The Serpent's Gaze, Book Five: The Lernaean Hydra

BY : DictionaryWrites
Category: Harry Potter > Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 1408
Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter and the characters therein belong to JK Rowling; I'm playing in the sandbox, as it were, whilst claiming no ownership and making no money.

Everyone around the graveyard is very, very still. It's an uncomfortably beautiful place, filled with shining marble stones and black-shining mortuaries. It isn't like most graveyards, where the stones inevitably lose their sheen or roots and leaves grow over the the engravings of names and dates - this cemetery shines is alive with old, old magic, and Harry had felt it ring through him as soon as he had crossed over the threshold and into garden.

Because it is a garden, really - it doesn't feel like a graveyard centred around a Muggle church, but a garden that just happens to hold dead people in it. There are black roses and white lilies growing in the hedges, as well as plump, red berries and thick, leafy brambles and assorted hedgerow plants. Between every single grave plot is a bed of well-kept flowers, both magical and mundane, and over each mound grow even more of them.

Lucius Malfoy has been buried maybe five minutes, and already the flowers are moving visibly to blanket the turned earth in the patchwork colour of their different petals, reflecting against the pearly-white colour of Lucius' grave stone. LUCIUS MALFOY, it decrees in a flowing script, 6TH DECEMBER 1954 - 9TH JUNE 1994. LOVED AS A FATHER, AS A HUSBAND, AS A PILLAR OF THE COMMUNITY.

Harry knows a lot of people who would dispute the last, but he knows Lucius would have wanted it there - probably stipulated in a document twenty years ago that he wanted that on his gravestone. He looks from the creeping carpet of flowers around at the other mourners. Narcissa is dressed in morning, wearing a high-collared, black dress robe with black gemstones about the neck, and she wears a light black veil over the face and her blonde hair; Draco is wearing traditional robes with so many buttons on they remind Harry of Snape's; Snape himself stands beside Narcissa and, uncharacteristically, allows her to clutch at his arm, even as she cradles Draco with her other. Anyone would think Snape and Lucius had been brothers.

The others around Harry mostly knows - members of the Order, workers from the Ministry. Arthur and Molly stand together in shabby, black robes that they probably haven't worn since the end of the war, and the both of them are as pale as sheets underneath their freckles - Molly's eyes are even red from crying, and her cheeks are slightly shiny from lingering tears. Hermione stands with some of the Slytherins, with Blaise, Pansy, Daphne, but they all follow Hermione's lead and leave Harry to stand on his own, just in front of Sirius and Remus.

A man from the Ministry Harry doesn't remember the name of is talking, but all of the words blend together for him and he finds he can't take any of them in through the haze that weighs him down. He hasn't cried yet: he doesn't think it's set in yet. He and Draco had dropped into their beds laughing together, and the next morning, Snape had woken them up, lingering in their dormitory doorway, watching them. He'd closed the door very slowly behind him, and both Harry and Draco had sat stark upright in their beds, forgetting to be embarrassed about their night clothes or the unkempt state of their hair, and they'd stared at him. Harry had never seen him look as he did then, with visible circles under his eyes, with a bitten-down bruise at the side of his lower lip, so obviously overwrought, and he'd said very quietly, "This morning, Aurors were called into Hogsmeade. There were murders last night, in the village..."

When Harry had looked out of the window on the first floor later that morning, the Dark Mark had still been stark green above town in the sky.

"In ancient times, we often burned our dead, and although Lucius now lies buried beneath us, this flame represents his impact upon us all - warm, and bright, and illuminating." It's Narcissa who flicks her wand in the direction of the hovering, white basin, and it bursts into flames. A sweet, pleasant scent comes up from the incense mingled in with the wood, and Harry stares at the burning wood. They all do, all of the mourners in a circle now, and Narcissa stands with her arms wrapped tightly around Draco - Harry can almost read his wish to be taller, just to be able to comfort his mother better, on his face. Harry's gaze flits to Snape, and he sees in Snape's black, black eyes the reflection of the burning fire.

---

Harry goes home a few days after the funeral. Excused from his final exams, he has no desire at all to be in the castle, and he spends several days alone in his bedroom, hearing Remus or Sirius pace the halls, hearing them speaking quietly together, and hearing the loud, long silences between them even though he knows the both of them are there. They don't knock or try to disturb him in any way, and Remus doesn't come to try to comfort him like he did after Barty Crouch's death. They just let him alone, and Harry is grateful.

He can't stop thinking about it.

How did they kill him? Was it the Killing Curse, or was it something else? Dark magic, a Cutting Curse, even something Muggle - a knife, an axe, or something. Harry hates that he keeps thinking about Lucius Malfoy dead, and that he can't visualize it properly in his mind: what did Lucius look like once he was dead? Was there blood? Were his eyes open? How did he lie on the ground - stiff, or splayed out in blood?

On the fourth day, Harry walks into the kitchen at ten in the morning, and he sits across from Remus at the table. Remus sips at black, black coffee, and perversely he looks quite well-rested - it's three weeks until the full moon, true, but they've all been sleeping a lot, the past few days.

Sirius never even asked if Harry wanted to go back to Grimmauld Place. They all just Flooed straight back to Sirius' flat.

"They won't tell you either, will they?" Harry asks, and as he does he reaches back for a mug from the counter, pouring himself coffee from the antique cafetière that lightly steams on its plate on the table. It's one of the only nice things Remus seems to own, and usually Harry knows Remus would stop him, but he doesn't today. Harry takes a sip of the coffee, finds it rich, bitter, fragrant. He's surprised to find that he actually likes it, and he takes another sip. The mug radiates a wonderful warmth into the palms of his hands and into his fingers: his position mirrors Remus', the way he cradles the black mug in his hands. "What he looked like?"

"No," Remus says softly. "Severus saw. He wouldn't allow Narcissa to identify his body, you know - I thought that quite noble of him. When he came back to the house, there was blood on the cuffs of his robe." Harry's nose is buried in the mug, and whenever he takes in a breath he breathes in the scent of the expensive coffee Sirius buys for the flat, even though Remus tells him not to. Remus speaks in a monotone, his hoarse, husky voice betraying barely any emotion at all, but his eyes are drowned in sorrow.

"Where's Sirius?" Harry asks. He feels like he should be hungry, given that he's eaten nothing but a few biscuits and pieces of candy in the past three days, but he isn't.

"In bed," Remus says softly. His grip on his mug tightens slightly, and his shoulders raise - he's waiting to see if Harry is going to ask why they're sharing Sirius' bedroom now, why the guest bedroom is made up like a guest bedroom again, why Sirius lies in corners of the house wearing Remus' jumpers, and why when he ran out for milk the morning before last, Remus didn't even notice he was wearing Sirius' coat instead of his own.

"I'm going to go and see Narcissa today," Harry says. A fraction of the tension fades away from Remus' shoulders, and his eyes soften. "She shouldn't be alone right now, and Draco and Snape have classes- I know Dromeda will be there, and, God, I bet Narcissa wants to murder Mrs Weasley by now..." Remus' laugh is soft, pained. He nods his head, and he and Remus drink from their steaming mugs at the same time.

---

Narcissa is standing in the kitchen when Harry arrives at Grimmauld Place. The entire house is empty thanks to the early hour of the morning, and although she hears him come in, she doesn't look back at him. She just stands there, her hands clasped loosely before her stomach, her head held high and her aristocratic chin defiantly pointed forwards. Harry moves forwards, slowly, and he stands beside her. He follows her gaze from one cupboard to another, and then he says, "Narcissa, you should sit down." It's not an order - Narcissa Malfoy isn't the sort of woman who's ever taken orders from anybody, Harry expects, and she looks at him, her face a marble mask.

"Hello, Harry," she says softly. Her voice is hoarse from crying, and she takes a step forwards, settling herself down on one of the stools at the island in the middle of the kitchen, and Harry moves across the room, taking a broad, flat pan from the cupboard. He sees Narcissa's eyes widen just a fraction as he sets the pancake pan on the hob, flicking on the gas with a wave of his wand.

"Lucius and I, when we wrote to each other in the beginning, used to exchange recipes," Harry murmurs. "I didn't know anything about anything, and I know he wanted to be kind. The first one he sent me, when I mentioned that at home, I used to do a lot of cooking, was for pancakes without egg or milk in them. He used to say there were your favourite." He sees the change in Narcissa's features, sees the twitch in her cheeks and her mouth, but she doesn't cry. She just looks at him, stares at him, and then she smiles. He gets the feeling this is the first time she has smiled since she heard the news, but it's nonetheless absolutely beatific. "I'll bring you the recipe."

"I have it copied down forty times or more," Narcissa says. Even on the stool, she's the image of Pureblood elegance, straight-backed and with her ankles crossed beneath her. "I can no more cook than I can fly without a broomstick, Harry, though I should imagine the latter would engender less catastrophic results." She watches him as he takes out a whisk for the pancake mix - he's watched Lucius cook in this kitchen before, and he knows where everything is as well as he does in Sirius' kitchen - and he works as best he can, his hands shaking slightly. He doesn't know why it strikes him to do this. Lucius, in the beginning, hadn't been too forthcoming in his letters, but what Harry had found would really make him talk - or, well, write - would be if he started talking about Narcissa, and even though he never really revealed that much, he'd said that Narcissa considered the pancakes the perfect comfort food.

Harry's made them before - he likes them. He guesses Narcissa could do with any comfort right now.

He cooks in silence, with nothing but the sound of sizzling mixture in the pan, and when he finally sets the plate in front of Narcissa, she smiles at it for a few moments. The pancakes can't possibly look like they do when Lucius had done them - they're not perfect circles or stacked in some magical tower, but Narcissa slips from the stool, reaches for Harry, and pulls him into a very slow hug. She wraps her arms tightly around him, pulling him close and burying her nose against the top of his head, cupping his hair, and he lets her.

Narcissa has hugged him before, but never has she hugged him like this, like she needs to, like he's actually offering her some comfort rather than the other way around.

"I'm sorry, Narcissa," Harry says when he draws away, looking at her perfect, marble features - he couldn't hope to guess her age if he didn't already know she was approaching fifty, usually, but she looks aged beyond her years, this week. She just looks exhausted by the world. "I was thinking about stuff I could say to you, but it was all just platitudes, really, and I bet you've heard enough this week." Narcissa's lip twitches, and she gives a nod of her head, letting the side of her fork cut through a pancake before her, messily shaped but still perfectly cooked.

"Molly Weasley is doing her best to keep at my side - while she might be correct in measuring that I perhaps ought not be alone, she neglects to realize I should rather that than her company." Narcissa shakes her head slightly, taking a small bite: her eyes closed, and Harry sees her throat move as she swallows, sees something pass over her face - a shadow of thought, memory, nostalgia. Her smile is soft, dreamy, and she murmurs, "No doubt he is glad that it was him and not I - in a similar position, he might have murdered three or four of his would-be comforters."

"I bet," Harry says quietly. They settle into soft conversation - Narcissa talks about Lucius, about what he used to wear, how he'd act, at a funeral: she doesn't talk as if he isn't dead, exactly, but there's something almost whimsical about it. Hopeful, dreamy - he's never heard Narcissa like this, but he guesses she needs it for the time being, and when Dromeda lets herself into Grimmauld Place and comes into the kitchen, she beams to see Harry. Dromeda looks tired, the heavy lids under her eyes even darker than usual and making her similarity to Bellatrix Lestrange a little more pronounced, but Narcissa doesn't notice as Dromeda leans in, pressing a kiss to her sister's temple and patting her cheek.

"I'll leave you guys," Harry says, smiling at Narcissa, and when he takes a step out into the corridor, Andromeda follows him. She waits until the door closes softly behind them, with a click, and then she looks at Harry seriously. She's still in her Healer's uniform, the front of her robes a little more open than is strictly proper, and when she smiles, it's like her whole face softens. He wonders how long she'll be with Narcissa - probably an hour or so, however long she can stretch her lunch break.

"They said you're back at home now, earlier than the rest of the kids. It's good of you to see Narcissa - all of us, except Molly, have work to do, and- well, Molly and Cissy aren't the best of friends." Dromeda seems to hesitate for a few moments, frowning at Harry with a maternal concern, and then she says, "You keep safe, Harry."

"I will," Harry says. He doesn't make a promise - for some reason, he feels he doesn't want to. "I'll be fine, Drom. I'm just going to Floo back now."

"Alright," Drom says, giving a small nod of her head, and he waits until she goes back into the kitchen. He looks into the living room, where an enchanted rug assiduously takes care of any spare soot that comes out of the fireplace with those that Floo, and then he looks to the front door. He walks slowly forwards, glancing down at himself as he takes his cloak from the rack in the hall - he'd just thrown on some trousers, a collared shirt and one of his jumpers from Molly that morning, putting his cloak overtop.

He thinks about it for a moment or two, and then he goes back to the fireplace in the front room, slipping his green, summer cloak into his bag and then he throws some of the green powder into the fireplace. Saying the words in a clear, enunciated tone, he declares, "Gringotts Bank, Diagon Alley," and steps into the flames.

Gringotts Bank isn't busy. In an hour or so, when it picks up for the usual lunch hour, there'll probably be people everywhere, but for the time being, the majority of the tellers are just getting on with paperwork and the like at their desks. "Excuse me," Harry says politely, stepping up to one of the desks as he brushes some soot off his shoulder, and the goblin looks at him seriously over his yellow-tinted spectacles. "Could I exchange some Galleons for Muggle British Sterling, please? I'm not sure about the exchange rate, so if I could just have twenty?" The goblin gives a nod of his head, taking Harry's purse and counting out a Galleon and a small pile of Sickles before handing it back, and then he hands over two crisp, ten pound notes.

Harry never really held any Muggle money when he was a child, but it still fills him with a strange nostalgia, seeing the Queen staring out at him from the paper, but he's stopped short when he turns one of the notes over and doesn't see Florence Nightingale. He frowns, glancing to the teller, but before he can open his mouth, the goblin says, "They changed two years back - that's Charles Dickens. He was a Muggle writer. They change the figures on their currency often."

"Right," Harry says, slightly awkwardly, and he makes his way towards the fireplaces again, murmuring quietly - but clearly - his destination. As soon as he steps into the flat, he listens for Sirius and Remus - he hears a record playing, a Boney M. album, that muffled the sound of his coming in through the Floo, so he doesn't bother to talk to them. He just slips towards the front door and closes the door quietly behind him. He waits for a second on the doorstep, steeling himself - no one has actually gave him a lecture about not going anywhere on his own the past week, simply because everyone's been so focused on any grief he might be feeling, but he knows it's implicit in a lot of what the adults in his life have been saying, and he knows being safe is important, but...

It's Muggle London.

No one's going to recognize him, and it's not as if Death Eaters routinely walk the streets the Muggles tread.

Harry puts his hands in his pockets, adjusting his satchel on his shoulder, and he begins to walk. Sirius' flat is only fifteen minutes from the Leaky Cauldron, but Harry walks in the opposite direction, heading into the centre of town. Lunchtime on a weekday in the centre of London is busy, and when passing through groups of people moving on their break or on shopping trips he has to dodge through or past. He ends up on the high street soon enough, though, and he makes his way down the street, glancing at the different shops. There aren't many people his age, and he notices it when he slips into an amusement arcade on a side street - the place is almost empty, but for a couple in their twenties, both wearing loose-fitting jumpers and bottleglass spectacles who are getting very competitive over a game of air hockey.

"Shouldn't you be in school, lad?" asks a technician in a black polo shirt, frowning at him, and Harry shakes his head.

"Private school, mate. Let out early." The technician takes this immediately, even offering Harry a little grin, and he takes a few steps away, slipping behind a desk with a glass front around it. He changes one of Harry's ten pound notes for coins, and Harry takes some of the fifty pence pieces, taking a try at some of the arcade games. But for the very occasional go on Dudley's games consoles at home, he's never played any video games at all, and the ridiculous freedom of the place hits him hard. There are some pool, snooker and air hockey tables, and then there are a whole load of different arcade machines, grabber machines and the like. Over a half wall at the end of the room are some gambling machines, but Harry has no interest in them anyway.

He takes a fifty pence piece and tries his hand at a huge, black machine labelled with NAMCO on the side, and he recognizes it as something Dudley's played on his computer. He's never really understood the appeal behind videogames, as all he's never experienced of them has been Dudley playing them and then getting angry at either the game or whoever he was playing with, depending on which was most accessible - he's seen Dudley slam his fist through games consoles and snap the discs or cartridges over his knee, but playing them isn't actually stressful or upsetting.

To Harry's utter surprise, he enjoys them.

He plays Pacman, initially, enjoying the simplicity of the game and its focus on reflexes and thinking quickly, and then he plays the other games - games where you shoot at things or fight hand to hand with people, games that are based around puzzles or problem-solving, and he even has a go at a game called DanceMaster, which is actually surprisingly difficult. He likes it, though: he has to stand straight in the middle of the floor and move his feet to hit four arrows, doing it in time with the animation on the screen, and he doesn't just enjoy it - he loves it.

The time he's spent in the amusement arcade, he's always had everything in the back of his head - Lucius dying, what Remus and Sirius are going to say when he gets back, the war, Death Eaters, Voldemort, how the people still at Hogwarts must still be feeling. It had been worse when he'd been playing the shooting games, watching the cartoonish, ridiculous sprays of animated blood explode into the air or dash the floors and walls, and he hated that he'd known the blood was the wrong colour or spattered the wrong way, hated wondering if it had come off Lucius like this or like that when Voldemort had killed him.

But with this? With this stupid DanceMaster?

He doesn't think about anything until the level ends.

It reminds him of the Quidditch games he's played with the Weasleys, not because of the actual process - he steps left, right, left, right, forwards, back, right, right, left, left, and doing this on a broom would throw him hard into the wall of the castle - but because he gets so into it, so focused on the actual game that he forgets about everything. Not just about the war and the people in his life, but about the arcade around him, about what he's wearing - he forgets absolutely everything in his life except the game in front of him, and when he finally takes enough steps wrong that the GAME OVER screen comes up, he's laughing to himself and leaning back against the brace at the back of the machine.

"Oi!" Harry glances back from the machine - his shirt has come untucked from his trousers, and it sticks loosely out from under the hem of the jumper, which has ridden up a little, and he sees the three school boys. They're his age or a little older, maybe, still in their school uniforms of black jumpers, black trousers, blue shirts and striped ties - would he have worn a uniform like that, Harry wonders, if he'd ended up going to Stonewall High? No, he remembers - he'd be wearing those badly dyed pieces of elephant skin he'd seen Aunt Petunia preparing before he'd received his Hogwarts letter. They look smart, though, he thinks, even though their trousers are creased and the knots of their ties are too big and the tails too short: he's kind of missed the Muggle look. "Are you gay or something?"

It's the one in the middle that talks - he's shorter than his two friends, with dirty blond hair and a rather pointy nose, with tanned features and green-flecked brown eyes. His arms are crossed over his chest, and his friends stand behind each of his shoulders as if they're henchmen. The three of them remind Harry of Draco, Crabbe and Goyle for a moment, and he almost laughs before he remembers about Lucius. Guilt hits him, but only lingers for a moment or two.

"Yeah," Harry replies easily, leaning on the brace, casually. He's sweated a little bit, but the activity has made his hair fluff up all around his head, and he can't help but wonder how he looks right now. "No offence though, mate, but I'm not looking for a boyfriend right now." The boy recoils, his eyes widening, and his friends laugh, shoving him and each other playfully, and immediately the similarity to Draco is gone - the shorter boy turns to his friends, laughing with them, before he looks back to Harry.

"You think you're funny?" he asks. There's no undercurrent of threat or obnoxiousness or unpleasantness like there would be with Draco in this situation. This guy is less arrogant, Harry guesses, or maybe just a little more down to earth.

"Yeah," Harry answers, shrugging his shoulders. "Sure." The three of them sort of stare at him, lead by the one in the middle, and then they walk past him, gathering around the tallest one on one of the shooting games, and Harry takes the time now to glance around the room. There are school children all around now, both closer to his age and much younger, gathered around games or chatting in the corners. Most of them have drinks or are eating bits of food from the greasy spoon next door, and he'd not noticed any of them coming in.

He grins a little, putting his hands in his pockets and making his way outside. He feels the sun on his face, and then he steps into the little café, grabbing for himself a burger and eating it quickly, but when he slips to the bathroom before walking home, he hesitates. There's a cigarette machine in the corridor that leads to the toilets, and he doesn't know why it strikes him so hard, the thought of getting a packet of cigarettes, but it does.

He takes a few pound coins, drops them into the machine, and lets it vend a packet of Silk Cut - Aunt Petunia never smoked, of course not, never, but occasionally he'd find an empty packet in the bin, and she always had Silk Cut. He drops the packet in his back pocket, beside his wand, and forgets about them for the time being.

---

"Do you have any idea how irresponsible that was? We were terrified, Harry! You'd left Narcissa's before twelve, and then disappeared from the face of the earth! You could have died, could have been kidnapped, could have- They want you dead. Don't you understand that?" Remus is pale-faced and furious, his hair sticking up in every direction, but none of the words really hit him. He stands up straight, disaffected, with his hads in his pockets. "Well? Aren't you- for fuck's sake, Harry, aren't you going to say anything?"

"People want me dead. I get it. I've got it for the past five years. It's not new. Lucius is dead - that's all that's different." Remus stares at him, seemingly floored by the response, and Harry meets his gaze levelly. "I didn't take a three day cruise, Remus: I took an afternoon off, on my own, safely."

"Where did you go?" Remus asks. Harry shrugs his shoulders. "You're not going to tell me that?" The incredulity in Remus' voice borders on hysterical, and Harry doesn't look away, doesn't shake or turn away from it - Remus looks stressed and upset, and that's bad, but Harry only feels a little bit of guilt. He'd wanted to have that afternoon in the arcade, and he'd taken it - and it had harmed absolutely nobody, with the potential to harm only Harry himself.

"Did you decide to give me the lecture yourself, or did Sirius ask you to?"

"How in the Hell can you-"

"Mix of both?"

"Get out." Harry knew Remus would snap eventually - he's been sleeping well the past few days, but he's not actually any less stressed, and although he's a patient man about some things, he isn't when it comes to stuff he takes this seriously. When it comes to Sirius or Harry being safe, he isn't likely to remain patient for long, and that's what Harry had been counting on.

"All I wanted," Harry responds, and he walks past Remus and into his room, his door shutting with a click behind him. He can hear the ringing silence from outside, and he sees Remus in his mind's eye, stock still and absolutely full of rage where he stands in the middle of the hall. Harry pulls his jumper over his head, throwing it aside and walking slowly into his room, dropping his bag on the floor beside his bed. Taking his wand from his back pocket, he takes a glass bowl from his chest of drawers, tipping out the scattered badges on the dresser surface. The Transfiguration isn't too difficult - he just makes the bowl flatter and wider, and it almost looks like a proper ashtray. He grins to himself, taking out the packet of cigarettes, and he flicks out one of them.

He holds it in his hand, examining the difference between the tan line of the cigarette's base and the white paper of its length, and he experiments with the ways to hold it, trying to decide what feels most natural. Then he decides he doesn't care, and flicks an Incendio at the cigarette's end, glad to live in a magical household, where the Trace can't actually know who it is casting spells.

He watches the orange glow around the cigarette's end with a kind of detached interest. The colour reminds him of the last embers of a fire, and it comforts him, on some level: he drops on his back, draws the cigarette to his mouth, and puts his lips to the base of the filter before he inhales. Harry does it slowly, and the taste is strange, more bitter than he'd expected, but he lets it fill his mouth and touch to the back of his throat. It hurts a little bit, not exactly stinging the walls of his throat, and when he exhales, he lies for a few still moments on the bed, staring up at the green canopy above him.

He glances to the cigarette in his hand, examining it thoughtfully, and then he brings it to his mouth again.

The second time, he coughs so hard he nearly drops the fag, and only narrowly escapes setting his bed on fire.

---

Harry makes bacon sandwiches for tea. He doesn't have the appetite for anything else, so he just makes himself a plate and then puts two aside for Remus and Sirius. They're in the living room, talking quietly, the sound muffled, and when Harry goes in, he's quiet about it, hovering in the doorway. Remus has his long legs awkwardly beneath him on the sofa, holding a half-full wine glass in his hand, and Sirius is sprawled across the other side with his feet in Remus' lap, his glass on the table beside the bottle of wine. Both of them look solemn, and Harry has no wish to sit and talk with them. He goes forwards, putting a plate of sandwiches on the table, and Remus frowns as he looks from the plate to Harry.

"Figured I'd do them as I did mine. Night," is all Harry says, and he goes to his bedroom, kicking the door shut behind him. He flicks on the radio, wanting something to distract him, but there's nothing on that's actually interesting - he ends up just leaving it on a radio show about Herbology, which he almost entirely ignores. When that fades into the WWN news bulletin, he glances towards it.

"And representatives of Buttoned Betting, the popular goblin-run bookmakers, were seen in the courts before the Wizengamot early this afternoon. Relations were strained, and many called for exile of those goblins involved on the Triwizard Tournament upset to the new wizarding prison, a call unheard of since 1966, when three goblin terrorists were sentenced to be Kissed, which was highly criticized at the time by the goblin government. As the prison is as-yet unnamed and unbuilt, the six primary suspects in the matter are being held in the Ministry of Magic, and a statement through the Goblin Liasion Office labelled it as "irredeemable" on the part of the Ministry." Harry sighs, turning onto his front and pressing his face into the bedsheets. "Ludo Bagman is scheduled to be in court on the Thursday of this week."

"Fucking great," Harry mutters to the unnecessarily brisk voice of the witch on the radio.

"This series of court appearances is part of a Ministry initiative to crack down on what Dolores Umbridge, head of the Betting And Gambling Commission, declares to be "an unthinkable epidemic, where betting on blood has become the accepted normality", and the Minister for Magic has expressed his support for tighter constrictions upon gambling in Wizarding Britain."

Harry has no idea if that's exactly a work of genius, given that most of the betting shops are run by goblins, but he Cornelius Fudge has never struck him as a particularly intelligent man, and the only heart he seems to have is for people liking him and cronying up to him.

He glances to the window, seeing the night closing in - with the summer moving on, the days are growing longer, and Harry actually hates how long the days are. In Grimmauld Place last summer, there'd been people bustling back and forth constantly, and now Harry knows no one he knows is bustling anywhere. Without something keeping him occupied, he just keeps thinking about Lucius dead, Lucius dying, and what that means - Voldemort must be more confident now, killing people in the middle of Hogsmeade, and killing Karkaroff and Malfoy, two defected Death Eaters, must mean something.

Harry knows that they're lucky that Voldemort has been forced to wait until now to actually start doing something, but it doesn't make the bitter taste in his mouth any sweeter. He hasn't been in the streets of Diagon Alley, but he'd felt the barest twinge of it in Gringotts earlier today, and heard it in the stiff tone of the woman on the radio, and even from Toots on the Herbology Hour. There's a pervading essence in the air of Wizarding Britain, a promise, Harry guesses, that war is coming again.

What will it be like?

He's read about the wars against goblins and whatever, even played historical boardgames with the Slytherin boys based on old wars, but it's not the same. He thinks about the snippets he's heard about in the letters that were written to him a few years back, when people were sending him pictures of his family...

He flicks his wand at the radio, and silence fills his bedroom as he walks across the room and pulls the organiser off the shelf. His letters are neatly organised, and he's allowed many of his relationships by letter to taper off - it doesn't feel right, not opening a Tuesday morning to a letter from Lucius Malfoy. Here Harry is, right at home, and it doesn't feel like it.

He doesn't take out the letters from Lucius - for obvious reasons, the man had never written to him about the war - and instead takes out the sheaf from Augusta Longbottom. She always writes on beautiful parchment with birds embossed in the corners, and her owl flies with so much grace that it often feels like she might have just flown off the parchment. Harry doesn't really read them, just scanning them and picking out certain words.

Past, your mum, Alice, future, Frank, Neville, war, Death Eaters, Gryffindor, Ministry...

Some words just stand out on the page, because she's hesitated over them or spent more time on the cursive letters with their big, old-fashioned loops. He sets aside the sheaf, neatly tying them with ribbon again, and he reaches for the album at the back of the organiser. He'd used to be so focused on adding to the album during and at the end of the year, adding photographs or little things, but he's never really done it this year - he's let it lose its focus in his life, like he has letter-writing. He pages through the thick, green-tinted paper, looking at the photos of his family, his parents, and then at the mixes of things.

Notes and tags from his first Christmas presents, the note (in handwriting he now recognizes as belonging to Albus Dumbledore) that had been attached to his Invisibility Cloak, postcards from the Weasleys and from other people's holidays... He frowns slightly, stopping on a page he'd filled out in his second year, and he reads his handwriting.

"From the secret library I unlocked in the Slytherin Common Room! Found it in the back of the old desk, thought it was cool. I love the snakes." Harry frowns a little, taking up the piece of paper. He vaguely remembers finding it, the way he'd crept into the library in the middle of the night and tried to find something more interesting, but he hadn't spared it any thought since pinning it into the album. There are drawings of skulls and snakes in green ink - little more than doodles, really - except that he recognizes one of the doodles. A snake comes forth out of a skull's open mouth - he's seen the Dark Mark in the sky, and most recently in the paper, and but for a little change here and there, this is it.

He turns the paper over, scanning over the page, and he sees Latin and Greek phrases scribbled down and then scribbled out: he can only make out two words. Anima - soul, life. And then, on the other corner of the page, concateno. That's like- to link, to connect. There are so many words between them, but they're all illegible, and Harry frowns deeply.

This is Voldemort's then, planning the beginnings of the Dark Mark - it makes sense, with how old the parchment is. It'd probably been in that little library since Voldemort had been at Hogwarts, and he must have snuck in to the library, but... Anima. Why would Voldemort need that word in the incantation for the Dark Mark? A connection makes sense for the Dark Mark, given that he uses it to contact his people like a Protean Charm, but why mention a soul or a lifeforce?

Harry glances over to the radio. He'd killed Lucius Malfoy and Igor Karkaroff - they'd had Dark Marks.

Voldemort had killed them together, but it wasn't as if Igor and Lucius were friends. They didn't walk the same paths any more, didn't even talk from what Harry had heard.

Hedwig comes to the window with a fluttering of her wings, and Harry opens it to let her in, taking the letter from her leg. He'd expected something from Hermione or the twins, or one of the Slytherins, but he recognizes, instead, the flowing handwriting of Albus Dumbledore. He leans, putting his nose to Hedwig's, and says, "This about today?" Hedwig makes a soft coo, noncommittal, and he strokes over her feathers.

"Alright," Harry murmurs, and he drops back onto his bed.



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