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Strange Strands

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June 13, 1992, 2:30 PM, Hospital Wing

Adam Clarke

The first thing I noticed when I woke back up was that I felt as stiff as a board. There was still hope, however, as I could likely still sleep this off.

The buzzing in my mind dissuaded me of any such notion.

Alef… I greeted, opening my eyes to see the stone ceiling of the Hospital Wing above. Hello.

Alef Ard buzzed, and I felt a tsunami of excitement crash against my mind, rejuvenating it far beyond the point of wakefulness.

No, sleep was certainly not going to be coming back anytime soon. That really is a neat trick, Alef. Could you make my body feel better, too?

Alef buzzed twice to indicate a negative.

Just the feelings, huh? It was worth a shot, I suppose. I thought and made sure to get up as slowly as I could so as not to make my existing injuries worse. And the pain— I don't want any more of that right now, either.

No sooner had I said this, I felt a stabbing pain come from my right arm.

I groaned, turning in place so that I could get off of the bed. I tested the strength of my legs for a few moments before nodding once and exiting. I took a step, and then another before I felt my left foot fall asleep.

Ah, crap. I thought, standing still to not make it worse. "Maybe I should have stretched…"

"Certainly not a bad idea, Mr. Clarke." A stern woman's voice came from my left, and I turned to see a somewhat irate Madam Pomfrey. "Come."

"Madam Pomfrey." I said as she helped me towards my bed and made me sit back down. "I—"

"No, Mr. Clarke." She said, interrupting what I was about to say. "You may not leave the Hospital Wing. It's far too early for any of that, we still need to examine you to see if you are in need of any further treatment."

I shook my head even as she began to wave her wand around my form, leaning forward to check on the various injuries littering my body.

"That's not what I wanted to say." I said, a little miffed at her presumption. "I just wanted to thank you. It must not have been easy to have to take in so many students and professors in a single day."

Madam Pomfrey stopped what she was doing and re-evaluated me with a quick look before nodding. "Think nothing of it, child. This is what I'm here for, to take care of the sick and injured. Your gratitude is appreciated, though."

I smiled a little, losing it as the woman went to work. She nodded to herself, tutted and made all sorts of nonverbal sounds to indicate various levels of approval and disapproval when concerning my injuries.

"You're quite lucky, you know. Your injuries, while concerning, were not outside of my power to heal." Madam Pomfrey said, tapping her wand against the shoulder I had dislocated. Instantly, I felt a soothing relief permeate through the skin and into the muscle tissue. I felt myself sag for only a second before I got myself under control.

"No need to act strong, Mr. Clarke." Madam Pomfrey said.

"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean."

"Of course you don't." The woman said, not believing me in the slightest. "Professor Dumbledore informed me that you had awakened around midnight— why he didn't think to tell me…"

"Maybe it slipped his mind?" I said without thinking. "I assume something outside of the Castle was going on when everything happened here. With the way he left…"

She looked at me for a second before shaking her head. "Of course, you don't know, do you?"

I nodded and gave her an expectant look, but Madam Pomfrey either ignored it, or missed it entirely.

"More importantly, Mr. Clarke." She said, changing the subject. "I feel I must say that I am shocked at your reckless behavior."

"Reckless?" I said, frowning.

"Frankly, I haven't the slightest idea what it is you and the other students got engaged in, but these injuries… I have not seen the like, not since…" Madam Pomfrey stopped herself, not willing to go into further detail.

It was easy for me to finish her thought. "The previous war, I take it?"

She didn't answer.

"I suppose they're that bad, huh?" I continued, gesturing at my bandaged right arm. "I didn't get to talk much with the Headmaster; I think I went back to sleep very quickly, actually."

"Indeed, he did say something to that effect." Madam Pomfrey said, nodding. "I presume, then, that you have not yet gotten an idea of what all injuries you've been inflicted with?"

I shook my head. "I think one's a really bad burn, and maybe there's something wrong with my eye? I can't remember it too well."

"I suppose that is one way to put the first one." The woman said, shaking her head. "Although, 'a really bad burn' is certainly not far from the truth."

She tapped her wand gently over the bandages covering my right arm. The dark rolls of off-white bandages unraveled, showing the horror that was my right arm in its full glory.

From wrist to elbow, there was nothing but burn scars littering the previously unblemished landscape that had been my skin. I swallowed the shock down and made myself speak.

"This is…" I said, staring down at the horrific injury with wide eyes.

"In terms of the physical, the injury itself is healing quite well, Mr. Clarke." Madam Pomfrey said. "But whatever it was that struck you was powerful Dark Magic. Very powerful."

"Dark Magic." I repeated, raising my eyes to her face. "The wounds created by Dark Magic—"

"Will leave scars that will never fade, yes." The woman finished for me, sending me a pitying look. "I'm afraid your arm will be this way until the day you die."

I frowned and looked back down at my open palm, opening it and closing it, as well as my fingers. How did it happen?

I shook my head. At least I still have the proper range of motion for my fingers. Of course, I won't know until I do a proper test.

"It is a good sign, at least." Pomfrey cut in before I could say anything. "That you have not truly lost any mobility. Your eye, on the other hand… I am not so sure."

That got my attention. I looked at her again before raising my left hand towards the bandaged eye. "Dumbledore said I wasn't blinded. I remember that, at least."

"Headmaster Dumbledore, and you were not blinded, no." Madam Pomfrey shook her head, giving me a stern look that didn't last for very long. "That much is certain."

"What's the problem, then?" I asked, my fingers searching for the end of the bandage that would allow me to pull the whole thing off. I was stopped by the older woman.

"Allow me, Mr. Clarke." She said. "Wouldn't want you hurting yourself, would we?"

I stopped, looked at her for a moment and grunted in approval, not feeling energetic enough to speak. Just trying to take the bandages off had winded me, I realized as the woman got to work.

I felt the strips of cloth get pulled away from my head. I breathed a little easier, feeling the cool air caressing my skin. That feels so good.

I felt the final layer of bandages be removed and tried to open my right eye, only to find that I couldn't.

"Patience, young man." Madam Pomfrey said, huffing as she sent the bandages flying away into a large hamper. A moment later, she Summoned a fresh, clean set and left them floating in midair. "Your right eye was spelled shut in order to maximize the healing effect of the salve. By now, it should have been more than enough time."

"Interesting spell." I said. "Is it hard to learn?"

"Nothing is difficult for the applied mind." Madam Pomfrey said, smiling a little at my curiosity. "Its main purpose is so that patients don't end up worsening their ocular injuries. I once witnessed a witch attempt to gouge her own eye out because of the pain her injury caused her. It took three of us to subdue the woman long enough to have her sedated. She also could not help but attempt to assess the damage herself."

I swallowed and nodded. "That definitely sounds like she was asking for trouble."

"Indeed." Pomfrey said, sending me a stern look. "So I'll be sure to tell you this once; do not touch your eye for any reason."

I swallowed and nodded. "Yes, of course."

Madam Pomfrey looked at me for another second before nodding and tapping her wand just over my right eyebrow. "Very well. Finite."

And just like that, I felt the strange pressure keeping my eye closed vanish. I resisted the urge to raise my hand and took a deep breath.

"Good." She said, nodding in approval. "Now, open your eye, child. Slowly."

And so, I did.

An instant later, I closed it back up again, the light lancing through the photosensitive tissue and making my nerves flare up. "The light's a little strong."

"It is to be expected. Your eye is recovering, and will need to be acclimated to seeing light again." Pomfrey said, shaking her head. "Still, you must open it, Mr. Clarke. We need to know whether you will require further treatment or not. Don't worry; it is quite safe."

I nodded at her words and opened them again. I forced myself past the sudden pain and pressure and kept it open, staring at my surroundings intently.

A few moments passed before Madam Pomfrey spoke again. "Well, Mr. Clarke?"

I exhaled through my nose before speaking. "It's working fine, as far as I can tell. There's just this uncomfortable pressure, right behind my eye, I think?"

"That is normal." Madam Pomfrey said, though she did not look relieved at all. She waved her wand, and I saw multicolor sheets fly towards us, settling in front of me. "How many colors do you see?"

I frowned and began to count. "Seven."

"Could you list them for me?"

"Of course." I said, and pointed at each piece of fabric, listing its corresponding color. "Green, red, yellow, brown, black and blue."

She murmured a few things to herself before making the sheets spin around. "Please follow the red one."

I did.

"The green one, now."

The tests continued in this manner for a few more minutes until she ran out of things to test me with.

Madam Pomfrey nodded with a sigh of relief. "It seems your eye is still quite functional. That's rather fortunate, considering…"

I frowned, feeling the pressure behind my right eye slowly fade into a dull throb. "Considering what, Madam?"

She didn't answer for a moment, instead Summoning a mirror over. "I think, perhaps, it would be better if you saw for yourself."

She held the mirror in front of my face, and my eyes widened in surprise. "...What? It's… What's wrong with it?"

"I do not know, child." Madam Pomfrey said, handing me the mirror.

I continued to stare. Staring back at me was my own face, but it was different; the scrapes, cuts and scratches were already in the later stages of the healing process, leaving thin, discolored lines over my skin.

My right eye, however, was clouded over in a milky white haze. I felt myself frown.

What… I thought and turned my gaze away from the mirror, back to the floating sheets of cloth, before moving it every which way, trying to take in the entire Hospital Wing. "I… I think my sight is still fine."

I closed my left eye and focused my vision on Madam Pomfrey, blinking as I now saw something quite odd.

"What's the matter?" She asked, concern rising on her face. "Are you seeing anything strange?"

I stared at her for another few moments before shaking my head. "I can't tell, I might just not be able to focus properly because of the light."

"I suppose it is too early to tell." Pomfrey said, tapping her wand against the top of my head and running a series of new tests, speaking as she did so. "I do not detect any internal damage. Do you feel any pain?"

"No."

"And the pressure behind your eye?" She pressed, lifting my chin so she could get a better look into my eye. "It should have dissipated somewhat."

I nodded. "Yes. It's more dull now."

"Very good." She said, nodding back. "It will continue to fade in the next few hours. I daresay you will not notice it, come dinnertime."

It was then that I felt my mouth water at the thought of food.

The last meal I had. I thought. It was right before everything happened. How much time has passed since then?

"Hungry, are we?" Madam Pomfrey said, smiling in fond amusement. "Another good sign, Mr. Clarke."

Then, the infernal woman forced me back into bed. With a wave of her wand, the fresh, floating bandages wrapped themselves around my right arm.

With another wave, my bed raised its back, and I found myself looking at a large tray of food. I raised my eyebrow at the assortment of meats, vegetables and potatoes. "I, um… Do you think I can actually digest this, yet? Madam Pomfrey."

She stared at me like I was an idiot for a moment before shaking her head. "Of course; you are Muggleborn. Worry not, Mr. Clarke. There are a series of Potions— which have already been administered into your system, this morning— that will aid in your recovery."

"Interesting…" I said, trying not to think about being fed Potions while I was sleeping; I focused on the Potions, themselves. "I assume it's to do with enhancing the digestive system in some way?"

"Indeed." She nodded. "With this specific mixture, it allows your body to utilize the food as raw material to regenerate your tissues."

"That's very impressive." I said, smiling. "Where do I go to learn about—"

"While I would normally be thrilled to see such enthusiasm from one so young." Madam Pomfrey cut me off as she pushed a plateful of food towards, sending me a stern look. "You must eat, Mr. Clarke. Go on, now."

I nodded and stared down at the tray.

"I expect you to finish at least two of these plates." She said as I weakly picked up my utensils. "I recommend the cottage pie."

I swallowed again and shifted the plates slowly. "All right. I'll be sure to eat that. Thank you."

"Of course." She said as she began to move away. "Call for me if you need anything, Mr. Clarke."

"I will." I said, sending her one last nod of gratitude. "Thank you, again."

The last thing I heard from her before she disappeared into a curtained off section was a hum of acknowledgement.

I took a breath and almost set my fork and knife down, before shaking my head. As Alzalam would have probably said: 'Eat, you idiot. Keep up your strength.'

As expected, no answer came. It seemed that the owner of the 'sly voice' was well and truly gone from the confines of my mind.

I reached out with my consciousness in an attempt to find Absol. Brushing up against her presence, I realized that she was sleeping. It was a little strange, but I shrugged; maybe she was tired. I couldn't really blame her. She'd had an eventful time, for sure.

How did she even reach me in the Abyss? I wondered as I brought the first spoonful of shepherd's pie to my lips. Its rich flavor, texture and taste became mere afterthoughts as I began to shovel the food into my mouth at a ridiculous pace.

A few seconds later, I slowed down; the food was not going anywhere. I continued to eat, my thoughts drifting to the events that had happened.

There were so many questions floating about in my head— What the hell was the Abyss? What was the crack in the tower? How did I summon Mina? What happened to my chains at the end? How much does Dumbledore know? How much does Voldemort?

I stopped eating to exhale through my nose. Answering a single one of these would take days of serious thought, and maybe even research; at least, for any answers relating to the Abyss and my chains.

I suppose. I thought, drinking a bit of water before resuming my meal. With the crisis over and a full summer ahead of me, I'll have all the time I need to think. To breathe and reflect. Though I don't really expect to find much concerning my chains. Maybe there'll be something about the Abyss, though. If Absol can access it… I need to look into Thestrals with a bit more scrutiny.

I'd always thought that there had been something unearthly about those creatures, but that had only been a mere hunch. To have it confirmed in this way was beyond my wildest dreams.

That's when someone came into the edges of my field of vision, interrupting my thought process.

"Adam." Harry Potter said, and there was something heavy in his voice.

I swallowed, sending Harry a nod even as he grinned at me. "You're awake!"

He was in his normal school robes, so I assumed that he was out of here already. He sure looked like he was doing better, but there was a certain hesitation I saw in his movement, as if he were afraid of something popping out of the shadows.

"Hey." I said, setting my knife and fork down for a bit. "Glad to see you're up and about, too, Harry."

At this, he lost his smile. "I've been up. You're the only one who's been asleep so long."

I frowned. "How long has it been, anyway? Can't have been more than a day."

"I… They didn't tell you?" Harry said. "It's the thirteenth, now. In the afternoon."

"What?" I said, eyes going wide. "It's been three days?"

"Yes." Harry said, swallowing. "We were all getting very worried about you. When I saw that they'd removed the limits to your section, I asked Madam Pomfrey if you were getting better. She said you'd woken up in the night, so I begged her to let me out for a bit so I could tell the others."

I lowered my head, absorbing the boy's words. "I see. And you're still stuck here?"

"Ah, not anymore, I reckon." Harry said. "Madam Pomfrey said she would like me to stay in for another day, but also said I don't have to. So I won't."

I felt myself smile, and turned to face him fully. "I suppose that's fair enough."

But Harry shrinked back in shock. "Adam… Your eye, it's—"

I shook my head. "It's fine. It just looks strange now."

The boy opened his mouth and closed it before frowning down at my bandaged arm. "I'm sorry, Adam."

"What for?" I said, a little confused. "From what I remember, you did great."

"But…" He said, his voice lowering a bit as the guilt seemed to weigh upon his shoulders. "Your arm… That was my fault."

"Your fault?" I said, confused.

"I don't know what happened." He said. "When You-Kno— when Voldemort tried to grab me, it burned him. Burned you."

A series of half-remembered monologues from the books and movies came to mind, but I pushed them aside. This is truly my life now. Not a movie, and not a book.

"Professor Dumbledore said that…" Harry continued and stopped himself for a moment, unaware of my innermost thoughts. "He said that it was a protective spell given to me by my mother— that he can not touch me, so long as he lives. But—"

"But what?" I cut him off.

"It hurt you!" Harry insisted, his face turning red with anger before he deflated, looking down. "I hurt you."

"You hurt him." I corrected, raising my index when he tried to argue.

I shook my head when his mouth opened again. "If anything, it helped me come back to myself. I heard your voice, you know."

Harry's expression shifted again, and I couldn't quite place it. "You did?"

"Yes." I said, nodding to myself. "I couldn't really make it out completely, but I think you said 'Give Adam back', or something? It was really hard to hear, but I did hear you, Harry."

"You…" Harry said, swallowing. "I did say that."

"Yeah." I said. "Then, the way I see it, you helped save my life."

"I…" Harry said, looking like he was going to keep protesting.

"Don't bother arguing, Potter." I said, rolling my eyes. "You can't win."

That seemed to fire the boy up for a few seconds, but he shook his head and smiled at the familiar attitude. "Right…"

"Now c'mon." I said, gesturing at the food in front of me. "Madam Pomfrey is insane if she thinks I can eat all of this. You should eat something, too."

Harry stared at me for a few seconds, and then he pulled up a chair.

"Okay."

Everything was good. Maybe, when my eyesight improved, I would stop seeing these strange strands undulating around people with absolutely no rhyme or reason.

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