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Justice's Aftermath

oooo

May 16, 1992, 4:30 PM, Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom

Quirinus Quirrell

He bit down on the urge to groan in pain as he watched his First Year students exit the classroom.

It was his final period for the day, and Quirinus was ready to topple over from the stress and pain he was experiencing.

Still, he had grown quite used to it over the past month or so, and knew he would be able to bear the pain for just a little longer. He just needed to get the potion ready.

All would be well, afterward.

As soon as the last person left the classroom, Quirrell shut and locked the door before heading over to his office in a hurried, but not frantic pace.

It won't do to overstress my body when it needs all the stability and energy it can get. He thought, wincing at the pain nipping at his extremities.

A few waves of his wand, and his Potions kit was set up. He bit his lower lip as he attempted to recall the details of the recipe before nodding to himself.

He filled his cauldron with honeyed water before lighting the flame underneath it, adjusting the heat so that it was not too low or high. He waited until the water came to a boil before reducing the heat.

First, the Healing agent.

He watched the liquid with a careful eye, waiting until the right moment before adding in half of a drop of a Phoenix's tear. He stirred the potion clockwise for three minutes before reversing his motion.

Then, the Strengthening agent.

Quirinus kept stirring, even as he fetched another one of the ingredients; a vial of Dragon's Blood. With careful motions, he unstoppered the dragon-shaped container and tipped it over, adding the crimson liquid in at a gradual rate, so as not to overtake the Phoenix Tear within.

He continued to pour until the vial was empty of its contents. Discarding it, he maintained his counter-clockwise stirring for another three minutes until the mixture turned a light pink.

Now, for the next step.

Professor Quirrell brought out a small, glass bottle of Manticore Venom and uncorked it. "Ten drops ought to do it."

It was the safe way to go, and would cause him less pain down the line, he thought as he extracted some of the venom and introduced it into the mixture. As expected, the concoction shifted from pink to a dark brown.

Another wave of his wand and the fire was intensified. He counted to ten three times before reducing the heat to its previous level. Taking a moment to examine the potion, he nodded. It was the perfect shade of orange he had been looking for.

Good. It's stabilized until I can bind it. He thought and went about preparing his next ingredient. He would have never conceived the idea of using a venomous substance in a potion meant for Healing.

As his Master had explained it to him, however, the Potion would have become so potent that it could expel him from Quirrell's body, had they not used the venom. At the very least, it would cause debilitating pain as his body attempted to fight the Dark Lord off.

Deep within the recesses of his mind, Quirinus wondered if he could use this knowledge to rid himself of his Master, once and for all, but he feared that his body would not survive the process.

He was lucky, however, that Voldemort had not picked up on these thoughts. Weak as the man was from the possession, his powers were dormant and less than they had been.

Quirrell withdrew a small wooden bowl filled with the ashes of a yew tree and upended its contents over the cauldron, stirring them into the bubbling potion. Quirrell nodded, left the potion and moved a little more quickly.

This process would be time sensitive, but he had no real choice.

It was time for the final ingredient. This one, he'd been harvesting from a place he had considered to be a myth: the Chamber of Secrets. He still couldn't believe he'd ventured down there, let alone harvested the shed skin of a Basilisk.

When he'd asked his Master where the Basilisk was, he had not gotten an answer. Perhaps it was dead?

Quirinus shook the thoughts away and focused on the task at hand.

He cut long strips of the Basilisk Skin with the sharpest knife he had available, before crushing them into a fine paste with his mortar and pestle. He scraped the paste off and deposited it into the Potion, stirring clockwise until he saw the mixture turn a vibrant red.

He nodded and let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Quirinus' skill at Potions was limited, and so he was proud of himself for getting this far.

Still, he did not allow himself to fully relax, as the Potion was not yet ready. He killed the heat and moved away to let it simmer and cool off.

It would be ready in fifteen minutes.

Just enough time to have some tea. Quirrell said, allowing himself a small smile as he took a seat at his desk. He glared at the large piles of homework that he knew he'd have to go through later.

One of the worst parts of being a school teacher— for him, at least— was grading piles of homework.

It wasn't that he did not enjoy helping the children increase their knowledge and skill; he was all for that. Despite his manufactured stutter, he was sure that all of his students would get good grades by the end of the year.

There were always a few bad eggs who ended up copying their homework off of others, but he never paid those students any mind. They were not worth his time, after all.

Quirinus poured himself a cup and, feeling a little adventurous, added some of the leftover honey he had. He took a long sniff of the liquid before bringing it to his lips.

His pains lessened in the wake of the comfort and warmth that the tea brought him. Professor Quirrell took another sip, relishing the sensations before sighing and leaning back in his chair.

He'd needed that.

"Is it ready?" Voldemort's voice came, interrupting the man's moment of relaxation.

"Just about, Master." Quirrell said, not letting the moment be ruined. "In ten minutes, the Potion of Revitalization will be ready for consumption."

"How many drops of Manticore Venom did you use?"

"Ten."

"..." Voldemort did not answer for a long moment before speaking again. "Good. Perhaps that will ensure that this body no longer suffers through rejection pains."

"Just so, My Lord." Quirinus said, nodding as he snatched today's paper from the side and went through the articles, stopping at the headline he'd wanted to get a better look at.

oooo

MINISTRY BUNGLES AGAIN!

SIRIUS BLACK . . . INNOCENT?

Nineteen ninety two has not been a good year. It has only been a few months since the tragic end of one of our Aurors, may he rest. No arrests were made, no leads were found. The case of the robbery at the Apothecary was declared cold, and was then filed and documented before being dumped into the Auror's office's dark and dusty archives, never to see the light of day again.

The year before, we have seen that our gold is not as safe as we thought it had been. The attempted theft at Gringotts has shown us that the Goblins cannot defend our assets. Once again, the Ministry has investigated the matter and found nothing of use, before burying the case, just like the one concerning the Apothecary.

And now, my readers, I have come to a most shocking revelation: the possibility that Sirius Black may have been innocent all along! Black, of course, was sent to Azkaban prison for the betrayal that led to the eventual murder of James and Lily Potter, and the attempted murder of their son Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, as well as the murder of twelve Muggles and Peter Pettigrew.

But is this truly the case? Was he responsible for the crimes of which he was accused?

"It's difficult to say." Says Andromeda Tonks, litigator and cousin of Sirius Black. "[Black] has never stood trial for this offense due to the nature of the events which led to his being in custody. Aurors on the scene had said that [Black] had admitted to his crimes, then and there. Of course, it's possible that he could have been too distraught to realize what he was saying."

That is correct, my readers. Sirius Black has never actually been tried for his crimes. The Ministry simply locked him in prison and threw away the key, subjecting him to the tender mercies of the Dementors for longer than a decade.

But was Black truly innocent? New information, which casts doubt on the whole matter, has come to light: Peter Pettigrew yet lives. The man who had been supposedly killed by Black was found at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the past few days… Not by the Headmaster or any of the Professors, not by any of our Ministry's Aurors, but by a young boy— Adam Clarke.

Yes, an eleven year old child was able to solve a mystery and find justice for Sirius Black while the Ministry itself had bungled its way into problem after problem.

However, does Pettigrew's reappearance signify the innocence of Sirius Black? It could very well be the case that the man felt threatened and was forced to go into hiding from Black, who had famously been known to be You-Know-Who's right hand man.

The Auror Office, as you would expect, has declined to comment.

oooo

As always, Skeeter was over-the-top to the point of embarrassing herself, but Quirinus ignored it and gave the article another read.

"Never a dull moment with this boy." Quirrell said, shaking his head before taking another sip of his tea. A prodigious talent with an ambition to reach the top, as well as a shrewdness and wisdom the likes of which I've scarcely witnessed.

He did not say it aloud, but Voldemort had heard his projected thoughts, anyway. The Dark Lord felt— and shared— his host's fascination with the boy, though he did not understand Clarke's motivations.

Quirinus nodded, correctly interpreting his Master's thoughts. "I don't know, either. The nature of his pursuits continue to elude me. He is not gaining strength and power for their sake alone— he has some purpose in mind, but what is it?"

"Trying to right wrongs." Voldemort said the words with disgust and vitriol. "It is the mark of a sentimental, weak child with narrow views of what is good and what is evil. Pathetic. In this world, there is only power."

Quirrell was not so sure. On the surface level, it looked to be that Clarke was acting out of a sense of right and wrong, but it made him think.

Why the Black family, specifically? Was it a matter of convenience and sentimentality, or was there more to this tale than meets the eye?

Quirinus considered the situation as he sipped at his tea.

"True, that he is likely to be displaying the moral sense of a child his age." Quirrell said. "But I know the boy. He does not make moves with such a foolish and reckless manner unless explicitly provoked by outside forces."

Voldemort remained quiet, and Quirinus took this as a sign to continue.

"He is very talented, and his rate of progress is nothing short of phenomenal—" he stopped what he was saying as his Master spoke.

"Of course." The Dark Lord said in realization. "...The boy is cunning, very cunning indeed."

"My Lord?" Quirinus said, setting his cup down.

"Is it not obvious?" Voldemort said in amusement. "Using the coward, Wormtail, as leverage, the boy has invited himself into the Black family's good graces. He is now close to both Potter and Black— both who will now be respected entities in the Magical community."

And just like that, Quirinus understood.

"Thus…" Quirrell's eyes widened. "Disabling any of his would-be detractors from attacking him in the summertime— when he cannot use magic. And, assuming that Black will extend his hospitality for the boy, it also allows him to practice his non-wanded subjects in the privacy of the Black home, as opposed to doing nothing in an orphanage for three months."

"Correct."

"But, Master, I don't understand." Quirrell said, a note of confusion entering his voice. "Those who are pure of blood… Why would they target the boy? Unless they are… frightened of him?"

"That appears to be the case." His Master spoke. "The boy is a Mudblood, and so, in their eyes, he is without talent and stealing the magic of his fellows."

Quirrell nodded.

"They are like cattle; quick to fear what they do not understand." Voldemort said. "And like frightened cattle, they will stampede when threatened. It makes them very easy to control."

Quirinus nodded, not letting himself think of the implications of that particular statement. "And so, presented with this opportunity, the boy has removed any opposition from the other families. The name Black still means something in their circles, after all— even if its Head is the worst of the family."

"Indeed." Voldemort said, and Quirrell felt the man's face sneering underneath the turban. "And by allying himself with Potter, he avoids any heavy scrutiny from Dumbledore, the Ministry and their ilk concerning his actions at Diagon Alley."

"Innocence by association." Quirrell said, though he smiled to himself as he got up to check on the Potion. "A spontaneous, reckless move with a great risk of failure, but it seems to have paid off in massive dividends for him."

"And it ensures that our hold on the boy strengthens even further." Voldemort said while Quirrell noted the color of the concoction— the bright shade of crimson he'd been hoping for. "For he has more to lose, now."

Quirrell scooped up some of the Potion and consumed it without hesitation. Within moments, the pain which had been wracking his body for the better part of three days disappeared like it had never been there.

"And we have everything to gain." Quirrell said, his eyes lighting up as he tested his body's motions.

As long as he took this potion every day, it would sustain and strengthen him long enough to make his bid for the Stone.

All that he needed to do from this point on, was wait for the right moment. Soon, Dumbledore would be forced to deal with Grindelwald, which would present him with an opportunity to attack.

Like a predator stalking its prey.

Quirinus smiled and went back to his desk to finish his tea.

oooo

Same Time, Hogwarts Grounds

Adam Clarke

"Nutmeg now, I think?" I said, sounding unsure.

"Aye." Hagrid's voice came from beside me. "Just a pinch, mind. Too much would overpower the other spices."

"A pinch with my hand, or a pinch with yours? Your hands are massive, Hagrid."

Hagrid barked a laugh. "Mine. Don't worry, I'll do it."

I watched the man reach into the nutmeg spice bowl and take what would have been three pinches of nutmeg with my tiny hand before sprinkling it down into the bubbling stew hanging over a bed of red-hot coals.

"Three pinches for me, I reckon." I nodded and leaned to the side, scratching out an instruction and jotting something else just above it. "Will need to adjust to two when I get older."

"Right." Hagrid said, dusting off the remaining spices off of his hands.

"What's next?"

"Now, we wait." Hagrid said. "We'll stir the pot every now and again, but now's just a matter o' time, Adam."

"All right." I said. "Sounds fair enough. I can't wait to try it. Hope it tastes good."

"I'm sure you'll do jus' fine." Hagrid made sure to encourage me. "You didn't do anythin' wrong with the recipe."

"Yeah, you're right." I said, scratching the back of my head with a smile. "But you never know with cooking. Even the slightest mistake could ruin a dish."

"Maybe." Hagrid shrugged. "But I believe that there's a secret ingredient which always saves a dish, even if it seems ruined."

I frowned. "A secret ingredient?"

"Mhm."

"Maybe a sauce or something…" I mused. "Or maybe water to soften the burnt food up? Then again not all ruined food is burned."

Hagrid shook his head with an amused chuckle. "All good answers, but that's not wha' I was referrin' to, Adam."

"Oh." I said. "What then?"

"The secret ingredient." He said with a serious look. "Is love."

I gave him a deadpan stare. "Love?"

"Yes." Hagrid said. "Don't matter how bad your food can get, as long as you put yerself into it. Yer feelings and your thoughts of the one you're making this food for will make it all worthwhile."

I found myself smiling at the wholesome bit of wisdom. "I suppose I can understand that, Hagrid."

I did not agree, of course. Bad food was bad food, no matter who made it.

I suppose it would depend on how bad it really is. I thought. If the person is making an effort, then perhaps they would be receptive to constructive criticism or coaching? Cooking is a skill like any other, and skills can be improved with time.

I leaned back into the embrace of Absol, and she gave a happy chirp before rubbing the side of her head against my cheek. "I love you too, buddy."

~Strange food.~ Her airy voice came through our mind-link. ~Odd LittleBrother.~

I suppose I don't have your digestive constitution, Absol. I thought back. Raw rabbit...

Absol tilted her head at me before pecking at the dead rabbit lain between her front legs.

I tasted blood and raw, rabbit flesh in my mouth and did my best not to give any outward reaction.

"All righ', Adam?" Hagrid asked, glancing at me with a worried expression.

"I'm fine." I said, waving his concern away. "I lost my balance for a second."

"Aye, that does happen at your age." Hagrid said, eyes shining in remembrance. "Took me a while ter get adjusted to everythin' while growing up."

I nodded and moved to stir the pot for a bit before going back to Absol. It was strange, I thought as I pressed against her, feeling her body against my back, as well as the echo of her feeling my own body pressing against her side.

It was difficult to describe the link which had been forming between us over the past few weeks.

Put in simple terms, we could share our sensations with each other if we focused. I could feel what she touched, taste what she ate, smell what she smelled, and so on.

The reverse, of course, was also true, which was why she was commenting on the strangeness of the food I ate. Would you like to try some, Absol?

But she shook her head. ~Morsels better, no fire.~

All right, buddy. I thought back, giving her a few, affectionate pats before checking over the stew. "It's still looking a little too watery— where's…"

I moved to the sack of flour and snatched a handful before throwing it into the pot, getting flour everywhere.

"Remind me not to throw it like that again." I laughed and patted my pants down.

"Will do." Hagrid said with a chuckle before he raised his gaze off to somewhere behind us. "Harry? What're you doin' here?"

I turned to see the bespectacled, messy haired boy trudging along the path to us with a nervous look plastered on his face.

"Harry." I said by way of greeting. I walked around Absol and stood between herself and Harry so that he wouldn't trip over her by accident. "You don't usually come out all the way here— what's up?"

Harry Potter did not respond immediately.

"I just wanted to see what you do here every day." Harry said, peeking over my side to where the food was cooking. "What's that? It smells great."

I smiled a little to put him at ease. "That, Harry, is the rabbit stew Hagrid and I have every time we finish working for the day. Would you care to join us?"

"Always room fer you, 'Arry!" Hagrid said with a large smile. A moment later, he sobered up. "Oh, I'll need ter fetch a bowl fer you, Harry. It'll only be a moment."

"Take your time, Hagrid." I said before the boy could respond. "The stew isn't going anywhere."

"Right you are." Hagrid said and began lumbering his way to his hut at a sedate pace.

Harry moved to sit by the fire, but I stopped him. "Careful."

"What is it?" Harry said, frowning. "Shouldn't I come closer to the fire? You were sitting right next to it."

"It's not that." I said with a shake of my head. "I don't want you to step on my familiar, Absol."

"Your familiar?" Harry said and looked around, seeing no pets of any kind. "I don't see anything. Did it run away?"

I shook my head. "You can't see it, but it's definitely there, Harry."

That seemed to flummox the boy, so I decided to throw him a bone.

"Do you know what a Thestral is, Harry?" I asked and got a shake of the head in response.

"I don't think I've heard about them."

"Few have. It's an invisible creature." I said, motioning for the boy to come closer to where Absol's head was. "Give me your hand."

A little leery, Harry held out his hand. "If this is a prank..."

"My name is neither Fred, nor is it George." I said with a silent chuckle. "Now come on, don't be a scaredy cat."

I took the boy's arm and guided to where Absol's head was. Harry's hand pressed against the top of her head, and he flinched.

"Woah!" Harry said. "It is invisible."

"She is, yes." I said, letting go of the boy's arm before pointing to the side. "You can sit there if you like."

But Harry stayed in place, petting Absol for a minute before taking his designated spot.

"Why's i— why's she invisible?" The boy asked, curiosity gleaming in his emerald eyes. "Did you use a spell?"

"No." I shook my head. "Absol— that's her name, by the way. Her species is called Thestrals. They're a breed of winged horse, but they're different from the rest of their kind."

Harry nodded, his gaze on the glowing coals before him. With a wave of my wand, I moved the coals away from the bot to let it cool down enough to be consumed.

"Are they different because they turn invisible?" Harry said.

"Yes, but they're not invisible to everyone." I said, watching the boy's confusion arise at such a statement.

"How can they be invisible to some people, but not others? That makes no sense" Harry said before gesturing at his glasses. "Maybe it's to do with our eyes? Mine aren't so good without my glasses."

"No." I said. "Good guess, but it doesn't have anything to do with your eyesight."

"Then…"

"There's no easy way to put it." I said. "Those who can see Thestrals have seen and understand death."

Harry tore his gaze from the fire and leveled it at me. "Seen and understand death?"

I nodded, letting the boy come to his own conclusions.

"You've seen someone die." Harry said.

I nodded in confirmation.

"Who?" The boy asked, but winced a second later. "Nevermind. I shouldn't have asked that."

"It's all right." I said. "I saw my parents die."

"Your parents?" Harry said, balking. "But you said you've been at the orphanage since you were born."

"Yep."

"And you can remember your parents?"

"I remember everything."

"Everything." Harry said, unable to wrap his head around such a concept. "And that's why you see, erm… Absol, you said her name was?"

"Yes." I said, reaching to my right to rub her neck. She trilled, making the boy shift in surprise. "She's quite sweet, you know. Thestrals are just misunderstood by everyone, that's all. They're said to be omens of death, but that's just nonsense. They're living creatures just like all others. She's like your Hedwig— but I can ride her."

"You ride her?" Harry said, his eyes widening. "Is it safe?"

"Oh, yes." I said. "And fun. Maybe we should race each other? You with your Nimbus, and me with Absol."

"Heh." Harry smiled and nodded. "That sounds like it could be fun. I'd have to go get it, though."

~Will defeat ScarBoy.~ Absol declared with a squawk of challenge.

"That's the spirit, Absol." I said, patting her neck. "We'll leave him and his broom in the dust. Go fetch it, Harry."

"You're on." Harry said with a glint of fire in his eyes, though it didn't last for very long. "Hey, Adam?"

"Hmm?" I said, watching as he tried to settle his nerves. I had a feeling I knew what he wanted to say. "You want to talk about what happened the other day."

Harry's eyes widened at being so easily found out, but he shook his head in amusement, as if to say he should have expected me to do that. "Yeah."

I nodded, giving him the go ahead.

"Why…" Harry hesitated. "Why did you ask Sirius to… To adopt you?"

I looked down at the fire.

"It was the first thing that came to mind." I said, shrugging as I took a stick and played around with the coals, sending a fresh wave of heat everywhere. "I guess I didn't want to go back to the orphanage."

"Is it that bad there?" Harry said, hedging his words with care. "I've heard some bad things about orphanages."

I graced him with a quick glance. No doubt from any threats his uncle or aunt gave him.

"No one abuses the kids in there." I said to reassure the boy. "There is no bogeyman orphanage owner who delights in the suffering of children. They are just doing their jobs."

"So… why?"

"Same answer." I said. "They are just doing their jobs."

"I don't understand." Harry frowned.

"Well." I said. "That's all it is to them; a job. They come in, do the work, and leave. I am not a person in their eyes— more like a machine in need of maintenance. Just another mouth to feed."

"I see…"

"Sirius gave me the choice of anything I wanted." I said. "And my first thought was that I didn't want to be without my magic, alone and ignored by my minders."

Harry nodded, absorbing the comment. "And your second?"

"My second thought was that I'll be able to spend summers with my friend." I said.

"Now you're just trying to butter me up." Harry blurted out and laughed. "I've seen it done a few times before by… someone."

"Worth a shot." I said. "But I do mean it."

Harry nodded and stared into the fire again, satisfied with my answers for the time being.

"So… the race?" I said.

"My broom's in the Castle." Harry repeated as if that settled the matter.

"I could probably summon it over." I said. "And then we can have our race."

"Don't go summonin' brooms and flyin' around jus' yet, boys." Hagrid's voice interrupted our bravado as he came with a bowl and spoon in hand. "It's a bit late fer that sort of thing. Now, let's have ourselves a nice meal by the fire, instead."

"Aye, aye, Cap'n Hagrid!" I said with a salute and began to pour the stew for everyone. "A right splendid idea."

Harry took the bowl in hand.

"Cap'n Hagrid…" Hagrid said, running a hand through his beard while taking the offered bowl with the other. "Doesn't sound too bad, yeh know."

Harry snorted before bringing a spoonful of the stew to his mouth.

"This is good!" He said, looking at us both before digging in. "You always eat this?"

"Yeah." I said. "It's become tradition at this point."

"Yer always free to come, 'Arry." Hagrid said.

I nodded. "Anyone is welcome here."

Harry stared at me with an emotion I couldn't decipher before nodding. "I will come here again, then."

And then we dug into our food.

oooo

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