I'm on a roll this month! Two aSoIFaL updates and now IPoM! More to come.
Chapter 15: Accelerate is now available for Discord members. Chapters 16: Reorient, 17: Results and 18: Fame are available for supporters!
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Back in Session
January 6, 1992, 7:30 AM, Great Hall
"Did you manage to find anything on Nicholas Flamel?" Was the first thing Hermione Granger said when she came to greet me.
I rolled my eyes. Kids and their one-track minds…
"Welcome back, Hermione." I sent her a smile so fake and saccharine that it would have taken an idiot not to see it. "How was your break? Well, I hope. Oh, mine? It was grand. In fact, let me tell you about the time I—"
"All right, you can stop now." Hermione said, huffing in annoyance and looking away to hide the blush of embarrassment on her face. "I'm sorry. I just wanted to know."
I matched the turn of her head and gave it a light poke.
"Ow!" She swatted my hand away. "What was that for?"
"You just reminded me of someone, that's all." I gave her a genuine smile, this time. "Welcome back."
"O-oh." She said, looking awkward. "Thank you."
I decided to stop messing with the poor girl. "And to answer your earlier question: no. I found nothing on him."
I suppressed the sigh as I watched her deflate.
"I guess we'll have to do some more research to make up for lost time. See you later?"
The peace offering seemed to do the trick, I thought as she gave a wide smile, nodded and went to the Gryffindor table.
I wondered whether I should up and tell her the truth or not.
The longer I hide this, the worse it will get; but the moment she learns the truth, she'll rush to tell the others and screw everything up. I thought. She'd even tell Tony.
The thought of those kids, especially Tony, getting way in over their heads left a bad taste in my mouth. I'd grown rather fond of the brat brigade.
I wasn't sure what to do about it, though. By now, Professor Dumbledore was in the process of, or had already moved the Mirror of Erised to the final room in his obstacle course.
I could go through the traps and get past all of the obstacles. I thought. The Cerberus, the Troll, the key room, the chess room, the potion riddle and then the trick with the Mirror.
With enough preparation, I saw no reason I couldn't accomplish something like this on my own.
But, then the question arose: why?
Why would I even bother bailing them out? Why should I care? Sure, I was fond of them, but did they merit screwing up my chances at succeeding?
I took a sip of orange juice as I considered the Mirror and what it had shown me.
Home. I thought, gripping the glass tighter. Is it even possible? Could I return?
'The Mirror shows neither truth nor knowledge.' The Headmaster had said the other night.
Maybe so, Dumbledore. I thought. But something brought me here. There's no reason to assume I couldn't go back. It is possible. I just have to learn how.
This led to the next question: if I could go back, then what was the point in establishing bonds here?
Why should I care? The question came again. These people aren't mine.
I looked down, unsure of what I should do. Going home was so tempting, but should I not have accepted my fate and moved on?
Had I forgotten the meaning behind the name I'd chosen for myself, so long ago?
You have a second chance at life here. Why waste it chasing the previous one?
"You look like you're trying to set your glass on fire." Tony said as he took a seat by my side, snapping up a few bits of toast and sausage into his plate. "Did they serve you pumpkin juice by accident?"
I resisted the urge to jump and shook my head, instead. "No, I was just thinking."
"Yeah, you do that a lot." Tony said, sending me a mocking smile. "Too much, really."
I smirked, privately thankful for the subject change. "Heh. You're not the first to tell me that, but it's better to think too much than... too little."
"I suppose so." Tony took his first bite, my subtle retort going over his head. "You think Snape will take it easy on us? The Hols just ended."
Su Li snorted into her drink. When I turned my gaze to the girl, her face blanched and her expression became one of mortification.
"Nice one." Said Boot as he laughed, pouring salt in the wound.
Su Li glared at the boy with anger and hurt, tearing up. She quickly got her things together and left the Hall.
"Nice going, Boot." Tony said, palming his face.
Padma threw Boot an annoyed look and got up to follow the girl.
I considered following her as well for a second before shaking my head. The girl already had a crush on me.
Going to comfort her now would have given her the wrong idea, and I wanted to be far away from any of those.
"She's right, though." I said, setting down my glass and wiping my mouth with a napkin. "There's no way Professor Snape will take it easy on us in class. If anything, it'll be even harder."
Hours later, as we exited the man's class, Tony sent me a harried expression.
"Can you be wrong, for once in your life?" He said, eyeing me with annoyance. "Twelve inches on the properties of aconite and its applications!"
I grimace. "Don't act like I find this any less annoying than you do, Tony. I hate homework like this. And this is one of the few times that I hate being right."
Though, considering I've already done the prerequisite reading twice over, it shouldn't take that long to complete the homework. I thought, hiding a frown. I just wish I didn't have to waste time on this. I still haven't figured out what the heck 'strong blood' even means!
"Yeah, especially when it cuts into our... research time." Tony said, not noticing the sigh I gave at that.
Ah yes, the research on Flamel.
Enduring those sessions had been almost as bad as not studying anything other than what Quirrell presented in Defense Against the Dark Arts.
It wasn't that I didn't like the research, itself. I loved to look things up, but only when there was something to be gained.
Seeking knowledge should serve a purpose. I thought, biting my lower lip. Aimless ventures set my teeth on edge, especially when I know that the books we're reading don't actually lead to the stone.
Nicholas Flamel and the Philosopher's Stone; I wondered if the secret to its creation was the same as the one in Fullmetal Alchemist.
The possibility was there, of course: human sacrifice would make sense, considering the existing laws of magic.
The question was: "is Flamel the sort of person who would dabble in such magic?"
The answer wasn't as obvious as I thought it would be.
Nicholas was willing to part with the Stone at the Headmaster's behest.
This meant that he had interests that were somewhat aligned with the Headmaster's. Did that, however, mean that he would shy away from magic of a darker persuasion?
I paused for a moment before resuming my stride. You don't make something like the Stone by playing things safe.
The Philosopher's Stone was an artifact which gave its user unlimited wealth— but more importantly, extended life as long as they continued to consume the elixir made from it.
I wonder… Could the Elixir of Life function as 'strong blood'?
I shook my head. It hadn't been the first time I had this particular thought.
As I remembered it, the Elixir of Life was a substance capable of extending the human lifespan far beyond its original limitations, keeping its drinker from dying of natural causes.
Voldemort believes it can create a new body for him, and judging by the amount of security put around it, so does everyone else. I thought. Could setting my sights on the Stone really be the way forward?
As usual, there was no answer; there was no— and excuse the phrasing, here— magical solution popping out of the woodwork to neatly tie all of my problems together.
As far as I knew, it was possible that the elixir could reverse such damage.
If it had the suggested ability of giving Voldemort a body, then the Elixir of Life could, in theory, regenerate the damage I wrought in the Room of Requirement.
It made sense, in a strange fashion. The void was related to death and the world beyond, while the Philosopher's Stone was of life and the current world.
If the research on Strong Blood proved fruitless, then getting the Stone would be the next logical step.
Of course, that was something I hoped to avoid, as the Stone was Potter's problem, not mine.
It's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I thought with a small smile. Not Adam Clarke and the Pursuit of Magic. Heh— that's actually not a bad title.
I shook the thought off and focused on the matter at hand.
Even if I were involved with the children's escapades, I wasn't keen on putting myself in anyone's crosshairs.
Besides, why should you care about playing babysitter? Part of me thought again, a wave of derision and vitriol sweeping through my body. Their monumental nosiness is going to get you killed, sooner or later.
I nodded, conceding the point. It wasn't that I didn't like them. They seemed an all right sort— simple people living their lives.
But I had bigger plans than just living my life.
I suppose that's one reason to avoid going for the Stone. I thought. Another would be that the damn mirror only gives the Stone to those who seek it but don't intend to use it.
It was a strange enchantment added on top of the already complex and confusing web of magic weaved over the ancient mirror.
Dumbledore's prodigious knowledge, experience and skill never ceased to amaze me.
With enough prep, I can handle the baseline defenses set up by the other professors, but getting past the Mirror of Erised is likely to be beyond my current ability.
Moreover, the Room of Requirement would have told me that it wanted the Stone. I rather doubted that "Strong Blood" translated out to "Elixir of Life", although it was possible that I was mistaken.
Have you forgotten one of your options? I thought to myself. Do nothing. Nothing at all. Let them sort each other out and forget about the Room of Requirement. You don't necessarily need the damn place, do you?
I paused at that. That was, indeed, an option.
It wasn't ideal, and I would be earning a grudge from the Castle itself, but it was a path which was open to me— however slimy it would make me feel.
Which one, then? I thought. The research, the stone, or nothing at all?
"What do we have next?" Tony's question cut through my thoughts as he stared at his schedule. "Defense? This is the worst day."
I stared at him for a second, annoyed at the interruption. "End of the world, really."
"Shut up, Clarke." Tony said with a huff as we entered the classroom and took our seats. Su Li was already there, looking in every direction but mine.
Poor kid. I joked about the world ending but she probably is feeling like it is. I thought, unable to stop the sliver of pity.
"Come sit with us, Su!" That was when Tony decided to open his mouth.
Okay, I don't pity her that much. I thought, resisting the urge to palm my face in annoyance. Damn it, Tony.
The girl sat to my right without fanfare. "...Hello, Adam. Anthony."
I gave her a quick look. Seeing how nervous she was, I decided to cut her some slack.
"All right, Su?" I said.
She seemed surprised that I even asked, I thought as she looked down. "Y-yes."
Collecting more strays, are we? I thought, pity giving way to amusement, annoyance and resignation in equal parts. Oh well. In for a penny, I suppose.
"Ready for a rousing session of Defense?" I said, keeping my face blank.
The girl snorted before clamming up again, though I could tell that she was a little more relaxed— I suppose this is good. Tony can have another friend if everything goes to shit with me.
I relaxed in my seat a little more. I didn't have to make the decision, just yet. There was still plenty of time to figure things out.
"Yes, Adam." Tony deadpanned. "That's one way of describing our next class."
"Ah…" Su said. "Far be it from me to judge our Professor, but I don't really understand, erm…"
"How is he allowed to teach in the first place?" Tony finished for her, shrugging as the classroom filled with students. "I don't know, either. He must've done something spectacular for Dumbledore to let him teach. Either that, or there was no one else."
The curse on the teaching position remains in effect, I gather. It either has to do with Voldemort himself or the Horcrux he created with Ravenclaw's Diadem.
I wonder if Quirrell knew— knows about this curse. I thought as the man in question entered the room, looking as if he was ready to bolt at any instant. What a guy. I'll never understand how he can maintain his performance for so long. It's ridiculous.
"G-good afternoon, children." Professor Quirrell said after stuttering his way through roll call. "T-today we w-will be learning about the Verdimillious Charm."
People stifled groans all around, muttering about how they wished for an easy review.
I ground my teeth and did my best to pay attention to the class. Maybe I'd learn something interesting, not mentioned in the book?
Fifty five minutes in— fifty five long and dull minutes— I covered my mouth as I yawned, trying my best to stay focused on the class.
Thirty-something minutes of this crap left. I thought. Then, I can go and focus on some real issues.
"Mr. Clarke?" Professor Quirrell called out, startling me. "Would you care to d-demonstrate the spell for us?"
"I—" I said, mastering myself in a matter of moments. "Of course, Professor."
Singling me out again?
I gave a mental shrug as I headed towards the front of the class.
The students were mostly indifferent, though there were a few mocking looks coming from a few students— I recognized them as those who always made snide comments whenever I succeeded at something.
Those are the true background characters, not me.
"Good, g-good!" Quirrell said, getting my attention, once more. "Now, p-please demonstrate the charm, Mr. Clarke."
"Yes, sir." I said and pulled out my wand. Just as I had done, months before, I slashed my wand at the nearby wall, focusing my desire and intent into the shape of a minuscule, but compressed fire. "Verdimillious Tria!"
The air filled with a series of loud snaps as the wall closest to me was scorched by the hot, green sparks which had shot out of my wand.
Holy crap. I stared at the damage. Those marks were nearly double the size of what they used to be, months before.
Had I done something differently than I was supposed to?
"That was…" I heard the man mutter before he assumed his persona again and raised his voice. "V-very impressive, Mr. C-Clarke! Five p-points to Ravenclaw!"
"Ah, thank you sir." I said, trying and failing to smile. "May I go back to my seat?"
The man gave a jerky nod, and I all but hurried back.
"That was wicked." Tony said, slapping me on the back of my neck so hard that it made me wince in pain.
"Oi!" I glared at the boy, reaching up to rub the sore spot as Quirrell resumed his lesson. "You trying to knock my head off?"
"Sorry." Tony said. I might have believed him had he looked the least bit sorry, but as it stood, the smirk on his face told me another story.
"That was really good, Adam…" Su said.
Oh God, save me from this.
"Uh… Thanks, Su." I waved it off even as I sent Tony another glare for good measure before turning to her. "I just like to practice a lot."
Quirrell soon had everyone practicing the spell, with myself being exempted.
Naturally, I plopped down on the desk to rest.
"Um…" Su said after a few minutes. "Adam?"
I blinked my eyes open and threw her a look. "Mm? What is it?"
Tony snapped his fingers in front of my face, startling me. "I think she wants help."
I shoved his hand away with a sigh before collecting myself. "What do you need help with?"
"Ah, nevermind…" Su said, eyes downcast. "Sorry for bothering you."
Oh for the love of… I thought. She looks like a kicked puppy. Damn it, fine.
I fixed a smile on my face and beckoned her. "No, no. It's fine! I'll help you with the spell."
Su Li gave a nervous smile and approached, her wand drawn.
"All right." I said, drawing my own wand as well. "Run me through how you're trying to cast the spell, and then we'll figure out what you need to do."
"R-right!" She said and started explaining everything.
After a long twenty minutes of trying and failing to cast the spell, Su managed to get it done, sparks flying from the tip of her wand. They were weak and died quickly, but she'd done it.
"Well done!" I said, nodding. "Very good."
"Wasn't as good as yours." Su said, frowning.
I sucked in a breath, stifling the urge to laugh. "I've had plenty of practice, Su. Look at the rest of the class."
And so, she did, her eyes widening as she realized that her peers all seemed to be incapable of casting the charm. "I see."
"Our group and a few others managed it." Tony said after another successful cast. "And don't worry about Adam. Guy's a monster— above and beyond the rest of us. All he does is practice and study."
"Thanks, I think." I gave a fake smile and got back to my seat, pretending to focus on my textbook.
Monster. The word reverberated through my soul. I knew Tony meant nothing bad by it, but it still stung, for some reason I couldn't quite place. I suppose he's right, after a fashion. It's true; I shouldn't even be alive.
Adam Clarke, that wasn't even my true name, I thought as the reflection shown to me by the Mirror came to the forefront of my mind again.
Something pulled me from the void and put me in the body of the baby Clarke.
It made sense. This body's survival had been viewed as nothing short of miraculous.
Maybe this body was one that was already going to die, and so the fledgling soul within it— if there ever was one— was replaced with mine. I thought, sitting back in my chair. But to what end?
That was the real question.
Just what was the point?
"Adam?" Tony's voice and the sound of shuffling books broke me from my thoughts and drew my attention to the excited students chattering away as they got off their chairs.
"Class is already over, then?"
"Yeah." Tony smirked. "We're done! Didn't notice it, huh?"
I took a breath before stowing everything away. "I got distracted… but, now I can finally—"
"Mr. C-Clarke?" Quirrell said from behind me.
I froze, my face scrunching in an annoyed expression before I schooled it into a polite smile.
"Ah… the Headmaster has bid for me to accompany you t-to his office after the class ended." Quirrell said. "He wishes to s-speak with you."
Of all things, that wasn't what I was expecting.
"..What?" I said, caught off guard by the statement. "To the Headmaster's office? What do you..."
Tony and Su, who had both been waiting for me, looked concerned but said nothing.
"You aren't in t-trouble, Mr. Clarke." The Professor smiled his fake, horrible smile which never failed to give me the creeps. "N-now, if you'll follow me?"
I nodded, knowing there was nothing else I could do. "Very well, Professor."
I turned to my two classmates. "I'll see you later, Tony. You too, Su."
"All right, mate." "Bye…"
I followed Professor Quirrell out of the classroom and into the hallways. Quirrell set the pace, taking brisk, jerky steps and looking as if he were afraid of his own shadow.
Off to the Headmaster's office, then? Part of me thought, sending a lance of fear right through my heart. Did he rat me out?
No. It couldn't be that. I argued back. He doesn't know of my experiments in the Room of Requirement.
Doesn't he? The other part of me said. You idiot. Ravenclaw's Diadem is there. Do you really believe he wouldn't have at least tried to check up on it? He would have found something.
That gave me pause.
"Don't d-dawdle, Mr. Clarke." There was a sharp quality to the Professor's voice, despite the stutter.
"Right. Sorry, sir." The words came out quick as I matched his pace once again.
I stared at the man's back as the minutes passed, keeping my eyes away from the turban, behind which another face watched with curious eyes of red.
I tensed, my hand twitching to the pocket in which my wand was stowed. Ridiculous thoughts of escape whizzed through my mind; a second to cast, and another few to make my escape.
Quirrell stopped, tilting his head slightly to the right. "I do hope you are not going to attempt anything… foolish."
I forced myself to be still, even as I felt a shiver creeping up my spine. "You…?"
Quirrell turned to me, his lips quirked in dark amusement. "You may as well be screaming your intentions, Mr. Clarke. The way you stand, the way you move..."
I said nothing, instead trying to force myself to relax.
"You may have seemingly fooled others with words, but sooner or later, your observed actions will speak louder than your words." Quirrell said. "You must strive to be more careful, in the future."
I curled my lip in anger and was ready to point out the irony behind him telling me to exercise caution when he was the one who'd dropped the stutter in public before checking my surroundings.
There are no portraits in this hall. I realized.
"So, you noticed. Good." Quirrell said, nodding in approval. "Very good. Your awareness of your surroundings is adequate, but your mindfulness of it is something you must improve upon."
"... Thank you." I bit out, starting to feel lost and confused at the back and forth.
"You are welcome." Quirrell turned away again. "Now, come. As I have told you before, you are in no trouble with the Headmaster."
As much as my mind screamed at me to not trust this man, I still felt the relief of being told that I wasn't in trouble.
But, if I hadn't been caught, then why was I called?
I guess I'll find out soon.
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