July 28, 1992, 10:00 AM, Village Du Phantasime, France
I walked the streets of the village, staring at all of my surroundings in a strange sort of morbid wonder. The French Ministry’s cleanup crews had already dealt with the reconstruction efforts, reverting the village’s appearance back to its cozy, warm and inviting appearance.
Passing by the people, however, I could tell that such an action barely did anything to quell their almost frenzied hurry through the streets.
The buildings had been restored, but the feeling of safety eluded all of their occupants. Parents kept their children close, eyes flitting about furtively, ready to run away at the smallest sign of danger.
The same young teenagers I’d seen loudly chatting and sharing jokes during the festival were now nearly huddled in one of the corners, staring with great wariness at everything around them. They whispered amongst themselves, unaware that their words easily reached me despite the attempt at stealth.
“They say that it was Grindelwald behind all of this.”
I slowed down my walk, listening in on their conversation.
“Of course it’s him. Who else could it possibly be?” “I heard something different.” “What?” “I heard that Grindelwald is hunting down the group that did it. Said it was a different faction.” “From who? Where’d you hear that?” “Friend of a friend’s mom.” “And what the hell does she know?” “It was definitely him. Don’t kid yourself with this nonsense.” “I don’t know; that’s just what I heard. Don’t get all—”
The group stopped before staring at me in great suspicion as they realized they had an eavesdropper.
Feeling a bit sheepish, I hurried my pace a little, quickly turning a corner and going out of earshot and sight of the rattled teens.
“Grindelwald…” I muttered, feeling a surge of anger course through me. To think I ever considered being part of his group.
Whether he was truly behind this attack or whether this was an elaborate psyop, I wasn’t sure. It didn’t matter either way, though.
All of this was a direct result of his actions; the death, the destruction, the loss…
Though I walked through the now immaculate streets, my mind continued to superimpose the image of the destruction they wrought on top of it. Where my eyes perceived pristine, clean and lurid colors of greens, blues and whites, my mind showed a depressing, muddled mix of deep oranges, yellows and reds.
Water fountains were replaced with raging flames and thick, acrid smoke erupting from the damaged and ruined buildings. I saw the scorch marks and rubble all over again.
The tense silence was replaced with the sound of screaming men, women and children as they attempted to flee for their very lives from implacable, bloodthirsty foes.
I stopped for a moment, my skin crawling as I could almost feel the heat washing against it. I closed my eyes, almost tasting the overwhelming, near-choking scent of smoke in the air.
Along with these sensations came the feelings of fear, anger and despair, coiling around me like a constrictor and making me wince as it squeezed.
I allowed it all to slowly wind around my spirit before opening my eyes again, my willpower completely banishing away the memories. The crisis was over; there was no reason to be thinking about this.
Taking a step forward, I paused, feeling that something was off. I frowned as I stared down at my hand.
It was shaking. Why? It’s not real anymore. The danger has passed. Why am I still expecting an attack?
Taking a deep breath, I realized that my breathing had been quick and ragged. I understood instantly; it was a mild panic attack.
Huh… A panic attack? I thought, taking quite a few more breaths as I moved out of the village proper, heading to the beach to calm my nerves. Haven’t had one of those in a while. Not even the events in June bothered me this much.
Then again, those had been an overall positive, had they not?
True, we had faced our fair share of hardship, but we’d also accomplished so much. Harry and the others had managed to save McGonagall’s life and then brought reinforcements to stop Quirrell and Voldemort from acquiring the Stone.
I myself had gone ahead, battling a troll as well as Quirrell, before going into the Abyss and cleansing my soul of its lingering corruption borne from the regrets of my past life. I’d even met my former self and even reconnected with my own mother…
True, there had been plenty of negatives in the scenario; my disfigurement, Harry’s torture as well as the injuries of all of my friends and everyone involved. However, it hadn’t felt like a complete disaster.
Why is that? I thought as I sat down on the bench overlooking the calm beach. Is it because I’d been expecting Quirrell’s move for a long time?
That was what made the most sense to me. Quirrell’s attack may have been a surprise to almost everyone at Hogwarts, but I’d known from the beginning that he would make some kind of play for the Stone at the end of the year.
The missive I’d received in Hogsmeade had only reinforced my beliefs.
Having mentally prepared for the confrontation the entire time, it was essentially a relief to get through it, especially with a net positive result.
The attack carried out on this village, however, had come out of nowhere.
True, I’d lived for some time among the members of Grindelwald’s order, and the officers always seemed to be on one mission or another when they were not training, but I had never considered that they could be conducting attacks on villages.
Obviously, they had been gathering resources and engaging in subterfuge, but the slight sense of familiarity I’d developed with them over the course of a few weeks must have blinded me to what they could have been doing truly.
More than that; I’d spoken with Gellert Grindelwald on several occasions, and he hadn’t struck me as the sort of person who’d perpetrate this kind of pointless attack— or had his intent been to fool me and my perceptions?
It couldn’t be; much as the man preferred to speak in riddles and half truths, his soul thread never lied to me.
Or were his lessons on the soul threads false as well? I thought but shook my head. If they had been, then I wouldn’t have improved my ability to read into people’s moods, motivations and thoughts. No, Grindelwald didn’t lead me astray then.
Still, it didn’t help that he was still the likely reason this attack happened in the first place. If he’d never caused that mass breakout, none of these supposed rogue groups would have even entertained the idea of an attack on a wizarding village— let alone actually go through with it.
It was his fault… Or maybe it was my own?
I swallowed when faced with that particular line of thinking, licking suddenly dry lips. “My fault?”
I shook my head. That was ridiculous; how could it have possibly been my fault?
‘You believe that they do not dictate our fate, but that we, as people, do; and that the threads shift in kind to accommodate our free wilI’. I recalled the words that Grindelwald had said on my last day living among his group. His actions were taken as a result of my entry into this world.
He Saw me with his strange Divination. What could… Was it really my fault, after all?
Part of me wanted to dismiss the thought as preposterous. I hadn’t asked to be reborn in this world, and as a wizard, no less.
How could I be held responsible for something I never did or asked for?
Though it had been a nice little fantasy of mine in my previous life, I knew that the reality of living in a world of wizards, witches, dragons, trolls and all manner of creatures wasn’t exactly one filled with sunshine and rainbows.
Furthermore, having actually lived in it for a little over a year only hammered the point further in; it was a world as dangerous as it was wondrous to behold.
But is it really my fault? My mind refused to be distracted, focusing on the source of my current anxiety. Has my mere existence caused this? Grindelwald said that he’d been waiting for the opportune time to enact his plans, but in the original canon he’d essentially stayed in Nurmengard— right up until Voldemort killed him for information on the Elder Wand.
There was no real going around it, then. I was the cause of all of this. Delacour’s friend, as well as many others, were dead as a direct result of my existence.
Sure, I could hide this fact behind convenient reasoning, deflections and elaborate arguments which shifted the blame elsewhere, but I wasn’t that kind of person.
I couldn’t ignore the truth right in front of me— or at least I did my best not to.
I had to accept it. However ridiculous it sounded, all of the recent destruction and death was either a result of my existence or of my direct interference in this world.
But how do I make myself accept something like that? I can’t even deal with—
“Adam!” Tonks’ voice broke me out of my heavy thoughts, and I turned my head in surprise to see the young woman rushing over to me, looking worried. “Thank Merlin I found you!”
I was up in an instant, instinctively drawing my wand and looking around with deadly purpose. “What is it, another attack?”
Tonks opened her mouth to stare at me before closing it and sighing, coming closer to me. “No, no… No attack, Adam… I was just looking for you, that’s all.”
“Oh.” I said, blinking as I lowered my wand and took a breath. “Sorry.”
Suddenly, I felt far more tired than I anticipated. I sank into the bench again, barely able to support my own weight. Just what is wrong with me?
“Adam…” Tonks said as she sat down beside me, drawing my gaze to the woman. “Are you all right?”
I stared at her for a moment. Exhaustion etched across the young woman’s face. Dark bags hung heavily beneath her tired eyes, a clear indication of the long hours spent awake at night.
Her once-vibrant pink hair was now black and in disarray, with loose strands falling haphazardly around her face. Her shoulders slouched forward, weighed down by the heavy burden of exhaustion that seemed to consume her entire being.
“Maybe you should be asking that question to yourself.” I said.
Tonks sent me a glower as she pointed at me. “No, no, no. I know your tricks, Clarke. You’re not getting away that easily.”
I suppressed the urge to sigh in annoyance. “If only that were possible.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Maybe I just want to have some time to think?” I almost blew up in her face and had to rein myself in. “Is that really so much to ask for? You and the others have been watching me all day and night ever since the attack. Did it ever occur to you that I might just want some space?”
Well, Harry at least had certainly understood my need to be alone— he had a similar one, himself. The others, however…
“Everyone’s just worried about you.” Tonks said stubbornly, though her expression softened at my tired gaze. “That’s all. You can’t really expect us to sit around and not help, do you?”
I stared at her for a moment before sighing. I couldn’t blame her for worrying. Here she was, grappling with her own demons but she was making the time to try and help me with mine as well.
“Sometimes— and I mean this with all due respect…” I said a little more quietly. “Sometimes, you need to realize that you can best help by staying away and giving me some quiet time to— to cope with everything that’s happened.”
Tonks looked pained by my words, but nodded nonetheless. “If you’re sure, Adam…”
“I am.” I insisted. “Not everything can be solved with a big old family hug, and this particular problem is one I have to solve on my own. I have to— does that make sense?”
But Tonks shook her head. “No, it doesn’t. I was always taught that talking about your problems helps you get past them and put them behind you.”
I suppressed another urge to sigh.
It’s not even that she was wrong— she wasn’t.
I definitely needed to talk about this to someone, but it wasn’t the sort of information I could share without having her either declare me insane or freak out.
How could I possibly explain that I was a reincarnated soul from another universe trying to cope with the fact that my mere transmigration had already caused the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of people over the course of the past few months?
‘Oh, sorry; I’m the reason this attack happened.’ What a fucking joke. I thought in equal parts derision and self-reproach. Talk to other people! Yeah, great idea, Tonks.
No, the only person I could tell this to was Helena, and she was thousands of miles away in the Highlands, probably bored out of her mind babysitting Alef Ard.
“Maybe not everyone thinks like you.” I said, hoping she would drop the issue.
“World would be all the better for it if everyone did, wouldn’t it?” Tonks said, and I felt myself smiling at the thought of everyone thinking like Tonks.
“I shudder to think of it. The horror.”
Tonks laughed at that, patting me on the back before grasping my shoulder. I looked at her askance, not sure what to think.
“I wanted to thank you, Adam.” Tonks said abruptly.
“I— erm, for what?” I said, feeling confused.
“For what?” She repeated as if it was the most ridiculous question in the world. “You saved Harry, and you saved the director’s daughter— Fleur, was it?”
I shrugged. “You would have done the same. You pulled me out of the way of a Killing Curse, for God’s sake. And don’t blame yourself; you were held up by a bunch of other wizards, remember?”
“I know that, but…” Tonks said, pulling her hand away from me before she looked at it. “You’re the one who did it, and I’m not sure I would’ve been able to get to him in time…”
I shook my head. “You could’ve asked me to stay with you to fight, and that would have probably led to Harry not being with us anymore. So really, you’ve saved Harry just as much as me.”
“Maybe you didn’t cast the spells to save him.” I said. “But you sent me, and I did. So you succeeded.”
“Except you were going to go no matter what.” Tonks said, her expression turning both pained and amused at the same time. “So I didn’t really do anything.”
“What’s the point of worrying about it, then?” I said with a little annoyance that she wasn’t accepting my argument. “You didn’t physically save him, but from what I’ve heard you and our unlikely allies kept at least seven wizards at bay until the Aurors finally showed their face. Bunch of useless, headless chickens, they were. What were they even doing all that time? On a nice little nightly picnic, were they?”
At that, Tonks stilled, looking off into the sea as her hair color seemed to gain some color before going back to black. Her soul thread writhed and twirled in agitation, contrasting with the relative calming aura of the waves.
I stared at it for a moment longer before noticing that her gaze had moved back to mine. “What’re you looking at?”
“I’m looking at you.” I said, giving her a suspicious look. “You know something.”
“What are you on about?” Tonks said, but her thread continued to writhe in a way that told me she was definitely hiding something.
I hummed, deciding to expound my idea. “Their response took far too long, especially considering what happened recently in June with the mass breakout. You’d think they would answer the call immediately, since they can Apparate to the edges of the anti-Apparition field and ride brooms inside. Or even just run, really.”
Tonks said nothing, so I kept going.
“But still, it took them way too long. At least half an hour by my reckoning.” I said. “Could be that the communication reached them far too late— but I doubt that. One person had to at least have had the foresight to use the Floo, or even Apparate straight to the Ministry once they exited the village. That only leaves one more possible explanation— they were held up by something else. Multiple attacks?”
It was the most logical conclusion, after all.
“Merlin— Okay, okay.” Tonks said, looking around in a mild fit of paranoia. “Keep it down, will you? No one’s supposed to know about that yet.”
“So I’m right?” I said, shaking my head. It all made so much more sense now. “Then Fleur wasn’t the only target.”
“You’re too smart for your own good, kid.” Tonks said, staring at me with an unreadable expression. “One of these days, it’s going to get you in some serious trouble.”
You have absolutely no fucking idea, Tonks. I thought, not breaking my gaze with her. No idea at all.
Tonks judged me quietly for a moment before answering. “No, Fleur wasn’t the only one targeted. There were attacks on the families of several members of the French Ministry, and even an attack on Beauxbatons. That’s why…”
I nodded, absorbing these new details and staying as calm as I could manage. This entire country was a powder keg just waiting for a spark, and we were smack dab in the thick of it all.
This attack was only the first of many. Soon, the entire mainland would go up in flames— and Grindelwald had the power to do it. What could I possibly do against that?
“You’re taking this very well.” Tonks said after a few moments. Her tone was leading, almost accusatory. “Doesn’t it bother you, Adam?”
I looked at her. “What do you mean? Of course it bothers me.”
Tonks stared at me. “Don’t act like you don’t understand the implications. Doesn’t the fact that France may be entering into a war with Grindelwald’s forces make you at least a little bit nervous…?”
“I mean… it makes my skin crawl.” I said, agreeing with her. “It’s not just France— it’s all of Europe, and they might still lose. It terrifies me.”
That wasn’t entirely true. There was a healthy part of me that was scared, to be sure, but a part of me was almost looking forward to the challenge, craving it like one would crave chocolate cake.
It was then that I realized that my previous shaking was also partly caused by a strange, demented excitement. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
“You’ve a strange way of showing it.” Tonks said.
“Never let ’em see you sweat.” My answer was quick and automatic.
“I suppose so.” Tonks said, scoffing. “But it’s still really weird seeing a kid so calm about all of this. Now that I think about it, you were very calm that night, too.”
“Would you feel less weirded out if I drank a vial of Aging Potion? I’d be acting more my age, then.” I offered with a bored look, knowing it would annoy her a bit, but Tonks surprised me by laughing.
“You are just strange, Adam Clarke.”
“So you’ve said.” I said, smiling a little before my expression turned serious. “The way I see it, I could complain, cry and worry about things all day every day— but then how does that solve the problem? How does it achieve anything productive?”
Tonks opened her mouth to answer but found that she didn’t really have anything to say to that. “I guess I can understand that.”
We stayed that way for a little while before I spoke up again. “I, um… I wanted to say sorry.”
“Hm?” Tonks turned to me in confusion. “For what?”
“Giving you a hard time when you were trying to keep Harry and I safe.” I said. “I know I’m not the easiest to get along with, and I really hate it when someone imposes their rules on me no matter what situation I’m in—”
“It’s okay.” She said but I shook my head.
“I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it again.” I said, drawing an annoyed look from her. I raised my hands to placate her. “I’m just trying to apologize for being so mean about it, that’s all.”
Tonks just stared at me for a moment before shaking her head in exasperation and looking ahead. “You can’t even apologize right. You really are a strange kid.”
I don’t know why, but I just started laughing, drawing the young woman’s surprised gaze. The laughter was infectious, making her smile even as she spoke. “Why are you laughing?”
“I—” I said before losing it again and laughing. Tonks joined me a second later, grasping my shoulder as she attempted to hold herself up. “I don’t even know!”
It continued like this for a few moments before we both calmed down.
“I needed that.” I said, turning to the girl with a softer look than before. “Thank you.”
Tonks smiled in reply, before getting up. “I’ll give you the time alone you wanted.”
“Actually.” I said, getting up as well. “I was thinking we’d have a final swim before we needed to go— that’s why you came to find me, wasn’t it?”
Tonks stared at me for a second before shaking her head. “You’re just too perceptive for your own good, Clarke.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment…” I paused in the usual way I did before saying her first name. She tensed as I spoke next. “Tonks.”
The smile she responded with banished all of my previous negativity away.
Maybe everything sucked. Maybe the magical world was always meant to descend into war, death and destruction. Maybe it was my fault that this all happened.
But right now, seeing the young woman smile as she threatened to submerge me in tidal wave after tidal wave, it all felt a little less frightening, a little more manageable.