Happy Canada Day/ US Independence Day weekend! Hope you're all enjoying splendid BBQ gatherings with those you love.

Here's a chapter.

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The next chapter is available on my website. You know the drill; the password is on my Discord, and the link to that is at the bottom of the page.

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Note that Mages and up will have access to my full story by the end of the hour— also on my website.

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Hero of the Hollow

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May 20, 1992, 4:15 PM, The Three Broomsticks Inn

"Shall we?" Amy had said.

I shook my head and gestured towards where Professor Flitwick was still eating. "The Professor's not quite done, just yet."

Miss Broduk followed my gesture and smiled. "I see. In that case…"

She turned to Madam Rosmerta, who was pretending to not watch us. "I'll have two butterbeers, one for myself and one for Adam, here."

I blinked, not having expected that order and started to refuse. "No, I'm not really—"

"Come now." Amy gave me a wide smile and a wink. "Surely a lady can buy the Rising Star of Hogwarts, the Hero of the Hollow a drink?"

"The what?" I said, grimacing at the thought of such a title. "Please tell me that's not what people are calling me now. It was weird enough just being called the Rising Star, but the Hero of the Hollow?"

Rosmerta gave a loud chuckle, attracting all nearby eyes towards us for a moment. "I wouldn't doubt it if people started doing just that, Adam."

"I'll tell you what." Amy said and sent Rosmerta a nod. "You have this drink with me, and I'll possibly— maybe— not put that title in the article."

"How very generous of you." My reply was as dry as a desert. "But couldn't I have an orange juice, or something else?"

"You don't like butterbeer?" Amy said, frowning as she tilted her head at me in curiosity.

"I, erm…" I said. "I can't say. I've never tried it but I know I definitely did not like pumpkin juice, though."

I shuddered at the mere memory of trying that drink out. Perhaps I had already gone in knowing that I would hate it, or maybe the drink just didn't agree with my tastebuds; there was no way to know for sure why I did not like pumpkin juice.

Still, that dislike had ended up bleeding over into anything pumpkin related. It also made me weary of any Wizarding foods or drinks on general principle.

"And besides." I added, glancing towards Rosmerta with a quizzical expression. "Isn't alcohol forbidden to those who aren't of age?"

Rosmerta smiled, a nostalgic look settling in her warm eyes as she glanced towards Amy. "Doesn't this seem familiar to you, Amy?"

Amy only groaned in response. "Just get the butterbeer."

"Wait—" I said, but Rosmerta had already bent down to snatch a couple of bottles.

"You'll find, Adam…" Amy said, getting my attention once again. "That the laws in our world are somewhat different than those of the Muggles."

I stared at her for a moment. "So, beer is fine, Miss Broduk?"

"Butterbeer is." Amy smiled and took the chilled bottles from Rosmerta, holding them up for me.

"The alcohol content is so low that it's safe for children around your age. Of course, there are still certain kinds of alcohol that you are indeed barred from drinking— Firewhisky, for one." Amy explained, though she glared at me. "And it's Amy, Adam. I thought we established that, last we met."

"Right." I said, scratching the back of my head. "You did say something like that."

"My, have you forgotten, already?"

"It's been a while." I defended, my voice rising a little. "I— wait, you're just messing with me, aren't you?"

"Guilty." Amy popped the bottles open and slid one towards me before raising her own. "Cheers!"

I smiled and took the cold bottle in hand, feeling the frigid condensation on my palm as I clinked my bottle with hers. "Cheers."

I stared at the liquid within for a few moments before taking a sip.

My eyes lit up, and I took a longer draught that time.

Creamy and sweet!

"I see that butterbeer agrees with you." Amy said, smiling with an I-told-you-so look in her eyes.

I swallowed and set the bottle down on the counter. "It's pretty good. Never tasted anything quite like it before."

In either life. I thought, my mind still reeling from the pleasant taste.

"I remember the first time I tried it." Amy had a wistful look in her eyes as she took a swig. "It was in this very establishment, actually. Those were the days…"

The woman fell into silence, content to enjoy her drink in peace as we waited for the good Professor to finish his own meal.

"I'm glad the Prophet sent you." I said, out of the blue.

"Oh?" Amy said. "Are you now?"

I nodded. "Yeah. I'm glad the school asked for you, and not… someone else."

Amy smiled, though the look in her eyes told me that she was annoyed at something. "They almost did, you know. Send someone else."

I nodded, telling her to continue without words.

"Of course, when the article on Sirius Black came out, I requested to interview you again, right away." Amy said, gesturing as she spoke. "But Rita— Rita Skeeter— was insistent that she be the one to conduct the interview. All things considered, it is her story, and my interference has caused a little… tension, shall we say."

"But they sent you."

"They sent me." Amy confirmed. "But only because we received a letter from Professor Dumbledore with the request for me. As you know, one does not simply refuse Albus Dumbledore's requests."

I blinked at the statement, wondering just what she meant by that. Was this an implication that the Headmaster was dangerous?

I mean, not that he isn't dangerous to anyone he considers an enemy. I thought. I just didn't expect her to say that.

I supposed that it was only natural that reporters would feel that way about anyone who was in power. It didn't matter how good they were or said they were; much like in any human society from all periods of history, many people were duplicitous and cloaked their true selves with their supposed good deeds.

Dumbledore, simply because he is powerful and is perceived by the masses to be this god-like entity, will be met with a certain suspicion or even dislike by those who consider themselves to be 'below' him. I thought, reasoning it all out as Amy realized the implication in her words.

"Ah, perhaps I should have worded that statement a little differently." Amy took another sip as she gathered her thoughts. "We can, of course, refuse anyone's request, but a man with a record as Albus Dumbledore deserves respect and some consideration for the things he's done for us all."

I set my thoughts aside for a moment to continue the conversation. "I hope I didn't cause you any trouble at work."

Amy laughed and took the bottle in hand again. "Don't you worry about something like that, Adam."

I snatched mine as well and took another swig of the butterbeer, relishing in the sweet taste for a few moments before swallowing and sighing in pleasure.

"Miss Broduk." Professor Flitwick's voice came from behind. "Already corrupting my students, are we?"

Amy smiled mid-way through her drinking and set the bottle down on the countertop before turning to greet her former Head of House. "Professor Flitwick! So good to see you again."

"The feeling is mutual, Miss Broduk." Filius squeaked, sending me and the butterbeer in my hand a look.

"Should I have not been drinking it?" I said, glancing between him and Amy.

"No, it's quite alright." Filius said. "Though you should take care not to drink too many of these."

I wasn't sure whether he was being serious or not— as a man with Goblin ancestry, I imagined his smaller size made him more susceptible? Then again, Goblins were a strong-willed and hardy folk. Their constitution could be several times stronger than what their size would suggest.

Still, there was no reason to reject good advice out of hand. Excess always leads to bad consequences, and no one should ever get into the habit of living like that. Once you start, it'll get more and more difficult to stop.

I nodded. "I will, sir."

"Very good." Filius said before nodding to himself. "Are you all ready? Perhaps Miss Broduk would care to have a meal before we begin?"

"I've had a late lunch, Professor." Amy said, waving the man's concerns away. "We can begin right away, if you like."

"Then, let us retreat to the agreed upon room?" Professor Flitwick said, turning to Madam Rosmerta.

"Of course." She said and left her post at the bar, gesturing for us to follow. "Right this way…"

I took my bottle and hopped off of the bar chair. I followed Rosmerta and the Professor up a staircase into a spacious and cozy room. Amy followed in from behind, closing the door as she entered.

Some furniture had been cleared to the side, and a table was set at the center, with a few chairs. I moved towards it and took a seat. I imagine Rosmerta set this up specifically for the meeting?

"Thank you, Ros." Amy said, getting a pat on her shoulder from the older woman before she left, closing the door behind her. Professor Flitwick and Amy then took their seats, the former sitting beside me and the latter opposite of me.

Amy reached into her purse for some parchment and a quill.

"Right." Amy muttered, still checking her purse to see if there was anything else she would need. "I think that's everything…"

She turned her gaze to meet my own. "Now, Adam. It'll be just like the last time. I'm going to ask you a few questions. If you feel comfortable to answer, then please do. If not, just let me know and we'll move on to the next question."

I nodded. "Sounds good. Hit me."

I got a strange look for that one and felt compelled to explain it. "It's a muggle expression. It means 'show it to me'."

"I see." Professor Flitwick said, muttering 'interesting' under his breath.

Amy raised her quill and hovered her hand over the parchment. "Just to put us in the right context and frame, I'll state the events and then begin asking you the questions, Adam."

"All right."

"As you know, the wizard known as Sirius Black had been incarcerated in Azkaban Prison ever since November of nineteen-eighty-one, for the crime of causing the deaths of James and Lily Potter, as well the murder of twelve Muggles, and one of his former friends, Peter Pettigrew."

I nodded and gestured for her to keep going.

"Of course, it turns out that he was innocent all along, and that it was, in fact, Peter Pettigrew who committed all of these crimes before going into hiding." Amy said, her eyes still glued to me and making me feel a little nervous.

She was looking so hard at me, like she was expecting me to lie about the story. Am I being paranoid?

Amy had stared at me in the same way during the first interview, so I supposed that maybe I was being a little paranoid.

"Yes." I said.

"And you're the one who found Mister Pettigrew." It was more of a statement than a question, but I answered it anyway.

"Yes." I said. "I found him."

"All right." Amy said, her quill lowering itself towards the parchment. She was getting ready to take notes. "Asking you how you did it is too broad to start with, so I will split it into several parts. My first question is: how did you know about Pettigrew in the first place?"

I took a moment to consider her question and the answer that I would give.

"Well." I said, taking a quick breath. "As you know, I'm a Muggleborn, and so I don't know much of anything about the Wizarding World. One of the biggest interests for me is this past war that was ended by Harry Potter's survival of the Killing Curse."

"I see." Amy said as she wrote it all down. "Go on."

"Well, I didn't want to ask people any questions about it, so I—"

"One second." Amy interrupted, looking curious. "Why didn't you wish to ask any questions?"

"Well, I could tell that it was a pretty bad time for all." I said, going through my reasoning. "I didn't want to ask kids how they lost their parents, or teachers how they lost someone close to them. It didn't seem right."

"Of course." Amy said, smiling. "That's very considerate of you. What did you end up doing, then?"

"Well, the Library keeps all of the old articles written by the Daily Prophet." I explained as she started to scribble my answer down. "I went and asked Madam Pince for access— I figured this would be the best way to get a decent look at what happened without causing any undue stress to anyone."

"And that is how you learned of Mister Pettigrew?"

"Yes." I said. "I read many articles, but especially the articles near the end of the war. Articles on Sirius Black's imprisonment, as well as the death of Peter Pettigrew."

"I see." Amy said, a few seconds passing as she continued to write. "Still, that does not explain how you went about finding the real criminal."

"Well." I said. "Pettigrew was an animagus, you see. A rat."

"Indeed?" Amy said, raising her head with eager eyes. "There has not been any mention of this in the man's file."

Oh. Oops. I thought, before shrugging it off. If the Ministry didn't want to divulge any details, they should've sent me a letter.

"I suppose the Ministry hasn't gotten around to updating it yet."

Amy nodded a few times before asking her next question. "And how did you find the man, then? You only had his name, as I understand it. How did you figure it out?"

This was the hardest part. I had to sell this to her.

All right, Clarke. I thought to myself. Sleazy salesman mode, activate!

"Completely by accident, actually." I said.

"By accident, you say?"

"Yes." I said, throwing in a little truth in the story. "You see, I had been going through the theory for Third Year Transfiguration at the time, and I learned about the animagus transformation. I was curious, so I started researching it extensively."

"You want to become an animagus?" She said and continued at my nod. "What form do you want?"

A trick question? I thought. She's trying to see if I'm lying?

Amy really was sneaky when she wanted to be. Too bad for her; I had already done my homework.

"Well, I can't choose what form I desire, I think." I said. "Isn't the transformation a reflection of my personality? But if I were able to choose, I'd either want to be a cat or an eagle."

"Interesting choices." Amy said, smiling before regaining her composure. "Back on topic. You were learning about the animagus transformation."

"Yes." I nodded. "I wanted to know what would happen to me if I transformed into an animal. Would I suffer from their diseases? Would it affect my own lifespan? How would—"

"What do you mean by that?" Amy said, sounding a little confused. "Affecting your lifespan?"

"Well, say I became a cat." I raised my finger as an example, more comfortable in this area of study. "Cats generally live ten to twelve years. That's it. That's their average lifespan as a whole."

"Ah, I think I understand." Amy nodded. "You were scared that your time spent in animal form would become proportional when you returned to your normal form, is that correct?"

"Exactly." I said. "Of course, I learned that it didn't matter. You retain your human form's lifespan, even as an animal."

"And a rat's lifespan is measured in less than five years in the most ideal conditions." Amy said, the pieces all clicking into place. "But please, continue your story."

"No, no— it's exactly like you said: rats just can't live that long." I said. "So when I knew that one of my friends had one as a pet that's been alive for more than ten years, I was suspicious. More than that, it was missing a toe— and all they found from Pettigrew was his finger."

I took a breath before continuing.

"I know how much of a long-shot it was, but I knew, at the very least, that the rat was an animagus just by its age alone. I couldn't let a grown man or woman go about masquerading as a child's pet."

Amy scribbled for a while before asking her next question. "And this child you speak of?"

I felt Flitwick's hand on my shoulder as he spoke for the first time since the interview had started. "If you wish to contact the family in question for an interview, I would be more than happy to ask them. For the purposes of this interview, of course, we would like to keep this knowledge private."

"Of course, Professor." Amy said, giving the man a respectful nod. "Then let's forget this question. In fact, I believe I have all of the relevant details on the matter. Thank you, Adam."

"Oh." I said, surprised at it already being over. "That was fast."

Amy smiled at me again, though this one was mischievous. "Were you possibly hoping to spend some more time with me, Adam? I'm flattered."

I rolled my eyes, though I smiled back. "Ha ha ha."

"Go on, finish your butterbeer." She said after a chuckle. "I'm here for a while longer."

"Oh?" Professor Flitwick said. "Are you staying for long?"

"A few hours, Professor." Amy said. "Seeing Madam Rosmerta's decor has convinced me to ask her for an interview, as well as take pictures in honor of Lily Potter."

Flitwick smiled at that before patting me on the shoulder. "I believe it's time for us to go back, don't you agree?"

"Yes, professor."

Much as I enjoyed the woman's company, she was still a reporter and therefore dangerous.

We exited the room and went downstairs, where Rosmerta was waiting with two images: the first one was the one I had already seen and the second was of Lily preparing a meal, from what it looked like.

"May I go to the loo before we leave, sir?" I asked.

"Ah, of course." Flitwick said and directed me to the bathroom. "I'll be waiting outside."

I nodded and moved through the steadily increasing crowd. With it getting later in the day, more and more people were flocking here for dinner or celebration.

One such person bumped into me, almost knocking me on the ground.

"Hey!" I called out to the man who did that, but he did not answer, continuing on his merry way.

What a dick. I thought, dusted myself and continued on my way to the bathroom. I did my business and moved to the sink to clean up when I felt something strange.

I stopped drying my hand and reached for my robe's pocket to flatten it again. Hate when that happens.

My hand reached in and I froze as I felt my fingers brush against a piece of parchment. I pulled it out of my robe and gave it a quick look. Had I shoved it in my robe before coming? No, I wouldn't have had the chance.

Maybe the night before? I thought and began unfolding the parchment, frowning as I read its contents.

Soon, it will be time to move.
Be ready.

There was no signature, but I could recognize this handwriting well enough. "Quirrell."

Just what are you planning?

Whatever it was, I knew this much: it wasn't going to bode well for anyone.

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