Chapter 01

“I still don’t understand why you started a bloody snake company,” Ron said, leaning against the counter.

Harry sighed and reached around him to grab the pendant a customer had brought up to the counter. He smiled at her, ignoring Ron. “Would you like this gift wrapped?” he asked.

“No thanks, Mr. Potter,” the woman said.

Harry rang up the purchase, made change for the woman, and turned to Ron after she had left the store. “We’ve been over this a thousand times,” he said. “I started this company to show people that Dark abilities don’t have to be feared.”

“Yeah, but why do you care if people are afraid of Parseltongue?” Ron asked.

Harry sighed again. “You remember our second year in Hogwarts as well as I do,” he said. “I don’t want people to think that having the ability to speak Parseltongue immediately makes someone evil. I told you that when I opened this store.”

Ron frowned at him and picked up a snake-themed keychain, twirling the ring around his index finger as he studied Harry. “I know, but bloody hell, Harry, why did it have to be snakes?”

Harry snorted. “Would you have prefered it if I had opened a shop selling spider paraphernalia instead?”

Ron paled. “No bloody way,” he said. “I’ll take snakes over spiders any day. But you do realize, don’t you, that most people who speak Parseltongue end up being Dark wizards, right?”

Harry shrugged. “Are you sure they end up being Dark wizards because they speak Parseltongue, Ron? Or do they get turned onto Dark paths because they are assumed to be Dark wizards simply because they possess the ability to speak Parseltongue?”

Ron groaned. “I hate it when you get bloody philosophical, mate. Wouldn’t it have been easier to open a Quidditch shop and be done with it?”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Anyone can open a Quidditch shop. I’m the only well-known Light wizard with a Dark ability like Parseltongue. This is the only way I can really make a difference, Ron.”

“No, it’s not,” Ron insisted. “You could have become an Auror, you know. Then the two of us could be out chasing Dark wizards together.”

Harry picked up a snow globe that sat on the counter. Inside, two snakes coiled around each other. “I had enough of chasing Dark wizards at Hogwarts, Ron,” he said, tone quiet. “When I found out I was a wizard, I also found out that I had to defeat Voldemort. I was never given a chance to decide what I wanted to do myself.” He shook himself, then forced himself to smile at Ron, even if that smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I’ve had enough of fate telling me what I have to do. Defeating Dark wizards isn’t my destiny anymore, Ron. This shop is enough for me.”

Ron sighed, then shrugged. “Still, mate, you have to admit it would have been fun chasing Dark wizards together.”

Harry laughed. “Maybe, maybe. I’ll give you that. But I prefer the safety of my shop, and I am making a difference in my own way.”

Ron raised an eyebrow. “Really? What kind of difference can you possibly make by selling snake stuff?”

“I can show people that Parseltongue speakers aren’t evil. By showing people that, perhaps I can prevent other wizards who speak Parseltongue from turning down Dark paths.”

“Mate, I hate to break it to you, but selling snake stuff isn’t going to convince anyone not to become a Dark wizard.”

Harry scowled. “I know that, Ron. That’s why I’m doing translation work for the Ministry. If I can reduce the fear people have of snakes, I can reduce the fear of Parseltongue. And I can help catch Dark wizards by translating the Parseltongue documents the Ministry finds during raids. You already know that I’m a consultant for the Ministry, so why the hell are you being so obnoxious? I have customers I need to attend to.”

Ron furrowed his eyebrows, creating a pinched expression on his face. “Sorry, mate. I’m just bored. Hermione had to go into work today when it’s supposed to be our scheduled day off together. It’s date night, and she has to bloody work.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “So you came in here to insult me? How is that a productive use of your time?”

“Beats sitting around doing nothing at home, doesn’t it?” Ron asked.

“If you’re going to keep pestering me at work,” Harry said. “I’m going to put you to work dusting the shelves or sweeping the floors.”

Ron held his hand up in mock surrender. “Okay, okay, I’m going. I’ll let you get back to saving the world or whatever it is you’re doing.”

“You’re an asshole, you know that?” Harry asked, half-shouting after Ron as the redhead disapparated with a crack. Shaking his head in bemusement, he turned to face the door as the bell clanged to let him know a customer had entered. Once he saw who the customer was that had entered, an old anger rose in his blood. “What the bloody hell do you want, Malfoy?” he spat.

Draco Malfoy, prim and proper in a grey business suit, raised an eyebrow. “Now, really, Mr. Potter. There is no reason to speak to me with such vitriol. We are surely both adults and can speak to each other like civilized human beings.” The smirk that accompanied the words belied the casual tone in which they were delivered.

Harry’s fists clenched at his side, and he fought the urge to pull out his wand and hex Malfoy into next week. “The day I consider you a civilized human being will be the day Albus Dumbledore rises from the grave,” he said. “Now, I’ll ask you one more time. What the bloody hell do you want?”

Malfoy sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Believe me, if I could go to anyone else, I would. Unfortunately, you’re the only wizard I know who openly speaks Parseltongue.”

In spite of himself, Harry was intrigued. What reason could Malfoy possibly have for needing a wizard who spoke Parseltongue? The last thing Harry was going to do, however, was give Malfoy the benefit of seeing how intrigued he actually was. “Get out of my shop, Malfoy,” he said. “I’m sure you can find someone else to help you.”

“Weren’t you listening?” Malfoy asked, rubbing his eyes. “You’re the only wizard I know that can speak Parseltongue. I’ve recently found myself in the possession of a box of scrolls written in a language that no one seems to be able to decipher. I’ve taken the scrolls to multiple translators over the past few months with absolutely no luck. I’m only here as a last resort.”

“Why do you need these scrolls translated?” Harry asked, suspicious.

“You do realize that I work with the Ministry now, right, Potter?” Malfoy asked.

Harry shrugged. “I work with the Ministry occasionally as well. What does that have to do with anything?”

“The scrolls I have in my possession were collected from a raid a few months ago. The Ministry brought me in to make sure that the scrolls weren’t cursed. Once they were satisfied that there were no curses on the scrolls, they asked me to get them translated.”

Harry glared at Malfoy. “If they aren’t cursed, why the hell do you need to translate them? They obviously aren’t dangerous if no one can decipher the contents.”

Malfoy sighed, an exasperated sound. “Look, Potter. If the scrolls somehow manage to find their way into the hands of someone who can read them, it could be a disaster. For all we know, the scrolls contain information on how to conduct forbidden Dark rituals. I need to find someone who can translate them so that I can make sure the information within the scrolls is harmless.”

“Great,” Harry said. “In case you haven’t noticed, I have a shop to run. My time is valuable, and I don’t fancy spending it translating scrolls for you.”

“I don’t even know that they are in Parseltongue, Potter,” Malfoy said, a sour look on his face. “I like coming to you about as much as you like me being here, but I take pride in my work. All I need from you is five minutes of your time so that you can look over one of the scrolls and tell me if the bloody thing is in Parseltongue or if I have wasted my time and effort by coming here.”

“Fine,” Harry said, tone clipped. “Hand the bloody scroll over, and I’ll tell you whether it’s written in Parseltongue or not.”

Wordlessly, Draco pulled the scroll from the inside fold of his suit and handed it across the counter to Harry.

Harry unrolled the scroll and placed it on the counter top. As soon as he looked at the writing, the words began to blur into sound. When he tried to watch the symbols, his eyes wouldn’t focus, but when he stopped trying to read, he started hearing syllables. Those syllables became words that had the distinct flavor of Parseltongue.

>>Perhaps no one will ever understand what it is that I am setting in motion, but I can’t stomach the thought of a destroyed world. They may call me a villain, but that is a small price to pay if I can prevent the future that I have witnessed. There is no burden too great to bear in order to prevent that calamity from occurring.

Harry shook his head as the paragraph came to a close. His mind was swimming with the syllables of Parseltongue, and he was dizzy enough to stumble and crash into the wall behind the counter, sending merchandise flying. “Great,” he said, wincing as he picked himself up.

Malfoy raised an eyebrow at him. “Well?” he asked.

Harry scowled. “It’s in Parseltongue,” he said, his mood rapidly turning sour. “I fucking hate translating Parseltongue.”

Malfoy frowned at him. “Isn’t that the reason you started this shop?” he asked. “To help people who speak Parseltongue?”

Harry glared. He didn’t owe Malfoy any answers. “Now that you know it’s in Parseltongue, you can get the bloody hell out of my shop.”

“As much as I would love to do exactly that, I can’t,” Malfoy said. “I need you to translate the box of scrolls into English. The Ministry needs to know the contents of each scroll.”

Harry folded his arms across his chest. “Then leave the box with me. I’ll translate them and send them to the Ministry.”

Malfoy pinched the bridge of his nose again. “It’s not that simple. As the cursebreaker who took responsibility for documenting the scrolls, I can’t let them out of my sight. Like it or not, I need to work with you to get these documented.”

“Absolutely not,” Harry said. There was no way he was going to work with Malfoy, of all people, to translate scrolls written in Parseltongue. When even a single paragraph of translation robbed him of the ability to stand, there was no way he was going to allow Malfoy to hang around to see how vulnerable he became after he translated an entire scroll. That was the one setback of scrolls written in Parseltongue – the language of snakes was never meant to be written down. But someone had found a way to get past that problem, and the end result was that Parseltongue that was read off of a page weakened the person reading it.

“On the behalf of the Ministry, I can pay you for your services,” Malfoy said. “What’s the going rate for a Parseltongue translation these days? Fifty galleons a scroll? Is that reasonable?”

Harry drew in a sharp breath through his teeth. “Do you really think you can offer me money as an incentive, Malfoy? I have plenty of my own. I won’t translate the scrolls for you because you’re an unmitigated bastard.”

Malfoy frowned. “That’s a little harsh,” he said. “I get that you still hate me for what happened in the war, but you do realize that I switched sides near the end of it, right? I saved your life, in case you forgot.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “And I paid you back for testifying at your trial and keeping you out of Azkaban. I’d say we’re even.”

“If we’re even, stop acting like a bloody teenager and help me out. The Ministry needs these scrolls translated in order to make sure no Dark secrets are left out in the open for anyone to find.”

Harry shrugged, his arms still defiantly folded across his chest. “Then destroy them. Or put them in a secure vault. There’s no reason to translate them to keep the scrolls out of the hands of the wrong people. Just squirrel them away and ignore them.”

Malfoy sighed. “You’re a real piece of work, Potter.”

Harry grinned. “Thanks.”

“It wasn’t a compliment, you dolt,” Malfoy said. He tilted his head to the side and thought for a moment. “What incentive could I offer you to get you to translate the scrolls?”

“Nothing,” Harry said, unable to disguise his glee at having Malfoy at his mercy. “There is absolutely nothing you can offer me that would get me to agree to translating those bloody scrolls.”

Malfoy scowled. “If it were Weasley or Granger asking, you would agree to it in a heartbeat.”

Harry nodded. “Yes, I would, but they’re my friends. You’re not.”

“Fine,” Malfoy said, dejected. “I give, you win. I’ll tell the Ministry to lock up the scrolls.”

As Malfoy turned to leave, Harry found he had to ask one last question. “Why is it so important to you that these scrolls be translated?” He kept his voice soft, not sure that Malfoy would answer the question.

“That’s a question with a complicated answer,” Malfoy said, turning to face Harry once more. “Suffice it to say that I’d like to make up for some of the atrocities my family committed during the war, and getting these translated seemed like a good way to do that.”

Harry raised an eyebrow, skeptical. “You’ve lost me on that. How does translating a few scrolls help make up for the insane actions of your father?”

Malfoy shrugged. “If these scrolls contain the secrets of the Dark Arts, then it’s imperative that they be destroyed. This world has seen enough darkness, and I don’t fancy a wizard who can speak Parseltongue stumbling across these in the future and becoming a Dark Lord.”

Despite his hatred for Malfoy, Harry was somewhat touched by the reasons the blonde had given him. “All right,” he said. “I’ll translate the scrolls, but only on my terms.”

“And what are your terms?” Malfoy asked, the hope in his voice guarded.

“We’ll meet on Wednesday nights at six at my house. I’ll work on translating the scrolls for an hour each week, and you will leave at exactly seven. While I’m working, you will stay on the far side of the room and won’t talk. No matter what happens, you aren’t to assist me in any way.”

>Malfoy blinked. “And if I don’t meet one of your terms?”

Harry shrugged. “Then that’s where our agreement ends. I won’t translate anything else in the scrolls if you breach any of the terms I’ve outlined.”

“Fine,” Malfoy said. “An hour a week hardly seems enough time to get through twelve scrolls in a timely manner, but everything else is reasonable.”

Harry’s jaw dropped. “Twelve scrolls? Are they all as long as the one I just looked at?”

“At the very least,” Malfoy said. “Most of them are longer. I brought you the shortest of the twelve.” He shifted uncomfortably. “I didn’t want to overwhelm you.”

Harry stared at Malfoy for a full minute before he managed to recover from the shock. “You’re right. One hour a week won’t get us through the scrolls in a timely manner, but that’s all the time I’m willing to offer you right now. Depending on what we find in the scrolls, I may agree to spend more time on the translation each week. For now, however, an hour is more than adequate. If you don’t like it, you can let the Ministry lock the scrolls up.”

Malfoy pinched the bridge of his nose. It was starting to seem like a tell. “Fine, Potter,” he said. “I’ll agree to your bloody terms. Wednesdays at six. If I remember correctly, you live above this shop, yes?”

Harry nodded, then sagged against the counter in relief as the sound of Malfoy’s disapparition crack echoed around the room. Dealing with Malfoy had never been easy. And now he had agreed to meet with the bastard on a weekly basis.

He groaned and buried his head in his hands. What the bloody hell have I gotten myself into? he asked, dread filling him at the prospect of finding out the answer to that question. But it was dread mingled with curiosity because the brief paragraph he had translated earlier had raised questions about the identity of the writer that begged to be answered. It was that curiosity that had allowed Harry to agree to translate the scrolls. Well, that, and the knowledge that Malfoy would owe him a favor for a long time to come.

Index     Chapter Two

%d bloggers like this: