In Which There Is No Resolution, None At All
Harry popped into existence outside Ron and Hermione’s house, and spent a moment taking it in. They had bought it a couple years ago, but Harry had never visited. He had been…busy. It was a nice house, set on the side of a hill that sloped down to a creek. There were trees to each side of the house, with a bewildering array of differently-coloured branches and leaves. Harry frowned at them – he had no idea what they were.There was a pop
from behind him, and Harry turned, wand out – then put it away when he saw it was Ron.
“Joshua trees,” said Ron, waving at the multicoloured trees. “Each branch bears a different fruit. I’ve got apples, pears, oranges and lemons so far. If there’s enough sun, we might get grapefruit this year.”
“It’s a nice place,” Harry said earnestly.
“Yeah, it is.” Ron looked up at the sky, stars hidden by clouds but the occasional sliver of moonlight peeking through. “I managed to keep you out of the paperwork,” he said conversationally. “And she agreed not to mention you, seemed to understand why you didn’t want to be involved in the trial.”
“Thanks,” said Harry. There was an awkward pause.
“Well, come in,” Ron said, starting down the gravel walk to the front door. “Hermione and I want to talk to you.”
“Warded?” Harry asked as they reached the door.
“Of course.” Ron tapped his wand against the doorknob, and pricked his thumb against a nail sticking out of the woodwork. The door swung open, and Ron stepped inside, calling “Hermione! I’m back, with Harry.”
“Oh!” Hermione sounded flustered, which was unusual. “I’m in the kitchen.”
Ron led Harry down the hall and into the kitchen. It was slighty dirty and a little untidy. Harry liked it instinctively. Hermione was sitting at a wooden table with a series of hardbound ledgers open in front of her. She got up and hugged Harry, her hair brushing against his shoulders. Harry leaned into the hug for a moment before pulling back.
“Sit down, Harry,” said Hermione, brushing her back with one hand and smiling. “We need to talk to you.” Harry sat down opposite Hermione and Ron, who were holding hands. And smiling. Harry looked from Ron to Hermione and back, eyebrows raised.
Harry stood out on the hill, taking slow breaths of the cool night air. Then he turned and apparated. He couldn’t go all the way to his destination in one jump; for an instant, he was standing behind a pub in Wales, and then he was standing in front of a block of commercial buildings in Edinburgh. A small, discreet sign indicated that it was the premises of Anachronism Armouries. It was a new-ish building, mostly concrete, with no attempt made by the architect to hide the uncompromising functionality. Harry wondered how many other buildings had gone before it, periodically demolished and rebuilt while everything below the ground level stayed the same.
Harry walked up to the front door and knocked, glanced up at the security camera overhead. There was a pause. The door buzzed open, and Harry walked into a dark room. The door swung closed automatically, and two floodlights lit up, blazing into Harry’s eyes.
“Name?” said a voice.
“My apologies, sir.” The floodlights went off. Three men and a woman were standing at the other end of the room behind two large metal desks, lowering assault rifles from their shoulders. “Please go in,” said the woman. Her and one of the men each slid a key into a panel on the wall, turned them, and the metal door beside the panel swung open. It was quite thick.
“Thanks,” said Harry.
He went through the door, down a flight of stairs, and into a hallway that might have been in any office building in the world – save for the lack of windows. Harry didn’t need directions. He concentrated and felt a tugging sensation, iron being drawn to a magnet. He followed it along the corridor, around corners, down two more flights of stairs. All the doors he passed were unmarked, and soundproofed; the tunnel corridors were eerily silent. Harry stopped at a door that was exactly like all the others, and knocked. It opened.
Harry stepped inside. Two vampires were in the room, one with a rifle and one with a sword. Harry vaguely recognised them. They nodded at him, and stepped aside from the door they were guarding. Harry went through, shut it behind him. He stood in a room with black walls, carefully hand-painted with the starry night sky. Harry recognised several constellations from Astronomy class. In the centre of the room was a desk, with a computer and a pile of handwritten ledger books. Behind the desk sat Olivia.
Every time Harry saw her, he was newly amazed at how dangerous she was. Sitting still behind her desk, she radiated lethality. She was tall, about the same height as Ron – which meant she had more than an inch on Harry. Her skin was dark, a mahogany-brown that gleamed in the light of the lamp in the corner. Harry knew she had turned it on so he could see. She was well-muscled, strong and lean. Her head was shaved bald. Her only ornament was an iron stud through her left earlobe, and she wore simple black tank-top and slacks. Her presence beat at Harry’s mind, a dark refrain in the corners of his mind not easily dismissed. He raised his Occlumency shields, and the sensation faded a little.
“Harry,” she said calmly. Harry caught a glimpse of her fangs; she never tried to hide them. “It is good to see you.”
“You called,” Harry replied, just as calmly.
“I was aware that you could dip in and out of death, but it was still surprising for the mark to disappear.”
“I’m sorry,” said Harry. It sounded insincere even to him.
“You could warn me next time,” she said evenly.
“That would require me taking the rest of the marks.”
“No. Only the second.”
“Well, I didn’t want to take any of them,” Harry said sharply.
“You will have to eventually.” Her face was perfectly composed.
.” Harry took a slow breath. “Five more years, though.”
“Your twenty-fifth birthday present.” Her lips curved, it could have been a smile. Olivia’s sense of humour was guillotine humour, one step beyond gallows.
“Better than socks,” said Harry.
“Was your adventure into death successful, Harry? I ask because you seem unsettled.”
“I’m standing in a master vampire’s study. Don’t you think I should be unsettled?”
“Harry.” Her eyebrows drew down slightly. “There are very few rooms in my home which could unsettle you, and this is not one. You only make jokes when you are nervous.” She was silent for a moment. “Please tell me.”
“Ah.” Harry glanced aside, staring at three small stars on the wall. He couldn’t remember whether they were part of a constellation or not. “Nothing you’d care about, just…things.”
“Harry, you are my human servant—” Olivia raised a hand at Harry’s protest, “—by agreement, if not yet by fact. Your interests are mine.”
“Just as much as yours are mine.”
“I cannot command your interest, Harry. But you command mine already. Unburden yourself.”
Harry scraped one shoe across the carpet, shifted his weight, folded his arms. It was ridiculous, he thought, that he had two people who he could talk completely honestly to, and they were both vampires. Well, it wasn’t that surprising; Olivia and Annalise knew about the agreement, which he didn’t dare reveal to Ron or Hermione. They would…he didn’t know what they would do, but Harry was still afraid of them doing it. He stepped to the side and leaned against the wall, partially covering what he thought might be Orion.
“Ron and Hermione had some news for me,” he said after a while.
“No.” Harry closed his eyes, opened them again. “The opposite. Too much the opposite. They want me to be the godfather.”
“You feel betrayed.”
“No!” Harry thumped one hand against the wall. “They have everything. They’ve got…life. And more of it on the way. They moved past the war, and I’m…I’m still fighting it.”
“All your enemies are defeated.”
“Which makes it even more sad, doesn’t it?” Harry shot back.
“I do not believe you are unable to move past Riddle and his mewling sycophants. Your problem, Harry,” she rose to her feet, slowing herself down otherwise it would have been a single flash of movement, “is that you are unable to accept that you are ready to move on.”
“I’ve heard this before from other people.”
“And the fact that I concur should give you pause. I am not noted for my insight into the process of mental recovery from trauma.”
“You create the trauma,” Harry murmured.
“Exactly.” Olivia smiled again, very slightly. “Harry. You are doing too many things at once.”
“All I’m doing is talking to you.”
“No. You are speaking, and carefully not listening to me, and suppressing the part of you that understands that I am correct. A great deal for one wizard to do.” She sidled up beside him on the wall, a cool solidity brushing against him from shoulder to hip. She reached out, and gently slid her arm through the crook of his elbow. “Let us sit down for a time.”
She led him – not that he could have broken her grip – through a side door, into a room with a wine-red couch and a pine coffin. Olivia pressed Harry down onto the couch, and sat beside him.
“Now. Harry. Annalise says that you may have made an enemy in the colonies already. Very efficient of you. Tell me more.”
“His name is Miles Legorian. I came back here – to Britain – to get some more information on him,” said Harry, staring at and through the coffin. “I’m not even sure that he’s my enemy yet.”
“Assume that he is,” Olivia said, her eyes as intent on Harry as his were absent. “Tell me more about our enemy.”