Note: This is a somewhat darker chapter. See the end notes for content warnings if you want them.


Christmas morning dawned cold and crisp as the pale sun climbed its way into a clear blue sky. The roads were still icy from the previous week's sleet, but Lupin knew a dozen spells for preventing slippage and delivered him home from the athenaeum in perfect working order. They had accepted his book on inferi for review, and the bloke at the desk had given him an estimate of a year's subscription, which was pretty good considering he had bought it for thirteen sickles. He didn't really care, as long as it would give him access through the summer holidays, when he planned to take proper advantage of it.

When he arrived at the coffin, there was an assortment of packages sitting on the door. Harry grinned and gathered them up excitedly in his arms before he realised something that twisted his face into consternation. He nudged the lid open and descended. Petri was in the back of the room, working on his experimental wands, though he glanced up as Harry entered.

"How come owls can find us when you've put the fidelius charm on the coffin?" Harry asked, depositing the presents on the table.

"The same way owls can find you even though your identity is a secret. Owls don't care what your name or address is. They simply sense the direction in which the intended recipient is located. As long as the sender is reasonably familiar with both you and the owl, there shouldn't be any problems. Of course, if you no longer wish to receive mail, or if somebody charms you to turn away owls, then they will be unable to deliver to you," Petri explained.

"Owls are magical, then?" Harry asked.

"Owls are enchanted," Petri corrected. "Enchanting living creatures is an entire field of its own, though regrettably one in which I have only limited experience."

He turned back to his project, so Harry began opening the colourful packages on the table. The first one was wrapped in white paper with glittering silver snowflakes dancing softly back and forth. He undid its golden ribbon gingerly before peeling back the spellotaped edges. This was the promised hat from Hannah. He held it out appreciatively in front of him, pressing his thumbs into the soft cotton and comparing it to the scarf around his neck. It was the same dark blue overall, but decorated with pale, tessellating bird silhouettes.

Setting it to the side, Harry picked up the next present, which was in a cube-shaped box about the size of his hand, tied with a green ribbon but otherwise not wrapped. It came away easily with a tug. He opened it and found a large metal sphere, perfectly smooth and shiny like a Christmas ornament, which he supposed must be some mysterious artefact from Vince. Eyeing it doubtfully, he picked it up.

"Ow! Bloody hell!"

A stabbing pain radiated through his hand, and he tried instinctively to fling the object away, but it was stuck. For a moment, he stared in incomprehension at the hooked spikes spearing through his palm. Then his vision swam, and his ears filled with angry buzzing.

"Scheiße!" he heard from somewhere above him. His head cleared for long enough that he noticed he was on the floor. How had he got there? He tried to look at his burning hand and promptly felt bile rising in his throat. It had turned black and shrivelled. The blackness was spreading, slowly but surely, up his wrist.

"Interitum prohibeo! Ferula! Mobilicorpus!" Petri was casting urgently. White bandages snaked tightly around Harry's forearm as he was lifted into the air. Petri ran out of the coffin house and surged across the cemetery at speed, cursing impatiently as the chains on the gate took their time to slither open.

A flash of black streaked out of the shadow of the gate, resolving into a snarling Silviu.

Petri didn't miss a beat—he lowered Harry onto the grass and whipped his wand around, showering the vampire with roses.

"Out of my way, Vlaicu," he said, already pulling Harry back into his movement charm as the gate swung open.

"What do you think you're doing to Harry?" Silviu shouted after him, apparently actually stalled by the flowers. Harry craned his head back and saw that he was vanishing them one by one, one hand clapped over his mouth.

Harry thought Petri might ignore the vampire and keep running, but he slowed long enough to answer, "Saving his life. You can't help. Stay away."

He didn't wait to discover Silviu's response, coursing down Knockturn at a sprint. Harry moaned incoherently. He wasn't sure if he had lost feeling in his hand, or if it simply hurt so much that he could no longer distinguish pain from its absence.

"What's wrong with my hand?" he demanded hoarsely.

Petri did not cease his movement, but angled himself slightly and said, "Flesh-rotting curse of some sort. I'm getting help."

A curse. The ball had been cursed. Harry shut his eyes. Vince was thick sometimes, but how could be so stupid as to send him a literal dark artefact?

He felt ill, whether because of the curse or the realisation that of course, this couldn't have been an accident. Vince was trying to kill him. Vince had been trying to kill him all along. It wasn't Draco who had collapsed the ceiling on Halloween, obviously. Vince was the only one who knew where he would have been. Vince was the one who had started off practising dark magic in empty classrooms, and one did not practise such spells for use on furniture.

But why? Harry's head spun. Lord Voldemort. Vince's family—Neville had mentioned it before—Vince's family had supported the Dark Lord, and most likely still did, and as far as they knew, Lord Voldemort had ordered Harry's death. But how could Vince have been such a consummate actor? Had he secretly hated Harry the whole time they had spent together, after everything Harry had done to help him? It was unbelievable, impossible.

Harry gasped, eyes snapping open. "The fidelius charm," he croaked. "The fidelius charm!"

"What?" Petri panted, slowing as he sidled up a flight of familiar narrow steps. Harry had just been past it earlier in the morning—it was the way to Lupin's flat.

"My friend—he didn't know who I was. He didn't know I was Harry Potter, and he was trying to kill Harry Potter. But he wasn't trying to kill me." The words tumbled urgently from his lips. They had to be said. It was the only way. The alternative was too terrible to countenance.

Petri obviously had no idea what he was talking about. He spared Harry a bemused look as he banged on Lupin's door.

"Remus, come out here. It's an emergency," he shouted. The door rattled, and there was the snick of a deadbolt. Lupin peered out. His eyes widened at the sight of Harry, and he pulled back to admit them.

"Joachim, what's happening?" he whispered harshly, shutting the door behind them.

"Harry's been cursed with something nasty. I've contained it for now but he'll need a potion to counter it. You need to call Severus." Petri said.

Lupin glanced to Harry's hand and flinched. "Why not take him to St Mungo's?"

"And wait for hours while his condition deteriorates?" Petri said. "It's not a generic curse. They won't have anything on hand to combat it."

"What makes you think I can get a hold of Severus any better than you can?" Lupin asked. "I would wager he is less likely to listen to me."

"You have access to Dumbledore's floo," Petri said. "Use it."

"I hardly think—"

"Harry Potter's life is in danger from a dark curse," he snarled. "Alert Dumbledore, tell him to send Severus here straightaway."

Lupin reeled, then nodded, running to his shabby fireplace, his wand spitting a spark into the grate, where it caught into a feeble flame. Petri sighed deeply, dragging his sleeve over his brow. He levitated Harry onto the threadbare couch.

"Hold out your arm," he said. Harry did so, sucking in a harsh breath as the movement sent a jolt of agony through the limb. He shut his eyes, unable to look at the grotesque sight of his blackened, misshapen hand, still impaled on the spiked sphere and leaking putrid blood. He thought he could smell the rot, nauseating and sickly sweet in the back of his throat.

Petri muttered incantations under his breath for a minute straight, then went silent. Harry cracked an eye open and saw that he was still passing his wand back and forth over his outstretched arm like a baton.

"He's coming through," Lupin reported. The dim flat was cast in an eerie green light as somebody spun out of the floo with a swish and thud.

"Where's the brat?" Snape's disdainful drawl was unmistakable.

"Here," said Petri.

Snape's hooked nose rounded the end of the couch. He sneered. "What is the meaning of this? Albus said it was Harry Potter."

"The fidelius charm," Harry said again, looking entreatingly at Petri. "Can we get rid of it? It's just getting in the way, and the Dark Lord knows anyway."

"Now is not the time to be making such a decision," Petri admonished, but a look of unease crept onto his face at Snape's open hostility and Lupin's clear bewilderment.

"What nonsense are you wasting my time with? Where is he?" Snape demanded.

"A child is in need of your aid," Petri told him, but Snape's expression only grew uglier.

"I am only here for Potter." He spat the name like a curse.

"Please," Harry said. "End the fidelius."

Petri stared Snape levelly in the eye for another long moment before he looked to Harry. "Very well. Rosenkol!"

The elf appeared with a crack.

"Excuse him from his duty as your secret keeper," Petri told Harry.

"Okay. Rosenkol…" Harry began uncertainly, "I excuse you from keeping my secret."

Professor Snape immediately swore. Harry stared at him wide-eyed and was met with a searing glare. "Not a word." He glanced down and grimaced at the sight of Harry's arm, taking his wand out.

"It's a flesh-rotting curse, combined with some sort of alchemical inhibitor. Furthermore, I believe it it is interacting poorly with the vampire's curse," Petri reported. Snape clenched his teeth so hard Harry thought they might shatter.

"I suppose the dark artefact cannot be removed?" Snape asked.

"It appears to be one use only," Petri said. "I left it for convenience."

Snape cast a slew of wordless spells at Harry's arm, then swore again. "Keep him alive for another forty minutes. I shall brew something to break the inhibitor. Here." He thrust a vial into Petri's hand. "Pain relief."

Harry had forgotten that he was in pain, really, constant as it was. If the cruciatus curse had one good thing about it, it was that it put all other pains in perspective. Still, the effect of drinking the potion was obvious—his entire body felt like it had been dipped in a cool bath. Aches from tension he had not even been aware of seeped from his muscles.

Snape disappeared through the floo, and all was silent. Lupin stood at the end of the couch, staring uncomfortably at Harry. Harry, feeling awkward, accustomed himself to the sight of his hand, which was now completely shrivelled and black. He laid it carefully on a lumpy pillow.

"So… how does this curse work?" Harry asked. Rotting somebody's flesh seemed like a pretty difficult exercise.

Petri sighed, putting on his lecture tone. "The flesh-rotting curse injects a large quantity of foreign magic into the tissue, causing the affected area to die. Normally your body would resist the effect and suffer only a small lesion, but this particular artefact was also designed to stop other magic from reaching the area to combat the curse, which renders it highly dangerous and impossible to counter with wandwork alone."

Lupin shot him an incredulous look. He turned to Harry and said, "Once Severus gets back with the counter potion, you'll be just fine."

"Actually," Petri said, causing Lupin to choke, "There may be further complications. It seems like the vampire's curse is working to keep your hand animated. Animated, however, is quite different from alive—perhaps even the opposite, and I worry that healing magic will be ineffective."

"We don't know that," Lupin said, brimming with reproach. "At least take him to St Mungo's after Severus returns."

"I plan to," Petri agreed. "We shall also have to pay the Auror Office a visit. This is certainly a case of affliction by a dark artefact, if not attempted murder."

Harry found it hilarious that Petri wanted to report dark magic to the aurors. "There's no point," he said. "We know who it was."

"If you have an idea of who the sender is, the aurors will be able to investigate and bring them to justice," said Lupin.

"Oh yes, the aurors will go out and arrest the Dark Lord," Harry muttered, rolling his eyes.

"The Dark Lord cannot have sent you something by owl post. It must have been one of his followers, somebody who could identify you, and the aurors certainly should be alerted to such a bold-faced crime," Petri said, turning to pace up and down the sparse room.

Harry remembered that Petri still did not know that he had met the Dark Lord not once, but multiple times. Voldemort probably could send him a letter, if he so wished.

"I know who sent it. It's not their fault," Harry said, closing his eyes. "You can't just say no to the Dark Lord."

"Harry," Lupin murmured, a pained look on his face, "There are plenty of people who fight against Lord Voldemort. He isn't unstoppable. Your parents fought against him."

"My parents are dead," Harry said, though he knew it was a low blow. They were Harry's parents, and certainly he mourned the idea of them, but he knew they had been the werewolf's friends. Lupin flinched, his eyes shuttering.

"Because Lord Voldemort murdered them. That's even more reason not to give him any quarter. Lord Voldemort is only powerful because people tell themselves that they're powerless. Following him is a choice, which people can and should be held accountable for. It's a choice between what's easy, and what's right."

Harry felt those words like a punch to his chest. He pursed his lips and looked down, trying to keep his expression steady. His momentary shame was soon replaced by hot indignation. What did Lupin know? He was simply wrong. Lord Voldemort was powerful because he literally was better at magic than other people. This so-called choice was between continuing to live and being 'right' in some nebulous, undefined sense. Harry would choose living every time, thank you very much, and anybody who would do otherwise in his situation was barking mad. How could he blame Vince, who was twelve years old like him and not even as good at magic, for following his family and the Dark Lord? It would be the height of hypocrisy.

Still, his heart stung at the thought. He wasn't sure he could face Vince any time soon, certainly not next week. He didn't know if he wanted to see any of his friends. It felt like the floor had been pulled out from under him. Anybody could be working under false pretences or be under the imperius curse—he himself was under the imperius curse, something which he would do well not to forget. The only thing he could trust, ironically enough, was the Dark Lord's word that he didn't want Harry dead yet. That Lord Voldemort had spared his life again when he had had every opportunity to end it was solid proof of his intentions.

"It's not very polite to burden someone with weighty moralising while they're down," Petri said with a thin-lipped grimace. Lupin glared at him, but kept his silence.

"How long until Snape gets back?" Harry asked, feeling a little light-headed. He wet his lips, finding them hopelessly cracked. The phantom beginnings of pain were returning to his afflicted hand.

Petri glanced at the tip of his wand. "Thirty minutes still. I suppose I should start studying the countercurse. Accio Compendium."

With a pop, the Complete Compendium of Charms materialised in midair. It remained hovering there as he paged through it with casual flicks of his wand.

Harry leaned back and closed his eyes, hoping to fall asleep. After several minutes, however, it became undeniable that a burning feeling was returning to his hand.

"I think the pain potion is wearing off," he said, opening his eyes to find Lupin staring at him in concern.

"It's supposed to last for an hour," said the werewolf, frowning deeply.

"Where does it hurt?" Petri asked, drawing incredulous looks.

"My hand," Harry deadpanned.

Petri shook his head. "Your hand shouldn't be hurting at all. The nerves are most certainly dead by now. It must be as I feared—magical pain, from the vampire's curse. The potion can do nothing against that. Is the pain spreading further up your arm?"

Harry bit his lip, glancing to his unsightly limb. There were spots of black peppered across his wrist, which he couldn't be sure had not expanded. The burning radiated through his whole right side, but he thought it was mostly residual shock from the searing epicentre.

"I don't think so," he finally said. Petri cast some spells at him anyway.

"The containment seems to be holding," he agreed.

They lapsed back into silence. Harry tried and failed to sleep again. After some time, the fire roared with green flame and Snape came spinning out, a large goblet balanced impeccably in his grip. It couldn't have been forty minutes.

"That was quick," Petri remarked. Snape sneered at him.

"I thought it best not to take my time, given the circumstances," he said, passing the steaming potion over the back of the couch. Harry gripped it tightly with his left hand. "Drink up."

The potion was slimy and tasted like spiced snot. A horrid, sulphurous residue clung to his palate and throat, and Harry had to hold his breath to avoid heaving it all back up. The effect was not immediate, but after about a minute, during which three pairs of eyes bored into him with anticipation, he began to feel jittery and focused all at once, as if he had just drunk blood.

He yelled as his hand suddenly erupted in renewed agony. Petri caught his flailing arm by the elbow and immobilised him with his wand. Harry found himself sticky with cold sweat and panting, his heart beating furiously in its cage.

"Expungo!" Petri cast, bathing Harry's hand in a soft green light.

"Did it work?" Harry asked. Petri pursed his lips and cast structure sight on himself.

"The curse appears to be gone," he concluded. Harry glanced at his still blackened hand. "But I have no expertise in healing."

"Allow me to make an attempt," said Professor Snape. He extracted the cursed artefact from Harry's palm with a careful movement charm, encasing it in a translucent bubble and letting it float to the side. "Afflictio sanetur," he sang in a strong baritone, brushing his wand tip over the leathery flesh. Some of the lesions dotting Harry's wrist faded, but his hand remained black as ever, and the holes from the spikes did not close. Snape's face was grim.

"St Mungo's, then?" Petri asked. Snape nodded curtly. "I suppose it would be safest to go the muggle way."

Snape hummed at the back of his throat. "It's Christmas Day. The Underground won't be running. He'll survive a side-along apparition, and well, there will be healers on the other side if he splinches."

"You can't be serious! Apparating with injuries is reckless," Lupin began.

"Quiet, Lupin. Your opinion is unwanted," Snape snarled.

Petri snorted, turning to Harry. "Can you stand?"

Weary of being treated like an invalid—it was his hand that was cursed, not his legs—Harry sprang to his feet, regretting it immediately as his vision darkened and he swayed on his feet. He threw out his arm involuntarily, saved only from shoving his injured hand into the couch by Petri's quick charmwork, which tugged him back by his collar.

"Hold on tightly," Petri said, taking his left hand.

Thus Harry discovered why it was inadvisable to apparate while injured. He emerged on the other side gasping in agony, his lower arm feeling like it had been twisted off. A frantic check told him that it was still there in its desiccated glory, and so were the remainder of his body parts. They had arrived inside what appeared to be an empty shop floor, lit only by sunlight streaming in through a display window, in front of which stood two dummies in dresses that looked like they would have been outdated a decade ago.

Petri dragged him over to one of the dummies, which was clad in a green pinafore and an ugly ribbon hat.

"We're here for spell damage," he said brusquely. The chipped, painted face turned ever so slightly in a small nod. The next step they took was like popping a bubble—the noise of chatter surged into the room, which had transformed into a waiting area equipped with creaky old chairs and even older stacks of Witch Weekly. Petri tugged Harry right past the queue in front of a desk marked 'Inquiries,' glancing at a placard on the wall briefly before taking them through a set of double doors.

The sound cut off again. They had emerged in a cramped passageway lined on both sides with portraits of witches and wizards in lime green robes.

"Oh, nasty curse there! You'll be needing a debridement draught for that," said a square-faced old man.

"A good Werther's Restoration will fix it right up," commented a witch with a very pointed noise.

"You old fools need your eyes checked. It's obviously a serious case of gangrene," another portrait said, sneering. Petri ignored all of them and ushered Harry up the stairs.

They encountered real healers in the same green robes as well, rushing about with purpose. These thankfully did not stop to randomly offer diagnoses, only glancing over briefly to see that Petri seemed to know where he was going.

"Where are we going?" Harry asked as they mounted yet another flight of stairs.

"Fourth floor. Spell damage," Petri said, turning sharply. Indeed, they had arrived in front of another set of double doors marked with that exact placard. He pulled open the doors and gestured for Harry to precede him.

The corridor on the other side extended farther than the eye could see. To their left was a window, behind which sat a sulky wizard with dimples.

"This is the spell damage ward," he said, gaze unfocused. "What sort of ailment are you experiencing?"

Harry held up his hand, and the wizard jumped in his seat, now wide awake.

"Lethal curse damage," Petri said.

"Right, that's down the hall and to the left, ward fifty, Harry Potter ward," the wizard told them. Harry choked at hearing the name, whereupon the wizard's eyes widened. "Blimey, you're Harry Potter!"

He was already regretting letting the fidelius lapse. At the time, he had been thinking about its effect on his friends and enemies, and not… this.

"Yeah, thanks," he muttered, fighting the urge to sprint down the hall and ignoring the wizard's calls to wait. Petri overtook him with his long stride, shooting him a sidelong smirk.

"I suppose they named it after you for your miraculous survival of the killing curse," he said.

"Would be ironic if I kicked the bucket now, wouldn't it?" Harry muttered.

They followed the reception wizard's instructions and proceeded down the hall, turning left. They passed the doors to two other wards, Markalay Lang and Janus Thickey, before finding a door marked 'Harry Potter' at the end.

"Harry?" a familiar voice called suddenly from behind them. Harry whirled around to see Neville emerging from the Janus Thickey ward, followed by a severe witch in a hat adorned with a stuffed vulture.

"Friend of yours, Neville?" asked the witch, who Harry figured must be Neville's legendarily strict grandmother. He'd heretofore only glimpsed her at a distance, and she cut an even more imposing figure up close, despite her eccentric wardrobe.

"Harry Potter," Harry introduced, effectively, for the first time in years. Mrs Longbottom's eyes glittered with recognition.

"Yes, of course," she said. "Neville speaks your praises incessantly. He was positively glowing about the remembrall modifier you gifted him."

At her side, Neville was turning all interesting shades, having first paled and then gone rapidly pink. His eyes were fixed on the slightly scuffed tips of his shoes.

"Oh. Thanks. I'm glad," Harry said, feeling a pang of disappointment that he hadn't even been able to open Neville's present. At least whatever it was probably wouldn't have tried to murder him. Petri coughed unsubtly in the background.

"My goodness," Mrs Longbottom exclaimed, catching sight of his withered hand, "We certainly do not mean to keep you from the healers."

Neville had finally looked up, only to immediately blanch. "Merlin, Harry, what happened to your hand?"

Harry wasn't sure how to answer this question, but was saved by Mrs Longbottom.

"Neville! Don't interrogate the poor boy. Come along now," she said. To Harry, she added, "I hope we can meet again under more pleasant circumstances."

"I'll tell you later," Harry called after Neville's retreating figure.

Petri, who had hung back by the door, opened it now to usher Harry impatiently inside. The room they had entered was narrow, so that the ends of opposing beds might have touched had they not been offset. It was also somewhat dingy, lit by a single cluster of enchanted lights and weak sunlight from a frosted window. Only one bed on the far end was occupied, the curtain drawn. Harry supposed living victims of lethal curses weren't exactly an everyday phenomenon.

A tall witch who had been sitting at a desk beside the door sprung to her feet as they entered, hurrying around it to meet them.

"Hello, this is the lethal curses ward. I'm Healer Morwell," she said, scanning them both with clear grey eyes, which landed first on Harry's forehead and then on his arm. "What's happened here?"

Petri explained the situation succinctly. Morwell looked aghast, but moved immediately to action.

"All right, Mr Potter, please make yourself as comfortable as you can," she said, directing him to the bed clear across the room on the opposite corner from the ward's other occupant. "I know you've said the curse has been countered, but just to be safe I'm going to have you drink this potion. It will isolate any remaining magical effects and prevent them from spreading. It will also make you very drowsy."

Hearing this, Harry took off his glasses and put them on the side table, settling back into the somewhat rickety hospital bed. Healer Morwell passed him a vial of bright violet potion. It smelled faintly of rosemary, and for a change did not taste too disgusting, resembling mildly curdled milk.

Drowsy was an understatement. Moments after downing the potion, his eyes felt like they would drop out of his head if he failed to close them, and his limbs melted into limp jelly.

When he awoke, the shadows were long, and somebody had changed him into a violet hospital gown and tucked him under the thin covers of the bed, leaving his injured arm exposed. His hand looked no different from before, still black and lifeless. It throbbed with renewed vigour as he lifted it up sluggishly.

There was the scrape of a chair, and hurried footsteps clicked across the lacquered floor. The healer that appeared in his field of vision wasn't Morwell, but a young wizard with pronounced rings under his eyes.

"Ah, hello, Mr Potter. I'm Healer Trainee Lanceley. How are you feeling?" he asked.

Harry considered the question. "Not any better or worse," he finally said. "My hand… are they going to be able to fix it?"

That there had been no apparent improvement at all to the state of his hand seemed to be a bad sign. When the ceiling had collapsed on him at Halloween, even though his legs had been crushed under the stone, Madam Pomfrey had managed to put him almost completely back to rights by the time he had woken up. If there was something they could do, wouldn't they have done it already?

Lanceley's eyebags drooped even further. "We'd like to talk with you and your guardian about treatment options in the morning. For now, are you any pain? Do you think you could get back to sleep without a sleeping draught?"

"My hand burns a bit," Harry said. "I could use that sleeping draught."

This was less because of the pain, and more because he suspected that it was around midnight, so he felt wide awake and refreshed, having basically slept in. It was unlikely that he could just go back to sleep, but staying awake with nothing to do sounded intractably boring. There were no books, and he couldn't practise spells since he was underage and outside of the Alleys.

Also, he realised suddenly, he couldn't practise spells because his wand hand was out of commission. A cold stab of fear lanced through him at the thought. What would he do if they couldn't heal him after all?

He shook the thought away as Lanceley brought him the lavender sleeping draught.

"Take half of this to sleep until morning," the healer recommended. Harry drank the requisite amount and set the rest on the bedside table. He was out before his head hit the pillow.

The first thing he heard as he came back to awareness was Petri's voice, low and angry.

"… unacceptable that there's no custom option."

"I'm sorry, sir, but you'll have to take that up with the Ministry. I don't make the rules," said Healer Morwell. "Mr Potter is awake."

There must have been some kind of alert charm on him, because Harry hadn't moved or opened his eyes. He did so now, shoving himself against the backboard so he could slide into a sitting position.

He checked his hand. Still black.

Petri and the healer, who had been seated at the desk by the door, got up and came over to his bedside.

"Your hand is permanently dead. It will have to be amputated," Petri told him outright. Behind him, Healer Morwell's jaw dropped.

Harry took a moment to assess whether Petri was joking. His face was stone cold, contorted slightly with frustration.

"You can't just say it like that," the healer cried, but her further protests were lost behind the ringing in Harry's ears. He felt physically ill. His mouth hung open for a few moments, trying to swallow air that refused to enter his lungs.

"I can still feel it," he said, instead of vomiting. He wasn't sure what he was trying to argue. He knew exactly why he could still feel it.

"The vampire's curse," Petri confirmed for him, ignoring the appalled healer entirely.

"What if I drink blood?" Harry tried weakly, knowing before he said it that there would be a perfectly reasonable refutation.

"I will not permit you to die for want of a hand," Petri said, sneering. "The curse will not repair your body unless you're dead."

For a wild moment, Harry felt desperate indignation surge in his chest. He'd rather be a vampire than an armless wizard—but then sense asserted itself, reminding him that he would have to kill himself to obtain that outcome. He grit his teeth and shut his eyes, feeling a suspicious wetness tingling at their corners.

He took a breath, trying to focus. "They can't grow it back?" he hated how his voice shook, but he had to ask. Madam Pomfrey had grown back the bones in his legs.

"Dark curses cause permanent damage if they aren't countered in time," Petri said.

"Why didn't you take me to hospital immediately, then?" Harry demanded.

Petri's lip curled slightly, but he nodded to Healer Morwell, who was looking on helplessly. "St Mungo's does not keep anti-preservative potions on hand. Severus provided you the fastest treatment you could have received."

Harry slumped against the headboard, understanding that it was unreasonable to argue further, though denial still racked his shuddering chest. He closed his eyes. "Will I still be able to do magic?"

Petri's face twisted into an ugly grimace. "I might have been able to create for you a prosthesis as good or even better than a real hand, had the Ministry not instituted an asinine rule that prostheses are to be considered magical artefacts. As such, you must choose from a standard selection of frankly inferior models. If I were to design something for you, it would have to be approved by the Artificer's Office, which could take up to a year. In the mean time, you'll have to learn to cast left-handed."

Magical prostheses—Harry felt a little better at hearing that—he'd originally imagined simply going around with a stump or a hook like a fantasy pirate, which would have been less than ideal.

"My friend's dad works for the Artificer's Office. Maybe…" Harry began, then remembered that this same friend's father was probably the mastermind behind this plan to kill him. He wasn't sure if all this meant that an approval was more or less likely to be forthcoming. "Never mind. What kind of prostheses are there?"

"You're taking this quite well," Healer Morwell interjected, apparently finally having regained her wits.

"Well?" Harry repeated tonelessly. He still felt on the edge of vomiting, and hadn't completely ruled out suicide. He wanted to scream more at Petri, or throw things, even if he might receive a lashing for his trouble—physical pain would be welcome over the horror churning in his gut—but the healer was there, her presence like a suffocating weight. So he cleared his mind as was by now habit and said, "I suppose so."

She smiled at him. He hated the ugly wrinkle it caused on her face, full of something that was only a step to the right of condescension—pity. Harry turned back to Petri, who at least made no disguise of sympathy. He simply wanted the best for Harry, because Harry's health was in his self interest. This attitude at least, Harry felt was acceptable.

"Here's the prostheses pamphlet," Healer Morwell said, passing a folded piece of parchment to Harry. He opened it to find descriptions of a dozen models of magical hand.

"You only really have two options," Petri said, indicating them on the page. "The hand must be wooden if you're to have any hope of channeling magic through it, and it should be free of any but the most basic animation charms."

"Mr Peters, I should think that the poor boy wouldn't want to go around with a clunky wooden hand. There are plenty of modern options with more realistic weight and appearance," the healer protested.

Petri looked at Harry meaningfully, and Harry gave a small nod of understanding. He wanted something without extra charms so that they could charm it themselves, Artificer's Office be damned. Surprisingly, this thought made him feel somewhat better about the whole prospect. Perhaps his hand could be made to do something wicked, like shoot fire out of its fingertips.

The two options were a mechanical hand that looked like a marionette's, all wooden except for the pewter joints, and another which had the exact shape of a human hand but had the texture of a tree branch. Harry supposed the second one was made by transfiguration.

"I like this one," Harry said, tapping the mechanical hand. When the healer looked dissatisfied, he couldn't help snidely adding, "It's my hand."

Still, all his bravado evaporated into sick trepidation as the healer passed him the rest of his sleeping draught. They would perform the procedure while he was unconscious, and a specialist would be called in the next day to fit his prosthesis.

Harry took a last, mournful look at his hand. It was shrivelled, soggy, and grotesque, but the thought of it just being not there still made his pulse quicken in horror. His eyes burned, and he shut them tightly. He wouldn't cry. Before he could work himself into a worse state, he tipped the potion back and slumped back, dead to the world.

Raised voices were the first thing that filtered into his groggy consciousness as he came to once more. "Do you know who I am?" somebody demanded in a reedy tenor.

"Yes, Minister. I don't care who you are, this is a private ward and you can't just come barging in as you please." That was a very frayed Healer Morwell. Harry forced his eyes open. His heart skipped a beat when he remembered what was supposed to have happened, and he shoved himself upright, pawing at the side table for his glasses and shoving them onto his face. He looked at his other arm.

No hand, as promised, only a smooth stump where his wrist would have begun. A wave of vertigo passed over him. He vaguely heard the clatter of approaching footsteps.

"Mr Potter, how are you feeling?" asked the healer in a gentle voice.

"Dizzy," Harry mumbled. His insides churned.

"Here, drink this," Healer Morwell said, pressing a glass of bluish liquid into his left hand. "Diluted calming draught. It will settle your stomach and your head."

"Mr Potter!" A portly, greying man in a pinstriped cloak and a lime green bowler hat had barged into the room, flanked by two severe-looking aurors. "Very good, you're awake. I must say, it's been quite difficult to get an audience with you."

"I must ask you to leave, sir. Mr Potter isn't well enough to be taking visitors, much less the press," Healer Morwell ground out, whirling around. She looked back and forth between the two aurors helplessly, her hand fisting her robes. Harry felt his opinion of her rise a little, even as he worked frantically to figure out what was going on. Minister? The press? Was this the Minister for Magic?

The thought seemed ludicrous until the man stepped forward and held out his hand, introducing himself as, "Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic. Don't worry. I've instructed the aurors not to let any reporters past the lobby."

Feeling nervous laughter about to bubble out of his mouth, Harry forced it down with a swig of his calming draught. He suddenly found Fudge to be quite ridiculous, so he held out his new stump. The Minister looked very awkward and withdrew his hand.

"Apologies, Mr Potter, we at the Ministry heard about your accident and wanted to offer our sympathies," he said.

Hold on. "Accident?" Harry repeated. "It wasn't an accident. I was attacked, sent a cursed artefact." He felt a rush of annoyance, and a somewhat disproportionate desire to spring out of the bed. He sat up straighter instead.

"Please, Minister, you're riling up my patient. Please come back later," Healer Morwell entreated, no avail.

"It'll be just a moment, my dear witch. I don't see the boy himself kicking up a fuss," said the Minister. "Perhaps you could give us a moment alone?"

That was because the calming draught was muting his emotions, Harry thought, or he probably would have been apoplectic. It felt a little bit like being inside Lord Voldemort's head. Harry calmed even further as he had the thought—it was an empowering one.

Besides, Healer Morwell was channelling his indignation for him. "This is my ward." She was almost yelling. "My patient. He is not well. I can't simply leave him alone with strangers."

"We're hardly strangers, now. We've been introduced," said Minister Fudge gently. "Just a moment and we'll be out of your hair."

One of the aurors behind him took a rather threatening step forward. The healer bristled, but finally shot an uncertain look at Harry, who, seized by some unknown whimsy, toasted her with his half-empty potion glass. She sighed deeply and strode over to her desk, sitting down and fixing a dark glare on the intruders.

The auror to Fudge's left cast a spell on the ground, causing a subtle shift in the ambiance. Harry supposed it was some kind of privacy charm.

"Now, Harry—may I call you Harry?" the minister began. Harry shrugged. "We've investigated the situation and determined that the artefact responsible for your injury was mistakenly sent to you."

"They must have been trying to murder somebody else, you mean?" Harry said, feeling another prickle of annoyance, the sort that would have made the Dark Lord raise his wand with the cruciatus curse on his lips. Fortunately, that very thought was enough to induce a vague amusement in him.

Minister Fudge did not seem to have anticipated this objection, for he pursed his lips a moment and said, "No, of course not. Nobody was meaning to murder—to hurt anybody. The artefact was submitted anonymously… we're still searching for its origin, but rest assured, we will find it and bring the creator to justice. In any case, it was an experimental artefact, certainly not something that should have been sent to you. The aurors have questioned Mr Crabbe at the Artificer's Office, and you can be assured of his innocence in the matter. He sends his deepest apologies and well-wishes."

Harry might have believed him, had he not had more reason to believe that Mr Crabbe served the Dark Lord. As it was, he said, "Okay. That doesn't change that it was an attack. Whoever made that artefact intended for it to kill somebody."

"Now, we don't know that for certain," said the minister, and Harry was starting to feel his patience run thin. He gulped another generous mouthful of calming draught. "Harry, you don't believe what Dumbledore has been saying about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, do you?" The minster chuckled nervously.

Harry blinked, losing the thread of the conversation. "Sorry? What does Headmaster Dumbledore have to do with this?"

For some reason, Minister Fudge looked much more cheerful at hearing this. "Right, precisely, Harry. He's got nothing at all to do with it, and neither does He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."

This declaration only cemented Harry's belief that the Dark Lord's outstanding order was exactly the driving force behind the attempt on his life, and that the Minister for Magic was full of it, under the imperius curse, or both.

For the first time, Harry's gaze slid from the minister to his two guards. One of them was a grizzled man with bristly grey hair cut close to his scalp. The other had a brutish, square jaw and flinty eyes, and wore his long, pale hair in a severe braid. Something about him looked disquietingly familiar, though Harry was sure that they had never met.

"Okay," Harry said flatly, unsure what the minister wanted from him.

"Very good, Harry. I'll get to the point of this visit, then. In the interest of preventing any further… mishaps, we at the Ministry of Magic have decided that it would be prudent to assign an auror for your protection during the remainder of your hospital stay," said Minister Fudge. He nodded to the second auror. "This is Yaxley. He is one of our best."

Yaxley. So this was Annette's infamous father. Harry felt a shiver cascade down his spine, though the potion he was nursing prevented it from escalating into anything more than a chill. He stared searchingly into the auror's cold grey eyes, but found nothing. The man looked bored, and a little impatient.

"Okay. Thanks," Harry mumbled, eyes flickering briefly back to the minister. Definitely under the imperius curse.

"Well, I did promise it would just be a minute, so I'll be taking my leave," said Minister Fudge. "I wish you a speedy recovery."

Harry swallowed the urge to point out that there wasn't going to be a recovery. His hand had been cursed off and couldn't be grown back. He ignored the minister, who was shuffling out of the room with the other auror, electing to keep his eyes on Yaxley instead. The door clicked shut, and they were alone, except for Healer Morwell, who had stood up, wearing a very displeased moue.

Yaxley casually took out his wand and said, "Imperio." The healer stopped in her tracks, turned right around, and sat back down, staring ahead blankly.

Harry kicked his blankets aside and swung his legs over the edge of his bed. He glanced briefly at the opposite corner of the room, but found the bed there made and unoccupied. The other patient must have already been discharged. They were alone.

"Are you going to try to kill me too?" he asked Yaxley conversationally. Perhaps Voldemort's aim was to keep him alive but maimed. Would Yaxley curse off his other hand? Harry didn't feel anything at this thought, though he knew it should be disturbing. The potion must have fully kicked in.

"Change of plans," said Yaxley. "The Dark Lord wants you brought in alive."

"Great," said Harry, getting to his feet. He only felt a little weak at the knees and managed to stay standing with some help from the side table. His wand was there—fat lot of good it would do him. He picked it up uncertainly in his left hand. "Can I get dressed first?"

Yaxley cast a switching spell and Harry found him suddenly stuffed into his cold robes. He still wasn't wearing trousers. Pure-bloods. Blinking, he stuffed his wand into his pocket and stepped into his trainers.

As he moved closer, he noticed that Yaxley actually looked a little nonplussed. Harry held out his good hand.

"Are we apparating?" he asked.

"Portkey," Yaxley grunted. He fished a silver bangle from his pocket and tapped it with his wand, muttering something under his breath. The bangle glowed blue for a moment. He held it out. Harry hooked two fingers into it, and Yaxley let go. The portkey glowed brighter this time, whisking Harry away by a hook behind his navel.

Harry landed in a patch of frozen straw, throwing his arms out instinctively to stop his fall but only managing to send a jarring impact up his new stump. Grimacing, he cradled it to his chest as he glanced around. He had arrived on a hilltop, surrounded by gnarled trees and headstones: a graveyard, but not his graveyard. In the distance he could see smoke drifting over the rooftops of a small village.

The Dark Lord was standing in front of a statue of an angel, dressed in plain black robes like a vision of death. He strode over to where Harry had landed.

Harry remained kneeling in the grass. He could find no motivation to move even an inch.

"Harry," said Lord Voldemort, robes fluttering as he knelt down. "Give me your arm."

Harry looked up in confusion, finally simply extending both arms. The corner of the Dark Lord's lipless mouth twitched. He took Harry's stump and scrutinised it for a moment before raising his wand.

Silver mist coalesced at its tip, swirling into the unmistakable shape of a hand. Harry had a second to blink at it in confusion before it lowered itself onto his wrist. He jerked back and howled, clutching at the join. It was like his skin was being flayed off one layer at a time. The pain disappeared a moment later, replaced by a new, yet familiar sensation. Pressure on his wrist. The silver hand twitched. He closed his fingers, opened them, and touched his smooth palm with his other hand. The material had the exact, supple firmness of flesh.

"What?" he said, and then came somewhat to his senses. "Thank you, my lord."

He wasn't sure what to make of this development. Hadn't Petri said that his prosthesis needed to be wooden?

"Cast a spell," said the Dark Lord, straightening up and gesturing for Harry to stand as well.

Harry peered up at him incredulously, but elected to do as he was told. He took out his wand, held it off to the side, and said, "Lumos."

The tip flared brightly, casting a steady glow. Harry blinked at it. "How? I thought—they said it couldn't be healed, that I'd have to use my left hand to do magic."

"Do you know why cursed wounds cannot be healed?" asked the Dark Lord, reaching out to trace the lightning-bolt scar on Harry's forehead with a pale finger that cut like a knife's edge. "It is because they scar the soul itself. They force the will of the caster upon the will of the victim, imposing an irrevocable change on their being. The only way to overcome this effect is to lay an even stronger curse."

Harry eyed the silver hand again, considering the Dark Lord's words. A stronger curse. "Does it do something bad?"

The hand closed into a fist without Harry's conscious direction.

"It is my curse, my will, and therefore my hand as much as it is yours," said the Dark Lord. "That is all. Stay true to me, and it will stay true to you."

"I see. Thank you, my lord," Harry said. He thought he might have felt indignant, impressed, or perhaps even grateful without the influence of the calming draught. He couldn't be sure, but he decided that it was nice not to have to be any of those things.

"I admit that it was an oversight on my part that you might be so permanently harmed," said the Dark Lord unexpectedly. "Crabbe has been punished for his abject failure, and I have amended my orders. You are to be brought to me alive and whole, so that I might mark and kill you myself. It will be our little secret."

Harry was still looking at his silver hand. "Won't Dumbledore know what happened when he sees this?"

Lord Voldemort laughed softly. "I am counting on Dumbledore to draw precisely the correct conclusion."

He did not elaborate on what that conclusion was, and Harry saw no reason to ask. In fact, he could see little reason for doing or saying anything, so he simply stood there in silence. The Dark Lord seemed to take his stony lack of reaction quite positively. In the serenity of his own mind, he could he feel the pleasant echo of Lord Voldemort's good cheer.

"You may return to where you were before," said the Dark Lord. Harry stood up unsteadily.

"How?"

"Take the portkey again. It should have been spelled to return." The Dark Lord levitated it from where it lay in the grass. Harry reached out and closed his new fingers around the metal, which was painfully cold. It flared with blue light.

He stumbled onto the hard wooden floor of the hospital, landing on his hands and knees again. This time, the strange silver prosthesis took his weight easily and painlessly. He scrambled to his feet, locating Yaxley immediately—the man stood by the door, arms crossed. Healer Morwell sat behind the desk, occupied with some paperwork. She did not look up.

A surprised look briefly crossed Yaxley's face, and Harry wondered for a moment whether the Dark Lord had told him anything, or if Yaxley was now bewildered at Harry's continued survival, but the man's expression smoothed out as he caught sight of the silver hand. Harry glanced down at it again and had the feeling that the Dark Lord had not been perfectly forthcoming with him.

In fact, he was beginning to have a variety of feelings now, chief among them dread and anger, which began to simmer in the pit of his stomach. The calming draught must be wearing off.

"Go back to bed," Yaxley ordered in a gruff voice. Harry wanted to be contrary, but couldn't think of any valid objection, so trudged over to the bed he had been occupying, doubtfully eyeing the lavender hospital gown that had been laid out across it. He was promptly hit with the switching spell again. Shivering at the sudden chill, he peeled back the covers and scrambled underneath them, curling up into a tight ball. His glasses dug into the side of his face, but he had no desire to resurface so that he could remove them.

The thin blanket did little to block out light. Harry studied his new hand at close range, wiggling all its fingers one by one, rubbing at the scratchy linens, and touching his own face. It felt, in every respect, exactly like his original hand, except that it was distinctly cold to the touch. Despite the temperature difference, the subjective sensations he felt with it were completely synchronised with those of the rest of his body—his breath was still warm, the unexplored edges of the bed cool. When the influence of the calming draught finally drained away, he felt himself wracked with a terribly guilty sense of relief. He was grateful to the Dark Lord, and the very experience of that gratitude twisted at his gut, inviting almost as much indignation. It was the Dark Lord who had indirectly caused his injury in the first place. Surely it was only right that he had done everything he could to restore it.

Harry felt less grateful when, later that morning, Petri stormed past a protesting Yaxley to see him, only for all the blood to drain instantly from his face.

"How did this happen?" he demanded, eyes fixed on the silver hand. He didn't seem angry—Harry recognised his taut lips lips and furrowed brows as the product of fear, which after a moment smoothed into careful disinterest. He listened in stony silence as the healer lied fantastically about how Harry had decided on a different model of prosthesis after all. All the while, Harry stared holes into Petri, wishing for the first time ever that the man knew legilimency as he tried to subtly indicate Yaxley without looking at him. If it was working, then Petri was doing an admirable job of pretending he had seen nothing. He nodded along to the healer as she passed him a sheaf of parchment and explained that Harry would need to make follow-up visits whenever he had a growth spurt to readjust his hand.

Harry felt his lip quirk up unwillingly. Somehow, he doubted that the exacting Dark Lord would have overlooked a detail like that.

Yaxley followed them all the way down to the waiting room, which they discovered was jam-packed with witches and wizards wielding colourful quills and massive cameras. They burst into action at the sight of him in the door, pushing and shoving to get near him, but bounced off a square barrier as Yaxley brandished his wand.

"Mr Potter!" somebody yelled with a sonorus-amplified voice, "Mr Potter, this is Barnabas Cuffe from the Daily Prophet—could you please say a few words about how you are feeling after the horrifying attack on your person?"

"Mr Potter!" a witch with a towering hairstyle shrieked, but her question was swallowed up by a well-aimed silencing spell from Petri.

Cameras flashed left and right, spewing purple smoke everywhere. Some patients waiting in the rickety chairs began to cough uncontrollably. Green-robed healers rushed in to berate the reporters, while Yaxley used his shield as a battering ram to push through the throng.

Finally they were through—with a sucking sensation the front door expelled them into a blessedly silent muggle alley.

"Thank you, sir, but we no longer have need of your services," Petri ground out when it seemed as though Yaxley was ready to side-along apparate back home with them. Harry's hand went to his wand, ready to unleash a point-blank Enemy's Curse if Yaxley so much as indicated any aggression. Thankfully, however, the man acquiesced to their leaving with a curt nod and stepped back.

Petri grasped Harry's left hand tightly and turned on his heel. They apparated to the designated point in Diagon Alley, then immediately disapparated again, appearing at the foot of the coffin house. Harry shut his eyes and held his breath, trying not to vomit. The fact that there was nothing in his stomach helped. He wasn't hungry despite not having eaten for what must have been days, so had to assume that they had given him potions for that at St Mungo's.

"Explain," Petri said as soon as they reached the bottom of the stairs, pulling up a chair and holding his head tiredly in one hand.

Harry had no idea where to start, so he tried to keep it simple, "That auror was Yaxley, Annette's dad. He's a Death Eater. He made me take a portkey to the Dark Lord, who gave me this." He held up his silver hand.

"A thief's curse," Petri muttered, kneading his forehead. "I've never seen one in real life, but it looks exactly like the description."

"You knew about this? That it was possible to fix my hand?" Harry asked accusingly. Petri made a high, distressed sound in the back of his throat.

"You call this a fix?" he asked. "Do you really believe whatever lies the Dark Lord tried to placate you with?"

Harry frowned and tried to recall what these placating lies might have been, finding it remarkably difficult to remember for something that had happened only hours ago. In his defence, he had been under the influence of a calming draught and hadn't been paying as much attention as he should have. "I think he did tell me that it was a curse. So what exactly does it do?" he asked, feeling a curl of dread in his stomach.

The lines in Petri's face deepened. "I am almost certain that that hand is the thief's curse, so named because it was once used to bind thieves who had had their wand hand cut off as punishment. It prevents you from using the hand to commit a disloyal act against the caster. Though it is able to channel your magic using the caster's will, this means the caster can suppress that ability at any time, to any degree. Do you understand? The Dark Lord owns your right hand."

'Well, bugger,' was all Harry could think.

"And there's no way to remove it, I suppose?" Harry asked. He couldn't believe he was thinking about cutting off more of his arm after he had just got his hand back, but extenuating circumstances had somehow obtained. Hysterical incredulity bubbled inside his chest, threatening to spill into inappropriate laughter.

"I don't recall the exact details, but I believe that if you attempt to get rid of it, the curse will execute you for treason first," Petri said with a sardonic quirk of his lip. "Be glad that you have somehow gained the Dark Lord's favour. If he wishes to control rather than kill you, then he clearly does not consider you to be an enemy, though I have no idea what could have caused this sudden change of heart."

"Maybe he realised that I'm just a kid, and couldn't possibly pose a threat to him?" Harry suggested.

Petri stared at him.

"That was kind of a joke," Harry said. "You're supposed to laugh."

A soft snort did escape Petri at that. "Quite. That he deemed it prudent to place such a curse on you suggests the opposite. He might have ignored you entirely otherwise. He is wary of you, but you are somehow useful to him. Frankly, neither of those things make any sense. Anybody else would have been dead three times over."

Harry sighed, flexing his silver digits. "On the bright side, at least the hand works. As long as I'm not disloyal or whatever. What does that even mean?"

"Whatever the Dark Lord wishes it to mean," Petri said. Harry grimaced. Lovely. "You should learn to cast with your left hand, so that you aren't helpless when the Dark Lord deems you unworthy to cast with your right."

Harry took out his wand with his left hand. His grip felt awkward, clunky.

"No," Petri said. "You'll need a new wand."

"What?" said Harry, flummoxed.

Petri made an impatient noise. "You want to be able to cast with both hands, do you not?"

"At once?" Harry asked.

Petri rolled his eyes. "Not at once, foolish boy, at all. If you learn to use your wand to cast left-handed, then it will no longer work well for your right hand, so you will need another."

"Wait, really?" Harry demanded. "How come?"

"Wands are enchanted to adapt quickly to the user, but the downside to that enchantment is that you cannot expect them to remember how to cast the same spell two different ways," Petri explained. "I suppose that theoretically, it should be possible to make a wand that allows multiple variations, but I am not nearly well-versed enough in wand-crafting to know how to begin. I only know that it's not standard."

"Is that why it's hard to cast magic with someone else's wand?" Harry asked.

Petri nodded. "Partially. The materials may also not be compatible with your natural style."

Harry frowned. "Style? What does that mean?"

"People do not all cast magic in the same way, even for the same spells," Petri said. He rubbed at his chin, brow furrowed in thought. "Some lean more on their emotions, for example, while others rely on having a very precise picture of what they wish to achieve, and that changes the—I don't have a good word for this, but let's say, consistency—the consistency of the magic. Different materials channel different consistencies more or less efficiently. It's also why we say some woods are good for charms or transfiguration, or why some cores are considered more powerful or more precise. That said, a properly educated wizard should be able achieve basic results with any wand."

Harry was apparently not yet a properly educated wizard, for he could not get a satisfactory response from either of Petri's spare wands—wands which he now realised used to belong to his other two predecessors, Ulrich and Aleksandra.

"If you cannot produce sparks effortlessly, then the wand is not a good match. I suppose there was a reason why I gave you Horst's wand in the first place," Petri muttered.

"Can I get my own wand, then? New?" Harry tried, and when Petri still looked reluctant, added, "I'll pay for it. I have the galleons."

Dilemma apparently resolved, Petri's face smoothed out and he nodded. "We'll go to Diagon Alley first thing in the evening. But first, let's see if you can get any of these to respond. I'm curious."

He gestured to the counter at the back of the room, where his experimental wands were piled into a corner. Harry dutifully waved each of them and discovered that unicorn hairs hated him.

Petri sighed. "Well, at least we can save some time at the wandmaker's."


CWs: traumatic injury, amputation (non-graphic), suicidal ideation