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Back To School

September 1, 1992, 6:00 PM, Hogwarts Express, On Route To Hogwarts

Adam Clarke

Growing up, both in this life and the previous, people had told me that I had an impressive eye for details, as well as a surprisingly long memory to recall them. 

So, it was all the more embarrassing when Ron and I reached the lady with the trolley, and I could not remember what anyone wanted.

“Something the matter, dearie?” The sweet old lady said as her eyes flitted towards the end of the hall; she was probably checking for any new, prospective customers while I wasted time.

“I— Um.” I stammered, feeling sheepish before turning to Ron. “I forgot what everyone wanted.”

Ron gave me the most stupefied look before shaking his head in amusement. “That’s a laugh.”

He turned to the trolley lady and picked everything out, nodding to me. “There. How’d you even forget?”

“Oh; duh.” I said, my mind finally supplying me with the information as I fished out the correct amount of money to pay the woman. Too little too late, brain.

The trolley lady nodded, smiled and went on her way, leaving Ron and I standing there with handfuls of candy. I shook off the strange episode and gave the boy a nod. “Let’s get all this stuff back to them.”

“Yeah.” Ron said, though he looked like he wanted to say something further.

I didn’t comment on it right away, taking the time to consider the boy’s demeanor for a few seconds before finally speaking. “Something on your mind?”

“Oh.” Ron said, looking away. “It’s nothing.”

I rolled my eyes and stopped the both of us. “Go on; spit it out or it’ll stay in your head for weeks. I know you.”

Ron seemed to struggle with himself for a moment before sighing. “Fine. I just wanted to say thank you.”

“You did? For what?” I said, tilting my head in confusion. “If anything, I should be thanking you— I completely forgot what snacks everyone wanted, just now.”

“No, no. Not that.” Ron shook his head, exasperated. “What you said earlier. To Wood. That was…”

“Oh.” I said, realization striking me. “Oh… Right.”

“Yeah.” Ron said, getting a little more quiet. “I was really surprised, to be honest. I always reckoned you hated Quidditch.”

Hate it? I wouldn’t go that far, Ron.” I said, waving his words away. “It’s just not something I’m interested in, that’s all. Maybe I’ll watch a game every now and again, but I’d rather just ride on Absol’s back, or even a broom in the open air— however bad I am at it, I can still glide around a little.”

“Yeah, I suppose. But you noticed… Ah, nevermind.” Ron said, shrugging.


“Nothing.” Ron said but ended up explaining himself anyway. “It’s just that… you noticed my commentary on the games.”

“Well, yeah? I thought you were pretty good at calling out team tactics whenever I attended matches— your commentary was better than Jordan’s, that’s for sure.” I said, and the two of us shared a laugh. “See, that’s another future job suggestion for you. On top of being a coach or team strategist, you can also be an announcer for the games— playing the crowd would take a bit of practice, but yeah. Definitely something to think about.”

Ron didn’t answer immediately.

“You…” He said, looking unsure of himself. “You think I can do something like that?”

“Ron. You can do anything you set your mind to.” I said, chuckling a little at the end.

“What is it?”

“Hm…” I stared out of the window, watching the scenery of the Scottish wilderness for a second. “This just reminds me of something someone told me a few years ago.”

Ron stayed quiet, beckoning me to continue with his silence alone.

“He said: ‘you can work any job you want. Be a garbage man if you want to— but be the best damn garbage man in the field, if you do.'” I said, exhaling through my nose as I looked back at him. “Just do your best at whatever it is you choose, and everything will turn out all right.”

“Yeah.” Ron said, smiling. “Thank you, Adam.”

“You’re welcome.” I said before nudging my head towards the direction of our compartment. “Come on. Let’s get all this back to them before they wonder if we ran afoul of a troll or something.”

“Don’t even joke about that.” Ron said, though his laugh told another story. Still, I refrained from further commentary.

The rest of the trip back went quietly, and soon, everyone had what they wanted. A round of thanks passed through the compartment before I excused myself.

“Where are you going?” Harry asked, curious.

“Oh. I was going to go and see where Tony and Hermione are.” I said, stretching a bit as I held my box of unopened candy. “Plus, that walk didn’t really do it for me. I need to stretch my legs, you know?”

“All right.” Harry said and grabbed one of the candies at his side, holding it up to me. “Give this to Hermione?”

It was a small box of mint chocolate chip sweets; I took them in hand, nodding. “Sure. Anything else?”

Harry, Ron and Su shook their heads, and so I took my leave, closing the compartment door behind me. I picked a direction and walked, hoping that I didn’t have to double back to find them. I moved to another car, hit with a wall of sound.

Unlike the previous one, this train carriage was abuzz with a medley of conversations, laughter, and occasional bursts of exuberance.

As I approached, I couldn’t help but catch snippets of their animated conversation. They were regaling each other with tales of their summer adventures, each one as ridiculous as the boys were enthusiastic.

They punctuated their stories with boisterous laughter, their carefree joy infecting everyone around them.

Despite myself, I found myself momentarily drawn to their magnetic energy before I shook the feeling off.

I pushed my way past them, the boys not even noticing my presence as I continued my search.

A few of the Ravenclaw upper years noticed me, giving me nods of greeting. I returned them, seeing no reason not to.

“Adam.” I heard a familiar voice coming from behind me.

“Mira.” I said, turning to see the girl, as well as her friend, Ophelia Scarlet. “And, Ophelia, was it?”

“Yes.” The young woman said as I approached.

Her eyes avoided my own, focusing on the nondescript book in her hands. Her fingers tapped lightly on the cover, in sync with her jittering soul thread. Though she looked far healthier than she had in June, I couldn’t help but notice there was still a slight tension in her shoulders, a remnant of the pain she carried.

I guess psychological recovery isn’t, well… magic. I thought. It’ll take a long time. Good that she’s already on the mend.

“I’d ask how your summer went, Adam.” Mira said, looking a little sheepish even as she spoke. “But I read about what happened. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m fine.” I said, waving her words away. “Read it, you say?”

“Yes.” Mira confirmed with a nod. “The Prophet covered it quite well.”

“The Prophet, eh? Why not the Herald?” I asked, raising a curious eyebrow.

“Oh, that new publication?” Mira said with a frown. “I can’t say I’ve read anything of theirs, yet. My parents don’t seem too interested in them.”

Strange. Is it the inability to accept any new form of information? Seems closed minded to me— especially for that family.

“But I think that’s because they’ve just been so busy.” Mira said, as if she could read my thoughts somehow. “People have been saying that their reporting is pretty good, all things considered. You did an interview with them?”

“Yeah.” I nodded. “With the same reporter who used to interview me for the Prophet, in fact. She’s very nice— definitely no Skeeter, that’s for sure.”

Mira let out a small laugh, and even Ophelia was smiling at that.

I wasn’t even sure why I was suggesting the Herald to Mira, considering I knew who their true benefactor was.

Still, when Grindelwald had said that he wanted them to report truthfully and honestly on what was going on, I believed him.

In fact, there had been a few articles straight up condemning the man and his actions. Whether these statements were the truth, or some ploy fabricated by Grindelwald to keep the rest of Britain unaware of their true allegiance, it was hard to tell.

“It would take a truly vile person to match someone like Skeeter.” Ophelia agreed, pulling me back to reality. “But we are glad you’re doing better, Adam.”

Huh? I thought in confusion, looking between the two girls. I could understand why Mira would be glad I was fine; the two of us had a tentative mentor/student friendship— though which of us was the teacher and which was the learner had always been in a state of flux.

Why would Ophelia be worried about me, though?

The few times I’d spoken to her, I’d basically been abrupt to the point of being callous. I winced, just thinking about those moments. Having seen what almost happened to Fleur in the Village Du Phantasime had altered my mindset somewhat.

“I could say the same to you, Ophelia.” I said honestly, raising a hand to scratch the back of my head. “And, I want to apologize.”

“Apologize?” Ophelia said, eyes widening slightly. “For what?”

“Well…” I trailed off for a moment, shaking my head. “I said some things that hurt you, last year. I was trying to help but I know I can end up seeming callous and hurtful in the process— so I’m sorry.”

Ophelia’s eyebrows nearly went into her hairline upon hearing that. She opened her mouth and closed it, words escaping her.

Mira looked up at the ceiling for a moment before tapping her friend on the shoulder. “See? He really is that oblivious and dense— took him months to figure it out. Isn’t he the most adorable thing?”

“Hey!” I said, feeling defensive. “I am not adorable, thank you very much.”

“Saying that isn’t really helping your case, Adam.”

“Why, you…!” I shook my fist threateningly at the girl, making Ophelia let out a laugh.

It was just a low, soft chuckle— barely even loud enough to be considered laughter— but it seemed to surprise even Ophelia herself.

It felt raw, unsteady, but undeniably real, turning into a full blown laugh after a few moments and so infectious that it made Mira and I join her.

Eventually, the cheer died down, leaving the three of us feeling much better than before.

“I needed that.” Ophelia said, letting out a slightly relaxed sigh. “You’re right, Adam. You were very harsh, but… Maybe that’s what I needed at that time.”

What? I thought in confusion, but kept my mouth shut, allowing Ophelia to keep going.

“If you hadn’t said what you did, then I wouldn’t have sought out help, and… If I hadn’t done that, who knows where I’d be right now?” She let out another laugh, though this one was brittle.

I immediately knew what she was referring to. Suicide.

I took a step forward, extending my hand to her. “You… You don’t have to say any more, okay? I’m happy you’re safe.”

Ophelia looked at it, and then at my concerned face before smiling slightly and taking it. “Thank you.”

I wanted to tell her not to thank me, that she did all the heavy lifting, but I saw a look on Mira’s face which more or less said: ‘say anything stupid, and I’ll make sure no one finds you.’

“…You’re welcome, Ophelia.” I ended up saying, instead. A moment later, the two of us separated.

“Well.” I said. “I need to go— erm, do either of you know if Tony’s in this direction?”

“Oh, yes.” Mira said, nodding towards the end of the hall. “Next carriage, um… Fifth compartment to the right, I think. Or was it the fourth? Hm… It’s on the right side, at least.”

“Thanks, Mira.” I said, grateful for the assistance as I moved past them.

“Don’t forget, we’re still doing our study sessions!” Mira’s voice stopped me. “Don’t you dare skip out on them, Clarke.”

“Wouldn’t dare dream of it.” I turned and gave the two a nod. “See you later, Mira. Ophelia.”

Never expected that to happen. I thought as I absorbed what just happened. Honestly, I’d been completely ready for Ophelia to hate my guts.

Maybe I wasn’t as good at reading people as I thought I was? It was something I’d have to work on, I supposed. Dealing with people beyond the surface level had always been a challenge, but I definitely needed to get better at it, considering the challenges I would be facing in the future.

Gellert Grindelwald, Albus Dumbledore and Voldemort; these were all masters at interpersonal communication, even if the latter was not at all interested in forging any connection with his fellow humans.

But I won’t be manipulating anyone… At least, I don’t think I am. I thought to myself as I reached the next train car, this one far less noisy than the previous. I’m just living my life the way I want to; no one is forced to do what I tell them, and I’m perfectly fine doing things myself, anyway.

My ego a little soothed now, I started checking the compartments on the right side, finding the one I was looking for.

“So it was the fifth one…” I murmured and gave the door a knock before opening it. “Hey, everyone.”

“Adam!” Tony said, looking excited as he got up. “I was thinking about coming to look for you all.”

“Hey.” I said, having a manly handshake with the boy. “All right?”


“Adam.” Hermione said, momentarily taking her eyes off of her book to give me a nod.


“Hey Adam.” Neville, the third person in the compartment said, tapping an empty spot beside him.

“Neville.” I said and took my seat. “Thanks. Oh, right.”

I fished out the candy Harry gave me before leaning forward and waving it between Hermione and the object of her attention.

A look of supreme irritation spread across her face before she realized what was in front of her, her brown eyes lighting up in expectation.

As she reached for the sweets, I considered messing with her by pulling away before deciding not to.

Hermione was nice, but she could sometimes be a violent maniac when it comes to her candy. And so, with a heavy heart, I allowed her this small mercy, smiling as she began to tear into her food.

“Harry got them for you.” I supplied the information when she stopped to turn her eyes to me quizzically.

“Mm.” She grunted in response, returning to her frenzy.

I let her be, turning my attention back to Tony and Neville. “Good ride so far?”

“Can’t complain.” Tony said and shrugged. “No surprise visits, just sitting around doing nothing.”

I nodded. “Same. Well, I did play chess with Ron.”

“You might as well be doing nothing.” Tony said and laughed, with Neville joining in with a smile.

“Ron is pretty hard to beat, yeah.” Neville said, shaking his head. “Even when he’s taking it easy on you, it’s really difficult.”

“Yeah.” I said, getting a thoughtful look on my face. “Maybe he should host chess tournaments or classes…”

“Speaking of tournaments.” Tony said, getting an excited glint in his eyes. “Can you believe what’s happening this year? We were there for the announcement, and I still can’t wrap my head around it.”

I shook my head. “It’s crazy, isn’t it? Eight other schools coming to participate.”

“How will they even fit them all—” Tony said before he immediately stopped himself and pointed his finger at me with a challenging glare. “And I swear if you say the word ‘magic’, Clarke, I’m going to hit you.”

I raised my hands in surrender, plastering an innocent smile on my face even as I said another word that would doom me. “Spells.”

Tony only gave me a dead stare in response, but from the way his thread moved, I could tell that he was agitated. Hermione kept her face straight, but I could tell from the way her expression wavered that she was teetering on the edge of giggles.

“What?” I said in a tone of confusion so false that even a deaf man could tell. “I didn’t say the word which must not be said, now did I?”

Tony did not crumble, instead pointing at me ominously. “I know where you sleep, Clarke.”

“Yes, all of Ravenclaw knows that, too. The teachers are also well aware. I also know where you sleep.” I shot back, waving my arms dramatically as I got to my feet. “What now, Goldstein? Now that I’ve called your bluff, there is only one way that this conflict of ours will be settled.”

“And how’s that?”

I opened the compartment door and stepped outside before dropping into the most ridiculous fighting stance I could think of. “We must engage in a good, old-fashioned bout of fisticuffs! Have at you!”

“Adam…” Hermione groaned, unable to handle the secondhand embarrassment. “Just. Stop. You’re making a scene.”

I looked around, seeing a few students peering in from their compartments, before shrugging. “So? I’m sure they’re all having fun watching. Now, come here!”

Seeing as the two refused to budge, I sighed and gave our sudden viewers a seemingly sad look. “Sorry, looks like the show’s over, folks.”

There was a general murmur of disappointment as I went back inside, closing the door behind me. “Honestly, this just means you lose by forfeit, Tony.”

“I accept my defeat with grace.”

“… Ruin my fun, won’t you.” I said, my expression turning a little pouty before I shook it off. “But yeah, I’m sure Professor Dumbledore will make accommodations for the visiting schools. My best guess is that they’ll have used Space Expansions Charms, and the like. I’ve been in a tent which changed its size depending on how many people were inside.”

Tony nodded, accepting the explanation.

“I was very surprised to hear of a tournament.” Hermione said, giving me a significant look. “Maybe I should look into getting a newspaper subscription…”

“Would help.” I nodded, before turning to Neville. “What about you, Neville? Interested in this at all?”

“Not really…” He said, averting his gaze. “I don’t think I can duel other people— I don’t even know many spells, and I’m not very good at magic.”

“Nonsense.” Hermione came to the boy’s rescue. “You’ve made a lot of progress last year, Neville.”

“I know, I know.” He said, though he shook his head like he didn’t quite believe it himself. “But let’s be honest here, I don’t think I can fight against Seventh Years.”

Hermione couldn’t say anything to counter that, but she certainly looked like she wanted to.

“Yes.” I said, taking her attention away from the poor guy. “You’ll have lots of free time in the Greenhouses, since everyone will be too busy doing everything else.”

“That’s not necessarily true.” Hermione said, shaking her head as she finally put her book away. “Considering the school professors are also coming with their students, this is an opportunity for every student, as well as every teacher, to host events in every class.”

“You mean there could be Herbology contests?” Neville asked, perking up at the thought.

“Well, I could be wrong.” Hermione said, biting her lower lip as she worried about getting the boy’s hope too high. “But at least there will be an exchange of information, maybe even school-wide seminars.”

“The teachers would have to be pretty stupid to ignore such a golden opportunity.” I said, agreeing with my friend’s logic. “Herbology, Charms, Potions, Transfiguration… I wonder if the Uagadou teachers will consider teaching us wandless magic?”

No one had an answer for that.

There was a moment of silence before Hermione spoke. “That would certainly be interesting.”

“Who knows, maybe our new Defense teacher will be better than the one we had before.” Tony said, his tone turning dark. “Not that it’s a high bar to pass, in the first place.”

I nodded in agreement. Everyone’s experience with Quirrell had been nearly a year of miserable stuttering, followed by what I affectionately have begun referring to as the ‘end of year festivities’, though there was nothing festive about them.

“It’s probably Lockhart.” I murmured, but it was still high enough for everyone to hear. I saw Hermione’s face light up at the suggestion.

“You think so?” Hermione said, excited.

“It’s his book— and he was personally there to see that it got in the hands of the students.” I said, trying to reason through it. “It’d make sense if he was here to teach the book’s contents.”

“That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, though.” Tony said, and I nodded.

“True.” I said. “You could be right; plus, there’s no guarantee that he’d be good at teaching. Writing instructions on a book is different from teaching a class— just look at Snape—”

“Professor Snape.” Hermione corrected automatically.

“Whatever.” I said, ignoring her frown. “Point is, he’s brilliant at Potions, but terrible at teaching the subject. He’s too unapproachable.”

“What do you mean?” Tony said, and even Neville looked interested.

“Well, outside of Slytherin and the other adults, I doubt anyone would willingly ask him any questions about Potions; he doesn’t have the patience to explain what he’s learned.” I said.

I imagined it was a result of his childhood and years at Hogwarts; living in fear of your own father, being a Half-Blood in Slytherin, anyone in that scenario would want to hoard any and all information to themselves. More than that, the only reason he was still at Hogwarts wasn’t because he wanted to be a teacher; likely, it was one of the few places in Britain that would accept a Death Eater after the first war— double agent, or not. 

Dumbledore loves collecting his little redemption pet projects. I thought for a moment before shaking it off and focusing on the conversation at hand. “Sorry, got lost in thought there. Anyway, I believe a teacher should allow any and all questions to be asked in his class— well, on second thought, most questions; some questions can get pretty stupid, after all.”

“I always was told that there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Hermione said, challenging my statement with one of her own.

“I don’t know about that…” I said, skeptical. “Let’s stick with Potions as the example class. Imagine this: you start your first class with the First Years. You go through your introduction, and now it’s time to get the kids to make their first potion. One of the students raises their hand and says: ‘what’s a cauldron? The instructions say to get the cauldron over a fire, sir.’”

I paused and then spoke again.

“Now.” I said. “That is a stupid question.”

“That’s not even a good example!” Hermione said, irritated with my example. “No one would ask something like that, Adam!”

“Are you sure about that?” I said. “Are you really, really sure?”

“Well, no…” Hermione said, though she quickly made sure to add. “But even if some people ask questions like that, there’s probably not many of them! Most people have good questions.”

“Generally, yes. You’re right. Most people do indeed have good questions.” I said, shrugging. “I’m not saying they don’t; I’m just saying that stupid questions exist. Now, with that said, I think Snape’s view of what constitutes a good or stupid question is so skewed that he’s absolutely unapproachable as a result.”

“Oh.” Hermione said, mollified. “All right.”

She looked outside for a moment before turning to me. “Oh! You should probably head back to your compartment, Adam. We’re nearly there, I think.”

“You could tell just by looking outside?” Tony said, impressed as he also looked outside. “That’s brilliant; I can’t even tell where we are, just that the Sun’s starting to set so it must mean we’re getting close.”

Hermione nodded, her cheeks a little rosy. “That’s part of it. But I also noticed some landmarks here and there… Nothing too impressive.”

She really was incapable of taking compliments; I shook my head in amusement before getting up. “You’re right; I’ll see you guys in a bit.”

A chorus of goodbyes met my words, and so I headed back to my own compartment, passing by the same rowdy group from earlier before I had to stop, seeing Draco and his little posse ahead of me.

The boy paused mid-step before resuming course, sending me a single look before brushing past me like I wasn’t even there. His hanger-ons, Crabbe and Goyle, sent me looks as menacing as kittens before doing the same. The two girls who were following them stopped, though.

“Adam Black.” Daphne Greengrass said, regarding me with a nod. “We meet again.”

“So we do, Daphne.” I acknowledged her greeting before waving hello to the girl beside her. “Tracey. Good summer?”

“It was great!” She said. “You?”

And then she shook her head quickly, looking embarrassed. “I mean, nevermind. Stupid question.”

That made me chuckle. I waved off her putting her foot in her mouth. “Don’t worry about it. Anyway, I’d love to chat but I’m headed to my compartment to change; we’re almost at Hogwarts.”

“Oh, right…” Tracey said.

“Black.” Daphne said, getting my attention. “Are you going to be applying for the tournament?”

“Depending on what’s available, or if the rules allow it, then yes, I will be.”

“Teach me.” Greengrass said, taking a step forward.

“Huh?” I said, not expecting that. “Teach you? What, how to duel?”


I stopped to consider her words.

How strange— and she’s so forward, besides. I thought. Was this some kind of ploy? You never knew with Slytherins. Still, why would a staunch Pureblood want to learn from me?

“Let me think about it.” I decided on saying, giving up on trying to figure out her motives for now. “The Tournament doesn’t officially begin until after Halloween, if I remember right.”

“All right.” Daphne said before abruptly pushing past me. “I’ll give you two weeks to decide.”

“I’ll give you an answer in three, Greengrass.” I said back, watching her bristle as she stopped, gave me a nod and walked away.

I’ll play along with you for now, kid. I thought, rolling my eyes.

She would probably quit within day one of my training.

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