July 10, 1992, 12:00 PM, Hogwarts Castle
A merry tune bounced off of the walls of the halls of Hogwarts as Albus Dumbledore made his way through the Castle, walking around without any real aim or purpose.
It was one of his favorite activities to do after lunchtime, for it let him stretch his legs and think about enjoying his day for a change.
It was even better today, as Dumbledore had no meetings or anything to do with either the Ministry, school, or the world at large.
Today, he was simply free to do as he pleased— which, in his case, meant a day of relaxation.
That wasn’t to say he was being idle or neglectful of what was going on in the world, of course.
His friends and various colleagues were hard at work, trying to locate any pockets of wizards and witches who were possibly sympathizers of Grindelwald’s own order, but he wouldn’t know a thing about that until the end of the week when they reported back in.
Though. He thought and stopped his tune to frown at nothing in particular. With Grindelwald being in relative hiding for the past few weeks, there hasn’t been much, if any information regarding him.
Whatever it was, though, it couldn’t have been good. Something that required his rival’s full, undivided attention for a few weeks— it didn’t fill Dumbledore with confidence, he could say that much.
Albus shook his head before resuming his walk, redoubling his efforts to try and relax for at least a few hours.
He had to trust in his friends, for now. He couldn’t be expected to do everything himself, could he?
Was he not allowed a few moments’ worth of respite?
After all, he was only one man, and he couldn’t work himself to the bone forever like that. He needed a break because he knew that his body wouldn’t be able to handle that much strain, no matter how sprightly he still was at his age.
He smiled at that; it always amused him whenever people thought him to be a helpless old man, and then he would snap into action, surprising the lot of them.
Albus went through the staircases and decided that, since he didn’t have anything else to do for today, he’d go and check on something that’s been on his mind.
He got to the Seventh Floor and moved through the halls once more for a few minutes before reaching his destination— a blank wall facing a portrait of a man attempting to teach trolls how to do the ballet.
Ripping his eyes away from the ridiculous depiction, he moved towards the mysterious wall on the other side. He placed his hand against the cold stone and closed his eyes in focus, extending his senses beyond his body’s perimeter.
What he felt was both confusing and interesting.
Nothing at all.
“Still nothing…” He muttered to himself as he reached further out with his energy, trying to detect anything in the wall. “Absolutely nothing at all.”
It was as if the energy he’d felt here was completely gone. What could have caused this?
Something’s not quite right here. Dumbledore thought and took a step back, his blue eyes sweeping over the area as he tried to make sense of things. There is something else at play. But what?
This wasn’t the first time he’d come here after his revelation with Professor Snape, of course. He had returned many times, and none of his efforts in solving the mystery seemed to be bearing any fruit.
As far as he understood, and as far as his perceptions allowed him to understand, the wall before him was just that: a wall. There was nothing behind it.
And yet, I can still remember the feeling of a Hallow beyond it. Albus took the Elder wand in hand, wondering if he should try a more invasive attempt this time, but the same sense of impending doom came to him. Just like the last time.
He stowed the legendary wand away, and the feeling dissipated.
“So that sensation was not a coincidence, as I had thought earlier.” Albus said, nodding to himself and stroking his beard. “A defense mechanism which occurs in response to a threat— perceived or otherwise? Serving as a deterrent which intimidates the target at the instinctual level? Very intriguing…”
No answer came to him, but Albus felt himself smile at the prospect of making headway in this mystery.
Finally, here was something he could do that didn’t involve the defense of society from collapse, or battling against criminals constantly.
There was just himself and the enjoyment of solving the mystery before him. That was all.
He pressed his hand against the stone wall again and recalled an ancient memory of his. “What are you? Are you sentient?”
Albus focused a little harder and closed his eyes, living through that old memory once more. What was so special about this place? A strange bathroom, was it not? What did I do to make it appear, back then?
He focused on the image of the bathroom, but the wall stayed the same as it was before. Dumbledore stepped away from the wall again and crossed his arms as he continued to examine the memory, trying to understand exactly what he’d done in the past to trigger the wall’s activation.
Time passed as he went through them once again for good measure.
“Pacing three times in front of the Wall? That’s quite possibly it. The number three is quite the powerful magical number, after all.” Albus murmured as he started pacing back and forth in front of the wall three times, making his intent known.
I want to see the room I found before. I want to see the chamber of pots. I want to see it.
And on the third pass, the wall began to shift and morph into a nondescript door.
Success. Albus thought and marveled at the magic before him. He took a few steps forward again, turning to the door’s handle and stepping inside the room proper.
“It is exactly as I remember it, all those years ago.” Albus said in wonder as he stepped through to the room of toilets. “Remarkable.”
It was an expansive room, full of chamber pots ranging from tiny to massive. There was even one which was even too big for Hagrid! Albus continued to move through the room, marveling at the great feat of magic he had witnessed.
Truly, Hogwarts was a wonder to behold. Even with the many years he’d lived in this ancient edifice, it still never failed to surprise him.
“A room able to transfigure itself to the exact desires of the one who calls it forth— to the very last detail.” Albus thought for a moment. “The amount of concentration— not to mention the energy such a transfiguration would even require… Just what could possibly be your power source?”
The sense of impending doom came back with a vengeance, making Dumbledore wince at his misstep.
Another defense mechanism based on the attempt to find its power source? No, this felt like it was a lot more than that.
There may be a sentient being controlling all of this— but what is it?
He decided to do a little test.
“You…” He said. “You can hear me?”
The room did not answer, but the feeling of being unwelcome surged, making his skin prickle with the amount of magic he could feel in the air.
Albus did not waste time, promptly exiting the room and standing in the Hallway once more. He watched as, a moment later, the door disappeared back into the wall without a trace. The feeling then disappeared.
He stared at the spot for a moment longer before nodding and walking away, deciding to head towards his office to think on this further.
Whatever is controlling that room does not like having its mechanisms under any form of scrutiny. Albus thought as he walked through the halls once more, a small smile of anticipation spreading on his face as he went down the stairs towards the West Tower of the castle. And though I cannot confirm it, this being is at least responsive, if not outright sentient.
Still, having a strange room in his castle, one that seemed to exude the energy of a Hallow for a time, was quite perplexing to Dumbledore. What could have possibly happened to make it do that?
Just what had gone on inside the confines of those walls? Was Quirrell, and by extension Voldemort, perhaps involved with creating that energy?
Or had he simply mistaken that energy for that of a Hallow? Dumbledore produced his Elder Wand again, feeling the smallest hint of its energy and shaking his head.
I don’t believe I was mistaken. Albus thought. The energy’s signature was too familiar to the Elder Wand. It might not be exactly the same, but then the Cloak had felt different than the Wand, as well. It is likely to be the fabled Resurrection Stone— or am I in error, and this is perhaps something else entirely?
Once upon a time, such a thought would have consumed him entirely, filling his soul with a strange mixture of anticipation and sadness, but now, Albus found himself smiling.
The Resurrection Stone was not something one should obsess over.
He knew that he would speak with Ariana, soon enough— a morbid thought, some may say, but he was a man of a hundred and ten. He had long since accepted the reality of death and had cast off his past obsessions with mastering it.
And Death comes for us all, sooner or later. Albus thought as he reached his office, unaware of a certain ghost’s eyes on him. He couldn’t wait to tell Fawkes what he’d learned about the mystery room.
Around The Same Time, Twelve Grimmauld Place, London
“I hate this game.” I murmured as I rubbed two fingers into my right eyebrow to banish the small twinge of pain away.
Harry, sitting opposite of me on his bed, only laughed in response.
“You’re just bad at it, that’s all.” Harry said, sending me a self-satisfied smirk. “Haven’t won a single one yet, have you, Adam?”
Why you little… I thought in a mixture of annoyance and amusement before sighing. “No, I haven’t. Honestly I don’t even care about that…”
“…What bothers me is the fact that the bloody cards keep trying to set me on fire!”
“That’s Exploding Snap for you.” Harry said, rolling his eyes at me. “I’m surprised you’ve never played— even seems like you’ve never even heard of it. Nose shoved so far in your books that you didn’t notice everyone having fun?”
“I’ve seen people play it.” I said, feeling a little defensive. “But I never cared enough to learn it properly.”
It was from that same reasoning that I’d never learned the other, more mundane card games like poker or blackjack, among others. Living as a loner in my former life did not really require me to learn any of those games— Fuck, that sounds bleak when I put it that way.
Harry’s eyes widened a bit before they turned slightly apologetic. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine.” I said, waving it off. “Let’s play a few more rounds? Maybe I’ll get the hang of it, then.”
Harry snorted and the cards began to reshuffle for a new game.
I stepped out of Harry’s room an hour later, feeling mild twinges of pain on my right palm, left forearm and nose. I would’ve said I managed to get the hang of it, but I would be lying if I did.
I was halfway to my room when I stopped and turned to the stairs, deciding that I could use a bite to eat. Hopefully there was still some leftover chicken or something? I highly doubted it, but I imagined that it wouldn’t hurt to look, at least.
Worst case, I can whip something up. I thought as I went down the stairs, passing Sirius’ room.
Taking my first step down another flight, I stopped when I heard the sound of my name being called from the left.
“Adam!” Sirius said, standing in the doorway of his room. “Come here for a moment.”
A small frown came over me at the prospect of having to wait longer for food, but I schooled my expression quickly and made my way to the man. “What’s up?”
Sirius hesitated; it seemed that, despite my relaxed, easygoing behavior, he was still leery of me. I supposed I couldn’t blame him.
While Harry was mature for an eleven year old— soon-to-be twelve— he still acted his age. His emotional responses were a little more controlled than his peers, but not that much more. He still got riled up easily, and could get pretty heated about a large number of things.
I, on the other hand, well… I just hated showing more emotion than was necessary, preferring to conserve my energy for the things I wanted to do.
That wasn’t to say that I felt nothing at all, but that I was able to process my feelings without needing to outwardly display them to everyone— one of the core values of stoicism.
As a result, however, I imagined that I appeared as something of an unemotional shell to the man.
You’re like a machine. The words from an old memory repeated in my mind, but I couldn’t remember who had said them, back then. I just knew that they used to make me angry.
I shook the thoughts away as Sirius finally started talking.
“Come in.” Sirius started as he gestured for me to enter his room. I did so, my eyes hovering over the few strange nicknacks he kept on his desk, as well as the muggle themed posters everywhere.
“Nice posters.” I said. “Didn’t know you were into Muggle stuff.”
Sirius moved to stand beside me, looking upon those posters with a nostalgic expression. “Oh, yes. Drove my family crazy, back then. As you know, I was the black— well, white, as you put it. The white sheep of the family, showing love to the Muggles when my family wanted to subjugate the lot of them.”
“And they couldn’t remove the posters?”
Sirius shook his head, grinning. “Nope. Only I could; that’s the beauty of the Permanent Sticking Charm, you know.”
“A Sticking Charm? I learned one of those a while ago.” I snorted. “Epoximise. Stuck a Muggle pen on top of Tony’s forehead.”
The man laughed at that.
“Tony?” Sirius said in curiosity before shaking his head. “Oh, yes. Your friend— mentioned him at some point.”
“Yes, Tony’s one of my mates in Ravenclaw.” I said, nodding. “You’ve already met Su, of course.”
“Seemed like a nice girl.” Sirius said, and winked. “Her mother doubly so.”
I sent the man a flat look. “Yes. Yes she was.”
But Sirius only laughed again and gave me a pat on the shoulder before gesturing at the posters. “This spell is different from the ones at Hogwarts. This one, I learned here— figured it would be poetic to use my own family’s spells to hang posters of things they hate in the house.”
“I’ll have to read up on it, then.” I said, getting a laugh out of the man.
“Ravenclaws…” Sirius said with a roll of the eyes before shaking his head and turning to me. “Anyway, the posters aren’t why I called you here.”
“Oh?” I said, sending him an inquisitive look.
“Like I told you in the letter I sent you near the end of term.” Sirius said. “It’s going to take a while to clean the place up. Lots of things were left here that really shouldn’t be in a place like this.”
“Dark artifacts?” I said curiously.
“Plenty of those.” Sirius said with a nod before continuing. “But also plenty of unnecessary things like…”
He stopped, trying to figure out what to tell me.
“Harry told me that there were the decapitated heads of House Elves on display when he first got here.” I supplied.
Sirius grimaced but nodded anyway. “Yes, things like that. Threw those out as quickly as I could.”
“I’m sure your mother’s portrait wasn’t happy about that.”
Sirius barked a laugh. “Oh she was furious! And so was that damned bugger, Kreacher.”
I frowned at that, which cut the man’s laugh short. “What is it?”
“I—” I said but shook my head. “It’s nothing. Forget it.”
“What?” Sirius said, a little more forcefully this time. He placed a hand on my shoulder, giving me a nod. “It’s all right, kid. You can tell me.”
“Well, if you say so.” I said, shrugging off his hand after a few moments. “Well… I think maybe you should be a little nicer to Kreacher.”
Sirius damn-near gaped at me. “You— what?”
I didn’t repeat myself, content to simply continue staring at the man. He had heard me just fine, the first time.
“You…” Sirius took a step back from me. “You don’t know what you’re asking for, here.”
“I do.” I said, shaking my head. “But it’s fine; I probably shouldn’t have said anything. What is it you wanted to talk about, again?”
“You— I—” Sirius said as he tried to get ahold of himself. It would’ve been funny if the situation wasn’t so heavy. “We’ll talk about it later, all right?”
I nodded, and so he continued. “Well, anyway, since there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, I figure Harry, you and I could go on a little vacation while they do it.”
“He’ll be staying here to make sure they don’t try to steal anything.” Sirius said. “Was a nightmare getting him to accept pay for the job.”
“No one likes feeling like a charity case.” I said noncommittally, giving the man a knowing look before shrugging. “I guess we could use one, after everything that’s happened.”
“You can say that again.”
“I guess we could all use—”
“Very funny.” Sirius said sarcastically, though the smile threatening to break on his face told another story. “What do you think? Harry’s already accepted.”
“Yeah.” I said in agreement. “I’ll go with you.”
Sirius relaxed at that, sending me a smile. “Perfect.”
How strange. I thought as he repeated himself. Was he expecting me to say no?
“Were you thinking I’d just want to hole up in the Library, instead?”
“Yes.” Sirius said with a smirk. “I’m surprised you haven’t moved your bed there, already.”
“Don’t tempt me.” I said with a frown, getting another laugh out of the man.
“Still.” He said, giving me a pat on the shoulder as he led me back to the exit. “That’s good. We’ll figure out the details later, of course.”
I nodded and began to step away. “Want any food?”
Sirius only shook his head in response.
“All right.” I said and began to head down.
“Adam.” I stopped at the head of the stairs, sending him a curious look. “What you said— about Kreacher. I’ll think about it.”
I smiled and gave him a nod before moving down the stairs, finally getting to the kitchen.
Please let there be chicken! I thought and grinned as my hopes were confirmed. Food!
Twenty minutes later, I leaned back in my chair, completely satisfied with my meal. I really am an awesome cook.
I hiccuped and winced. “Though maybe I shouldn’t have eaten it so fast…”
I froze, hearing the sound of something metallic clattering on the floor. What was that?
Wiping a bit of grease off of the side of my mouth, I got up and went to check to see if anything had fallen off a table or countertop. Maybe whatever was dropped had been placed precariously on the edge?
No sign of anything. I shook my head. Maybe I was imagining it all…
And then I heard the familiar murmurs of Kreacher from his den.
So he’s the one making all this racket, then? I thought as I approached his space, peering into it and seeing a bunch of poorly hidden valuables lying around. Not doing a very good job trying to safeguard his family’s treasures, is he?
Kreacher froze as he finally detected my presence and swiveled to look at me with wide, angry eyes.
“The Mudblood Master.” Kreacher said scornfully, not even bothering to hide his disdain and hatred of me. It hadn’t taken long for either Kreacher or Walburga to figure out that I was Muggleborn, and their attitudes towards me quickly reflected my status to them.
“The Perpetually Angry House Elf.” I said back, smiling a little. “Hello, Kreacher. How are you?”
It was something I did whenever I saw or spoke to the House Elf in question. I was hoping the gesture would grow on him eventually.
So far? Absolutely nothing.
“Kreacher is fine.” He said, trying to take my attention away from the clearly valuable items sequestered in the corner.
“Kreacher is fine.” He said it again, agitation in his voice.
“I can see that.” I said with a shake of my head. “And I can also see you’ve been busy gathering a few… things. Why?”
Kreacher looked like he wanted to rip his ears off, but the House Elf collected himself quickly.
“Ungrateful Master wants to throw them out!” Kreacher said before getting a hold of himself. “Precious things of our House, thrown or pawned away like trash! Mudblood Master would not understand.”
I winced, feeling a strong note of sympathy for the aged House Elf.
“You’d be surprised.”
“Mudblood Master says he understands the value of family.” Kreacher said, not looking at me. “Mudblood Master has never had a family, however.”
Very sneaky of him; he avoids insulting me directly by implying that I’m a liar, and so the magic binding him to the House of Black isn’t hurting him in retaliation.
“I do not.” I said. “Or I did not, I guess.”
I knew that he didn’t know a thing about me, but something about the way he was talking annoyed me.
Maybe it was because of the fact that he quickly realized that I was never going to punish him for speaking his mind, even if it was to insult me with every other breath.
At any rate, I shook the feeling off and continued. “I do know what it’s like to lose what little you have remaining of your family. I’ve lost it all.”
The smile stretching over my nephew’s face, the laughter of my friends and family; these were all gone, locked away in another world which was separated from this one through methods unknown— ones which I could scarcely fathom, let alone even think of beginning to study.
Kreacher didn’t say anything to that; though, from the few peeks he was sending me, I knew that I had his attention.
“These belonged to your old master, didn’t they?” I said. “Regulus Black.”
Kreacher seemed to shudder at the mention of the man, and he looked like he was going to deny it. However, the magic binding him to the House of Black was absolute, and so he ground out an angry, “Yes.”
I nodded. “You think Sirius will throw them out?”
“Ungrateful Master will.” Kreacher said. “Kreacher knows. He knows.”
I sighed and sat down at the edge of the entrance to his den. “I would say you’re wrong, but you’re probably right.”
Sirius did say he’d think about treating Kreacher better, but who knows if that ever is going to actually happen? I thought. The guy can get pretty heated and emotional when it comes to his birth family.
“Mudblood Master does not deny this.”
“I’m not a liar, Kreacher.” I said, resting my head on the wall and sending the diminutive being a side look. “You loved your old master, didn’t you?”
Kreacher didn’t say anything, and so I soldiered on. “I don’t really know much about him. From what little I heard, they say he got cold feet and ran away before being hunted down by the Death Eaters.”
As expected, the House Elf bristled at that, taking an aggressive step forward at me, even as his own magic compelled him to strike at his own face. “Master did not run away! Mudblood Master knows nothing!”
I’d expected a reaction, but my eyes went wide at the sheer vehemence of it all. With a wince, I raised my hands in surrender, trying to calm the little guy down.
Eventually, he took a step back and stopped hitting himself.
“I’m sorry for implying anything bad about him.” I said.
Kreacher glared at me, but accepted the apology.
“If that’s not the case…” I said slowly. “Then what could have happened?”
“Why does Mudblood Master want to know?” Kreacher said.
His baleful eyes were still trained on me, though I could tell that there was far less bite in them than there was before.
I looked down for a moment before answering the question. “I’m curious— who wouldn’t be? But, I guess that it just seems really unfair to Regulus for people to smear his name, if that’s not how his life ended. I don’t think he’d want to be known as a coward for the rest of eternity. So, please tell me?”
Kreacher’s gaze seemed to soften for just a split second before the glare came back. And then, the magic forced him to speak.