July 20, 1992, 10:00 AM, Adam’s Room, Grimmauld Place, London
This, this and this… Wait, no. I thought, lobbing my pair of socks onto the bed. Not those. I want to wear my favorite socks for this trip…
I sorted through my clothes, picking out what I thought looked to be a decent outfit to walk around in that day. A blank white shirt, a pair of too-small shorts from the orphanage that I’d modified to fit me properly again and some hand-me-down trainers that I’d also fixed up from there as well.
Rumor had it that these old trainers were worn by a rather angry orphan from the 70’s who kicked a copper in the shin before kicking another in the face. I didn’t know whether it was true or not, but the shoes seemed nice and sturdy despite their apparent wear and tear.
A few repair spells, and they were good as new. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to kick someone in the face or something. Continue the legend— keep it alive for as long as possible.
I snorted and shook my head at the ridiculous thought. As if something like that would ever happen. It was just a stupid pair of shoes with a story attached to it— one likely made up by bored, lonely orphans in need of something to cling to so that they could keep the pain away just a few seconds longer.
“Adam!” I heard Harry’s voice call for me from his room, bringing me out of my reverie. “Get over here for a second!”
“Coming, coming.” I called back out as I stuffed a few more shirts into my pack. “Hold your horses, kid.”
“We’re the same age, Adam!”
“Riiight. Whatever you say.” I drawled and finally exited my room, walking the short distance to his chamber and giving the boy a greeting. “Hello. I am Adam.”
Harry rolled his eyes at me. “I know.”
He blinked and gestured towards his trunk, as well as the bundle of clothes on the bed. “Should I put everything in there?”
I shook my head. “Nah. You’ve got all your books in there, don’t you? You’d have to take them out and then lug that blocky thing around. Seems a little ridiculous.”
“Yeah, true.” Harry said. “I mean, I could ask Sirius to cast a spell on it to make it small, but maybe I should check to see if there are any spare packs or suitcases that aren’t so bulky…”
“I’ve got a better idea.” I said. “Kreacher.”
There was a crack, and then. “Master calls?”
I ignored the way Harry’s eyes widened at the elf’s lack of insult to me and spoke. “Are there any extra suitcases, or backpacks? Harry needs something to store his clothes in that isn’t his trunk.”
Kreacher tilted his head as he looked at Harry and then at the pile of clothes on the bed before turning back to me. “Kreacher will look, Master.”
“Go ahead. No hurry, though. Thanks a lot, Kreacher!” I said, and the elf gave me a surprised look and a nod that seemed more enthusiastic than usual.
The next moment, he was gone.
“That was…” Harry said, sounding a little confused. “Was Kreacher just being nice?”
I gave the boy a small smile. “Is that so surprising?”
“He’s never said anything nice to me!” Harry said, voice rising a little. “What did you do? Order him to be nice?”
I shook my head. “Heh, however funny it might be to watch him struggle not to be a jerk, no. Too mean.”
“Then what?” Harry said.
I promised I’d destroy the Slytherin locket. “I was just nice to him and helped him out; that’s all.”
Harry only gave me an incredulous look. “That’s all.”
“Well, yes.” I said, and I technically wasn’t even lying then— I was being nice to him and was helping him out, after all. “Kreacher might not be human, but he’s still a person, you know?”
Harry nodded, though it didn’t seem like he understood. “I mean, I’ve tried being nice to him too…”
“Ah, but, remember; Sirius wants to empty the house of everything bad.” I raised a finger as I explained a little further.
“So…” I said, stepping forward and poking the boy in the forehead. He flailed and took a step back.
“Hey! What was that for?”
“Use your head, Harry.” I said in mild reproach. “Kreacher has lived in this house for longer than Sirius; this is his home.”
Harry blinked, opened his mouth and shut it back again.
“You’re starting to get it, if only a little.” I said, deciding that this wasn’t enough. “Look at it from the poor guy’s perspective. The family’s disgrace just randomly showed back up into your house and just started throwing everything out with no rhyme or reason— just imagine it; things that his parents, grandparents, maybe even great-grandparents, were using. How would you feel if someone started trashing all that was precious to you?”
Harry looked down as he just took that rant. “Sorry.”
I shook my head and gave the boy a shoulder squeeze, feeling bad. “No, no. I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to come on so strong. You don’t have anything to do with it and I guess I got carried away there.”
Harry scoffed and gave a small smile. “A little bit.”
There was a small crack next to the bed, and we both swiveled to see a medium-sized pack, already packed full of Harry’s clothes. Kreacher was nowhere to be seen— already gone.
“See?” I said, patting him on the shoulder. “Problem solved. New pack, less work.”
“I guess so.” Harry said, cheering up as he checked through the pack to make sure that everything was there. “I think I’m all set, actually. Thanks Kreacher, if you’re still here.”
A moment later, he turned back to me with a grin. “This trip will be so fun.”
“Yeah.” I said, agreeing. “I wonder how French wizards compare to us British, really.”
“I don’t know. Don’t all wizards study the same stuff? Or maybe not…” Harry said, getting even more excited. “Oh! Sirius also said that there’s some kind of summer festival going on right now, too.”
“Oh? A festival?” I said, intrigued. “Tell me more.”
“…That’s actually all I know, really.” Harry said with a shrug.
“Oh.” I said, but smiled. “Still, that sounds like it’s going to be pretty fun. I’ll finish packing, too, and then we’ll both go downstairs.”
“All right.” Harry said, and that was the end of the conversation.
I went back to my room, only to find Kreacher already there, waiting.
“Master.” Kreacher said by way of greeting.
I blinked, not sure why he was here. “Hello, Kreacher. Is there something wrong?”
Kreacher looked at the open door before looking at me in hesitation. I understood his intent well enough; I went and closed the door before standing in front of him.
“You can tell me.” I said. “What’s the matter?”
Kreacher hesitated for a moment before nodding. “Yes, Master. Kreacher wishes… The items that will be removed…”
I frowned at what he was saying, eyes widening in understanding as I pieced the puzzle together. “You want to keep some of the family’s things safe?”
Kreacher nodded so quickly that I was afraid he would snap his old neck. “Yes, Master!”
“Easy there, little guy.” I raised my hands to calm the ancient elf down. “I’m guessing you want to hide them here, where the workers won’t find them.”
Kreacher nodded again.
“All right.” I said. “I will acquiesce to your request, Kreacher—”
“Thank you, Master!” Kreacher ran to hug my leg. “Th—”
“Woah, don’t be so quick to celebrate, now.” I said, holding him at bay. “You didn’t let me finish.”
“Master?” Kreacher said in confusion mixed in with a smidge of hesitation.
“You can hide them here, but…” I said. “They can only be valuable items that are not charmed to harm anyone. Understand?”
Kreacher frowned as he considered my condition.
“You wouldn’t want me to be cursed by something seemingly innocuous, would you?” I asked. “How will I help you with your task if I’m incapacitated?”
“No Master, I wouldn’t want you to be harmed.” Kreacher said, starting to look resigned and downtrodden; I felt for him, I really did. “Of course, Master is right. If he is maimed or dismembered— or decapitated— Master will not be able to do as he said.”
Dismembered… Decapitated!? I thought with a note of incredulous amusement and no small amount of alarm. What the fuck have the Blacks been doing over the years? Still…
The more I thought about it, the more I saw this as an opportunity.
“Look, I’ll tell you what.” I said. “If you can manage to separate the cursed items from the non cursed items and label the piles, you can store them here. I will look into a way of breaking said curses.”
“Master would do this for Kreacher?” Kreacher said, eyes widening and lip quivering.
“Of course.” I said, nodding as the idea began to grow on me. “I suppose it would be a good way to begin practicing so that I may, one day, remove the curse on Regulus’ locket. Yes, that is a splendid idea.”
“Master…” Kreacher said, eyes shining. “Thank you, Master!”
I nodded. “You are welcome.”
A moment later, I gestured at the pile of clothes on my bed. “Mind helping me pack?”
Twenty minutes passed before I emerged from my room, with my pack in tow. Harry was already there, waiting as he stared out of the window.
“Been there long?”
“No.” He said, turning to me with a smile. “Ready?”
“I think so.” I said. “Got everything; underwear, clothes, toothbrush, extra toothbrush just in case— oh right, toothpaste. I’ll go back for—”
“No, it’s fine. I have some.” Harry interrupted me, tapping his pack. “Plenty.”
“Okay, that works.” I said, nodding. “Let’s go, then.”
We made our way down the stairs towards the Drawing Room. Sirius and Remus were already there, as well as four other wizards and a witch.
Who are all these people? I thought in a bit of confusion. Could they be all who were hired to make the place a little more livable? Can’t be— it doesn’t need more than one or two dedicated wizards…
Another hint was that two of them were also carrying luggage.
Crashing the trip, huh…
“Ah, you’ve made it.” Sirius said, pulling me out of my thoughts as he greeted the two of us. “So, this came as a bit of a surprise: we won’t be going to France alone.”
Harry and I nodded before I spoke in the driest tone I could muster. “I can see that much…”
Sirius smirked in response. “Yes, you do indeed have eyes, Adam. Now—”
“Who’re you?” Harry blurted out in curiosity before Sirius could introduce them.
“I was getting to that.” Sirius said, his smirk morphing into a grin as Harry and I approached to stand by the man. “Harry, Adam, I’d like you two to meet the Tonks’es. You could say they’re an extended part of the family.”
I tensed a little at the information; sure, they’d looked a little familiar, but this was certainly not what I’d expected to see this morning.
“How do you do?” “Hello.” Harry and I said respectively.
The father gave us a nod and stepped forward with his hand open. “Nice to meet you two. I’m Ted.”
Harry shook hands with the man as his wife stepped towards me, and it was all I could do not to stare. The woman bore all the patrician features you’d expect from high nobility, though I could tell that she did not use this to her advantage— her dark eyes looked far too kind and warm for that.
“Andromeda Tonks.” She said, aware of my gaze as she gave me a smile. “A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Clarke. Or, is it Black now?”
I shook her hand and tried to smile. “Adam is fine, ma’am.”
“How very polite.” She turned her eyes towards Harry, who was also staring at her. “And you, Mr. Potter?”
“Harry is fine.” He said quickly, shaking her hand as well.
“Are we ready yet?” Another voice— a woman, I realized— came from the hall followed by the sound of a thud. “Bloody He—”
Harry and I winced.
“Cover your ears.” Sirius said just as the hall erupted with the screams of Walburga Black’s portrait..
“Filthy scum! Half-bloods and blood-traitors in my house! Leave, at once!” The portrait shouted so hard that I winced even from this distance. A few moments more of this howling, and another voice shouted over her.
“Who the Bloody Hell are y— you know what? I’m not in the mood for this nonsense. Shut up, you old prune!” The annoyed voice called out before the portrait’s screams were muffled.
“I can see that my dear aunt has only gotten worse after her death…” Andromeda said in a very dry voice which made Sirius laugh.
An awkward chuckle was shared among the group as the source of all the noise emerged from the hallway. I would have recognized this one even if her hair wasn’t bubblegum pink.
“Sorry ‘bout that.” She said as she took a few steps toward us. “I sort of tripped on the umbrella stand.”
“Yes, and treated us to a wonderful show.” Andromeda said, smiling as she made her way behind us, placing hands on mine and Harry’s shoulders. “Boys, I’d like you to meet my daughter, Nymphadora. Nymphadora, these are Adam and Harry.”
The woman’s pink hair changed to red for a few moments as she sent the woman a glare, before going back to pink. She walked towards us with a smile and a dangerous look.
“Wotcher Harry, Adam.” She said, shaking our hands extra hard. “You can call me Tonks. Just Tonks.”
I nodded, doing my best to hide the wince. Is she trying to crush my hand? Yeesh.
“All right.” Harry said, a little intimidated.
“Oh, don’t listen to her.” Sirius said, getting a glare from the girl. “She’s a big softie.”
“Keep this up and you won’t be my favorite cousin anymore.” Tonks said.
“Perish the thought.” Sirius countered with a grin that disarmed the girl. “Now…”
Sirius turned towards Remus and the other wizards here, addressing Remus first. “You sure you don’t want to come, Remus?”
“Quite sure.” He said, nodding. “This is your time with the boys, right now. And besides, someone’s got to keep an eye on the place here while you’re gone, no?”
The two wizards pulled each other in overly manly man-hugs before giving each other nods. “Then I’ll see you when we return, Lupin.”
“Go on, then, Black.” Remus said with a snort. “Go and have fun.”
A moment later, he turned to the other wizards who’d just been awkwardly pretending not to listen in to the conversation and staring at Harry’s scar. “Are we ready?”
“Of course, Mr. Lupin.” The lead wizard said, and they all filed out of the drawing room, leaving Sirius, Harry, Ted, Andromeda, Tonks and I to continue our conversation.
“Everyone ready?” Sirius said in the ensuing silence. “Last chance to grab anything you may have forgotten.”
I blinked, considered the man’s question for a moment before shaking my head. “I’m good. Yeah. I’m ready when you all are.”
A chorus of agreement followed in my wake, and Sirius smiled before reaching into the folds of his robe and producing…
“Really? A hangman’s noose, Sirius?” Andromeda said in amused exasperation. “Your sense of humor is still the same.”
“I know; isn’t it great?” Sirius smiled and held the noose out for everyone to grab, turning his attention to us. “Boys, this is a Portkey. It will transport us to our landing point in France, where we will be received by the hotel staff.”
I nodded, while Harry spoke. “It won’t hurt, will it?”
Sirius smiled and gave Harry a pat on the shoulder. “It’s quite disorienting, but you’ll get the hang of it eventually, kids. You won’t even be feeling it before too long.”
“That’s a lie and you know it.” Tonks said in reply to that. “I never did.”
“That’s because you are just very clumsy.” Sirius said with a straight face, grinning when her hair turned red with annoyance again.
I saw Harry looking like he was holding questions back, so I tapped him on the shoulder and murmured. “She’s a metamorphmagus; she can do wandless transfiguration on herself.”
The boy nodded and relaxed.
“Good eyes, Clarke.” Tonks said, pinning me with her look before she seemed to hesitate, looking a little awkward. “Or, erm… Should I say eye?”
I blinked, realizing that she was stumped by my white eye, and gave her a nod. “I can see from both eyes just fine.”
“Oh.” She said, a little less uncomfortable now. “Well, all right.”
“So, how does this work then?” Harry asked, pointing at the noose.
“Well, Harry. I’m so glad you asked…” Sirius said, grinning in a way that told me he was about to mess with the poor kid. “A hangman’s noose has historically been used for many executions. Reserved for those of a criminal bent, you see. What happens is that they are escorted the village square by the local constabulary, and then—”
Harry looked up to the ceiling, hoping this torture would end, prompting Sirius to let out a loud laugh.
“Shouldn’t torture the poor boy like that.” Ted said, full of cheer.
“All right, all right.” Sirius said, still smiling even as he gave the real explanation. “You grab it, and hold onto it until I tell you to let go, all right?”
Harry stared at the older man and then at the noose before nodding. “All right. Seems simple enough.”
“Good. Now take hold of it now, everyone.” Sirius said. “It won’t take us until I’ve said the pass phrase.”
Everyone crowded around the long piece of rope, taking hold of it.
Nods met the man’s question.
“Alright.” Sirius said, paused for a moment and then spoke again, keeping his voice clear. “On five! One, two— Beach!”
This fucking g—Woah!
Instantly, I felt a jerk behind my navel, like something had hooked into it and was pulling me along. Before I had even realized it, my feet had already left the ground, and I found myself in a world of swirling colors and unearthly wind spinning around so fast that I felt like I was going to fall unconscious from the sudden motion.
“Steady!” Sirius’ voice pierced through the howling winds of the magic. “Steady… And… Let go!”
I finally unclenched my hand, feeling myself crash hard into the dirt, the breath completely leaving my body for a few moments. I blinked several times as I tried to reorient myself, but my vision continued to spin, making me even dizzier.
“Aren’t you glad that you didn’t eat this morning, boys?” Sirius’ amused voice came from above us, but it was so strangely loud and grating that it made me cringe. “Come on, Harry. Ted, you got Adam?”
“Sure.” I heard and felt someone’s arms take hold of me and place me in an upright position. “Easy now… Just breathe and focus, lad; that’s it.”
It took ten more seconds, but I finally stopped seeing triple. “I think… I think I’m okay.”
“Portkey travel doesn’t agree with you at all, Adam.” Sirius said as I was helped up to my feet.
“You know you could’ve just gone on five, right?” I said in irritation, which made him laugh.
“Nah, it’s better if you do that earlier.” Sirius said. “Yes, you heard me right. You could have been much worse.”
“I… I think I’ll stick to Floo or Apparition when I get old enough, thanks.” I said, mustering every bit of my focus to not stumble as I took a few tentative steps on the soft earth.
“Is it always like this?” Beside me, Harry spoke, looking just as bad as I felt. “I’d rather just use a broom next time.”
“It gets better with time.” Sirius promised, pointing to Tonks, who looked largely unruffled. “See? She did it, and she was the one complaining about how impossible it is.”
“You’ll never let me live that down, will you?” Tonks glared at the man, who only laughed in return, making us wince.
I took a few more deep breaths, finally getting full control of myself back. “This is…”
“Yep.” Sirius said as he moved ahead of us, gesturing at the large vista ahead.
I feasted my eyes on the pristine, long and sandy coastline dotted with the occasional seats. To my right, I saw a small, stone path leading up to a large mansion; that was where we’d be staying, I reckoned. At the beginning of the path, a pair of workers in crisp, clean red robes were already there waiting for us, wide smiles on their faces as they greeted the Tonks’es.
“Welcome to the quaint area known as Village du Phantasime!” Sirius smiled. “What do you think?”
Harry and I shared a look before smiling.
This was going to be a vacation to remember.