions of someone trying to control my behavior and every aspect of my life. I thought. Still, it doesn’t fill me with much confidence, but I’ll make do with what I’ve got. I always have.
I would need to get my hands on a Pensieve at some point. Only then could I examine my memories in the Abyss— if that was even possible. Would an out of body experience count as a memory that can be withdrawn from my mind? If so, did that mean that memory was linked to the soul, and not the sponge of flesh and neurons nestled within my skull?
Of course it does. How would I retain memories from my past life if the memories are only stored in my old body, and therefore are inaccessible to this new one? The rebuttal came, and I felt stupid for even considering the previous line of thought. Meaning, I should be able to extract memories from my first life, as well as the memory in the Abyss.
It was something I would need to do when I got back to Hogwarts. Perhaps Alef could form a Pensieve for me to use? It’s not outside the realm of possibility, after all. The Room provides me with whatever I require. Within its demesne, its powers of creation are absolute— only infringed upon by the void itself.
That was another thing I needed to consider looking into the next school year. Though my soul was supposedly steeped in it, I still had little to no understanding of how the void actually worked.
It was funny, in a way. I’d been part of it, once, and yet that didn’t help me conceptualize it as clearly as I thought it would.
I’ll need to practice. I thought. Far away from the castle proper. I don’t want to upset Alef more than I did the first time, but this is something I need to understand. I can’t put it off any longer.
Though the time passed slowly to me, I knew that it was only the mild boredom plaguing me. In reality, Gellert Grindelwald and Lucius Malfoy moved their pieces in the shadows, while Dumbledore moved his in the light while also attempting to reassure the populace that everything was going to be alright.
All the while, even deeper in the murk of the world, Voldemort was playing a game of his own. I couldn’t avoid studying things I was afraid of, anymore. Perhaps this Pandora’s Box of mine held the key to understanding the nature of the void.
Maybe I could even learn to wield it with my chains?
That was a frightening thought; though, speaking of my chains, I needed to learn how to strengthen them, as well. That little trick with the chain fragments was a step in the right direction, but it hadn’t worked on Ai Xiu in the Symphony.
Much to do. I thought before my eyes moved towards the small pile of parchment sitting on my table. I nodded to myself. Almost too much, to be honest, but I can start by doing this summer homework. One step at a time, Clarke.
I sat down, and the work began.
The time which had been passing by so slowly began to fly from my grasp as I started with my Charms homework, answering questions as best as I could.
“What is the incantation and wand motion for the Shrinking Charm?” I muttered as I wrote the answer down. “Reducio. V motion.”
I continued in this vein for a while, mindlessly answering every question posted in the booklet until I stopped at a peculiar one midway.
“What is the General Counter-Spell used for?” I read before looking up at the ceiling in exasperation. “I know this homework is for revision for the next year, but holy crap; kids aren’t this stupid. The use is stated in the bloody name, isn’t it?”
“Never try to understand the minds of the teachers.” Sirius’ voice came from the doorway, causing me to jump in fright.
“Holy sh—” I almost shouted as I braced myself against the chair. “You scared the Hell out of me!”
Sirius only grinned in response. “I’ll be sure to remember that.”
“You’re going to try to jumpscare me from now on, aren’t you?”
“I can neither confirm nor deny this statement.”
I shook my head and exhaled through my nose before looking at the man proper. “What’s up? Is it dinnertime, already?”
“Oh, no.” Sirius shook his head and stepped into the room. It was then I finally noticed that he was holding a letter in his hand. “This letter came to us a few days before your arrival— meant for you, of course. I didn’t share it with you yesterday; assumed you wanted the time to settle in your new home.”
“Oh. Thanks.” I took the offered letter, realizing it was a missive from Flitwick.
“Flitwick? He wrote me a letter?” I said out loud, a little confused.
While the man had always been kind to me, I never considered he would actually care enough to send a letter to me. Then again, he’d been handling my talks with reporters and also checking after me the whole year.
I need to stop misjudging how close I am to people. I thought, the image of my orphanage caretaker, Jenny, coming to mind. Might sour my relations with them in the long run.
“Seems that way.” Sirius said as I placed it on my table. “Speaking of settling in, how are you doing? Any issues with the move? What about your new room?”
“So far so good.” I said, waving his concerns away before gesturing at the walls. “The room’s nice, if a little too silver and green.”
“Prefer the black and blue of Ravenclaw, do we?” Sirius said, smiling at the nod that followed his statement. “I’m the same way; had Gryffindor colors in my room— Harry’s room now.”
“And this room?” I said, though I knew the answer already. “Made for a Slytherin?”
Sirius’ smile dipped at that. “Yes. My younger brother’s room. Regulus. But then, everyone in the family but me found their way into that House. You could say I’m the black sheep of the family.”
“The white sheep, you mean.” I replied and we both shared a laugh.
“Regulus, Sirius, Orion.” I said, after a few moments. “All of you are named after stars and constellations. Why?”
Sirius gave a shrug. “Just one of those family things, I guess? Never really thought about it; I’ve a cousin called Andromeda, too— you’ll soon be meeting her.”
“Oh?” I said. “You’re not the last of the Blacks?”
“Far from it.” Sirius said, but grimaced. “Though the rest are affiliated with other families. Andromeda’s the only good one. The others…”
Sirius trailed off, but I knew the answer already. One’s sitting in a cell near your old one in Azkaban, and the other is married to Lucius Malfoy.
“Maybe I should change my first name as well?” I changed the subject, sending the man a smirk. “Procyon, if memory serves?”
Sirius flinched at that name, and my smirk fell away. “Was it something I said?”
But the man only shook his head, getting himself under control. “Not you— something my mother said in the past. You just reminded me of that.”
Well, that’s definitely not good.
My curiosity was piqued by that, but I knew not to push the matter any further than I already had. “Sorry, Sirius.”
“Nothing to forgive, kid.” Sirius shook his head again and forced a smile. “Anyway, I came here for another reason.”
“Are you up for spell practice?”
“Spell practice?” I repeated the man’s words in mild surprise. I hadn’t expected that to come out of him. “I thought we weren’t allowed to use magic outside of school. The Trace, right?”
Sirius shook his head, though he smiled. “Ravenclaws, always do your homework, eh? You weren’t, by any chance, thinking of breaking the Trace, were you?”
“Perish the thought.” I said with such a deadpan voice that the man let out a loud guffaw.
“A budding rule breaker?” Sirius said as he approached and put his hand on my shoulder, coaxing me out of the room.
“Something like that.” I let him do it, feeling a little bewildered by his boisterousness. Strangely enough, though, I felt myself smiling; the man’s good cheer was infectious. “Rules that don’t make sense are not ones I intend to follow.”
“Ah.” Sirius said as we slowly made our way down the stairs. “That Miss Jenny of yours must have thought you were a handful, then.”
“You don’t know the half of it.” I said, though I frowned. “Will that be a problem?”
“Hah!” Sirius laughed again. “With me? Never. I don’t care how either you or Harry decide to live your lives.”
He stopped to consider what he was saying. “Unless you’re actually hurting people, I suppose.”
“That goes without saying.” I gave the man a short, incredulous look.
“You’d be surprised at the amount of people who need that sort of thing to be said to them.” Sirius countered, and I found that I had nothing to say against that.
We quietly passed the portrait in the main hall and continued our way down to the kitchen, where we found Harry waiting for us. My eyes met his own, and I saw that he was beyond eager to fight.
“Adam.” Harry said, smiling. “You made it.”
“I sure did.” I exchanged a manly handshake with the boy before looking towards Sirius. “Though I’m still not sure what ‘this’ is, beyond spell practice?”
Sirius looked at the both of us with an odd look on his face before clearing his throat and getting himself under control. “Right. So, Harry told me all about what happened at the end of the year— the details, I mean.”
I absorbed his words as I turned my gaze to Harry, who gave me a guilty look.
“Sorry.” Harry said.
“For what?” I replied, tilting my head at the boy slightly. “Not the sort of thing that could be kept a secret; damn near the entire school knew something happened, and the papers as well as rumor mills went crazy in June.”
“Still…” Harry said. “I probably shouldn’t have talked about what happened to you.”
“It doesn’t bother me.” I said, lifting my arm to show my burn scars proudly. “They might not look good, but they’re proof that I survived that day.”
Harry closed his mouth, not really knowing what to say to that.
“Yes, Adam, you survived.” Sirius nodded. “And far be it from me to denigrate your abilities…”
“…But?” I asked, knowing where he was going with this.
“But…” Sirius nodded. “There is always room for improvement.”
Translation: you got your ass beat and you need to ‘git gud’, as the gamers would say— or would have said in my old life. I thought, nodding. “All right.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.” I smiled. “In fact, this is perfect. I was going to spend the next few weeks trying to figure out how to get past the Trace over here, but if you’ll do it for me, that’s even better.”
Sirius only smirked in reply. “Afraid you’ll have to figure that part out on your own, kid, but don’t worry. The Trace can’t really be tracked accurately inside a magical home.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Doesn’t it detect every single bit of magic I use?”
“In a way.” Sirius said as he began to move the kitchen stations to the corner with his wand, causing a loud ruckus that made Kreacher curse all blood-traitors from the depths of his den— almost made me laugh. Sirius, however, continued as if he hadn’t heard a thing. “It detects magic used in your vicinity; any magic. Understand?”
I nodded after a moment’s thought. “So any magic cast is assumed to be your own, or Remus’?”
“That’s it, exactly.” Sirius smirked. “Five points to Ravenclaw.”
I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes, but Harry did not.
“So how are we doing this?” I said. “Are we going to learn spells and then practice them?”
But Sirius shook his head. “Harry thinks that you are quite the duelist. Considering the opponents you’ve faced, you likely have a fair amount of experience.”
My eyes moved to Harry, who was quickly looking uncomfortable. “Is that so…”
“We’ll see what level you’re at, and then we’ll figure it out from there.” Sirius said as he moved to the back of the fighting area he’d created. “Does that sound all right?”
I stared at him for a second before nodding and moving to my own spot. Harry stood to the side, looking excited beyond anything I’d expected.
I drew my wand, taking comfort from the sensation of warmth coursing from the stick in my hand to the rest of my body. I closed my eyes for a moment, my own excitement empowering me.
“How far do you want to take this?” I opened my eyes.
Sirius’ gaze moved to Harry for a moment before he looked at me. “What do you mean?”
“First blood? First to say ‘stop’?” I said, taking a deep breath as I centered myself. My eyes opened a little wider as I saw his thread twist in a way that told me that he was surprised by what I said.
“First to say ‘stop’, I suppose.” Sirius said, having caught himself quickly.
Guess he didn’t expect a kid to be so direct. I thought as I nodded to him.
“Don’t you think you might be underestimating me?” Sirius said in the ensuing silence, a somewhat offended look spreading over his face.
“I probably am.” I acknowledged his words as I got into my stance. “Ready?”
“Your starting move.” Sirius said, doing the same. “Let’s try not to hit Harry by accident.”
I nodded with a small smile, losing it as I focused on the impromptu battle here.
Should I go all out from the start? I thought, but decided not to. Since he’s trying to gauge my ability.
My wand moved in a diagonal arc, silently sending a blade of red light towards the man. Sirius’ eyes narrowed with some satisfaction as he sidestepped the blade and countered with his own spell, a swirling stream of light blue that threatened to overtake my right side.
Protego! I immersed my mind in the concept of defense and protection, keeping the barrier small as I swept my wand to the right, sending the spell crashing in the wall to my left, where it stuck to it like glue.
I moved forward, shifting my weight to the left as I bobbed past a jet of red light before responding in kind. Stupefy!
But Sirius seemed almost amused by my retaliatory strike, canceling the spell out with a dismissive twitch of his wand. A short silence descended upon the large kitchen, broken by Sirius’ flurry of movement.
I was forced to dodge and block a series of spells— only to realize that they’d been mere distractions. He’d kept my gaze focused on him, away from the various pots and pans to my left, which seamlessly transformed into a snatch of rodents and cats, all aiming to attack me.
“Shit.” I muttered, realizing that I was now fighting a battle on two fronts.
I continued to block Sirius’ spells, feeling a few mild stabs of pain as I shook rats off of my feet and bodily launched the cat into the path of one of Sirius’ spells, putting it to sleep almost instantly. Another wave of my wand, and the various creatures at my feet were reduced to a gory mist, blocking the view between me and Sirius.
I sent spells through the still fading mist of pink, hoping the sheer bloodiness of my action would have caught Sirius off-guard.
It didn’t work. Though I heard the man cursing in annoyance, my spells were dealt with in the exact same way as they had before.
When the mist settled, Sirius gave me an almost bored look. “Was that all, Adam?”
I stared at him for a moment before my eyes opened a little further, the smell of blood in the air firing me up far more than I thought it would.
“No.” I said, my mouth twisting into an anticipatory grin that seemed to unnerve Harry. My wand ran over my arm.
Attack and defend. “Odgovor!”
The room brightened as the glowing silver chains burst forth from my ebony wand. One twisted around my right arm and formed a small buckler around my hand, while the other swirled in front of me with deadly intent.
Sirius, to his credit, only whistled. “So these are the chains… Riposte, is it?”
I narrowed my eyes. He didn’t seem particularly threatened, or even concerned.
Maybe this will show him. I grasped my chain with my will and split it into three before setting them to task, hoping to subdue the man quickly.
Sirius, however, had other ideas. His wand flew into motion, deflecting the three offending chains, though with a lot less ease than he had had with my earlier spells.
“Not bad!” Sirius exclaimed after he managed to bash all three chains away simultaneously, giving himself some breathing room as he followed his move up with more spells. The chains forming my buckler bunched up together, deflecting four spells with no issue and forcing me to take a step back from the fifth. “But those chains of yours can’t stop the energy from impacts.”
I opened my mouth to answer when Sirius swept his wand from left to right. The light blue, viscous spell that had been stuck to the wall since the beginning of the duel launched itself towards me with little warning.
Moving all of my chains back to me, I braced for impact, only to be surprised when Sirius’ spell simply squeezed itself through the links and open spaces of the chains, crashing into me with the force of a tidal wave and sending me down to the floor.
I quickly reoriented myself and tried to move, only to realize that I was covered from head to toe in this strange spell.
“The chains can’t seem to stop this, either.” Sirius noted as he made his way over to me. I saw him staring down at me with a serious expression. “Still, a very impressive spell, considering you’ve only created it a few months ago.”
I tried to move my chains, only to realize that they were stuck in this goop as well.
“Impressive.” I said in disbelief, still unable to do a thing. “Doesn’t feel so impressive from down here.”
Sirius only shook his head. “That’s what practice is for, Adam.”
He waved his wand, and the spell was gone. I stayed that way for a moment before finally noticing the man’s offered hand.
“Hope I didn’t rough you up too badly, kid.” Sirius said, sending me a smile and keeping his hand extended.
I breathed for a few moments, smiled, and then took his arm.
“No. It’s fine.” I waved him off before gaining a serious look. “Let’s go again.”
It seemed that this practice would indeed be beneficial.