Chapter 02

As the day wound down and business slowed, Harry began shutting down the shop. At five, when all the customers were finally out of the store, he locked the doors and apparated to the designated area in front of Ron’s house. While he could have apparated directly inside – he was keyed to the wards – he never felt comfortable doing so.

Ron scowled as he opened the door. “What do you want, mate? You know it’s date night.”

Harry winced. Ron hated having company over on Monday nights – it was the only night that him and Hermione really got a chance to see each other. Which, of course, meant it was the only night that Harry would be able to catch the two of them together, and he needed to talk to both of them about what had transpired in his shop. “Sorry, Ron. I know, but I have something important to discuss.”

Ron folded his arms over his chest, then sighed. “Fine,” he said. “But can you try to make it fast? I already gave up most of the day with her since she ended up going into work.”

Harry fought not to grin at the pleading tone in Ron’s voice. “Yeah,” he said. “I’ll try to make it fast.”

“Great. Come on in, then.” Ron stood aside and let Harry pass.
Once inside, Harry made straight for the living room where Hermione sat on the couch. “Hey, Hermione,” he said.

“Hey, Harry. It’s always nice to see you,” Hermione said, smiling at him. “Although I have to admit I would prefer it if it weren’t on our date night.”

Harry winced. “I know, I know. You both know that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important. I have no interest in interfering with your date, but this couldn’t wait.”

Ron snorted. “Mate, the rhyming is completely unnecessary.”

Harry blinked, then let out a startled laugh. “Believe me, it wasn’t intentional.”

Hermione leaned forward, studying Harry. “What happened?” she asked. “You seem a little rattled.”

Harry smiled, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. Trust Hermione to see straight through him. Sometimes, he thought that she was too perceptive by half. “Draco Malfoy came to my shop today.”

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “What –

Ron interrupted. “What the bloody hell was Malfoy doing in your shop?” His fists clenched at his side. “If I had been there, I would’ve –

“Really, Ron, calm down,” Hermione said, placing a hand on his knee. “I’m sure Harry will tell us why Malfoy came to his shop if we let him talk.”

Ron gave Harry a sheepish look. “Sorry, mate. You know I can’t stand Malfoy.”

“You and me both,” Harry said, then took a deep breath. “He came to my shop to ask me to translate some scrolls that the Ministry found in a raid a few months back that are in Parseltongue.”

“You told him no, right?” Ron asked.

Hermione sighed. “Would he be at our house if he had said no, Ron? Honestly.”

“Why’d you agree to translate the scrolls for bloody Malfoy?” Ron asked. “The man’s a complete disgrace to wizards.”

Harry laughed. He hated Malfoy as much as his friends did, and he had to agree with Ron’s assessment. “I know, I know. But the scrolls are in Parseltongue. Who else can translate them? And it’s for the Ministry, Ron. Even if the Ministry did send Draco bloody Malfoy to get them translated.”

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “So, where are the scrolls? You are planning on translating them and sending them back, right?”

Harry winced. “Not exactly.”

“Not exactly?” Ron echoed. “What do you mean?”

“Malfoy said that as the cursebreaker who is responsible for the scrolls, he can’t let them out of his sight. He asked me to translate them in his presence, and I may have agreed to work on the translation for an hour each week.”

“Bloody hell, mate, are you insane?” Ron asked. “What if he finds out how weak translating Parseltongue makes you? You know he’ll go straight to the papers with that kind of information.”

Hermione rubbed her chin, a sign she was thinking. “You know he’s right, Harry. Why would you give Malfoy that kind of access to your weakness?”

Harry scowled. “You both know that I can handle two hours of translation before I have any noticeable side effects from the translation. That’s why I told him that I would only work with him for an hour each week.”

Hermione sighed. “I hate to break it to you, Harry, but the side effects you experience are noticeable after half an hour. The last time I was with you when you translated a Parseltongue document, you couldn’t walk straight for hours.”

Harry pinched the bridge of his nose, not realizing how much of an echo of Malfoy’s tell the movement was. “I know, but that’s why I plan to be sitting down for the entire duration of the translation. I also told Malfoy that he has to stay on the far side of the room while I’m working, and that he has to leave as soon as the hour is up. It’s the only thing I could think of to minimize the risk.”

“I know you don’t back out of something once you’ve given your word, but bloody hell, mate. Why did you have to agree to do this for Malfoy?” Ron asked.

Harry’s face heated. “Because I translated a paragraph while he was there, and what I read was interesting. I mostly agreed because I want to know what information is in those scrolls.”

Hermione grinned at him. “Now that’s a reason I can understand. Now, as to the reason for your visit. I’m guessing you wanted to know if one of us could come after Malfoy leaves and help you out?”

Harry buried his head in his hands, took a deep breath, then lifted his head. “Yes,” he said. “I hate to admit it, but I won’t be able to do much of anything after I spend an hour translating Parseltongue. I need one of you to check on me and make sure I get to bed.” He ducked his head. “You have no idea how embarrassing it is to have to ask for something like that.”

Ron patted him on the shoulder. “It’s all good, mate. What are best friends for?”

Hermione nodded in agreement. “What day and time did you decide to meet Malfoy?”

“Wednesdays at six. He’s supposed to leave by seven,” Harry said.

“Wednesdays are my short days at work,” Hermione said. “I’ll come over at seven fifteen.”

Harry smiled. “Thanks, ‘Mione. You’re a lifesaver.”

Ron sighed. “I guess ‘Mione will have to do it. I work until nine on Wednesdays. Probably a good thing, that. I don’t know what I’d do if Malfoy was still around when I showed up.”

Harry laughed. “Yeah, it’s probably for the best that you stay away from my house on the days Malfoy will be there.”

Ron nodded. “Now, is that all? I hate to be rude, but –

Harry waved a hand and grinned. “Yeah, I know. Date night. And yes, that was all. Thanks.” He stood and stretched. “I’ll see you two later.”

“Bye Harry,” Hermione said, just as Ron said, in good humor, “Good riddance, mate.”

Harry laughed and disapparated, still chuckling to himself as he appeared inside his own kitchen. “Merlin, I love my friends,” he said.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next two days passed uneventfully, and Harry found himself filled with both dread and anticipation as the designated hour for Malfoy’s arrival approached on Wednesday night. The last thing he wanted was to have Malfoy in his apartment while he translated Parseltongue into English. He didn’t want to give the man the chance to see him vulnerable. There was no telling what Malfoy would do with the information, no way to know how he would use Harry’s vulnerability against him.

Harry took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. There was a reason he’d made it a condition that Malfoy stay for an hour and only an hour. With luck, the side effects he experienced while translating Parseltongue wouldn’t be noticed by the blonde. Especially since Harry had made it a requirement that Malfoy stay as far away from him as possible. He didn’t want Malfoy sitting across from him at the table, as that would give the man too much time for scrutiny.

The doorbell rang, interrupting Harry’s thoughts. Grateful for the reprieve, but annoyed that the reprieve was being granted by Malfoy, as it had just chimed six, Harry opened the door.

Malfoy stood on the doormat, the box of scrolls held under one arm. “Good evening, Potter,” he said. “May I come in?”

Harry scowled, but threw the door open to allow Malfoy entrance. “Put the box on the table,” he said. “I’ll get started right away.”

Malfoy walked inside, placed the box on the table, then stopped. He looked at Harry with a raised eyebrow. “Aren’t you going to offer me tea? I am a guest,” he said.

Harry rolled his eyes. “If you want tea, it’s in the cupboard beside the refrigerator. You can make it yourself. There’s milk in the fridge, and the sugar is in the same place as the tea.”

“Really, Potter,” Malfoy said. “You could at least have the decency to offer to make it yourself.”

Harry scowled as he sat down at the table and pulled the lid off the box of scrolls. “I can certainly get up and make you some tea, Malfoy, but I thought that you’d rather have the scrolls translated.” Noticing that the scrolls were labeled numerically, he pulled out the scroll with a small but elegant number 1 scrawled on the tube.

“You’re right,” Malfoy said. “I would much rather have the scrolls translated. I’ll make my own tea.”

“Great,” Harry said, pulling the scroll out of the tube and unrolling it. “I’ll get started with the translation, and you can take your tea to the couch.”

“I don’t suppose you want to translate out loud for me, do you?” Malfoy asked. “I am rather curious as to what you will find.”

“No,” Harry said, the word clipped.

“Fine, no need to get snappish,” Malfoy said.

Harry ignored Malfoy as the man rummaged around in his cupboards, and turned his attention to the scroll he had unfurled. He took a deep breath, then focused on the words in front of him. They floated off the page and turned into the distinct syllables of the Parseltongue language, and he listened to the first couple of paragraphs.

To save the world, I must become a monster. I am sure that there are many wizards who will hate me for what I have decided to become, and they will never understand what has set me on a path such as this. A path that will leave carnage in its wake. It is my intention that no one ever know of the fate that I intend to prevent. If I am successful, no one will ever know the hell that I have witnessed firsthand. No one will ever have to suffer the horrors of a world decimated by war.

Ironic, I know, as I am setting out to begin a war of my own. But the war I intend to start is meant to prevent the war that will end life as we know it. I intend to save our world, and to do that, I must destroy the illusions the wizarding world possesses about the muggle one. Muggles are dangerous. I have seen firsthand the havoc the muggle world will wreak on our world, and I refuse to allow that future to happen. I refuse to allow the annihilation of the wizarding world.

Harry pulled his mind away from the scroll and rubbed his eyes. He grabbed the notebook he’d set aside earlier for the translation and begin writing down what he had heard. He was tempted to analyze what he had translated. Harry wanted to know who the author of the scroll was and why the author had felt it necessary to start a war. He wanted to know what kind of fate the author thought the world needed to be saved from. Hopefully, that would become clear as he continued to translate.

The passage of time was always weird when translating Parseltongue, which was one of the reasons translating anything written in the snake language exhausted him. Sometimes, Harry could translate pages of Parseltongue within a few minutes. Other times, he could only manage a sentence or two in the space of a few hours. It seemed that tonight, two paragraphs was the limit of what he would be able to translate in an hour, as the clock read fifteen til seven as he finished writing the translation down in the notebook.

“I’m done for tonight,” Harry said. He was oddly grateful that Malfoy hadn’t interfered with the translation at all. Instead, the blonde had made his tea and sat on the couch without speaking. In fact, Malfoy hadn’t even glanced at Harry.

Now, though, he turned and looked at him. “There’s still fifteen minutes before seven. Are you sure you can’t translate anymore tonight?” Malfoy asked, and there was an undercurrent of wistfulness that Harry did his best to ignore.

“Yes,” Harry said. “I managed two paragraphs in this first scroll. I’ll make you a copy of the translation to take with you.”

Malfoy raised an eyebrow. “Two paragraphs? In an hour, Potter? I thought you spoke Parseltongue.”

Harry hissed, and the hiss came remarkably close to the Parseltongue word for bastard. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to reply in English. “I do, Malfoy. Translating Parseltongue is far more complex than you understand, as the language was never meant to be written down at all. Sometimes, I can translate a few pages within a few minutes. Other times, a sentence in an hour is lucky. It depends on the depth of skill of the person who wrote documents in Parseltongue.”

Malfoy frowned. “Does that mean that those with stronger Parseltongue can write clearer documents?”

Harry sighed and rubbed the bridge of his forehead. “It’s not that simple. The same speaker could write two documents in Parseltongue that read differently. It depends on the level of concentration employed when the language is written down. Those who invest their full concentration into writing Parseltongue produce documents that are nearly impossible to translate.”

“That seems backwards,” Malfoy said. “Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

“For another language, perhaps,” Harry said. “But Parseltongue was never meant to be written. When a speaker focuses all their concentration on producing written Parseltongue, they end up writing a Parseltongue that attempts to defy translation. A speaker needs to be able to hover between English and Parseltongue in order to write documents easy to translate, and there are very few speakers able to do that.”

“Surely a strong speaker can manage that,” Malfoy said.

Harry shook his head. “It’s much harder for a strong speaker to hover between the two languages, as it can be difficult to distinguish between English and Parseltongue. When I first learned I could speak to snakes, Parseltongue sounded like English to my ears. I was surprised to learn that other people heard hissing, and it took me a long time to learn how to distinguish Parseltongue from English.”

“That’s weird,” Malfoy said, then stood and walked towards the table. “I’ll be taking my copy of the translation and going now, if you don’t mind.”

Harry copied the translation with a touch of his wand and handed it to Malfoy. “See you next week,” he said, watching as Malfoy left his apartment. Once the man was gone, he collapsed against the back of his chair and allowed his breathing to become erratic. The translation had wiped him out, but the last thing he was willing to do was let Malfoy see him vulnerable.

Chapter One     Index     Chapter Three

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